Our friend Pete was looking forward to us at the airport. After we’d collected our luggage we drove to his house. The drive along the highway from the Airport to Cape Town was our introduction to the city we’d be calling home for another ten days. The highway was in excellent condition, and ran through regions of scrub that flowed away the verges of the street towards distant mountains. However ten minutes later we came across shanty towns that had been erected alongside the highway.
They certainly were a cheap reminder than 10 years after gaining independence the contrast involving the rich and poor has perhaps worsened. The shacks getting back together the shanty towns were made of each and every sort of material proven to man – corrugated iron sheets and rusty metal sheets along with wood, cardboard and wire to create an exceptionally uncomfortable shelter than a family called home. Much more appalling was the fact lots of the shanty houses had run wires to the overhead power lines làm mái tôn.This dangerous link was apparently sanctioned by the electricity board – Pete told us that the municipality and the government were failing to help keep pace with the demand for houses for the poorer members of society, and preferred to leave the shanty towns intact! A refuse collection service run by the local authority was operating to keep the shanty towns habitable. We saw numerous shanty towns along the main highways during our remain in Cape Town.
Pete lives in a suburb called Somerset West, and his home was a practical and extremely modern cluster home in a compound around 30 residences. This form of living is remarkably popular in South Africa, because of security and reduced overheads. The complexes are very well maintained because each owner contributes towards the upkeep and maintenance of the complex. Some complexes offer communal playgrounds for the resident children, tennis courts and swimming pools. Owners usually are able to help keep pets too, because each house has its own private garden. It’s also a perfect way to call home in Africa if one needs traveling or go on vacation – neighbours will watch on the home while you are away. My husband and I were so impressed with this way of living that the next year we bought into a group complex my then employers were marketing in Harare. Whenever we sold our home in 2003 we reinvested the money in an additional cluster home. If one wants to call home in Africa security is essential, and a group home complex offers the most effective amount of security for residences.
Pete’s a bachelor, so that night he prepared a barbecue in his Weber braai unit. His girlfriend Pat came round to help with the cooking, and we had a great evening. The view from Pete’s house was superb. Somerset West is made on a hill overlooking the city, and the view from his verandah offered the classic Cape Town view – the sprawling city at the foot of majestic Table Mountain, the lighthouse and the Atlantic Ocean. His house had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a big family area, state of the art kitchen and outside laundry/storeroom. He told us he spends most of his time on his verandah or in his garden.