Move to Cape Town – cool, but do so at your own risk - Biznews

Oct 17, 2022
17 October 2022 - Unlike most Capetonians, I like Johannesburg. I am somewhat bemused by the rising trend of “semigration” by the flood of Joburgers selling up there – or trying to sell up there – and moving down to Cape Town.

The rising trend of families semigrating to Cape Town shouldn’t be surprising. The Western Cape boasts beautiful landscapes and scenery coupled with a reputation as one of South Africa’s more prosperous and well-run provinces. You might think it’s all sunshine and roses but this is far from the truth. It is also home to some of the country’s worst cases of criminal violence as well as a growing divide between rich and poor that is difficult to mask. As someone who’s lived in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, Andrew Kenny explains the reasons why a lot of people are choosing semigration; through his own experiences, he compares the two cities and tries to caution the uninformed about what awaits them in the Mother City. To Joburgers thinking of semigrating to Cape Town, welcome! But think carefully before you move. This article was first published in the Daily Friend. – Asime Nyide

Andrew Kenny
Unlike most Capetonians, I like Johannesburg. I am somewhat bemused by the rising trend of “semigration” by the flood of Joburgers selling up there – or trying to sell up there – and moving down to Cape Town. 

I know the reasons they’re doing so and agree with them, but I think they should be warned about some bad things in Cape Town. Not everything down here is better than up there.

The reasons Joburg people want to come down here are to escape from the ANC (which they will to a large extent), to enjoy the beauty of the Cape (which is not uniformly beautiful), and to be safer (which they might not be, as the murder rate in the Western Cape is higher than that in Gauteng). Probably another reason, seldom spoken, is to escape from black people, which they might not do down here.

I had better say straight away what people I am talking about and what parts of Joburg and Cape Town I mean. I’m afraid I mean people like me, in other words, white people or well-off black and brown people. People in South Africa live in two different worlds, and nowhere is the difference greater than in Cape Town. By “Joburg” I mean the Northern Suburbs, not Soweto or Tembisa. By “Cape Town”, I mean the Cape Peninsula, Somerset West and the West Coast, not Guguletu, Nyanga or Khayelitsha. I mean Bishopscourt, not Bishop Lavis.

When people say Cape Town is beautiful, they mean certain parts of Cape Town. Other parts are as ugly as sin. The mountains and coastlines of the Cape Peninsula constitute some of the most glorious scenery on the planet, and are home to leafy suburbs and gracious buildings. Ten kilometres east are the dusty plains of the Cape Flats, arid and featureless, home to some of the worst slums on Earth, and to some of her most murderous and deranged criminals. One of the reasons white people live in the beautiful parts and the black and brown people in the ugly parts is deliberate apartheid policy.

The ANC ruins everything it touches. Joburg is falling into ruin under the ANC, and so Joburgers want to flee from the ANC to DA rule in Cape Town. They will be mostly successful, but not entirely. The DA local government of the Western Cape, and of the city and the suburbs, is indeed honest and efficient. The ANC ruled the Western Cape from 2005 to 2009, until the DA took over. So, we have experienced both, and can contrast the clean and competent rule of the DA with the corrupt and incompetent rule of the ANC. 

I live near Fish Hoek in a suburb now called “Sunnydale” (but formerly called “Poespaskraal” and I want to mount a campaign to restore the original name). The services I receive from the DA are good. My pre-paid electricity meter works perfectly and my online payments are quick, easy and accurate. Water and sanitation are fine. Rubbish collection is not bad. The Fish Hoek traffic department is entirely honest and quite efficient. The roads are all well-maintained. But not all services in Cape Town fall under local government. Some fall under national government and national state enterprises, which means the ANC, which means collapse and decay.

Passenger rail in Cape Town falls under PRASA, which has managed to ruin the passenger train system here. When I was a schoolboy in the 1950s and 60s, there was a splendid train line running from Simonstown to Cape Town. It was safe, clean and reliable. It has been ruined. It is now dangerous, filthy and completely unreliable. The last time I tried it, a few years ago, I was scared stiff. The trains from Cape Town to the black townships and brown suburbs are even worse, and so the wretched people there are forced to use minibus taxis, which seem closely related to organised crime, or buses, which get shot at. 

The port of Cape Town, once one of the world’s important ports, now falls under Transnet and, according to a World Bank report, now rates 347 out of the 351 global container ports on performance. It rates lower than Beira, Maputo and Mombasa. The South African Police are also a national responsibility, which is why policing in Cape Town is mainly dreadful and part of the reason for our horribly high rates of violent crime.

Criminal violence in parts of Cape Town is probably the worst in the world, worse than that in South America. It has always been high in these parts. Some of it is demented. Let me give an example, told to me in 1971. A poor man would be travelling from work in Cape Town to his home in the Cape Flats with his weekly pay packet in his pocket. He would be standing up in a crowded train. Three gangsters would approach him. Two would hold his arms down. The third would come up from behind, stick a sharpened bicycle spoke into his neck, push it into his spinal cord and jiggle it about. One of them would take his pay packet. Then they would walk away, and he would fall down, paralysed from the neck down for the rest of his life, never again able to control his arms, legs, bowels and bladder. Gangsters do would this as crime or in feuds between rival gangs. A physiotherapist confirmed this. She said that the three main causes of quadriplegia she saw were car accidents, rugby accidents and deliberate cripplings by criminals. I don’t know if this is still going on, but I read an article in the Cape Argus this week saying that ‘Nearly 50% of spinal cord injuries reported in the Western Cape Rehabilitation Centre were due to interpersonal violence – such as gunshot wounds and stabbings’.

It used to be that everywhere in Johannesburg was fairly dangerous, even in the posh suburbs, whereas in Cape Town the danger was more separated: the dangerous parts were extremely dangerous but the safe parts were quite safe. This seems to be changing. The safe parts are becoming dangerous. 

The 78-year-old father of a friend was recently murdered in his own house in Constantia by a vagrant to whom he had previously given food and money. In Kommetjie, a well-known surfer returning to his car was held up at gun point and ordered to get into his boot. The boot was locked with him inside. The car was driven about, then abandoned and set fire to. He was roasted to death. As schoolboys, we used to roam the mountains around Fish Hoek in complete safety and even camp out for nights. Now the mountains are deadly dangerous. 

On the gentle path between the Fish Hoek sports grounds and Sun Valley, one man was stabbed in the lungs but managed to survive; another was stabbed in the lungs and did not survive. Last week, in broad daylight, on a crowded beach at Camps Bay, two gunmen opened fire at random and killed two people. The fact that they didn’t kill another foreign tourist was just good luck. 

In my own house, I can’t count the robberies I’ve had from my garden and stoep in the last year or so, costing me about R30,000. Night after night the thieves come in and look around my property for anything to steal. I just hope I never encounter them when they’ve got knives in their hands and tik in their bloodstreams. Once during the day, one of them ripped out my copper garden standpipe and brass tap just outside the study where I was working at the time. The garden was flooded. I had no sympathy from neighbours, who said I should have replaced all brass taps with plastic ones a long time ago. I’ve never bothered to report any of these thefts to the police. I suppose I should spend R150,000 on an electric fence round my property but that might well get stolen too. 

Everyone can tell you of murders, stabbings and violent robberies happening to them or to their family members in the Cape Town suburbs. I was held up at knifepoint in the early evening in the centre of Cape Town and mugged on the road back from Kommetjie. It might be that Joburgers coming down to Cape Town are in more danger down here than up there. But one would have to look carefully at the statistics, area by area, to make sure.

To get from one “safe” area of Cape Town to another, you often have to go  past dangerous areas. For example, if you wanted to travel from Somerset West, now a highly desirable town, to Cape Town, you would have to travel on the N2, which passes some of the baddest badlands on Earth. If you took this road at night, you would be taking your life in your hands. From Cape Town to the airport at night is not too bad, from the airport to Somerset West is deadly.

As far as the roads are concerned, I think Cape Town drivers might be even worse than Joburgers. Down here you are regarded as a sissy if you use your indicators before you turn or if you actually stop at a stop street – which would enrage the car behind you. Traffic jams are probably worse here than in Gauteng, and there is no Gautrain to avoid them. 

On Ou Kaapse Weg, the beautiful mountain pass between Sun Valley and Steenberg, during our hot summers, I have often seen a motorist lean his arm out of the car window and carefully throw his burning cigarette stompie so that it lands in the tinder dry fynbos at the side of the road. If you said, ‘Excuse me, sir, but you might set the mountain on fire’, he would tell you to ‘F**k off!’ and might beat you up. Such is the graceful old-world charm of the Mother City.

It is said that Joburg (and most of the highveld) has the best weather in the world. It certainly has the best weather I’ve ever experienced and I’ve lived in England, so I know all about miserable weather. I lived up on the highveld for over four years and loved the weather. I loved the dry healthy air, the cold, clear, gleaming, starry winter nights and the wonderful thunderstorms of summer where the rain suddenly comes crashing down and then suddenly clears, leaving blue skies and the lovely smell of wet highveld soil. Cape Town weather is not bad at all but suffers from rather dreary wet winters and the howling South-Easter wind in summer, which can be terrifying. It can blow big trucks over. Sometimes I have not only been unable to cycle against it but hardly able to push my bicycle against it.

I always found Joburg friendlier than Cape Town. Cape Town is rather snobbish and cliquey. Afrikaans friends tell me they feel some Boerehaat in the southern suburbs. English-speaking Capetonians supported apartheid every bit as enthusiastically as Afrikaners, but thought the Afrikaners were uncouth, so they voted for the United Party and got the best of both prejudices. I find the restaurants of Joburg are cheaper and friendlier, have better service, and often have fresher fish than the Cape Town restaurants.

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned South Africa’s two different worlds. So far, in the semigration down to Cape Town, I have only been speaking about the richer world. But the poorer world is flooding down here too. Poor black people, despairing of the appalling ANC government in the Eastern Cape, are fleeing to the better services they get from the DA in Cape Town. (Once settled down here, they vote ANC and accuse the DA of racism.)  In my childhood, there were almost no blacks living in the southern Cape Peninsula. There were some browns but many of them were kicked out of the attractive suburbs into the unattractive Cape Flats by the apartheid government. There were no blacks living anywhere near Fish Hoek. Now there is an enormous black township, Masiphumelele, about half a kilometre from my house. Masi has a population of about 26,000. Fish Hoek only has a population of about 12,000. There is also a huge black township, Imizamo Yethu, on the hillside of Hout Bay.

House prices in Joburg are falling. I’m not sure what they are doing in Cape Town. We keep hearing that they are rising because of semigration, but I hear stories of Capetonians being unable to sell their houses, or having to accept much less than the asking price. A friend with a large, pleasant house in Lynfrae, lower Claremont, had her house on the market for several months without an offer. She took it off. Another told me she had to accept a very low price for hers in Observatory. Many Capetonians are emigrating completely, getting out of the country as soon as they can, accepting low prices for their houses. In my area, which is down-market, I am told that people are getting their prices. It’s a mixed picture, which I don’t understand.

To Joburgers thinking of semi-grating to Cape Town, welcome! But think carefully before you move.

Andrew Kenny is a writer, an engineer and a classical liberal.

This article was first published on the Daily Friend

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