The Poor People in my street: Living in the Western Cape, Southern Suburbs

I live in a non-white area. More specifically I live in a coloured area. Last time I did, was in 1993.

Was I nervous moving here? Yes. Very.
But for our current circumstances, we needed to had no choice. The house is the perfect size for us: huge. It’s also close to one of the top primary schools in the Western Cape Cayden attends.

I am not complaining. What I am saying is, I’m not used to this. I grew up in the Free State, where you knew your ‘place’ without necessarily being told it. Yet, growing up in a white area, albeit unwelcome, one is used to a better way of life. A life where, having a choice isn’t a luxury. Choices only those in the poorer, darker end of the race spectrum would need to make daily.

I have a lot of white friends. In fact, I grew up not having any other colour friends till varsity. And I’m talking real friends like best friends. I knew a number of black and coloured people at school. There were the odd Indian, but yeah, that was odd. I was the first person of colour in mt primary school, so I don’t blame myself to wanting to ‘stick to what I know’.

Long story short: I grew up white and dated black guys.

Forward to the present day, I had a baby out of wedlock (before my 21st birthday- a very non-white thing to do), I married a coloured guy had 2 surprise babies. I’d say typical coloured life story, so why would living in a typical area like this, make me uneasy?

Maybe it’s the loud noise. Oh my word, living on a main road, brings out the worst in people, especially men. Loud cars, loud personalities- drunken screams echo on the way lonely road at 3am- “I’m not going to get into the car, your poes man.” Apologies for the vulgar language, but that’s what I hear.

Maybe it’s the fact that the only recycling I see is, the filthy homeless guy pushing a stolen trolley filled to the top, and secured by the sides with empty “Double O” bottles. He’s going to make a quick buck. This particular guy I see often, carrying his load, bearing his burden, often in the way of cars passing by.

Maybe it’s the fact that I see Somalian guys, fatter than the trolley guys- operating and managing businesses on either side of the road. They ate this morning, and he didn’t. Clothed in white, and a taqiyah, he shouts on his cellphone while directing local black guys to offload cooldrink bottles into the shop.

Maybe it’s the look on the face of a lady that takes her walk to Shoprite every other day and tries to cover swollen thyroid with a blue floral scarf. It’s the size of a sweet melon. She can’t afford to get it removed- but I’m sure she’s waiting for a free surgery pass at the day hospital. She has no choice.

Maybe it’s that older boy whistling at a school girl with a short skirt that doesn’t feel right. The fact that her breasts have just ripened, that she blushes as he rhymes nonsense, that she thinks, “this could be the one”, just because he gave her attention.

Driving down this very long road, I see probably a hundred businesses, but all look like they were made just to supplement an income, not to change lives or change the world.

I didn’t see any sleek modern designs or catchy names. Okay, “Curl up and dye” is my favourite, for the wrong reason. It’s a hair salon. I didn’t see any Twitter of Facebook logos. I’m sure you would not want to instagram anything there.

Metal gates are rusted.

I see those deep set wrinkles in the women who are in the sun too long. They stand for extended periods to talk and smoke to exhale the frustration.
That’s it- I think I saw frustration and desperation in the eyes and fingerprints of the old man who signed to buy more debt. He promises that furniture store money he doesn’t have, in exchange for beautifying a house he doesn’t own. A house that won’t be resold for much of a profit anyway.

“This is what you can have”, is what I see when I drive down the road- this is what people can have, and it’s not much hey. People don’t even know what true wealth is, what “better” can mean for them, not only to buy goods, but to know they are entitled to better quality, and better treatment from one another.

There are no gangs here. So, I’m not afraid of that.

I’m scared that I am sucked into the portal where I won’t want more, where I’ll say, “oh they think they are better because they have more.” Because that isn’t true.

People who have more, do not think they are better, not necessarily. People who are used to having more, have more choices (on what to purchase), and thus eventually, have a choice to how they behave.

I started off with race, not to only get your attention, but for you to think about where the root of the problem could be.

It’s matter of choice and entitlement. And you can’t expect people to behave a certain way (the way you’d like), if they don’t have either of those: choices or entitlement.

I had a choice to be here. I know I am entitled to me; my family deserves it.

Take care,


8 thoughts on “The Poor People in my street: Living in the Western Cape, Southern Suburbs

  1. Tiffany says:

    – And you can’t expect people to behave a certain way (the way you’d like), if they don’t have either of those: choices or entitlement.-

    That’s sort of the issue when you live in a so called ‘coloured’ area. These people you see and I see they sort of stuck in the cycle , the cycle called poverty. They are surrounded by this from generation to generation, they don’t know any better this is what they call life. Only because some don’t know there are choices or such a thing as entitlement because its not something they grew up with.


  2. dyane says:

    I live in a small, conservative mountain town where there is quite a bit of poverty, meth labs & pot farms. I also live “on a main road” and like you wrote, it “brings out the worst in people, especially men. Loud cars, loud personalities – drunken screams echo on the way lonely road at 3am-” It’s the only highway up here and we’re directly above it. I hate when I hear screeching brakes. We’re also across the landing pad for the rescue helicopter of all things, so when there’s a bad accident I watch the victim get transported – he/she is extremely lucky, of course, to have the luxury of such care. Those incidents wake me up as well.

    That said, I have love and family & shelter & some healthcare in my life – these are the ultimate luxuries. Despite my not having much money, that I can’t complain.

    Reading your vivid post made me realize that fact yet again. It’s so easy to forget the good things. I also appreciate getting to know you – your background and your world – a little more, beautiful friend, through your remarkable writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yve's Corner says:

      I can totally relate – because of this main road links lots of places and the hospitals, I hear about 5 ambulances a day, and that’s not even on the weekend. Brakes- yip, too common too. Apparently they steal bins and gates here too. Hence why I need to be vigilant.

      You’re so right, we can’t complain. But they don’t complain either, because they don’t know any better. That makes me sad. I wanted to take pictures, but I felt so bad for thinking that. But I wanted to capture their world, to remind us not to expect much from them, when they have almost nothing at all. Your girls are lucky to have you Dyane.

      I’m putting into the universe that I’ll be in your town this year and then get to see where your roam 🙂 or you in mine, and I’ll show you around, the poor and rich areas. It’s like opposites.
      Thank you for all your support…
      Love you so!


  3. Eddie Guild says:

    Interesting, until I came to South Africa I traveled to more than a 100 different countries, and was effectively colour blind, I judge people as I find them as far as I am concerned idiots come in all colours! I grew up in London and it had what I guess you could call natural apartheid, black west Indians lived in Brixton, the Irish around Kilburn, Jews in Golders Green etc. No one forced them to be there I guess birds of a feather flock together. Here of course a very different story altogether. Its going to take several generations to undo the social damage that was done by apartheid, and many people will never benefit from the new found democracy, especially when our political leaders can not resist playing the race card at every turn.

    As my old grandmother would say “you make your bed and you sleep in it” life is what you make of it, but you are right for many people their choices are very limited due to circumstances largely beyond their control. Thank you interesting post.


      • Eddie Guild says:

        You are welcome here is a small example I lived in a small fishing village in Nigeria for a couple of months. On the other side of the river was another fishing village. After a while I noticed that the two villages did not seem to communicate between themselves. Talking to the head man I asked why that was and why didn’t they share their resources to make the fishing easier. “oh no” he said they are from another tribe. All I could see was they were all black Nigerians of course there was much more to it than I knew. He said “your white you wont understand the tribal issues”, he was right I didn’t understand, things are rarely as they seem it appears 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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