South Africa Diary 11 August 2002
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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'[Click to enlarge image], 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 [Click to enlarge image] 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.

To tomorrow

Created by Dan Leigh 11/08/02