Our friend Pete was awaiting us at the airport. After we’d collected our luggage we drove to his house. The drive over 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 road towards distant mountains. However ten minutes later we found shanty towns that were erected next 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 making up the shanty towns were made of 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 the usual 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 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 local authority was operating to help keep the shanty towns habitable. We saw a number of shanty towns along the key 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 around 30 residences. This kind of living is very popular in South Africa, because of security and reduced overheads. The complexes are well 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 a unique private garden. It’s also a great way to call home in Africa if one needs to travel or go on christmas – neighbours will watch on the house when you are away. My husband and I were so impressed with this way of living that these year we bought into a cluster complex my then employers were marketing in Harare. Whenever we sold our home in 2003 we reinvested the money in a second cluster home. If one wants to call home in Africa security is essential, and a cluster 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 simply help with the cooking, and we’d a wonderful 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 area, 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.