Cape Town: From Top to Bottom

Cape Town is a wee bit different from other places I’ve visited in Africa. First there’s no language barrier- everyone speaks English (amongst other things- Americans are the only people that refuse to learn more than one language). There’s also a lot of white people- so I for the most part blend in, which is unusual for me in this continent. There’s actually plenty white South Africans as many different groups of Europeans settled here/ claimed the land in colonial and precolonial times (understandably so- it’s beautiful).

This being said, another one of the stark differences is development and the massive divide between the haves and have-nots. There are some super wealthy areas- like the most expensive property in the entire country next to endless sprawling shantytowns. I’m happy to paint a word picture for you of these two drastically different areas.

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Picture a combo of Malibu and South Beach. Camps Bay and/or Clifton beach areas in Cape Town. Mansions, celebrities, pristine beaches, fine dining, expensive wine. I dined in this luxurious restaurant on the strip one night and paid what about four meals would have cost me in other areas of Cape Town. Quite the touristic area, in fact you might catch a glimpse of Leo or Charlize Theron as they come and go from their mansions in the area.

Now, picture rusted tin (tin roof is literally rusted) and wood structures, held together by scrapings and prices of wood that go on for as far as the eye can see. Piles of trash mark the entrance to the shantytown and the smell hits you as soon as you approach. Kids, dogs, animals roam free. This side of Cape Town is hidden from tourists on the outskirts of the city. Ubers won’t go into the townships, nor will the police. Here drugs, gangs, and prostitution run rampant.

How can there be such a drastic divide to this developed and Westernized city in South Africa? How is it possible that wealth is so unevenly distributed? I’ve seen in Cape Town the wealthiest in Africa and the poorest separated by no more than a few miles. Perhaps this is the remnants of Apartheid? There must be a way we can raise the bottom up.

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