In the year 1764 or something, a drunken and dishevelled slave-owner once stumbled out of a tavern on a grubby side-street in Hout Bay and fell full length into the mud outside, whereupon he rose unsteadily to his feet and muttered something most onlookers agreed sounded like “brrRpublic.”
From that day onwards, the residents of this sleepy little fishing village on the Cape Peninsula have clung stubbornly and ferociously to the independence of their republic, dubbed the Hout Bay Exclusion Zone by some leading intellectuals and Hout Bazi Germany by the members of a grass-roots resistance movement now known as poor black people.
This group has now besieged the town from the North, effectively shutting off that route to all traffic to and from the rest of the continent and restricting it only to the dreaded Southern route, along the meandering Chapman’s Peak drive and through the fearsome underbelly of humanity that is Noordhoek.
Fraught with danger as such a journey inevitably is, it nonetheless remains the sole route into or out of the besieged Hout Bay. Privileged day-trippers, and shoppers have all reported incidents of dirty looks and aggressive posturing on their attempts to penetrate the Northern access route, and most in any case agree that the longer ride, incessant scenery, and indecently-clad Noordhoekians were all preferable to the overwhelming sense of animosity incurred when approaching from this direction.
While Hout Bay does control the fishing port – which enables it to continue to produce over-priced fish and chips as fast as ever – it remains unclear exactly how the republic has remained so well-supplied. Attempts to reach Hout Bay residents for comment were met by barking dogs, the sound of vacuum-cleaners, and the threat of some kind of “arrest” by a man in a security-company uniform who kept fingering his gun while he spoke to me.
A resident of Imizamo Yethu, who also turned out to be armed, said: “Give me your wallet and your phone and your shoes, white boy.” When asked for further comment, he added, “Don’t look at me, I’ll shoot you in the face!”
A man on the beach walking his dog had this to say: “Man, have you looked at that river down there? I just stepped in it by mistake and I can’t get the smell off me. Also, my dog drank it and I think he’s dying. Did you know it comes from outside the republic?”
The siege continues, and the brave citizens of the republic continue bravely to mind their own brave business while they get on with running their boutique shops and commuting to and from Cape Town for six hours a daybrave.
North of the border, the situation is less promising. I’m pretty sure I saw a little boy running around wearing my watch.
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