Our friend Pete was awaiting 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 areas of scrub that flowed away the verges of the road towards distant mountains. However ten minutes later we discovered shanty towns that had been erected next to the highway.
They certainly were a shabby reminder than a decade after gaining independence the contrast involving the rich and poor has perhaps worsened. The shacks creating the shanty towns were made of every sort of material recognized to man – corrugated iron sheets and rusty metal sheets combined with wood, cardboard and wire to make an incredibly uncomfortable shelter than the usual family called home. Much more appalling was the fact that 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 us government were failing to 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 area authority was operating to help keep the shanty towns habitable. We saw a number of shanty towns along the main highways during our stay in Cape Town.
Pete lives in a suburb called Somerset West, and his home was a functional and extremely modern cluster home in a compound of about 30 residences. This kind of living is highly popular in South Africa, due to security and reduced overheads. The complexes are perfectly maintained because each owner contributes towards the upkeep and maintenance of the complex. Some complexes offer communal playgrounds for all your resident children, tennis courts and swimming pools. Owners are generally able to keep pets too, because each house has its private garden. It’s also an ideal way to live in Africa if one needs to visit or go on vacation – neighbours will keep an eye on the house when you are away. My husband and I were so impressed with in this manner of living that these year we bought into a cluster complex my then employers were marketing in Harare. Whenever we sold the house in 2003 we reinvested the money in another cluster home. If one wants to live in Africa security is very important, and a cluster home complex offers the very best level of security for residences.
Pete’s a bachelor, in order that night he prepared a barbecue in his Weber braai unit. His girlfriend Pat came round to help with the cooking, and we had an excellent evening. The view from Pete’s house was superb. Somerset West is created on a mountain 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 room, state of the art kitchen and outside laundry/storeroom. He told us he spends nearly all of his time on his verandah or in his garden.