‘Cape borners’ display compassion deficit
In Mother City townships, members of an Eastern Cape influx are ‘igoduka’ – migrants, not kin
XOLISWA Qoni is a professional, a journalist, but to many Capetonians she is regarded first and foremost as something else – igoduka (a migrant).
Born and raised in Kwanobuhle in the industrial town of Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, Qoni has lived in Gugulethu, one of the oldest townships in Cape Town, for five years. But she still doesn’t feel a sense of belonging, not least because she is so often reminded she grew up elsewhere.
Qoni is a victim of a form of discrimination that has not received much publicity, but is pervasive in Mother City townships where people from the Eastern Cape are made to feel like foreigners.
“Often referring to themselves as ‘Cape borners’, black people born in the Cape think that they are superior to those who relocated from the Eastern Cape, believing they deserve first preference when it comes to government housing and jobs,” Qoni said.
She recalled the decision to move to Cape Town was not easy, but her main motivation had been to pursue a tertiary qualification.
“I chose to exercise the privilege that our parents never got to enjoy in the apartheid era, the freedom to travel freely without being restricted from travelling in certain areas within the country,” she said.
Qoni added the feeling she did not belong in Cape Town had worsened a few years ago when Western Cape Premier Helen Zille decribed people from the Eastern Cape who’d relocated to Cape Town for educational purposes as “education refugees”. Yet she remains determined no one – not Zille nor Cape borners – will deprive her of her rights in her own country.
Lukhanyanyo Mzingisi, 27, moved to Cape Town in 2004 when he was in Grade 9.
“It wasn’t easy for me to adjust, I had a tough time making friends and fitting in at school, with having to learn different characters. Coming from Umtata, my school mates had perceptions and assumptions about me. There was a language barrier that made it difficult for us to understand each other,” he said.
It badly affected Mzingisi’s confidence and self-esteem.
“I was taken advantage of and bullied in high school. On our last exam, my friends and I were attacked. It’s been 12 years since that incident but I still have so much anger toward them, particularly the group leader,” he said.
The experience changed him to the extent that he had a bad reputation at school, being perceived as a violent person.
“I’d had enough and had to stand up for myself, which resulted in me being involved in fights,” said Mzingisi.
On the other side of the divide is Thozama Mdumezweni, 58, a Cape Town-born financial administrator.
Mdumezweni said people from the Eastern Cape were unwanted in the city because they were seen as demanding, corrupting and taking over.
“They are accusing foreigners of taking their jobs, yet they are the ones taking our jobs and our land,” she charged.
“Cape Town is very dirty because it is filled with shacks that they have built. Some of the problems we encounter from them are crime and paying water rates on their behalf because they stay here for free,” she said.
Sivuyile Vimba, 24, was a temporary citizen in Cape Town for almost four years.
Like Qoni, Vimba relocated to pursue tertiary education. He said he had an advantage compared to black people who came from other areas because at least he could speak Xhosa.
“As a Xhosa speaker from the Eastern Cape in Cape Town I felt more welcomed and at ease because isiXhosa is the language used mostly among the black community throughout the city. This meant that I wasn’t going to have language barrier problems,” he said. But he still faced prejudice. “For me the reason for the discrimination was the different upbringing from a Cape borner, me being a rural child in the city,” he said.
Vimba’s experience points to one of the areas of sharp difference – those from the largely rural Eastern Cape say the city-born have lost touch with their roots and humanity by adopting western ways, while city borners view those from the rural areas as slow, with backward views.
In recent research on race issues, the South African Institute Of Race Relations found prejudice and discrimination was born out of economic frustration and a sense of disempowerment.
The SAIRR noted: “Due to South Africa’s weak economy and that the majority of South Africans are not being empowered, people are frustrated and lashing out at each other – be this black-on-black racism, xenophobia, white- on- black racism, racism between any race groups. It will continue unless people are in jobs and empowered. ”
Thozama Mdumezweni (not her real name) says people moving to the province from the Eastern Cape are stealing jobs and taking over Cape Town.