Our friend Pete was waiting for 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 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 road towards distant mountains. However ten minutes later we found shanty towns that had been erected close to the highway.
They were a shabby reminder than 10 years after gaining independence the contrast involving the rich and poor has perhaps worsened. The shacks making up the shanty towns were made of each and every type of material proven to man – corrugated iron sheets and rusty metal sheets along with wood, cardboard and wire to form an incredibly uncomfortable shelter when compared to a family called home. Even more appalling was the truth that lots 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 federal 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 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 practical and extremely modern cluster home in a compound around 30 residences. This form of living is popular in South Africa, as a result 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 usually able to help keep pets too, because each house has its own private garden. It is also a perfect way to call home in Africa if one needs to visit or go on vacation – neighbours will keep an eye on the home while you are away. My husband and I were so impressed with in this way of living that the following year we bought into a bunch complex my then employers were marketing in Harare. Once 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 bunch home complex offers the very best 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 had a wonderful evening. The view from Pete’s house was superb. Somerset West is made on a hill 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 family 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.