Our friend Pete was awaiting us at the airport. After we’d collected our luggage we drove to his house. The drive along 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 trail towards distant mountains. However ten minutes later we came across shanty towns that were erected close to the highway.
These 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 known to man – corrugated iron sheets and rusty metal sheets along with wood, cardboard and wire to form an incredibly uncomfortable shelter than 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 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 keep the shanty towns habitable. We saw numerous shanty towns along the main highways during our stay in Cape Town.
Pete lives in a suburb called Somerset West, and his home was a functional and extremely modern cluster home in a compound of about 30 residences. This style of living is extremely popular in South Africa, due to 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 usually are able to help keep pets too, because each house has its private garden. It is also a great way to live in Africa if one needs traveling or go on vacation – neighbours will watch on your house while you are away. My husband and I were so impressed with in this manner of living that the next year we bought into a bunch complex my then employers were marketing in Harare. Once we sold the house in 2003 we reinvested the money in an additional cluster home. If one wants to live in Africa security is vital, and a bunch home complex offers the best amount 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 help with the cooking, and we’d a great 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 living room, state of the art kitchen and outside laundry/storeroom. He told us he spends most of his time on his verandah or in his garden.