I took a township tour today. This was a wonderful opportunity
to see the 'other' side of Cape Town. This was the highlight so
far of my trip in South Africa. It was also the highlight for the
others on the bus who were at the end of their trips. The tour started
in an area of Cape Town called 'District 6',
so called because that was the name of the voting area. It was a
multicultural area with many different people of all sorts of national
identities and ethnic background sharing the streets and neighborhood.
This area, which overlooks the harbour is high quality residential
land. It was classified as a 'white only' area by the apartheid
government. The area was forcefully cleared, the people moved out
of the city and the buildings raised to the ground. This destruction
took place between 1966 and the mid 1980's. District 6 was one of
twenty or so similar areas that were cleared during the Apartheid
era. The residents were moved out to townships such as Langa and
Khayelisha, much poorer quality land up to 20 km away. We visited
both these areas and also attended part of a church service in one
of the more affluent township areas. Khayelisha, an 'informal' township
is home to a unique hotel ran by one of the women there. You have
the opportunity to stay in her home, play with the kids, drink in
the local bar, fix one of the cars or whatever else takes your fancy!
The area reminded me a lot of India. The people were industrious,
looked generally quite happy, but were obviously incredibly poor.
They did, in this area at least, have access to electricity, running
water and an underground sewage system. These were less than ideal
conditions though. The township is called 'informal' because there
are no 'buildings' as they would normally be recognised, rather
every where you see tiny corrugated iron shacks, hardly tall enough
to be called one story constructions.
The contrast being dropped off at the 'Waterfront' area
could not have been more extreme. Here was the exemplary example
of western decadence - shopping centres as far as the eye could
see, nice clean buskers played African songs, easy listening classics
and other tourist pleasing music. Hundreds of expensively clad people
browsed, wondering wear to spend their money (I bought a hydration
system for my water pouch). This country seems to be even more polarized
than India, where although there was poverty, it was always mixed
in with the decadence acting as a reminder of how the other half
lived. Here you could very easily cocoon yourself in such away as
to make believe that the problem didn't exist. There's a long way
to go to redress the balance.