The Cape Peninsula
is the South-westernmost point of Africa
. Like most of the Western Cape
area, it is not flat. The backbone of the peninsula are the mountains running roughly north to south.
The peninsula is joined to the mainland by the Cape flats: a flat sandy stretch of land, between the South Atlantic ocean in Table bay to the North-west, and the Indian Ocean in the south-east at Muizenberg. The Cape flats are sandy, with poor soil, dunes and vleis (shallow, marshy lakes) at the Muizenberg end, and are prone to flooding during heavy winter rainstorms.
You wouldn't be entirely wrong to think of the Cape Flats as an exceedingly large sandbar. In geologically recent times (inside the last 2 million years) this area was indeed underwater, with the peninsula an island.
The Cape flats, as real estate, has little going for it except for relative proximity to the metropole of Cape Town. All the upmarket suburbs and satellite towns are off the flats, on the slopes of one or other hill or mountain. But the flats were by the year 2000 mostly urbanised.
The Cape Flats were one of apartheid’s dumping grounds. The urban geography of an Apartheid city places the poor at the periphery of the city, unlike their usual place in a decayed inner city. The inhabitants of one such neighbourhood, District 6, were forcibly relocated to the Cape Flats.
Newcomers, those leaving the desolate homelands (newspeak for dumping grounds) for a chance in the big city were forced to claim vacant land outside the city limits, and form an "informal settlement" or squatter camp, and were subject to harassment by the authourities who were not prepared to deal with conflict between the economic reality of urbanisation and thier own grand apartheid plans.
The airport, which was formerly named after some dead white male apartheid politician, and has been renamed Cape Town International Airport, is on the flats. When travelling to or from the airport, one has excellent views of the surrounding shanty-towns. When taking of or landing, one has even better aerial views of the tin shacks, resplendent in their full squalor.
You may have heared of some of these shantytowns: Crossroads, Marconi beam (named after a nearby factory) and Khayelitsha (our new home). You may also have heared of some of the ghettoes or townships: Nyanga (moon), Gugulethu (our pride) , Mitchell's Plain.
Crack cocaine seems to be replacing Mandrax (qualuudes, smoked with marijuana) as dominant vice. But for most problematic social drug, alcohol takes some beating. This is how Cape Town gets one of the highest murder rates in the world.
Most notorious gangs are The Hard Livings the Americans, the Mongrels, and the Scorpions. Gang-related violence is common. The community organistaion PAGAD (People against Gangsterism and Drugs) has turned into a violent, pro-fundamentalist Islamic-aligned protection racket that was on the USA’s list of terriorist organisations well before 9/11/2001. Several members were on trial for the lynching of Hard Livings leader Rashied Stagie, and other have been implicated in bombings.
Given the paucity of official public transport, the minibus taxi industry is important. Rivalry for lucrative routes between contending taxi associations is fierce, and sometimes deadly. Many drivers are armed.
The most common language on the Cape Flats is Afrikaans, spoken by people of all skin colours in a strong local dialect that has different pronounciation, vocabulary and incorporates some English and Xhosa words. Xhosa is also common, as many of the inhabitants are from that tribe. English is also spoken.
Though Cape Town is my home town, I can't tell you much about my personal experiences of the more interesting areas of Cape flats, because I avoid them whenever possible.
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