Landisa: The day I learnt a cat in Sea Point is worth more than a life in Hanover Park

2019-11-22 07:51
Moeshfieka Botha

Moeshfieka Botha

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In 2010 whilst living in Summit Rd, close to Hanover Park on the Cape Flats, my perspective of this space changed within 24 hours.

It was around 06:45 and I was on my way to the taxi rank in Hanover Park, to start my daily two-hour trek to work.

Suddenly I noticed a crowd of people at the day hospital opposite the taxi rank. They were huddled around something on the pavement. It was the body of a dead man.

The chatter around the corpse was casual and matter-of-fact. No one seemed particularly perturbed by the fact that there was a dead person on the pavement. Rather, they were trying to figure out among themselves exactly who he was and who shot him – all whilst discussing the special on baked beans at the local supermarket.

I was transfixed. I had never seen a dead person on the pavement before. People came and went past the body. Some stopped to take a peak. Most not having the luxury of having wages docked for being late, walked swiftly by. This was nothing new on these streets.

The police eventually arrived at 09:00. No urgency or alarm. This was on-par in one of South Africa's most gang-infested spaces. This was their normal. I left the scene at 11:00 with the body on the pavement still waiting to be fetched and transported to the morgue.

On arriving at my workshop venue in Sea Point, I noticed two police vans and numerous police officers on the pavement. What the hell? Another dead body? I couldn't breathe. 

Thankfully, it was only a cat stuck in a tree next to the window of the workshop. In Sea Point, no more than a 20-minute drive from Hanover Park – another world – this required the presence of four fully armed police officers and two police vehicles at the scene within 10 minutes after receiving the distress call. A tale of two cities indeed.

I arrived back at Hanover Park at 19:00 and heard that the dead person (someone's child, someone's husband, someone's father) had eventually been removed from the pavement at 16:00. 

That night I couldn't fall asleep. All I could think about was how little the lives of people on the Cape Flats mattered. We seemed to be disposable. A cat in a tree in Sea Point more worthy somehow more important than the death of a human in Hanover Park. 

That night as I listened to familiar sounds of gunshots – I felt hollow and invisible.

When I woke up the next morning, everything was the same as the day before – but somehow my senses were altered.

I saw the smiles of tired people. I heard the familiarity of the fruit hawker's voice. I noticed the purpose in the strides of the ordinary people as they started their daily trek to earn an honest living. My lens on the Cape Flats had changed.

In the nearly 10 years since that day gang violence, substance abuse and sexual crimes have surged. Yet through it all, we remain.

Our children who have to dodge bullets on their way to school achieve the most amazing results in academics and sports. Our community members work tirelessly to protect and serve via neighbourhood watches and feeding schemes. Our entrepreneurs create successful businesses and employment within the community.

We are worth so much more than to be devoured by the negativity which surrounds us – and just go gently into the good night. A sight often missed by the rest of the world. 

And one day, I dream, that when my children travel home they will know that their lives too matter. 

I hope that they will know their worth as I have taught it to them – and not be confused by a world which sees a distressed cat more worthy than the dignity of a human being. Cape Flats lives matter too.

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Read more on:    sea point  |  cape flats  |  hanover park  |  landisa  |  inequality

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