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Race and space in Cape Town

Cape Town - Nearly 20 years after the end of apartheid, Cape Town is still a racially divided city – but there are areas of remarkable transformation.

Maps created from the data gathered during Census 2011 show that in the 10 years since the previous census, most of the dynamics between race and space have barely changed, but areas such as Woodstock, Rondebosch East, Pinelands and Kensington present a different view.

Workers head home through the CBD in a group that reflects the diversity of Cape Town society. Photo: Willem Law. Credit: Cape Argus

Created by software developer Adrian Frith, the maps offer a representation of who lives where in seven South African cities.

Frith came across a project that mapped the neighbourhoods of Chicago according to race. “I thought it would be interesting to see what it would look like for South Africa,” he said.

After a tussle to get the data from Stats SA, Frith used a mixture of geographic information systems (GIS) software and code he wrote himself to build a program which turns census data into a dot map.

In the 2011 census data, cities are divided into “small-area layers” of about 1 000 people each. Frith’s program assigns a coloured dot representing 50 people of the same race, and distributes the dots evenly over an area of 1 000 people.

“We all know how segregated we still are although it was interesting to see how some of the former white suburbs are increasingly integrated now.”

He would like to create maps to compare race and space from before democracy, but the 2001 census is the earliest to provide enough detail for accurate mapping. Even so, the map for 2001 only offers data at the level of whole suburbs rather than groups of 1 000 people.

While Frith said he didn’t notice any significant difference between Cape Town and other cities, others were quick to slate the Mother City as particularly segregated.

“We remain starkly divided,” said Professor Ivan Turok of the Human Sciences Research Council. “It’s unhealthy. It creates resentment, lack of understanding of different cultures, suspicion and a lack of empathy.”

Priya Reddy, mayoral committee media co-ordinator, said: “Cape Town, as with every other major city in South Africa, is still dealing with the spatial and socio-economic legacy of apartheid.” However there had been an “undeniable level of integration in areas across the city”.

Reddy cited the city’s investment in public transport networks as a way to promote easier access to work and leisure opportunities.

Living far from the workplace is an important problem in the city, said ANC chief whip Xolani Sotashe.

“There are still racial undertones,” he said. “There is still the view that people of colour should not be integrated into where rich people are living.”

Social interactions also reveal a racially divided society – in Cape Town particularly. “If you go to Johannesburg it’s a totally different world,” he said. “People interact there freely.”

For Rashiq Fataar, founder of urban design think tank Future Cape Town, the impression that Joburg is more integrated is simply a result of the economic opportunity boom there.

“Our cities have all been masterminded by the apartheid legacy,” Fataar said. “The graphic points to a segregation that nobody can be blamed for.”

Many areas had developed into multicultural and successful areas, he said. “You look at places like Woodstock, Rondebosch East, Pinelands and Kensington.”

However, he said it was not changing fast enough.

“It has to start with economic growth, which gives people a chance to live where they choose to live. The important thing is having the option to move.”

Andrew Boraine, former chief executive of the Cape Town Partnership, said employment was the first step to equality. “The starting point is to make it a more equitable city, and that starts by working out ways for more people to participate in the economy.

“If more people have more income, that’s the starting point for a less segregated city.”

Woodstock a model of racial integration

By Zodidi Dano

Once known as a coloured area, Woodstock has become a place of racial integration.

Fakir Ahmad Vally, 70, a former barbershop owner who has spent all his life in the suburb, said he remembered Woodstock as a very busy place, years ago, but over the years had seen development and social integration.

“There were a lot of businesses – small tuckshops owned by the Malay people, but now there are all these restaurants and shops owned by people of different races.”

He added that during his time as a student at the Wesley Training College, before he became a barber, schools were not completely integrated: “There were a lot of coloured and Muslim students, a few blacks and absolutely no whites.”

The pensioner said the area had changed a lot over the years. He sold his barbershop and it was turned into a cosmetic store. The number of tuckshops that were owned by Malay people had dwindled and more restaurants and shops were now owned by people of all races.

“Little by little more blacks bought houses here and it has become very social. It’s improved a lot from what it used to be and it’s nice and cosy.”

Annemarie Steenkamp, 30, who lives in Upper Woodstock and works at a restaurant at the Biscuit Mill on the Lower Main Road, said she loved living and working in the area.

“My neighbours at home are black UCT students who always keep the place vibey, across the road there is an Indian shop and three streets lower there are more coloured residents,” she said.

Steenkamp, who used to live in Oranjezicht, said places such as the Old Biscuit Mill had helped create social integration in Woodstock.

“The Biscuit Mill is like the head of Woodstock – it has influenced a lot of people into shopping in Woodstock and also having their businesses here, especially with the Saturday market.”

Where Capetonians would like to live

After interviewing people of different races and enquiring about their living arrangements, the Cape Argus found that people from the Cape Flats and the townships dreamed of living in the southern suburbs such as Claremont and Rondebosch, perceiving the areas to be safer and more relaxed.

Vuyokazi Mbileni, 26, born and raised in Khayelitsha, said she enjoyed going to Claremont and would love to live there.

“It’s different from the location, it’s relaxed and you can be free. There are no worries about your safety and other things.”

Siphokazi Tyalana, 19, agreed with Vuyokazi, although she lived in Milnerton which was more middle-upper class. “I like the Rondebosch-Claremont area – it’s quiet and convenient.”

Besides safety, another factor that prevented people from moving into other areas was the fact that they felt comfortable in areas where their race was dominant.

Mogamat Frieslaar, 23, of Bonteheuwel, said he was okay with that and preferred to be in an area where most of his neighbours looked like him.

“I like it that side because I find it easier to socialise with coloureds more. If I were to move out of Bonteheuwel I’d move to Grassy Park or Mitchells Plain.”

Although he had friends in townships, Frieslaar said he had never visited their homes.

However, those who were not born in Cape Town loved living in the city, but liked partying in the townships.

Katlego Ramahuta, 19, a UCT student from Polokwane, lives in Observatory. He said he had lived in Claremont, but he enjoyed the township more.

“Claremont was quiet and Observatory is okay, because the students are from different places and of different races, but I like going to the locations, although I don’t want to live there.”

Emma Thomson, 21, of Sea Point,said she enjoyed going to the townships occasionally. “I have been to Mzoli’s and I liked it a lot.”

Mzoli’s is a braai place in Gugulethu known for its party vibe and social integration. Over the years it has been a meeting spot for people from different areas and of different races.

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