Cape Town Outpost
I arrived back in Cape Town from Nairobi Friday afternoon exhausted after the WSF week and having to get up at 4am to catch my flight. Approached the front door of the house and thought that’s strange the security gate is open and the door closed (it’s supposed to be the other way round). It took me about a minute to realise that some person (s) had tried to break in and must have been disturbed as they hadn’t got round to the easy part which was to kick the glass paneled door in. I called a colleague who came round right away and we both went in the house – nothing was missing except my house mate who I later found upstairs – she hadn’t heard me come in but heard me climbing the steps and of course thought the worst. She left Saturday morning and since then I have been on my own with no security gate and having to barricade myself in with the dining table, chairs and a huge wok to hand. Now all this may seem a bit of an over reaction but hey I am living on the edge of boondock land with some interesting neighbours.
It took me about 24 hours to figure out that amongst the 10-20 guys, a couple of women and kids that live opposite were drug dealers from a war torn country in Africa. After a couple of days I speak with I think the head guy who came over and introduced himself and we said hi hi etc and everything is cool so I say hi they say hi and that’s it. But its damn intimidating having to walk past upwards of 10 guys every time I come and go and I didn’t think I was easily intimidated especially since all they do is say hi. But there are some issues here not least is the noise from shouting and music and fights that go on all night long and the comings and goings of those buying the drugs. I ask myself what about these drugs – I have no problem with a bit of smoke and am all for legalising the stuff but I am told this is serious stuff (though that may be an exaggeration). There are dumped cars where people sleep and do whatever and just lying on the road or sitting on the stoop in the late and early hours of the night and day. . Down the road and round the corner is another group. This time very very poor people of colour who speak Afrikaans – again the street is full up day and night, occasional fights, kids hanging, mums etc. On Saturday night there was a guy running around with a huge axe and two local security guys trying to control him and stop him axing another man meanwhile all the street was hanging out watching the drama as always including yours truly (from my doorway). Then there is a group of the street kids. At first there were 3/4 but now I see more and more in the morning, sometimes sitting around, sleeping on the street or sitting in the corner by the house. Yesterday I passed a group of 6 boys between 6/7 and maybe one who was about 14 and they said miss we are hungry so I said I would bring them some food on my way back.
One of them was waiting for me to come out of the supermarket, saw my bag and ran off to tell his mates she’s coming with food. I was reminded by a sign I saw in Nairobi which said “Don’t feed the street kids, they have organisations that feed and look after them” or something like that and I thought of those signs you see in the zoo that say “Please don’t feed the animals…..”. Like Annie says “I am not looking for poor starving Africans so that I can identify with the stereotyped images of what this place should be” they are on my door step and this is not a zoo to be telling people who to feed and who not to feed and who to talk to do when you step out on the street. I feel safe in the day but at night no one wants to let you out unless you are in a car, so you start to catch everyone else’s paranoia .
This is a strange place, this outpost of Cape Town. If you come out and turn right you get small bungalows occupied by white and better off people of colour and a lot of “alternatives”. Two minutes walk and you are on a street with posh cafes, wine shops, organic food, African artifacts and even a man that is paid to sing on the street — this is called “The Village” — how original! If you turn left you get what I just described above. Then there is the beach which is full of “cafes” and surfers and at the weekend crowds of tourists from nearby communities. By the supermarket shoppers and loads of homeless people milling around including a few poor whites. And at night, well its night in SA and you stay in doors or get in your car unless of course you are a street kid, drug dealer or homeless or just plain down right poor and hungry. Thanks to Annie I was able to come out and write this as I have been in a strange place this past few days! Oh and the gate was fixed yesterday, the street quiet and I slept.