Western Cape, a monument of segregation that must be reclaimed

2015-02-17 08:26

Let me share a little story, with you. I spent a few days in Cape Town during this past festive season. Like most people, the expectation was to be wowed and blown away by the world’s most loved tourist destination, which happens to be right in our backyard, Cape Town. The Mother City’s landscape and scenery never ceased to entice and lure one into this topographical utopia. Truth be told, South Africa is home to beauty and Cape Town and the Western Cape in general are no different, in fact, this is the epicentre of this natural spectacle. Upon approach, one already notices the colourful flora, the wine route and gigantic ashy mountains of the Cape. You can’t help but stay glued to such beauty.

Strange enough, the hospitability ends right there and then. The welcoming atmosphere almost disappears the moment one moves his eyes from nature. A sudden, subtle, fine drawn line of segregation transpires. A London or European atmosphere, which alienates some, starts to emerge. A class line which marginalises those that cannot afford starts to get clear. Every South African town has this line but the Western Cape and Cape Town in particular, has this line in utter clarity and boldness. It has it magnified to a zoom possible to be seen by the least vigilant and observant of people. This you see right when you start to go into public places of interest, especially the well-known, well-marketed ones. Your subconscious tells you that this is not the welcoming South Africa you know or see on TV advertisements.

Upon arrival at Waterfront you are taken aback by a number of things, one of them being class lines drawn in bold using ridiculously high prices as an excuse. This commodification of things that one would atleast expect to be affordable if not free is an interesting observation. Robben Island, a place that embodies a lot of our stories, an island that holds so much of our stories of oppression, our historical Mecca, where Nelson Mandela and his comrades spent years is also kept away from the poor. A cruise to Robben Island is strategically priced to make sure that the majority of South Africans cannot afford and therefore cannot access. Tourists, foreign tourists know it better than us. The irony here is interesting to say the least. I also visited a coffee shop which unmistakably looked white. Two tables adjacent to mine had white occupants like the rest but they didn’t have any orders on the table. The waiter kept checking on me to ask if ‘I wanted anything to order’ whilst the white table with no order had no attendance. This was interesting. Almost like a black person cannot sit without ordering.

I took a drive around Constantia enroute Steenberg Golf Estate, the country’s most expensive suburb, I couldn’t even move far, I was stopped midway by two black gentlemen in a neighborhood security vehicle and they asked questions that proved to be rather interrogating than seeking information. These were some of those unfortunate experiences I had down there but in a nut shell, Cape Town is no longer our home.

It is not a city we once claimed as South Africans especially for black people. It is a museum of racists caged by walls of affordability and wealth. How the Western Cape is governed entrenches segregation and further disenfranchisement of the poor, who happen to be black. It’s impossible to pride ourselves of a City that spits shame on our faces. FW De Dlerk will soon have a street named after him in the same City, another indication of the depth of a political faux pas continuing in that province. The tortoise pace of transformation at the University of Cape Town magnifies this affirmation. The appalling conditions our people live in around Langa are a testimony of a need to reclaim that province.

Our people cannot be swept in the periphery whilst European tourists are comfortable in our own backyard. We cannot be made to feel secluded in a City that own people built with their bare hands. The same with the entire Western Cape, it must be reclaimed. Subtle Affordability strategies cannot be employed to keep our people on the sidelines of development. We must reclaim our province, we must reclaim our city. South Africa belongs to all who live in it and the only way to ensure that this happens is by reclaiming our city and province back.

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