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Cape Town - Townships


  The townships are the areas where, during apartheid, the black
people and (separately) the colored people were required to live.
Pass-books were issued - like internal passports around the
country - if you did not have a job in town you had to
return to the homelands in the country.

Things are not like that any more ... however, they all still live
in these areas, for economic reasons instead, and also because
their friends and families live in the same community.

There are different classes of townships - old, formal townships
where the hostels were built for single men.

These buildings are all to the same plan - on each floor of
these long buildings there is a common living area, and 6
rooms, 4 of which hold three beds, and two of which have
four beds. there is one tap and a small kitchen for a
paraffin stove.

Now, instead of it being room for single men, each bed is
the sole private space of a family. Outside, a sandy, dusty yard
with junk cars and women selling sheeps heads - boiled (of course).

THese old places are gradually being torn down, to be replaced
with small two-bedroom houses. However, the new houses
do not match the population density of the old places, let
alone the economic means of the old occupants, so there
is a big circus of all move to the next place we can afford.

Lower cost new townships are being built, in a pattern
started well before the change of government from
the National Party, where a large area of plots is
marked out, and infrastructure put in, in the form of
roads, and a small toilet with attached concrete sink
and a single tap per plot. What goes up on the plot
is typical of all the shanty towns - hardboard scrounged
from the dump - pieced of corrugated iron bought by the sheet
for the roof, and odd pieces of lumber and nails to hold it
all together. However, inside they are usually a concrete
floor, linoleum, curtains and a clean little home that
seems in contrast with the ramshackle outside.

they pay for there infrastructure - R13 per month (US$3)
that is the hardest thing they have to come to terms with -
regular payments. There has been such a problem with
electricity bills that you now pre-pay  for electricity.

The meters are made by Phillips, Holland (a strong
pre-disposition in RSA to products/systems of european
origin rather than USA) and are little gems.
You are provided with a laminated card with a long
serial number and barcode, which you present to the
electricity shop, with (say) 50 Rand to pay for
the electricity. They are in turn given a 20 digit
number to punch in to the membrane keypad on
the meter, and, like magic, they are credited the
correct amount of electricity.

Our guide took us into her Aunts little house. Her
aunt knew English, and went to great pains to understand
our questions and answer them accurately.

The next level down of township are old shanty towns
that have had water pipes installed, and common collecting
points for buckets of sewage.

And, at the bottom - shanty cities with no services at

the colored Townships are a cut above the Black ones -
they have always been treated better, and for a while
in the 50s even had a vote. they speak a pidgin
English/Africaanse, while the black speak Xhosa
(the X is a click - one of 5 different ones in their
language). As usual, any small attempt to speak
their language was well received (usually with
hoots of laughter) so it was well worth learning their

There is as much a problem to bring the Coloreds and
blacks to a place of mutual respect as it is to
ask that of the priviliged whites.

In town myself and a German friend Mattias I met in Namibia
have met many interesting people in the watering holes of
the city - including one great evening with a french
girl who came out to observe the elections and decided
to stay for a while, and an old white man who drove
Nelson Mandelas daughters to school at an exclusive
diplomatic place in Swaziland while he was incarcerated.

His insight into the influence of the old tribal heirarchies
on the ANC in exile was most entertaining. the Canadians
had a big part of funding the ANC while it was a baned
organisation in exile.

Plastic bags, the scourge of the african countryside,
all stuck in the razor-wire surrounding almost any
building of note.

No razor wire, or apparently any form of security,
around the affluent black residences in th black

Did I tell you Cape Town is shooting for the Olympics
in 2004 ?

Cheers,   Andy!

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Andy Rabagliati   .   andyr@wizzy.com    .   <URL http://www.wizzy.com/andyr/>