Cape Town – The Apartheid Walk

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There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot.  – Plato

I am staying only twenty minutes’ walk away from the Victoria and Albert Waterfront so that is where I decided to start my adventure in Cape Town.  A South African colleague gave me a list of things I must do and the V&A Waterfront was number three on the list after Robben Island and Table Mountain.  It was very quiet and somewhat disappointing.  It is basically a huge shopping centre with lots of restaurants and cafes.  I escaped London because I wanted to avoid the Christmas madness and here I was with a massive Christmas tree in front of me.  I knew immediately that it was not the place for me.

Yes, the views of the mountains in the distance and of boats and containers in the dazzling sunshine is spectacular, but for me that was not enough to make it one of the must see places.  It does have a couple of museums, the Chavonnes Battery Museum, which dates back to 1725 and the Iziko Maritime Centre but the description of both was not very appealing.  Other than the fact that it is by the harbour, I did not find it all that interesting, I can imagine it would be great for people who love shopping and eating food at inflated prices. 

V&A Harbour
Ships and boats moored at the V&A Waterfront

I spent an hour browsing in the bookshop then watched some models practising on a makeshift catwalk outside the main entrance to the shopping mall. After awhile I got bored so went walking on the trail along the waterfront. It was surprisingly quiet other than a few joggers here and there, I was the only person about. I wondered where everyone was then remembered that it was early morning on a Saturday. Most sensible people were probably still in bed. The walking got me a little hungy so I made my way back to town for breakfast before my next adventure, a walking tour of Cape Town.

Non Whites Only  Bench- Apartheid
Non-Whites Only bench from the Apartheid era segregation

There are lots but I chose to go with Free Walking Tours Cape Town.  They offer free walking tours starting at different times and you can choose from Apartheid to Freedom tour, Bo Kaap tour and the Historic City Tour. I chose the Apartheid to Freedom tour, and regretted doing so almost immediately. The tour covered a very small part of town and the guide pointed out places like the Parliament building, Rhodes’ statue in Company park, St Georges Cathedral where Desmond Tutu used to preach and the Municipal building where during Apartheid non-white people had go to be classified into the seven non-white races.  The segregated benches labelled “whites only and “non-whites only” still sit outside the building. 

Outside Parliament - Cape Town
A talented artist painting outside Parliament Cape Town

I found myself getting angrier as the tour progressed.  At the Rhodes statue where we were given a brief life story of Cecil Rhodes.  He believed that the Anglo-Saxon race was superior and that it was in the interest of the human race that they go and settle in more parts of the world.  That is how he and his cronies justified the removal of thousands of people from their ancestral homes and how he came to own almost all the diamond mines in Southern Africa.  Hearing this as well as the injustices suffered by black people during the apartheid years made me question the truth and reconciliation policy that followed it.  Where is the justice and reparation?   Walking around I still see white people in their fancy cars whilst there are black people sleeping rough in the streets.

Street Art - Cape Town
Street Art District Six – Cape Town

The tour ended in District Six where people of different races lived harmoniously during the early years of apartheid.  The racist government was of course not happy with this flourishing mixed community and in the 1970s proclaiming to be upholding the Group Areas Act (which gave the state power to declare a defined area for occupation and property ownership by members of a single race).  The residents of District Six had their houses demolished, properties destroyed and their families torn apart because the black members were forcibly sent to townships twenty five kilometres away.  It is no coincidence that District Six is also at the bottom of Table Mountain and therefore prime location which the Afrikaners wanted for themselves no doubt. 

District Six Cape Town
A glimpse of Table Mountain from District Six – Cape Town

The area remained undeveloped after the people were moved out mainly due to international pressure.  When Nelson Mandela came to power, he ordered 170 homes to be built in the district so that those who were forcefully removed could return.  The catch is that they have to prove that they loved there.  How many people keep paperwork for over fifty years? In any case, these people were forced from their house and were not given the opportunity to gather their belongings before they were demolished.  Where are they going to find the paperwork?  I will not be surprised if ten years from now we do not see private developers moving in on the area.

District Six
Outside the District Six Museum

The tour ended just outside the District Six Museum. We tipped the guide and everyone went their own separate ways.  The guide warned us about going further than the museum but never being one to listen, I decided to explore the area some more.  I came across a market selling some lovely vintage clothes and shoes but at eye watering prices and walked past some buildings with very cool street art.  Today is Saturday so I expected it to be busy with people but it was like a ghost town.  After a cake at the famous Charly’s Bakery, I made my way back to the apartment.  It has been a poignant day.