Our friend Pete was looking forward to us at the airport. After we’d collected our luggage we drove to his house. The drive across the highway from the Airport to Cape Town was our introduction to the town 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 trail towards distant mountains. However ten minutes later we came across shanty towns that had been erected close to the highway.
These were a shabby reminder than 10 years after gaining independence the contrast between the rich and poor has perhaps worsened. The shacks creating the shanty towns were made of each kind of material recognized to man – corrugated iron sheets and rusty metal sheets combined with wood, cardboard and wire to create an extremely 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 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 neighborhood authority was operating to help keep the shanty towns habitable. We saw numerous shanty towns along the main highways during our stay static 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 style of living is very 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 all 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. Additionally it is an ideal way to reside in Africa if one needs to visit or go on holiday – neighbours will watch on your house while you are away. My husband and I were so impressed with in this way of living that these year we bought into a group complex my then employers were marketing in Harare. Whenever we sold our house in 2003 we reinvested the money in another cluster home. If one wants to reside in Africa security is vital, and a group home complex offers the most effective 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 help with the cooking, and we’d an excellent evening. The view from Pete’s house was superb. Somerset West is made on a mountain overlooking the town, 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 sizable living 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.