Delving Deeper Into Capetown
Take a Walk Through the Streets of Capetown
Most Meaningful Experience: Understanding that water crises are just starting to emerge around the world and income inequality is a major cause of unrest.
- There is a lot more to do in Capetown than I described. Go to Robben Island and hike Lions Head and Table Mountain
- Join a volunteer project with Team4Tech in one of Cape Town’s township communities.
- Wander through the markets in Cape Town’s center while discovering the income disparity in the country.
Arriving into Cape Town, I was ready to break out on my own. I’d just completed a month-long trip with Nomads traveling south from Zambia and while I felt like I’d been tolerant and empathetic with my fellow travelers, I was craving my own space. This would be my second time in Cape Town, so I was also looking forward to delving a little deeper into South Africa’s complexities and what made this country tick.
I was staying at an Airbnb on the coast where I could go running to let off some steam while stopping to explore the parks and restaurants that dotted the way. Cape Town nestled between the coast and the flat-topped peak of Table Mountain, with yacht-filled harbors and an air of wealth in its affluent residential areas.
On one of my runs, I could hear someone honking their car horn behind me but didn’t want to turn around. Eventually, I heard my name and turned around to see Jeremiah, one of the teachers at my Team4Tech project. We caught up over a meal at a Malaysian restaurant where the owner told us about the Cape Malays who first brought Islam to South Africa. The country is home to churches, synagogues and mosques and South Africans are proud to share their support for freedom of worship.
But Cape Town definitely has its problems. First and foremost during my visit was the water crisis. There were signs saying “35 days left of water” and the news was constantly updating residents about limiting their shower time, not using washing machines or watering their lawns. Serious water restrictions had been implemented but it wasn’t only here. On the other side of the world, California was experiencing a major water drought as well. It was the first time I’d really considered just how significant the problem of accessing water could be in the future.
I spent a day at the Philippi Western Cape Township where i worked with some students, alongside my Team4Tech colleagues, Dawn and Paul. It was one of the rougher townships in Cape Town, with people being shot by stray bullets on a monthly basis and seriously high rates of alcoholism. While the students were great to work and it was one of my most satisfying volunteer experiences, I was definitely on guard getting out of my Uber.
South Africa has one of the world’s worst levels of inequality, with the grand mansions of Bishopscourt and Llandudno in stark contrast to the poverty and despair in the sprawling townships on Cape Town’s outskirts. I joined a tour with an Indian South African through the markets near the main bus terminal and the disparity in the wealth here alone was startling.
Most of the stall owners had no other means to generate an income or access capital and tensions were mounting as more people moved from the townships into Cape Town. My guide explained that the money had been consolidated by a few wealthy South Africans who controlled the steel and oil industries, without re-investing anything back into the local communities. As a result, Cape Town isn’t as safe as you might think and we were advised not to walk around certain areas at night.
But despite the inequality and hint of racism in the air, I found most South Africans to be concerned about their society and willing to address the pains of the past. They organized community events – even something as simple as planting a tree brings new life and positive energy. Through my discussions with locals, I felt they’d come to the realization that healing is a natural process and something they need to go through if their society was ever going to come to a peaceful resolution. I hope that Cape Town can figure out its societal pains because it’s definitely a city that everyone should experience.