18 Oct Why I am moving to Cape Town.
Some months back, I was forwarded a WhatsApp message about a lady who was explaining why she was relocating from Cape Town to Johannedburg. You can find the article here
It was around the same time I was starting to make biweekly trips to Cape Town. Cape Town for me has always been just that, Cape Town. At best it was the European holiday in Africa. But to be honest I always loved Cape Yawn. Its natural beauty has always resonated with me, especially since the fast paced Joburg concrete jungle is all I had known.
Born in Soweto I was injected with speed and urgency at birth in Baragwanath hospital. In Soweto, as soon as you learn to walk, you learn to look left and right before you cross the road by yourself. Even Bobby the local stray dog knows to look left and right before crossing the street. Living in Soweto meant I was always going to be street smart. Perhaps not as street smart as my older brother, who made sure I never went to the deep and “unsafe” parts of Soweto. He and my mother made sure I was more book smart than street smart. I was the first crop of black kids to go to the first multi racial schools. So I became the first generation cheese boys. I got scholarships and went to Wits university for my undergrad and post grad. I was probably the only black kid in my first year that had a car. It was more a hand me down starter pack, but hey… in the land of the blind the one eye seeing guy is king. Being at Wits West Campus, seeing white and Indian kids with cars in first year was a norm. Golf GTIs and BMWs were standard. Interestingly, all these kids did well at varsity. They graduated. One would have thought with such “spoils” the kids would be spoilt and not work hard. The reverse was actually true. It turns out to whom much is given, much is expected. The black kids, we were all pretty much struggling financially and academically. We were all first generation university students in our families. We were all trying to figure out this varsity thing, but honestly it was mostly trying to figure out girls and alcohol. Alcohol was the cheapest form of entertainment on campus, closely followed by sex. Actually, the two were tightly coupled…see what I did there.
The crowd I learnt from the most, were the Jewish kids. They too, had a starter pack cars. They had Toyota Tazz’s. Actually they didn’t have cars, they had transport. The Indian kids had cars. When I started hanging around the Jewish kids, my grades improved. It turns out the Jewish kids are like 10th generation university students. Going to university for them was not an accomplishment, it was an expectation. They also had generational intellectual property of how the university system worked. I remember there was this guy on campus, his name was Harold and he sold his lecture notes. The notes were printed on red paper so they couldn’t be photo copied. Harold’s notes were expensive in comparison to alcohol. You see, the university had an eco system that you needed to be plugged into, in order to be successful. Black kids were not doing well, not because they were dumber than their white counter parts, but because they were outside the privileged system. They couldn’t afford to be in the ecosystem. They were financially excluded. It is common knowledge that in SA, economics and race are inextricably linked. Did you know that when some black kids graduate from university, they are already black listed?! Black listing should be called black(s) listed.
So why am I moving to Cape Town?? A year ago, my good friend Justin said he was moving to Cape Town. I didn’t think much of it as he is in Tech so I thought he was going down to exploit the Silicon Cape buzz that was going around. Over the last three months I have come to realize that there is actually a big semigration to the Cape going on. Despite Cape Towns’s water issue, an alarming large number of predominantly white South African are semi-grating to Cape Town. A friend told me that approximately 100 of Investec’s high net worth individuals are moving down to Cape Town per month.
When you spend time in Cape Town the first thing you discover is that Capetonians are perceived to be unfriendly. White Joburgers will tell you (for days) how inhospitable white Cape Townians are. They will tell you how lonely Cape Town is for non Capetonians. How everyone says “let’s do dinner” but the invite never comes. Joburgers by nature are welcoming, if I am having a braai you invited, and that’s that. Not in Cape Town. Cape Town has boogie exclusivity and pretentiousness about it. At Justin’s birthday party in Cape Town, it was mostly Joburgers. And ofcourse I was the black up.
The second thing I noticed about Cape Town was the lack of diversity. It is far from being as cosmopolitan as Joburg. In fact, at face value one would be forgiven to think the city is racist. I spoke at an event with 100 or more people in attendance, I was one of two black people in the room. That’s almost impossible to achieve in Johannesburg. Having had gone to an all white school my whole school career, I was used to being the one who stuck out. So I was surprised by the fact that even I, felt a bit out of place in Cape Town. I recall during the soccer World Cup this year, I went to meet some French friends to watch a game. They call themselves Frenchtonians. We went to a local popular sports bar, it has the best ribs in town. The bar was packed! It was the French playing Argentina, I think. There were perhaps more than 200 people there. Great vibe. But I swear I could have been in Iceland. I had never experienced this in SA, except perhaps at a Rugby game. But this was different, it was not Afrikaners. The more time I spent in Cape Town, I started actively looking for people of color in restaurants. You see, in the many years I have been coming to Cape Town I had been coming for work and therefore I would always be around colleagues whilst there. When I came on Holiday for December, Cape Town would be abuzz with other Joburgers and we would all congregate in Camps Bay because Camps is Cape Town for most black people. We like Camps Bay because like Vilakazi Street in Soweto, Camps Bay affords us the Victory Lap. When you have “made it” you want to show off to the world. Camps Bay Drive is a long road that allows you to floss (not sure if that word is still cool, but it best explains what I am talking about) in your Aston Martin. Going to Cape Town off season there are literally no black people at touristy spots. It turns out that Cape Town is expensive. You notice this when you are staying there for a prolonged period of time. I came to the realization that you do not see local people of color in Cape Town restaurants because it is actually too expensive. So the self segregation may actually be symptom of unaffordability as opposed to race. Race and income in South Africa are in the same WhatsApp group. Property is insanely expensive. Gentrification of Seapoint means there are no starter pack apartments anymore. A studio apartment is R3million. The more time I have spent in Cape Town’s white inner circle, I have come to realize that it’s actually more a privilege based segregation. Did you know that some restaurant owners in Cape Town close down for winter to go on holiday overseas for months! Unheard of in Joburg. In Cape Town most restaurants close on Sundays. Most restaurants close during the day! These guys are so privileged that they actually have that fictional thing called work life balance. That’s when I realized that I didn’t know Cape Town at all.
I don’t blame Capetonians from taking every opportunity to close up shop. My gawd Cape Town is beautiful. I am not just talking about the Mountain and the ocean, albeit that never gets old. I live in the most beautiful country in the world. But let’s be frank, Joburg is the kakest part in terms of beauty in comparison to Cape Town. Seeing Cape Town through the eyes of the privileged inner circle, I couldn’t help but to sigh; bring back the land.
My 10 reasons why I am moving to Cape Town.
1. If you are a Joburger and think you know Cape Town….you don’t. If you have no disposable income and think you know Cape Town, you don’t. It’s true beauty is reserved for the privileged circle.
2. Safety. As a black South African I never thought I would ever hear myself say this word. You don’t realize how important safety is as a value until you have it. In Cape Town I have two modes of transport, Uber or I walk. The other day I walked from Camps Bay to Clifton, uphill nogal! I had a beautiful mountain on my right, the sea to my left and my phone in the middle. I can’t remember the last time I walked anywhere in Joburg in a public place with my phone in my hand. I even did this at night, This time my phone was firmly hidden in my crotch. Hey I’m from Jozi…don’t take any chances mchana. And yes not all of Cape Town is Safe, I know that and you know that. But the privileged part, certainly is. It seems the DA knows where it’s bread is buttered.
3. My car was stolen at Church in Joburg. The reaction I often get when relating this story; people are shocked…that I go to church. My reason number 3, for moving CTN is more about Joburg than it is about Cape Town. I think sometimes Joburg feels like we are always under some sort of pressure. We forget to breathe. When my car got stolen, instead of gettin commiserations, I spent more time listening to people’s more horrific stories about how they survived hijackings and consoling them. In fact two weeks after my car was stolen, a childhood neighbor of mine in Soweto was found shot dead and the Uber car he was driving burnt. And just a week before he had been telling my mother how lucky I was that the car my was just stolen and I was not hijacked.
4. Lack of diversity: the lack of diversity. I see this as a massive opportunity. Cape Town is not sustainable as it is currently. This enclave is an epitome of a group areas act, and it leaves two choices. 1) exile ourselves. 2) be the change that we want to see. Thinking about it, I have a question to all the people who went to exile…where is Exile?
5. Cape Town is a world class city. Yes I said it. It is clean and $#%t works. And yes, not in the poor parts, we all know that. But in the privileged parts, things work. This is sometimes more than we can say for Jozi’s privileged parts.
6. Quality of life: where do I start? Beach, hiking, wine farms, best restaurants in the country and in Africa, best sun sets, late sun sets, I could go on and on here folks, but it would be bragging and that would be in bad taste. The inner circle does not brag, bragging attracts unwanted attention.
7. As a Chef and an entrepreneur in the food business. Cape Town is the food Capital of The WORLD. No, literally! It was voted by Conde Nast Traveler’s Best Food City in the World in 2016.
8. Money is in Johannesburg. Wealth is in Cape Town. I’m tired of majoring in the minors. I’m cool with being a minor in the majors – at least in the short term. If I am to learn how to create multi generational wealth like the okes in Stellenbosch, I am going to go hang out with the smart kids, much in the same manner as I did at varsity. Wealthy people don’t drive fancy cars. They wear shorts and slops. The guys who wear suits and drive Aston Martins, work for the guys who wear tshirts.
9. Its a great place to raise kids.
10. I refuse to die where I was born. Self explanatory.