The timing of the article http://www.news24.com/Travel/MyTravels/I-love-and-hate-Mitchells-Plain-2013 - published on News24 is so uncanny.
Less than two hours ago, I was in my old neigbourhood of Hanover Park and I am still trying to digest and unpack the emotions of what that last hour spent there meant to me.
I was taking a friend to pick up his ‘*false-teeth” by “LANGE” (LUNG – HER) in one of the many blocks of flats scattered across Hanover Park.
Because I grew up there I offered to take him since he expressed some “reservations” when he went for a fitting a few days earlier.
Knowing myself to be “street-smart” and from the area, I gave him a few tips as to how I thought he should appear to fit in and not attract too much attention to himself.
First, leave your phone and wallet at home, just take a R20 for bus or taxi fare to get home, don’t take a pack of cigarettes, take two or three (LOS SIS) cause if “they” ask you for a skyf or an entjie, you take it all out and offer one. That was my advice on Wednesday.
Today, I took him to pick up his *teeth (really) and of course I thought I would be cool, knowing the area an all…
It’s been 16 years since I moved out, but I use to regularly visit my old neighbours and school, up until two years ago and then only to my old house, not this side of HP.
As I pulled up to this particular block of flats, or “court” as it is known, the first thing I noticed, besides the degradation of the block itself, was the trash and the amount of young people just standing about.
My friend assured me he would not be long and I was still cool at this stage.
But at the 10- minute mark, the girls left and the guys, all huddled on one side, seemed to all be staring my way.
Thankfully (I thought) I was hiding behind my shades, but an irrational fear starting creeping into my psyche.
Generally not a scary-cat and usually the first one amongst friends to confront the strange noise at the door, I was absurdly starting to think of all the bad things that could happen to me whilst I was there.
Sitting in the car, I started to squirm as I recalled that of the latest crime –stats, a lot had come from Hanover Park, and many of all the reported shootings took place right across the road from where I was parked.
At this stage, my practical side kicked in and I turned the car around in case I had to make a quick getaway.
Thirty minutes later, I had moved my handbag under the seat, surreptitiously rolled up the window a bit and clandestinely locked the door with my elbow.
Two or three guys kept walking away and returning every 10 minutes and they were making me nervous so I started to take in the scenes around me and after a while they no longer “bothered” me.
It was those scenes, and the areas that I drove through as we left that made me so sad, and angry - so here I sit, looking out a a beautiful Table Mountain with a breath-taking sunset - while trying to purge and process the last few hours.
While sitting there, I looked around and despite the debris and trash, I could see girls playing “SEE BOOM SEE BAY – BOOM BAY!” (Kind of Hopscotch) and a boy taking an old car tyre for a ride (With two planks in either side to steer) plus a “soccer match” was taking place on “Benni McCarthy’s Field” right across the street.
And although it brought back some fond memories of me playing those very same games, it also filled me with great sadness.
Perhaps it was because I had grown up and grown away, but staring at the poverty within which these children (and everyone else) still had to grow up overwhelmed me to the point of tears.
No longer afraid, I got rather angry – angry that not only had nothing changed in 20 years (since elections) but that things appeared worse.
I saw people coming home from work and I knew that while I was one of the “lucky” ones to have gotten out, they are still stuck there. Granted, some may choose to stay, but realistically, most are trapped.
My friend finally came out an hour later; profusely apologising for what he knows must have been a bit of a traumatic wait especially since he said it would take only 10 minutes.
Somewhat relieved I guess, I responded: “JA “LUNG-HER” HET NOGAL LANG GEVAT!”
With the ice-broken, I took him on a drive, pass my old house and drove through areas that I had not been to since I was a child.
I cannot adequately describe the emotions and shock of seeing these areas after so many years.
One of the blocks had been upgraded, and it looked “nice” but within 100 metres of the block was rubbish strewn all over the pavement and scattered across the road. It looked like it had been there for months.
At this stage I got even angrier because when “sh*t like this literally stares you in the face, you know that the local, provincial and national government does not give a crap about us.
Elections are around the corner – and promises will no doubt be made; offers of new houses, clean areas, more policing, eradication of gangs, etc etc
All in exchange for the people’s vote – looking at this, I now understand people’s anger and resistance to vote – because nothing has changed and they have been forgotten.
Like the previous writer said, I love and hate Hanover Park.
I love it, because it is where I grew up and despite its short-comings, it was my home.
And I also hate it, because it hasn’t changed.
Today, I have just been reminded, and I will not forget – The “Struggle” continues - MY VOTE WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
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