Guest Column

Contrary to what you may think, there's much to be proud of on the Cape Flats

2017-03-08 09:17

Moeshfieka Botha

I often marvel at how people from outside of the Cape Flats, take up the fight for the Cape Flats, in terms of what is and what is not derogatory or offensive to residents.

When looking at the Cape Flats in geographical terms, it is just that – a flat, low expanse of land situated to the south-east of the central business district of Cape Town. Simply put, the Cape Flats is where we live and/or where we are from, but it does not define residents.

So why is the Cape Flats constantly associated with negativity, like substance abuse, violence and crime? Why is the assumption always made that people from the Cape Flats are drunkards, drug addicts and gangsters?

And why is society okay with that, yet take great offence to people from Sea Point constantly portrayed as money hungry, previously advantaged, white people, still benefitting from the ill-gotten gains of apartheid?

Society is okay in constantly viewing the Cape Flats in a negative light because it is what is comfortable. It suits a global and national view, engenders the idea of safety to label Cape Flats residents – Coloureds, if you will – as “dangerous”.

This makes me ask the question: should we be changing who we are (a vast majority of residents are in no position to relocate), or should the media step out of their comfort zone and review how they report about the Cape Flats? 

Perhaps if the media chose to also cover all the positive and good that comes from the Cape Flats, the negativity associated with the space would slowly dissipate.

Sadly, that won’t happen because the negativity surrounding the Cape Flats is good news for the political parties who use residents as political pawns. Yes, we are the best target for colourful T-shirts come election time.

While many struggle with the term “Coloured” – very few struggle with the term Cape Flats. We are proud of our origin. It has shaped us. It has molded us. It has taught us valuable life lessons that no university ever could – and today, more than at any other time, the Cape Flats inspires us!

Yet, one would never know that in looking at how the Cape Flats is generally depicted. When you Google Manenberg, Cape Town – you can go through at least 10 pages and not come across the story of Dhilshaad Adonis, 18, who matriculated from The Leadership College, which is situated in the heart of Manenberg. Dhilshaad received 7 distinctions and was only 2% short of her eighth. 

This young woman lives with her great-grandmother, aunt, cousin and siblings and had to dodge bullets as she headed for school while her mother worked in the taxi industry. Besides fleetingly covering this, this achievement and the amazing achievements of so many more awesome Cape Flats children go seemingly unnoticed. 

Nearby in gangland Hanover Park, lives a young man of gentlemanly stature. Muneeb Hermans is only 22, but he has worked extremely hard and even attended the UCT South African College of Music. Amazingly, he has now travelled the world and played his beloved trumpet in Carnegie Hall, New York, Paris, London, Beijing and the Seychelles.

Yet, we don’t see pictures of Muneeb Hermans on the covers of glossy magazines. We don’t see journos hounding his parents for his awesome story. No, the likes of Muneeb Hermans will go unnoticed – until God forbid they get shot and killed. For that will be a story to be covered in typical Cape Flats style.

Perhaps Muneeb says it best: “How can I be ashamed of the Cape Flats? It is the place that through my experiences, good and bad, moulded me and shaped me into the musician I am today. Everywhere I go in the world, I tell everyone who crosses my path of my amazing community filled with resilient, diverse, talented, caring, "lagbol" and "lekker" people – who make me extremely proud to be from the Cape Flats”. (As a side note – anyone wanting to cover this positive, uplifting story of an amazing young musician from the Cape Flats, is welcome to contact me.)

There are thousands of stories like those of Dhilshaad and Muneeb. People from the Cape Flats know of them, and we are therefore proudly Cape Flats. For we know that as a community we have much to be proud of!

It is not our fault that the apartheid government thought so little of our community to literally throw them into the blistering Cape wind on a flat piece of desolate land. It certainly isn’t our fault that we are now playing the role of the “second-string poor citizens” of what many incorrectly wish to view as a thriving, glorious, successful cosmopolitan Cape Town.

We did not choose our past, or our current socio-economic conditions. We certainly did not choose to be on the receiving end of substantially lower levels of service and protection than our neighbours in the more affluent suburbs or the Atlantic Seaboard. But what we do choose is to not only survive, but also to thrive – to swim where others would undoubtedly sink.

Times are tough and the struggle is real, but there is no diminishing our essence as a unique community. We are not one thing. We are a “mengelmoes” of many things – good, bad and ugly… but the result is awesome!

Yes, we have mammoth social issues and problems, but I am inspired every day by the community’s commitment and resolve to overcome them. Personally, I will not let the negativity define me, and I will not let the perceptions of those on the outside threaten my will to do better and be better, in honour of those who laid the foundation for this beautiful community.

I will stand tall. I will hold my head high – and forge forward as someone who is proudly Cape Flats.

- Moeshfieka Botha is a community activist from the Cape Flats.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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