As they say in SA, Howzit?
I am back for a second dose of South African society, politics and culture. Currently in Cape Town to get a feel for changes, if any, that have resulted in the World Cup in 2010 on a social, political, economic and cultural level. Later this week I will be spending most of my time in the Cape Flats (Townships) working with GLA (Global Leadership Adventures) on sustainable development projects that focus upon service learning, as well as linking back up with the “Kino-Kadre” (independent filmmakers in the Cape Flats) to get a better feel for what is really going on. Check out their work at http://kinokadre.wordpress.com/about/
From recent informal interviews and conversations with people in the City Bowl and in “Gugs” (Guguletu Township) the review is mixed. Some areas have new toilet systems and more consistent energy service but at an alarmingly high increase of cost. In general, it is a waste of time to talk about “averages” in a place like Cape Town where certain sections like the City Bowl, the “average Captonian” is pulling in an annual salary on par with the western world. Meanwhile, people living in the Townships just twenty minutes away, like Guguletu and Mitchell’s Plain, life seems eerily unchanged from the years of systematic Apartheid with monthly salaries barely scraping ZAR350 ($50). South Africa continues to surge forward with developing the world perception that it is an “emerging nation” along with Brazil, Russia, China and India (BRICsa), and it is currently seen as an upper-middle income nation in terms of GDP, but this “growth” is making it even harder for the millions that are still out of the loop in terms of employment, education and health services. For instance, I overheard a conversation about a group of business owners who were trying to create an alliance to hold the prices of accommodation and services for tourism at World Cup rates. It was nice to hear that the owner of the place I am staying at refused membership, but if the mentality is there for tourism, I can just imagine what it is like for the companies who continue to raise the cost of utilities and rents on the shacks in the Flats.
Perhaps the biggest change I have seen from last summer is the number of homeless on the streets of Cape Town, and how many more beggars there are in the main tourist areas. It is also the off-season, so it is difficult to determine what the level of security on the street would have been like in their high-season summer (our winter), but not a day or night has gone by without being bombarded with requests for assistance regardless of the street I choose to walk down. I will clearly be writing more in the coming days, so check back for updates and I will be posting photos in some new galleries plus video clips once I get that element of the site up and running. In the meantime, be well.