A radical force for change?

With the next South African general election coming up (on a yet to be established date in April–July 2014), it is time to talk politics. On 28th of November, I attended the International Labour Research and Information Group’s (ILRIG) public forum on ‘Malema & the EFF: A force for radical change?’. Ashley Fataar, from ‘Keep Left’ (a small Trotskyist group in South Africa affiliated to the International Socialist Tendency led by the Socialist Workers Party of the UK) and Andrew Nash, representing ILRIG and the University of Cape Town (UCT), shared their views on the topic.

Julius Malema © AFP

Julius Malema © AFP

In July 2013, Julius Malema, former president of the ANC Youth League, formed a new political movement, the Economic Freedom Fighters, of which he declared himself ‘Commander in Chief’. Malema has often been dubbed a ‘populist firebrand’ and was convicted of hate speech in March 2010 and again in September 2011, for singing the song ‘Shoot the Boer’ (a popular liberation struggle song). In November 2011 he was found guilty of sowing divisions within the ANC and was suspended from the party for five years. Eventually, on 4 February 2012 he was expulsed from the ANC.

In addition to hate speech, Malema is facing a series of corruption-related charges including racketeering (arranging lucrative government contracts for cronies in return for kickbacks) and faces up to 15 years in prison. Although Malema was once a rising star in the ANC and a staunch supporter of president Zuma, he has since become one of Zuma’s most vociferous critics.

‘Economic Freedom in Our Life Time’

According to the ‘Founding Manifesto’ of the EFF, the movement’s main objective is ‘to attain economic freedom in our life time’. It states that 20 years of political freedom have ‘not borne much significance to the people of South Africa’ as ‘the political power that was transferred to the black majority through inclusive elections in 1994 was never transformed into economic freedom as the majority of Africans remain on the margins of society as unemployed, underemployed or discriminated-against in their employment, while those who held economic, social and political power since the colonial period continue to enjoy economic, social, and professional privileges’.

It is true that South Africa’s level of economic inequality remains among the highest in the world and wealth correlates uncomfortably with race, with whites controlling a hugely disproportionate share of assets and income. Although there are some strong social movements in South Africa, such as the Social Justice Coalition, which operates nationally, and Abahlali baseMjondolo, which is Durban based, the poor and marginalised have few productive outlets for their anger and frustration. This has resulted in disenchanted communities starting take the law into their own hands and ‘service delivery protests’ becoming part of daily life in the country – which has been dubbed ‘protest capital of the world’.

The EFF, with its call to nationalise mines and redistribute land without compensation, could be defined as socialist or leftist, but according to some it is nothing more than a noisy and militant by-product of the ANC. In the South African context of general discontent, cohorts of unemployed youth and disgruntled workers seem an easy target for savy ‘leaders’ such as Malema though. Could his EFF be the force for radical change many South Africans have been waiting for or is the movement just exploiting  disenchantment – dangerously so?


According to Ashley Fataar, the launch of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has caused a lot of excitement and derisive tension. However, in his opinion, what has been written on the EFF so far misses the point. ‘The point’, according to him, is that the EFF is a nationalist movement – yet, all nationalist movements in post-colonial Africa have failed to be a real force for change.

Referring to Frantz Fanon’s 1961 ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ he alerts the audience of the ‘pitfalls’ of national consciousness and the ‘empty shell’ of nationalism. Using the examples of the ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe, FRELIMO in Mozambique and the ANC in South Africa, Fataar illustrates that, for black capitalists, nationalisation does not mean placing the economy at the service of the nation but into their own hands. ‘In all these countries, the promise of a better life has been turned onto its head and the radical nationalists have turned against the masses’, he states.

For Fataar, the colonialists and the nationalists that came after them have one thing in common: they both embrace capitalism. He warns that EFF-led nationalisation in South Africa will not take into account worker control but rather be a form of state capitalism. Fataar, who does not believe in getting into parliament by winning elections anyway, mumbles something about ‘self-emancipation of the masses’ but as his time is up, the floor is given to Andrew Nash.

Andrew Nash jumps out of his chair and delivers his speech standing and smiling incessantly, beaming with energy. According to him, the EFF was launched in a context of disintegration – disintegration of the ANC and of black capitalism. He points out there were contradictions for the ANC right from the beginning, as from 1994 onwards they have been on a mission to please both international investors and the poor people at home. However, with the plundering of public resources under Zuma (or ‘Zupta’) there is an additional disintegration: the disintegration of the understanding of what South Africa could be.

Nash points out that Malema has never known politics other than the politics of the ANC. ‘If you read his biography “An Inconvenient Youth” by Fiona Ford you actually realise that he found himself at exactly those places where this disintegration was at work on numerous times in his life’. Andrew Nash believes the EFF will most certainly hasten the process of disintegration in South Africa, although, even without the EFF the fight for tenders will continue and the political assassinations in Mpumalanga and Limpopo will not cease to exist. He does believe Malema and the EFF have something to offer to South Africa, namely:

1) They are telling the truth about what is going on in South Africa – a truth that is being concealed in the (mainstream) media and which is thus invisible for the masses. Some examples of these truths Nash refers to are, for example the fact that ‘the wealth in South Africa still belongs to whites’, ‘the ANC is enriching itself’ and that ‘Marikana and the role of police (state) violence where not an accident but the way in which the elite will react to any form of organised dissent. This is a sign of what will continue.’

2) They bring people together that may otherwise never have met. They are organising communities in the local context. Whereas the ANC says: ‘You can’t change a country overnight’, most of the people on the ground have not seen a night that was ever this long before. People are willing to come out for EFF and organise.

Nash is not overly jubilant though. The EFF project raises questions for him too, of which he highlights two:

1) The EFF seems to be as much of an authoritarian project as the ANC. Will people who have lost faith in the ANC really find something new in the top-down leadership style of Julius Malema? Liberation is about the masses taking control over their own future, not about shouting slogans back to the leader.

2) The EFF does not have a clear vision for a new society. On the 28 October 2011 Malema said ‘we want everything that whites want’. Is he talking about personal wealth? This is not going to be possible for everyone. Nash doesn’t see the EFF pushing an agenda that overrides the American view of ‘economic freedom’.

Nash concludes his speech by saying he feels the EFF is ‘the best option – even if they betray the people they claim to represent’. ‘Go and vote for EFF’, he challenges the audience, ‘I may well do so myself’. ‘But be under no illusions about what you will be getting’, he warns.

‘I did not start wearing this beret just because I got excited. I thought about this.’

As the floor is opened up for questions and debate, a somewhat electrifying energy gets hold of the audience – consisting of about thirty people, mainly black men. One of the members of the audience proudly wears the typical red EFF beret. One other person in the audience also (openly) supports the EFF. They are both young and male. As there was no EFF spokesperson on the panel, both of them take turns to respond to questions from the audience, in a respectful and engaging way – although the person without the beret gets lost in political rhetoric a little too often, reciting – for no apparent reason – from Muammar Ghadaffi’s ‘Green Book’.

Questions from the audience revolve around what kind of social class Malema represents, whether the EFF is racist and whether he is a redeemed man or will embezzle funds again in the future. Some call him a fascist and a charlatan.

Apart from discussing Malema’s persona, the audience also debates the EFF’s policies. Nash apologises (without being prompted to do so) for using one of Malema’s rather old quotes from 2011. I’m sure he finds the reaction he gets is a tad surprising: ‘I’m not just wearing this beret because I got excited, I’ve thought about this’, the young EFF supporter states. ‘People went to exile and died for things we are still struggling for. We suffered long enough in backyard dwellings and as domestic workers. If the white man can send his children to Rondebosh High School, we want the same’.

‘Isn’t that the wrong way? Why do you want to send your children to private schools?’, asks Nash in reply. ‘Should the state not provide decent education? With private schools existing next to public schools there will always be class division – the majority will pay for this with their sweat and blood. Is there not another form of economic freedom than the purely materialistic one?’ he asks.

No one replies.

‘We as the Left have dismally failed’ 

At the end of the evening, the answer to the question as to whether the EFF is a force for radical change remains hanging in the air. What the majority seems to agree on is that the Left has been swamped by the EFF. ‘We are becoming even less of a force for change. The EFF has planted a seed, which is something we as Left have dismally failed to do’, one of the members of the audience sums it up.

While the EFF raises fundamental questions around issues like land, state repression and white wealth – issues that South Africa can no longer sweep under the carpet, it remains to be seen whether the movement will betray or deliver to the people that are offering their support in good faith and see the party as a last resort to address decades of marginalisation and exclusion.

Although Fiona Ford believes Malema is more interested in power than in redressing historical inequities, professor Pitthouse rightfully points out that ‘it’s not impossible that the EFF could be changed in significant ways by the popular struggles it is seeking to capture, by the alliances it makes, internal contestation, changes in our broader political landscape or the nature of electoral politics’.

The Left in South Africa can continue to stigmatize and ridicule the EFF movement. It may be wiser – for themselves and for the country – to attempt to influence the EFF’s political line though and to work together for a better – and more egalitarian – future. Before it may be too late for constructive dialogue. The masses of South Africa deserve it.


Something else

I’ve been away for too long, I know. Will get my writing back on track soon.

For now, please delight in this magnificent wordcloud brought to you by Tagxedo (www.tagxedo.com) – and me.


She’s a woman. She’s black. She’s a lesbian. She’s dead. Her legs stick out under an empty sandbag, which has been used to cover part of her body. She’s lying on a bed of yellow and brown leaves. Her face is not included in the frame. Her trousers are left at her feet, still wrapped around her ankles. The man who brutally raped and later killed her did not take the effort to undress her properly.

Five gruelling pictures, taken from various angles, provide the viewer with an almost polished – yet none the less unsettling – overview of the victim’s crime scene. If it wasn’t for Zanele Muholi, the victim might have ended up being just another nameless and faceless statistic of victims of hate crimes in South Africa. Muholi was present to photograph the crime scene though, and so the victim – still nameless and faceless but no longer voiceless – features post-mortem in the exhibition ‘Mo(u)rning’, on show until 1 September in Stevenson Gallery, Woodstock, Cape Town.

Nation building

Zanele Muholi is a photographer and an activist. A black lesbian herself, she approaches and documents South Africa’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community from a trusted and respected insider’s perspective.

Mo(u)rning is an exhibition of a photographer who is ‘hurting inside’. Zanele Muholi is a fighter and fiercely believes in her cause. Yet, she faces prejudice and downright hostility in a country that at times seems to be at war with itself. In August 2009, the then Minister for Arts & Culture, Lulu Xingwana, stormed out of an exhibition in Johannesburg, funded by her department. The exhibition coincided with Women’s Day and aimed to give a platform to young black female artists. After seeing the work of Muholi, the minister left – without delivering her speech – calling the works ‘immoral’. The black and white photographs of Muholi, depicting black lesbian couples in intimate embraces, celebrate love between two people – of the same sex – in a delicate and respectful way. The minister could not approve. “My mandate is to promote social cohesion and nation building. I left the exhibition because Muholi’s works expressed the very opposite of this. It was immoral, offensive and going against nation-building”, she said afterwards.

‘Corrective’ rape

In 1996, two years after the formal end of apartheid, South Africa’s new constitution became the first in the world to include provisions of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2004 the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that same-sex couples must be included in the common law definition of marriage and in 2006 the office of the president signed into law the Civil Union Act, which allows people of the same sex to get married or registered as a common law couple. Legally speaking, lesbians, gays and, to a more limited extent, transgender people have achieved equality in South Africa. Over the past decade, however, activists have recorded dozens of incidents of sexual and physical violence against the LGBTI population.

The wave of hate crimes against the LGBTI community in general and against black lesbians especially, is part of an epidemic of violence against women and children sweeping South Africa. The country has amongst the highest rates of violence of all kinds in the world. Certain statistics suggest a woman is raped every 26 seconds – this is the highest in the world for a country that is not at war or embroiled in civil conflict.

South African police do not disaggregate records of sexual violence by motive or by survivors’ sexual orientation or gender expression and identity. As a result it is difficult to estimate how many transgender men, gay man and lesbians are raped in South Africa every year. ActionAid’s 2009 report “Hate crimes: The Rise of ‘Corrective Rape’ in South Africa” mentions 31 recorded murders of lesbian women since 1998. The number is estimated to be significantly higher though. In a poll of survivors of homophobic hate crimes in the Western Cape province, 66% of women said they did not report their attack because they would not be taken seriously.

Of those crimes that are reported, only 1 in 5 ends up in court, with only 4% of these resulting in a conviction. To date there has been just one conviction – in the case of Zoliswa Nkonyana who was beaten and killed by a gang of about twenty men in February 2006. After several postponements, her case was finally recognized as motivated by prejudice – a “hate” crime.  Nine men were charged and a verdict of guilty was handed against four of them in October 2011.

‘Corrective rape’, a phenomenon in which men rape women they presume or know to be lesbians in order to ‘convert’ them to heterosexuality is fast becoming the most widespread hate crime against lesbian women in townships across South Africa. Especially ‘butch’ lesbians (lesbians that look and dress in a masculine way) are being targeted. Being black and lesbian is a highly dangerous combination in South Africa – especially if one lives in one of the country’s townships or rural areas. Those who are able to afford a middle-class lifestyle may not experience the same degree of prejudice and discrimination, but black lesbians and transgender men living in townships, rural areas and informal settlements are among the most marginalized and vulnerable members of South Africa’s LGBTI population. Young black lesbians suffer from triple-stigmatisation, where they are prejudiced against for being black, for being women, and for being gay.

Starting point for dialogue

Zinzi Voyiya & Tozama Dyantyi © Zanele Muholi

© Zanele Muholi

Muholi is the first artist in South Africa to have taken up the cause of the country’s black lesbians and other sexual minorities. Over the years, she has documented their lives – and deaths. In addition to her portrait series ‘Being’ and ‘Faces and Phases’ she has documented a large number of crime scenes and funerals of black South African lesbians, who were raped and murdered.

Then, on April 20 2012, Muholi became the target of an unspeakable crime herself. Someone broke into her apartment in Cape Town and stole virtually all her work of the past five years – a laptop and 20 hard drives and backup systems on which she stored countless images and films. Nothing else was taken from the apartment. Among the stolen material was the ‘Queercide’ project, created by Muholi to denounce and record hate crimes and atrocities committed against South African LGBTI people. Whoever got away with the boot was clearly after destroying Muholi’s visual testimony of crimes perpetrated against a section of the population that is being targeted because of their sexual orientation and preferences.

Mo(u)rning is Muholi’s comeback after the robbery. It’s her proof to the world she is still standing. “My photographs are the starting points for dialogue”, says Muholi, who is clearly not lettng herself being silenced by the disappearance of years of hard work.

Notwithstanding the photographs of crime scenes, statements of lesbian ‘corrective rape’ victims scribbled on the wall and a mourning room (where the documentary of hate crime victim Noxolo Nogwaza’s funeral can be watched), the exhibition is not all about death, hate and loss though. For Muholi Mo(u)rning evokes death, but also suggests the cycle of life as morning follows night. The ‘Being’ project brings a series of beautiful black and white photographs of lesbian couples and the portraits of lesbians, part of ‘Faces and Phases’ show people with enough courage and determination to express themselves the way they are, in a country that is showing itself to be increasingly intolerant of (sexual) differences and where homosexuality is dismissed as an inappropriate black South African lifestyle.

Petra and Praline

The highlight of the exhibition is the multiple award winning documentary ‘Difficult Love’. Directed by Muholi and Peter Goldsmid, it provides an endearing look into the lives and struggles of lesbians in South Africa. The documentary features Muholi and her (white) partner, giving the viewer an intimate look into their lives (past and present). It also  features some experts on the theme of hate crimes, as well as victims. Millicent Gaika is one of those victims. With a blue and swollen eye and clearly in great pain and distress, she relates how she was held from 11pm until 4 am by a man from her neighbourhood who ‘did with her as he pleased’.

The documentary shows Muholi as she visits a township and speaks to the people. “This is un-African. This whole thing is for whites. I would never allow my child to take these pictures”, says one of the township women. “We are like this. We love ourselves. Our families love us. So why must we suffer all these unnecessary things? Why, why, why? Why lesbians all the time?” exclaims an afflicted young lesbian woman a few minutes later.

Wendy Isaacs, a human rights lawyer, gives her view on why lesbians are being targeted: “It’s got to do with masculinity and the way in which these women are challenging patriarchy and breaking through male privileges. Men don’t want anyone to be a man except for themselves. Besides, there is the irrational reasoning that lesbian women are after these men’s girlfriends. The perception is that if they just had sex with a man they would be ‘cured’.”

The most striking and heartbreaking item of the movie shows young Praline – a coloured girl with the characteristical gap between her two front teeth – and Petra, a mature woman, who dwell under a bridge in Mowbray. They live amongst the rats (their ‘protectors’ and ‘family’) and have collected a fake cell phone, a framed picture of Obama and a computer keyboard, with which they try to make their shelter look like a home. Expelled from the homeless people’s shelter for being lesbian, they live off the street and protect themselves from prejudice and attacks by passing for ‘mother and daughter’.

Desperate hate

Mkhululi Mabija, who describes himself as a ‘fluid’ man when it comes to his sexual orientation, sits next to me as I watch the documentary. He grins, chuckles and shakes his head in disapproval at exactly the same times I do. Once the documentary is finished, I speak to him. He agrees with Isaacs. Hate crimes are on the rise because lesbians are a threat towards the patriarchal view men hold of society and women’s place in it. He explains: “South Africa has always been a polygamous society but all of a sudden women are going for women. Homosexuality is not tolerated in black communities but when our men were working in the mines in Johannesburg, homosexuality did exist. But now, lesbians are coming out and express their sexuality in the open, it is no longer as secret as it used to be in the gold mines”. For Mabija, the hate crimes are a sign of the intolerance and desperate hate, present in South Africa. “There is a lack of tolerance in the South African culture”, he says, “and this makes it an extremely brave act to speak out, like Muholi does.”

“We are suffering from the same violence that we felt under apartheid”, says Mabija. “The xenophobia, the violence against lesbians, nothing of this is really new. It just used to be suppressed in the past and now it is erupting”.  Mabija is not totally pessimistic though. “The  minute someone realises the love between two people is real, they understand it better”, he believes.

Necklacing returns to the Rainbow Nation

Protest cartoon“It’s extremely dangerous”, says Nkwame Cedile. He refers to his act of speaking out against the practice of necklacing. Necklacing (killing someone by putting a burning tyre around the neck) emerged in South African townships under apartheid as a way of killing residents suspected of collaboration with the state security forces. It has recently re-emerged. Mobs of angry and frustrated residents of crime ridden townships, who feel the police and the justice system have failed them, have taken the law into their own hands. Since the beginning of this year, eleven suspects of crimes have been necklaced in Khayeltisha, Cape Town’s biggest black township. Speaking out against it is a brave act, as it is not guaranteed that the whistleblower will not become the next victim of lawlessness.

Necklacing just a symptom

It is noon and Cape Town’s winter is treating us on a splendid sunny day. Around fourteen people – mainly white youngsters – have gathered in front of the gates of Parliament, situated in the heart of Cape Town’s city centre. Nkwame Cedile (a black Khayelitsha resident and activist) and Carina Conradie (a white Cape Town University student) are amongst the organisers of today’s protest against necklacing, backed by organisations such as the Right2Know Campaign and the Social Justice Coalition.

Conradie hopes 67 people will turn up today. It’s the 18th of July, declared Nelson Mandela International Day by the United Nations in 2009, in recognition of South Africa’s former president’s 67 year long contribution to the culture of peace, freedom and human rights. On this day, all South Africans are asked to dedicate 67 minutes of their time to helping others.

“There is no better day to protest against the brutal issue of vigilante killings”, says Conradie. “Although what we are really protesting against is inequality. Necklacing is just a symptom.”

A bundle of old tyres have been piled up against a tree – waiting to be used by the protestors. Conradie and her friends sit around the tree and are scribbling protest slogans on posters as the first journalists arrive. “Poverty Kills”, “End Inequality in Our Townships” and “A Parent Does Not Use an Axe to Discipline a Child” are the preferred tag lines.

Protecting criminals

“Some people say I’m protecting criminals”, says Cedile (45), who started a hunger strike in May against the practice of necklacing. “But innocent people also get killed”. At least one victim of the vigilante killings was an innocent youngster from Gugulethu township, who was killed by a mob of boys while patrolling his community to safeguard it from gangsterism.

Media accounts state eleven people have been necklaced so far this year, but residents believe the number might be higher, as the murders in the township are not always reported. “The issue has been receiving very little media attention”, says Cedile.

On the 14th of June, the Social Justice Coalition, one of South Africa’s newest and fastest growing social movements that campaigns for safe, healthy and dignified communities in the country’s largest and dangerous townships, sent an open letter to the Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, pleading her to start an inquiry into the crime situation in Khayelitsha. However, until the provincial and national government agree on who is responsible for handling the crisis, the vigilante killings continue, exposing township residents to shocking scenes of cruelty.

Reservoir for cheap labour

As the afternoon progresses, a number of township residents arrive to join Conradie and her friends. Patrick Sikhumbule Mnyaka (21) from Khayelitsha is one of them. According to Mnyaka, the government needs to invest more in education and the future of the township children. “There is no inspiration for the kids at all”, he says.

“When someone is killed by necklacing, the community is cheering and celebrating”, explains Cedile. “Since the advent of democracy in 1994, South Africa is supposed to be the country of forgiveness and reconciliation. But eighteen years down the line black people are murdering one another. There is no reconciliation happening on the ground. We have the most liberal constitution in the world but there is anarchism on the ground. If this doesn’t stop it will result into chaos! The government needs to realise that we are not safe in the townships. People are burning each other because the level of crime is too high.”

Yet, only focussing on crime will not be enough. “I believe crime is bad, yes, but living in poverty is even worse”, emphasizes Cedile. “By killing each other without focussing on the underlying issues, we are destroying the future of South Africa.”

In order to address the crisis, Cedile believes the education system needs to change drastically. “Much like under apartheid, the township youth is still being trained to become security guards or tellers (cashiers) at the Pick ‘n Pay (supermarket) or worse, they end up as criminals. We are just a reservoir for cheap labour.” Housing is also an issue. “People live without the minimal privacy in townships. We are all squashed together. People want to be good parents but because of the amount of hardships they face, the often don’t succeed.”

Poor service delivery from government’s side can never be an excuse to take the law into one’s own hands though. The township residents also have to change their behaviour, believes Cedile. “How many mob killings have we seen this year? And yet I have never seen people protesting against police corruption in Khayeltisha.”

Time for a revolution

Dennis Kofi (22) from Gugulethu came down to the protest from Woodstock, where he is in training to become a radio DJ and producer. “I don’t even know why I’m here. My colleague convinced me to join her, she is the real revolutionary.”

Dennis Kofi (left) and his colleague

Dennis Kofi (left) and his colleague

“I’m not really against necklacing”, says Kofi. “I’m not for it either, because they can get the wrong guy. But if someone is caught in the act they must feel the full force of the law. And what is the force of the law in the ghetto?”, he asks. He indicates the answer by knocking on the tire around his neck. “The community will have to do the job until the police arrives.”

Ngcwalisa Magekeza (24) a member of Soundz of the South, a network of Hip Hop activists, is fiercely opposed to the necklacings. She believes that the time for a revolution has come. “If people have lost faith in the justice system, they must rebel against the government. They should not start killing each other. They are completely missing the point!”

It’s half past one when the protesters line up to pose for some photographs. They have not succeeded in stopping any traffic on the busy roads that surround Parliament. Four curious policemen observe the protest from a respectful distance. It is getting hotter and hotter in the fierce winter sun. “Are the 67 minutes done?” asks Kofi. “This necklace is hurting me.”

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog. I’m glad you’re here!

As you might already have seen, I use this blog mainly to focus on social and political issues affecting the lives of those inhabiting Cape Town.

I’m a Dutch citizen and arrived in Cape Town in October 2010. I haven’t left yet. Besides practicing my writing skills, I enjoy hiking, surfing, reading, photography and the arts.

I adore travelling and I am sure I won’t be in Cape Town for ever. But for now, this is my home base. No matter where you live, I would like you to start feeling at home in Cape Town too, through reading about the city on my blog.

If you enjoy my posts, leave a comment and please share through the social media channel of your preference.

If you do not enjoy my posts, please leave a comment too, but keep it polite!

Enjoy reading!


Disclaimer: You will notice that, when describing the people I write about, I will often mention their skin colour. You might wonder why this is relevant at all. Aren’t we all part of one big family, the human race?

Let me start by saying that Cape Town is a peculiar city. Counting approximately 3,5 million inhabitants, the so-called ‘coloured’ people constitute the city’s largest group today, making it South Africa’s only metropolis where black people are not in the majority. The Western Cape province (of which Cape Town is the capital) is also the only one of the country’s nine provinces not run by the governing ANC party. Instead, the Democratic Alliance, governs the province.

Up till today, the particularly harsh way apartheid was carried out in Cape Town has left deep scars. The city remains largely divided among racial lines. Much like under apartheid, whites live primarily on the slopes of Table Mountain, in the city centre and the lush beach fronts. The majority of the so-called ‘coloureds’ (a heterogenous group with diverse ancestral links such as indigenous Khoisan and Xhosa people, as well as Cape Malays, Chinese and Indians) and blacks live in more distant suburbs and the Cape Flats townships.

The spatial segregation for race runs parellel to that for social class. Nearly 40 percent of the city’s population lives below the poverty line, and significant disparities remain in access to health, education, housing and sanitation. Notwithstanding growing pockets of poor whites and the existence of a significant black middle class and elite, being poor in South Africa (and Cape Town) still means being coloured or black.

The discrimination and racism people experience in Cape Town today is more subtle than during the apartheid era. However, it is present and alive. In this context, someone’s skin colour becomes an essential  part of their identity and the way other people perceive them. By explicitly mentioning someone’s skin colour I feel I am contributing to clarity, transparency and openness. It is never my inention to label, stereotype or put people into boxes by mentioning that which should essentially be irrelevant and insignificant: the colour of our skin.