Most poor black and brown people continue to exist and operate in separate settlements, says Yagyah Adams.

Cape Town - Racial and class integration has never been a strong point in South Africa. The Voortrekkers stand testimony to this reality. Historically, since Afrikaners could not tolerate the notion of living under English rule, they packed their bags and trekked inland.

Those who remained or returned created a “boerewors curtain” along the northern corridor of Cape Town. The English remain in the shadow of the mountain and in the southern suburbs. Coloureds, strewn across the Cape Flats, were tolerated as long as they did not threaten the historic imbalance. Blacks were allocated a few townships from which they dared not venture.

The squatters near Lwandle who recently relocated brought our history of integration to the fore. That the squatters were relocated to a coloured suburb in Blackheath has resulted in turmoil.

In October 2012, at the launch of Transport for Cape Town, a speaker from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology advised that by 2020 nearly 80 percent of the world’s populations could be living in cities.

How are Capetonians with centuries of racial and class separation going to manage this?

Historically, racial separation has been so entrenched that it has become part of our global identity.

Racism as a political strategy is not unique to South Africa; across the world, racism has inspired many political renewals.

In Greece the right-wing Dawn party recently secured 12 percent of the parliamentary vote; in Germany politicians live in fear of neo-Nazi activity; in France the vote achieved by the politically influential Le Pen family has caused a traditionally liberal society to re-evaluate its own values in terms of immigration and what defines a free and open society.

Rapid urbanisation implies that locals who have misgivings about racial and class integration should have a tangible fear of what the future holds. Beyond the polemics of racial spatial plans, the question remains: are white, black, brown and poor, middle class and wealthy keen to live in close to each other?

Apartheid not only divided communities along racial patterns but also by class. Although there has been a natural integration in the middle class, the same cannot be said of the poorer areas. Most poor black and brown people continue to exist and operate in separate settlements.

As the material conditions of middle-class brown and black families improve, many move into former white middle class suburbs. These evolved multicultural suburbs remain limited.

Years ago, with his “Home for All” strategy, former premier Ebrahim Rasool sought to integrate the poor by giving homes to black and brown people in Delft. Whether the people were consulted about integration, I do not know.

Do poor brown people prefer to live with other brown people? I suspect so. What is obvious is that race and class integration is difficult. The response to the relocation of squatters from Zola into Blackheath was typical.

The standard adverse response to the squatters in Kensington, Lansdowne and Bo-Kaap was typical. Middle-class brown people do not even want poor brown people near them.

For what historical reasons should poor people be allocated land within middle-class suburbs, and, how, if at all, will this affect Constantia and Bishopscourt?

Yagyah Adams

Cape Muslim Congress

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus