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Maximum poverty: Famous "Township" outside city limits of Cape Town, South Africa

Our plane, originally scheduled to land in the morning, was delayed, and we did not arrive in Cape Town South Africa until late at night. The guide who picked us up took us straight into the city, and we checked into our hotel around 11:30PM. The drive in was in the dark, of course, so we saw nothing of the city on our initial approach.

Preview our trip to Cape Town on YouTube

The next morning, she picked us up around noon, and we drove around the city, then left to explore the surrounding environs. While still within the city limits, we passed a large cleared area, on which stood nothing but a church. It seemed oddly out of place- both the church and the large, otherwise unoccupied tract of land.

I asked her about this place, and she told me it was all that was left of
District 6.

A little history:

Cape Town was flooded with new immigrants early in the 1800's, many of whom were blacks, freed from slavery by the British in the 1830's. Most of these people migrated into an area that came to be known as District 6, a vast, sprawling slum area, ultimately home to more than 150,000 people.

During the period of governmental sanctioned insanity- known as Apartheid , the white politicians of Cape Town decided they didn’t want so many blacks living so close to them. In a scheme under the contrived label of urban redevelopment, in reality just another way to achieve racial segregation, the white government came into District 6 and ordered everyone to leave. Immediately. Or else. Then, the white government bulldozed everything in the area except the church.

We asked our young guide more questions, which she answered quite candidly. What we learned about the “resettlement” of the Blacks from District 6 reminded me of stories I had heard about Nazis forcing Jews from their homes and into resettlement areas- then known as ghettos, the prelude to a train ride to the concentration camps.

All former residents of District 6 were resettled into new “Townships”. The blacks were led to believe the townships, with names like “New Hope” and “Pleasant Valley”, would be a vast improvement over their former living areas.

As we were driving out of Cape Town to do some sightseeing, we came to the first of the “Townships”. It was squalid beyond belief. No water. No electricity. No Roads. No nothing, except poverty, humiliation and degradation. I don’t understand why there are some lessons mankind never seems to learn.

South Africa is a large country, with much variation in lifestyle and living conditions. Life along the coast is nothing like life in the interior.

One day we drove from Cape Town east toward Port Elizabeth, stopping at a small town called Hermanus, famous as the spot to watch whales . We had lunch at an oceanside restaurant, and spotted this fellow not too far offshore:

I grabbed for my camera and shot this picture without having time to focus. It is a little blurry, but it was a good memory and Nancy and I thought you would enjoy seeing it.

Africa is about big game, however, not whales, and going on African safaris, or photo safaris as they are most often called, is extremely popular. We flew north to a game preserve at the edge of Krueger National Park, the largest game preserve in South Africa.

Late in the afternoon on our second day on safari, we climbed into a 4 x 4 with a scout and driver and headed for the bush.

Almost immediately, the scout spotted activity in a tree at least a mile away. We drove slowly and carefully toward the tree. As we drew closer, we could see an antelope had been hauled up into the branches, and a female leopard was just starting to feed on her kill.

We stayed parked a safe distance away, and watched for nearly two hours as the leopard carefully and meticulously worked on the carcass. There were hyenas on the ground waiting for scraps to fall, but none did.

Turns out there were two leopards, father and daughter, who shared this meal over the course of several days. We came back each morning to see their progress. On the fourth day, we found they had completed their feast:

It was a remarkable opportunity for us to observe the true ebb and flow of life in the wild. We were also subjected to a heart-stopping charge by a bull elephant and came much closer to real danger than I care to think. It is nothing like watching on TV.

We left, flying from a small private runway on yet another little plane. Landing in Johannesburg, we were surrounded by luxury hotels and shopping malls.

The transition was jarring, but so are many of the contrasts present in South Africa. The nation has everything it needs to be a World Leader, but first it will have to find a national leader capable of making the enormous adjustments required.

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