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 the following ten days. The highway was in excellent condition, and ran through aspects of scrub that flowed away the verges of the trail towards distant mountains. However ten minutes later we found shanty towns that were erected alongside the highway.
They were a cheap reminder than ten 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 kind of material known to man – corrugated iron sheets and rusty metal sheets combined with wood, cardboard and wire to create an exceptionally uncomfortable shelter when compared to a family called home. Even more appalling was the truth that many 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 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 several 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 practical and extremely modern cluster home in a compound of approximately 30 residences. This kind of living is extremely popular in South Africa, due to 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 keep pets too, because each house has its private garden. Additionally it is a perfect way to live in Africa if one needs traveling or go on christmas – neighbours will keep an eye on the house when you are away. My husband and I were so impressed with in this way of living that the following year we bought into a group complex my then employers were marketing in Harare. Once we sold our home in 2003 we reinvested the profit an additional cluster home. If one wants to live in Africa security is vital, and a group home complex offers the very best level of security for residences.
Pete’s a bachelor, to ensure that night he prepared a barbecue in his Weber braai unit. His girlfriend Pat came round to greatly help with the cooking, and we’d 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 large 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.