Cape Town is a beau­ti­ful city, but the poor lose out

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

LAST Sun­day af­ter­noon, I was laz­ing around at home, watch­ing tele­vi­sion, and de­cided I needed to get out of the house for fresh air. I jumped into my car and within 15 to 20 min­utes I was walk­ing on Muizen­berg beach.

I re­alised that I can do this but there are many oth­ers who are not able to do the same. This got me think­ing about this beau­ti­ful city where I was born and that I proudly call home.

Cape Town is a beau­ti­ful city, but only for those who have ac­cess to re­sources.

The ma­jor­ity of Capeto­ni­ans do not have the lux­ury of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the city in the same way.

I have been for­tu­nate to have vis­ited many cities around the world and Cape Town is up there with the best in terms of the value it of­fers tourists.

There are few other places where you can quickly travel from beach to moun­tain.

While ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the tran­quil­lity of the tourist at­trac­tions, it is easy not to think about the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in Cape Town who live in sub-eco­nomic homes and in­for­mal hous­ing on the Cape Flats, with­out ac­cess to many ba­sic fa­cil­i­ties and strug­gling to find de­cent jobs.

Now that wa­ter has be­come such a scarce com­mod­ity, these peo­ple are prob­a­bly go­ing to be the ones who will suf­fer the most.

I grew up on the Cape Flats and re­mem­ber go­ing to the beach once, maybe twice a year, by bus and train or maybe minibus taxi.

It was al­ways a spe­cial oc­ca­sion be­cause it hap­pened so rarely.

Go­ing into the city cen­tre was also spe­cial, with my mom tak­ing the chil­dren for lunch at the end of the year, af­ter my fa­ther had re­ceived his bonus. Apart from that, we did not go into the CBD much.

My treat was a steak and kid­ney pie and some hot milk with two spoons of su­gar. It was a sim­ple and now seem­ingly in­ex­pen­sive meal, but at the time it was a meal that I would savour for the whole year, un­til the next time we went into town for lunch.

We were con­sid­ered the lucky ones by many of our neigh­bours.

There were thou­sands of chil­dren who never left the town­ship be­cause their par­ents could not af­ford it or did not think it was a pri­or­ity to take their chil­dren to the beach at least once a year. This in a city sur­rounded by sea.

But when you have the daily strug­gle to make ends meet, in an en­vi­ron­ment where you might not have work or, if you did, you earned next to noth­ing, then it be­comes un­der­stand­able that the beach would be far from mind.

You might even look at the moun­tain in the dis­tance – that was the case when we lived in Mitchells Plain – but you never con­sid­ered climb­ing or hik­ing to the top. Those are the things re­served for tourists.

But en­joy­ing Cape Town’s beaches or the moun­tain should not only be the pre­serve of tourists and those with money.

Any­one who lives in this city should be al­lowed, at least a few times, to ex­plore the beauty of the city.

At the mo­ment, the clos­est many peo­ple get to tourists is when buses go into some town­ships to show off some of our cul­tural her­itage.

At least, that means that some peo­ple in these town­ships also get to ben­e­fit fi­nan­cially.

Many tourists only see shacks when they travel by road from and to the air­port, but for­get about this poverty once they come to the more scenic parts of the city.

The sad thing is that most peo­ple will never have that op­por­tu­nity to truly ex­pe­ri­ence the beauty of our city and to ben­e­fit from it.

South Africa re­mains an un­equal coun­try and Cape Town re­mains an un­equal city.

All the signs point to Cape Town be­com­ing even more un­equal in fu­ture, with prop­erty prices go­ing through the roof, mak­ing it vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble for young peo­ple to af­ford to buy homes in the city or the sub­urbs.

There are some peo­ple who be­lieve there is noth­ing wrong with in­equal­ity. They ar­gue that “the poor will al­ways be with us”.

These are the same peo­ple who are not pre­pared to share what they have with those who have lit­tle.

They do not think about the fact that some­where in one’s fam­ily’s his­tory, peo­ple had noth­ing.

Yes, some peo­ple worked harder than oth­ers, but most peo­ple who have achieved suc­cess had op­por­tu­ni­ties open up for them.

The key is to find ways of open­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for oth­ers.

I en­joy the beauty of Cape Town, but I would en­joy it more if I knew that the ma­jor­ity of its cit­i­zens had the same priv­i­lege.

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