“A First World country with a Third World mentality” or maybe “South Africa? That’s not really Africa.” or maybe there is misguided belief that South Africa is mostly white (it’s less than 10%) or that Cape Town is “safe” for tourists because it must be mostly white (yes more, but still less than 20%.) While people want to run around with the belief that there is only water at South Africa’s northern borders, the truth of the matter is that is it still very much African however you want to take that.
As it stands specifically in Cape Town, I suppose that some elements about it would miss most people’s eyes, but if you’ve spend any time in Africa, you recognize them right away. For starters, there are indeed shanty towns in the area, although the government goes a long way to making life in them a great deal more tenable. It’s really the approach to security that was sadly similar to other places I’ve seen on the African continent, but it was like security on steroids. The picture below shows a wall that is similar to what surrounds my house in Côte d’Ivoire, but for a touch of security frosting, there was a freakin’ electric fence running along the top! And this was next door to the house I was staying at which had three locks you had to open to three separate doors to get in to the house. And then once in, you had to disarm an alarm. As a sidenote, while traveling around the wineries up in Stellenbosch, it was a strange experience to have to be allowed in to a gate by a guard.
But walls, alarms, electric fences, and potential moats with radioactive sharks aside, I think it’s the security forces that really bothered me. You see all the cars from Chubb and ADT driving around with “Armed Response” freely printed on the back of the car. When you see the guard/soldier get out of the car, sure enough, he’s wearing a flack jacket with a sidearm strapped to him. I admit it’s quite intimidating, but it’s also sad and it’s one of those things that takes it beyond being more than African and even more than being American (where guns outnumber the citizens) to a point where it’s obvious that certain people are existing in a state of terrified paranoia. I guess people feel as if they’ve been pushed to this point due to the race tensions in the Rainbow Nation, but having grown up in a wickedly violent country such as the United States, it makes me wonder how much of an actual threat there is vs. how much is a figment of imagination.