Friday, July 02, 2010

An interesting... life which fits into one bag

I like hanging around the Sea Point Promenade. It's this kind of weird part of Cape Town where everyone goes with no worry. The crowds there extend from rich housewives jogging along with their fake boobs bouncing like badly attached Weber lids in an earthquake, all the way to homeless folks who sleep under the trees with their entire lives sitting in a Checkers packet next to them.

A while ago I was sitting on a bench reading my book having a smoke when this random man walked up to me and tried to sell me a little wooden elephant. I told him I had no cash but if he wanted a smoke I was happy to pass a few along. "Sweet" he said, and happily plonked down next to me.

We started chatting and smoking up a storm, and he told me he was from Malawi. He said he was from Bwaila which, according to a map I looked at, is either right near, or in Lilongwe (the capital)

He told me he'd walked to South Africa from Malawi - something not unexpected in this day and age. I remember hearing about that Somali chap who walked almost two-thirds of the length of Africa not so long ago to get to Johannesburg.

What did stick out for me was that this guy sitting next to me said he kept all his possessions on him at all times. I asked him why he lugged around such a big bag and he said he always had to make sure that he could move quickly. I asked why. He looked like he was about to start sulking so I apologised for sticking my nose into where it wasn't welcome (while trying to work out how I could ask the question in a better manner). While I was considering, he said to me "I might be killed".

He explained to me just how tense it can be for a foreigner living in South Africa, without getting into details. But there he sat with a bag containing all the stuff he wanted to sell, plus all the shit he owned - kept to a minimum to ensure he can bugger off if needs be.

We saw people being killed during the xenophobic violence in 2009, but it is difficult to remember that because of it, so many people's lives changed.

This chap I met couldn't settle down and live anywhere. He is constantly on the move. Constantly vigilant. Never relaxed. Rarely calm. It's a tense way to live.

And the imminent threat of xenophobic violence as the World Cup ends isn't being acted upon in any massive degree that I can see.

It may sound extreme, but a "bad day" could result in him being necklaced.
It’s a horrific thought.


Mid-Thirty Misfit said...

Hi Si,
Am playing catch-up...
This post has made me realize just how fortunate we are. It has also made me realize just how oblivous we can be too. Our former packhouse manager came from Malawi - when he went to renew his refugee permit, he got chucked in the chookie and deported.

Simon said...

It's terrible hey? Immigration is one of the trickiest issues any government will have to face. Xenophobic violence is one of the worst things anyone will ever have to face.

6000 said...

Great blog.
Yes - sad and sorry state of affairs and would only add to the inevitable post World Cup hangover if this madness flares up again.
I wouldn't agree that not much is being done though. PAWC has asked the Government for help (ie. cash) already and mediators and peacekeeping security (including the army) has already been deployed in Du Noon.
All this based on a rumour and some Chinese Whispers.

Hey - hang on a minute... I blame the Chinese.

Simon said...


That is good to hear. Someone contacted me just after I posted this saying that the Western Cape actually has prepared somewhat and that security companies are keeping a very close eye on that township near Noordhoek and Kommetjie as there were problems there last time.

al mackay said...

You see the kind of life-enriching, eye-opening experiences you get exposed to if you smoke. I should really start again.

Great post man.

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