Isn’t Cape Town the most beautiful graveyard you’ve ever seen? Okay, that’s maybe too cynical. But let’s get real about a few things. Cape Town is not the most beautiful place in the world. It doesn’t have the best beaches and neither does it have the greatest value for money. I say this not to deter the amount of tourists considering flocking to the shores of my home city. I say this as a matter-of-fact which aims to brings things into proportionate perspective. I say this mostly to awaken myself to the realities that we are living with in this city where people still walk around like they’re on the set of a rerun of their supposed lives. Cape Town can be a yawn like that.
I arrived home by-the-sea about a week ago. I’ve quickly concluded that I would love to do all future meetings and catch-ups on the beach with the cold Atlantic waves in sight. Or where you could just plonk yourself down on a beach towel and catch the glorious sunshine while it lasts. The days and nights are getting colder.
I have of course been updated on all the drama I missed out on. An actor that I chilled with on the beach yesterday told me about the TV soapie he was in and also about his theatre work. A journalist friend moaned that Cape Town’s media industry is still polluted with racism (indicative of broader issues, I assumed). And my dad’s cousin, now a grandmother of three children, told me about the fatality of a guy from the area where I grew up. He got addicted to drugs and was found dead with his eyes taken out of its sockets.
The latter is gruesomely stomach turning. It sounds a lot worse with all the other details included but which I choose to edit from this blog entry. I immediately got dressed in my been-there-done-that desensitised South African armour. It’s horrible to say but that’s the only way to stay sane in a country gone befok. I can never stop talking at home about Sudan and Ethiopia (where I have been for the past nine months); places with hectic poverty but where the locals don’t kill each other and use poverty as a scapegoat. These are countries with more poverty, military-style governments and conflicts than we witness in South Africa. Yet for the most part, one feels as safe as in kindergarten when you’re not in the immediate conflict areas.
It’s strange how South Africans are so violent, have no sense of community and yet they have this idea that they’re better off than the rest of Africa. South Africans very quickly need to get over their sense of detachment from the continent.
Even black Africans don’t feel a sense of belonging to Africa. And that’s because of the colonial arrogance we’ve perpetuated. But get real. Zimbabwe and Darfur affects us directly. Ditto every other calamity on this Cape to Cairo route because numerous of our continent’s friends see our land as New York on their doorstep.
“If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.” Or at least, you can illegally get a South African passport that can take you anywhere else in the world.
A friend from Cape Town who now lives in Addis Ababa was telling me that she met a Nigerian during her London stint. The man had a South African passport and was telling everyone he’s from her country. Of course she knows he’s not from home. And I’ve lost count of how many persons I met in Sudan and Ethiopia and even from elsewhere who wanted to know how to get a job in South Africa. Quite a few Ethiopians told me that they knew someone who travelled illegally overland into South Africa.
The aforementioned friend from Cape Town knows an Ethiopian taxi driver who crossed the South African border illegally and worked in this country for three years while sending cash back home. Political and economic conditions for most of the continent’s residents are sub-human. So they seek the exit sign. And all politicians do is offer a collective sigh.
The Ethiopian taxi driver now smuggles people to South Africa, much the same way he could make his money and run. An Ethiopian tour guide told me that someone had promised him that he could get him to South Africa as well but the route sounded too arduous and the human trafficker of sorts wanted too much cash.
The tour guide has now set his sights on the real New York. People do the strangest things to get out of their countries.
One night I was having dinner with a young man who was helping me around in Addis Ababa. He showed me his passport and it did not reflect his real age. He is in his early 20s but his passport reflects that he is only 20-years-old. This is because he has a relative in America who could get him into that country by stating that he is a minor and needs to live with his family. Free ride to what? Cleaning toilets of overweight Americans?
In Sudan, some asked me how to get a visa to South Africa; also how to get a job and whether it’s possible to perhaps even study and attend a conference in South Africa. Anything will do. Just get us out of our mess. That’s the attitude.
These are the realities we’re dealing with. This is how African politics is changing the face of South Africa. I am meanwhile getting used to being home.