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