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From Cape Town to Khayelitsha

Travelling into South Africa’s townships. Words: Emma Dowson

ape Town‘s Long Street is a restlessly

alive city-long alley of late night bars.

clubs and restaurants. liven the backpacker‘s hostels are 24—hour party zones. After a hectic weekend I booked into a little B84 B away f‘rom the centre. hoping for some serious shuteye.

Perhaps Khayelitsha wouldn‘t be everyone‘s ideal location for a quiet night. Newspaper reports of crime and gangland terror in this poverty stricken. densely populated township

are enough to put anyone off. But this. of

course. isn‘t the full story. No one can claim to have seen Cape Town without acknowledging apartheid‘s legacy and the complications the future holds. Visiting Khayelitsha you‘ll hear

any of Cape Town‘s white suburbs. My neighbours are so proud of me for setting up this business that they look out for my guests as if‘ they were their own f‘amily.‘

l‘d spent the afternoon on a ‘township tour‘. and meeting Vicky confirmed my impression that it was the women of South Africa who would re—build their country‘s future. Our first stop had been a school in Langa Township. where 300 pupils share a single classroom in a former migrant worker‘s hostel. As many of the parents can‘t afford the five rand (50p) monthly fees the school‘s founder and headmistress. Maureen Jacobs. and her all—female staff work without a regular salary.

We snuck into the back of the classroom and

‘Visitors usually only see the beautiful bits of Cape Town, but I wanted to show them how

most people live.’

funny. sad and moving stories and meet resourceful. brave people like 35-year-old Vicky. who has extended her matchbox township house into a cosy and spotless haven for guests.

‘Visitors usually only see the beautiful bits of

(‘ape Town. but I wanted to show them how most people live.‘ said Vicky. ‘Yes. the

townships are incredibly poor. but plenty of‘

positive things are happening here too. You‘ll feel a greater sense of community here than in

122 THE LIST 12—26 Apr 2001

watched as one of the teachers beat a drum and chanted. Her students sat cross-legged. listening attentively. occasionally breaking into song themselves. I assumed that this was a music

lesson. until Maureen explained that. as many of

the children are illiterate. much of the teaching is done through song. and that this was. in fact. a grammar lesson.

Moving on to Khayelitsha. we visited Rosie Gwadso in her simple kitchen. As founder of the Warmth Project. Rosie cooks for 600 people a

day. for no financial reward. ‘My ultimate goal is that no child in (‘ape Town should ever go to bed hungry.‘ she told us.

Next stop was the Pilini Project where single mothers learn to support themselves by weaving colourful mats and wall hangings from waste fabric. which are then sold in craft markets in central (‘ape Town. While the women work. their children are cared for in a creche ingeniously made of disused shipping crates.

Vicky was cooking dinner when I arrived at her house. So were her neighbours and the surrounding streets were swathed in smog rising from hundreds of charcoal stoves all in use at the same time.

Afterwards. Vicky suggested a nightcap at the local shabcen. or pub. By the time we arrived The Waterfront (named for the dusty palm trees shading its beer garden‘) was already thumping to kwaito music —— township- style hip hop. The volume didn‘t deter the older couples dressed in their l’riday night best. who drank quarts of beer and laughed riotously in one corner. while hip teenagers flirted and danced in another.

L'nfamiliar faces are rare here. but the welcome you‘ll receive is genuinely warm and enthusiastic. And it‘s not just reserved for foreign tourists. last week a white couple from a wealthy (‘ape Town suburb came to stay.‘ Vicky told me. ‘They‘d driven past thousands of times. but had never set foot in a township before. They had such a good time. they‘ve booked to come again next week.‘