Friday, July 22, 2011

Cape Town -unfriendliest City in the Universe

Dear newspaper columnist Mondli Makhanya,
          If Sir Francis Drake, the first Englishman to sail around the world in 15 something or other didn’t say it he should have.The Cape is the most unfriendliest Cape in all Christendom.
          Not long ago Mondli, as the Black Editor in Chief of the Group that controls South Africa’s Sunday Times, you devoted your usual column in that paper to what you described as black discomfort in Cape Town.
          You gave as an example Black businessmen who came to work in the City only to move on soon afterwards because of loneliness and social discomfort.
          You made out that this was purely due to the fact that the Whites there didn’t like Blacks. You described that City as being the most racially polarised of South Africa’s major centres.
          It is often discussed with great emotion by Blacks and steadfastly rebutted by mainly White Capetonians,  you claimed. 
          Sorry Mondli it’s not as simple as that. You Blacks have such a chip on your shoulders that you seem to think that whenever you have a problem with Whites it’s automatically a racial thing.         
          There is certainly a problem with Whites in Cape Town but it's not what you think it is.
          The dyed-in-the-wool Capetonians take pride in treating outsiders of every colour with an indifference that borders on hostility. Their fellow Whites take the brunt of this approach because they are the people they are most likely to come in contact with socially.
        You see they will only really accept you if you were born there otherwise it takes 50 years of hard labour to become one of them. During that time they will happily come to your home ad nauseam for dinners and the like, but you’ll never be invited back.
          And what you must certainly never do is call round at the home of one of them uninvited. That is an unforgivable sin.
          Even the numerous churches haven’t been able to make a dent in this peculiar White culture that depends so much on having gone to the right school and that sort of thing.
          A long time ago when the country was under White domination my brother-in-law, who was based in Johannesburg, was briefly seconded to Cape Town by the bank that employed him. In those apartheid days he would only have been working with Whites. But in the six months that he was there living in a hotel not one of his colleagues asked him to their home for as much as a cup of tea.
          After three years of living in Cape Town the nearest my wife and I have got to being welcomed into a White home in our suburb was when a four year old girl my wife spoke to in the street invited my wife to her party.
          An equally bad indictment of the City’ indigenous Whities was the conversation my wife had with a woman who is married to a local. She revealed that she was Polish and added sadly, In Cape Town I’ll always be a  foreigner.
          I could go on and on with similar stories. Walking on an almost deserted beach my wife and I approached a grey haired woman with her grown up daughter. When I greeted the older woman she looked at me with a puzzled expression as if she was thinking, I don’t know you.

          So I said, I know it’s not done in Cape Town to greet people you don’t know, but I’m doing it anyway. She replied, Yes, I’m afraid us Capetonians are a stuffy lot.
         So there you are Mondli South Africa’s problems are not always just in Black and White.
          Probably since Drake’s time the Whites in Cape Town have been a closed order aptly summed up by this little ditty about two old Cape families.

          The Cape, the land of the grape and the cod,
       Where the Cloetes speak only to the Van der Byls
       And the Van der Byls only to God.        
          Shamefully yours,
          Jon.
P.S. I’m a White, who went to school in Cape Town, but who lost his White, Capetonian nationality because I was a traitor to the cause by living away from the City for too long.

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