Cape-town is in the middle of World Cup anticipation. Colours are flying, plants are being planted, streets being cleaned. It is a truly beautiful city.
Last week I was shown round a township called Langa by ‘Sugar’ (who lives there) in Cape town. Sugar is a vibrant and energetic 22 year old with a smile of white perfect teeth that frame her face into a large bright sun. Sugar moves around cape town and the township as naturally as a fish swims in the sea. People are shown around the townships to educate them on the governments move towards providing permanent housing.
There are various categories of accommodation. The temporaries’ are made from planks, sticks, aluminium sheeting and strong hardboard. These are more what the townships or shantytowns are famous for and the temporaries seem to still remain a permanent fixture.
Then there are the hostels which were set up for the single male migrants who would work in cape town and commute from the townships. They now are used by families and house up to three families in a room. Sugar used to live in a Hostel. Three families live in each room. Parents would share a small bed each and children would sleep on the floor.
The final type of housing are the permanent houses which are labelled as the ‘Beverley Hills’ of the township. This was what the others who were not there aspired to. These houses have solar panels and there is a waiting list to get one. Sugar has been waiting for five years and said it was normal to wait at least ten years.
Sugar had finished college and used to live in one of the hostels where three families would live in a room. Sugar completed her college education, and when asked as to how she managed to study with so many people around. Sugar replied she used to wake up at 2am to do her studies and then be ready for school at 5am. Sugar is a tenacious young woman of 22 who is now seeking to get a driving licence as she would then earn more as a tour guide if she could drive. I do not doubt sugar will achieve her goals. She says she is much happier in the temporary accomodation as she has her own space. She had to save and buy one for herself. I am amazed at her tenacity and what it takes to get somewhere. Would I have woken up at 2am to study? Would it have been easier to simply fall in with the others around me who do mostly drop out of school?
When her mother lost her job and returned to the eastern provinces Sugar stayed on with a relative to continue her college education. Sugar is resilient and respects education. Her education enables her to open her vision of the world. Her world is not only limited to the temporary house she lives in but it goes beyond the eastern provinces she was born in and moved with her mother to Cape town. Sugar takes things one step at a time, she remains positive and works hard. Sugar is resourceful and her mind is her largest asset. Often our minds let us down and we let the negative of our thoughts take over; our mind becomes handicapped by negativity. Sugar has learnt to harness the energies of her mind and use it to grow.
I noted how I felt sad leaving Sugar behind, I had wanted to take her with me. It was arrogant of me to assume my own world is in any way better then hers or for me to even temporarily assume she would want to leave. I was told by a local that those who live in the townships want to stay on and hope to live in the better housing of ‘Beverley Hills’. It seems there are people from townships who become successful and remain in the townships, but have properties and businesses outside to gather income. Sugar is much more resilient then many people from privileged backgrounds and it is admirable. As you may gather – I liked Sugar, her mind, body and spirit.