Friday, July 18, 2008

the Kandinsky is painted on both sides...

It’s winter in Cape Town.

Normally, and for the better part of the last few weeks, this means torrential rain, wind, dampness and bone-chilling cold. As mentioned before, the vast majority of houses are not insulated, meaning it is often colder inside than out.

Today is an exception. An unseasonably warm 22 degrees and not a cloud in sight. To celebrate, I drove to Seapoint to take a walk along the seawall. Writing this, I am warmed by the huge sun setting in a pale blue sky while waves crash just below me and Feist sings about her moon and her man in my earphones.

Blissful indeed.

In taking in this picturesque setting however, I am reminded (as I often am, and as is so difficult not to be), of the great disparity between the haves and have-nots in this city. Walking along the seawall with a smile on my face, I pass joggers, yummy mummies pushing their designer babies in their designer prams, couples strolling hand in hand, kids playing football and people walking their dogs - a glaring distinction between this demographic and those among the crowds who clearly have very little. They are sitting on the ground half-asleep, lying on the beach fully asleep, or just walking along themselves. I did not see anyone asking for money.

When the rain fell in buckets the other night, fell with such a force that the house literally shook, we were inside. Warmed by food cooking on our stove and layers of sweaters, we were warm and dry. And yet, not 5 minutes from our house there is a group of about 60 people who sleep under a bridge, a thin piece of tarpaulin all that separates them from the elements. One cannot imagine what that night must have been like for those folk.

As I drive to work in the morning, cranking the tunes in my now affectionately-named car ‘Iron Fist’, I pass hoards of young men waiting in the cold to be picked up by bukkies. Once on the highway, I often find myself behind the same bukkies, their flatbeds crammed with young men en route to work, which is usually some type of job in the temporary manual-labor category. The safety issues around travelling like this, especially at the speeds at which they drive are tremendous, cemented by the horror stories I have heard when these trucks find themselves in accidents. And the cold they must feel in the freezing morning air?

Poverty is everywhere in this city. Urban planning by the old regime did a fine job of disguising it or at least taking it out of a perhaps obvious line of view, but a long time has passed since 1994. One never has to strain to see evidence of how far this city and country still has to go in its struggle for equality.

Today, on the 90th anniversary of the nation’s Grandfather’s birth, we celebrate Madiba’s many accomplishments and the inspiration he has and continues to offer both South Africans and the global community. We rejoice…against the stark backdrop of the reality that almost 20 years later, his fight is far from being won.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Alex;

Layer economic / social inequality on top of grinding poverty and we have a troubled society ... as you say; we have long way to go yet. A bit of good news(according to the government's 2008 Development Indicators Report)is that 9 million people have been lifted out of poverty since 1996 and official unemployment has decreased from 31%(March 2003) to 23% in September 2007.

We must remain hopeful. Thank very much for your the amazing work you're doing.