'Why I moved from Higgovale to Gugulethu'

By Time of article published Apr 28, 2003

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By Andrew October and Nichola Meyer

The contrast is striking - Higgovale, with its picturesque setting at the foot of Table Mountain, and Gugulethu, with its dusty township life and vibrant shebeens.

It's a contrast that represents a divide that has kept millions of South Africans apart - except for a few.

One of these is Bruce Muzik, who says moving from a three-storey mansion in Higgovale to a two-bedroomed township house in Gugulethu has been a life-altering experience.

"I do miss the view," sighed the successful 29-year-old sound engineer and recording artist as he left his former city home in Leeuwenhof Road to drive 20 minutes to his new township home in NY13.

"Life in the township is very different, but I love the community spirit out here. Living in Higgovale does not compare to the homely feeling I get in the township," said Muzik.

The move a month ago was a personal challenge to Muzik, not only to meet more black people but also to get a first-hand understanding of the issues that face the millions of South Africans who live in townships.

"I was scared when I first moved here," admitted Muzik. "When I arrived the people at the shebeen next door came out to see what was happening. I panicked and asked them if they were going to mug me.

"They all laughed and I think that's what made the difference."

The idea to move to the township came from a personal growth course, the Landmark Forum, that Muzik is involved in.

"I used to speak to black people but I was almost too scared to ask them about their lives. I was too scared they might tell me about how bad things really were in the townships," he said.

"But this course challenged me to face my fears. It made me want to meet more black people. Where I was staying was not allowing me to do that so I decided to move to the townships.

"I asked a colleague at my recording studio in the Bo-Kaap to keep an eye open for a place in the township. It wasn't long before he found a place for me to stay," said Muzik.

Ironically his humble new home is costing him more as he was house-sitting in the Higgovale house.

As Muzik sits on his porch passers-by shout out greetings and wave to him.

"I've never experienced such a true sense of community as I do here in the township.

"Everyone greets you and chats to you here. They've even given me a Xhosa name, Xolani, which means peacemaker," enthused Muzik.

Adjusting to his new lifestyle has had its moments, such as strangers walking into his home to see if he really did live there.

"The people are amazing. They are all very concerned about my safety and constantly check up on me. But I have nothing to fear here. I'm not even afraid of anyone stealing my car," said Muzik.

Residents could not contain themselves and wanted to speak about how much they enjoyed having Muzik in their community.

The Yisa family in NY11 even invited Muzik over to join them in family celebrations shortly after he arrived, offering him a drink of their umgqombothi.

"More white people need to come into the township to meet us and to see how we live," said Mvuyisi Yisa.

"For too long they have looked at us as though we were a bunch of gangsters. We are a community who care about each other."

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