Our man in Cape Town

David Bullard says the city is teetering on the brink of San Francisco like decay


Last week I spent a few days in Greenpoint in the AirBnb apartment that I eventually managed to book back in July. You may remember that I was initially rejected by the algorithm because I was an AirBnB newbie and might not give a glowing review to a newly listed property. However, after the intervention of the owner all was well and so last week I checked in for four days of revelry in Cape Town.

The apartment is in a newly built block and it was superb. One main bedroom and a second bedroom with twin beds. Immaculately clean and beautifully decorated with a fantastically well-equipped kitchen and a SMEG oven that was so complicated to operate that I simply gave up. I did manage to adjust the time on the oven though which I took as a huge leap forward. In another two hours I would almost certainly have mastered the controls for the upper oven but the lower oven would have needed at least another week. 

This wasn’t a huge problem because I wasn’t planning to roast a duck or anything like that but, since I was paying for the place, I did feel that I was entitled to mess around with the oven controls just in case. Fortunately, there were plenty of restaurants and food shops within easy walking distance which was just as well because every night between 6pm and 8pm there was load shedding. So even if I had decided to eat at home I couldn’t because the place was in near darkness, and I couldn’t even boil a kettle.

As a South African resident, I am now used to this nonsense but I wondered what a foreign visitor would have made of it. Here you are in a gorgeous, centrally located apartment near the Cape Town CBD and you can’t even boil a kettle for coffee in the morning or heat up some soup on the stove in the evening or watch something on Netflix. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Even the local restaurants are affected with the staff at Mario’s restaurant having to patiently explain that I couldn’t order a double espresso after my meal because the power was out, and the machine wasn’t functioning. Fortunately, a Jagermeister is a pretty good substitute.

I walked along Main Street in Greenpoint one morning during yet another two hour power cut and most businesses were in darkness. Their doors were open, the staff were standing around bored out of their minds but no trade was taking place.

It’s rather difficult to select soft furnishings in pitch darkness unless you're not particularly choosy and just looking for something to stuff foreign currency into. Even some of the restaurants and coffee shops were in darkness with the notable exception of Giovanni’s Deliworld which was pumping with a fully operational coffee machine turning out excellent cappuccini. But, other than that, the Greenpoint economy was largely dead for two hours that morning. And the same for the next few days. How on earth are people expected to make a living?

However, the thing I noticed most about Greenpoint this time around was the extraordinary demographic diversity. There are plenty of beggars wandering around asking for food or money which is hardly surprising in a country with such an absurdly high rate of unemployment. But as I walked out in the early evening I was struck by the sheer number of luxury cars, many of them parked haphazardly on the pavement and some just cruising along.

When I say luxury I’m talking in the price-range of R1mln and upwards and many with personalised number plates. All of them driven by what I will delicately refer to as ‘black entrepreneurs’ with body piercings and tattoos and a lot of attitude. They didn’t strike me as hedge fund managers or neuro-surgeons. So clearly, business is good for some in Greenpoint.

But this ostentatious show of wealth is in sharp contrast to what is happening nearby. I decided to walk down to the Waterfront one morning and went under the subway to connect with Granger Bay Boulevard. Just before the massive New Somerset Hospital building is an unkempt, litter strewn field where people are living in makeshift shelters constructed from bits of plastic sheeting and suchlike.

Next to it is what looks like a deserted building, its perimeter surrounded by rolls of barbed wire. Net curtains still hang in some of the windows but most of the windowpanes have been smashed. All this is opposite the DHL stadium and within a few minutes’ walk of a R25 million apartment in Granger Bay. Obviously, the legacy of apartheid is to blame for all this inequality.

Rather than search for parking near Bree St I took an Uber in one lunchtime and then took an Uber back home again. As we were driving down Buitengracht St just before Castle St I noticed a man urinating against a wire fence next to a parking lot in full view of the passing traffic. There were more temporary dwellings made of plastic sheeting and cardboard by the side of this main thoroughfare and this is where people live.

So what is the solution? Do you round up all the indigents and move them somewhere else where they can’t be seen in the interests of smartening up the city? Or do you allow them to live in shacks and tents on the side of the road with no running water and ablution facilities because you don’t want to upset the ‘wokists’.

Rather as with the migrant problem in the UK, the wokists have strong views on what is fair but if you suggested that they might want to put their money where their mouth is and invite a few North African migrants to share their homes I doubt if you would get many takers.

So it is with Cape Town. Those who make the most noise about the callous treatment of those occupying public buildings or pitching tents in the city centre would almost certainly not be prepared to do much more than participate in a feeding scheme.

That doesn’t solve the problem though which leaves those who run Cape Town with a dilemma. Do they get rid of all the unsightly hovels and move the indigent on in the interests of making Cape Town a highly desirable holiday destination? Or do they just accept that we are going the same way as many formerly desirable US cities which have now become no-go areas thanks to drunks, druggies and the homeless?

If you go the route of tolerating the homeless living on your streets you run the risk of attracting even more homeless and you also run the even greater risk of outbreaks of waterborne disease. But, in these days of diversity, inclusivity and equity what could be more PC than having a homeless hobo in ragged clothes living just outside your R25 million sea view mansion?

Which is why I may well continue to live on a secure, gated wine estate with landscaped gardens, the rubbish collected every week and with like minded neighbours. Yes, I know it’s nothing more than a false bubble but at my stage of life a bubble is exactly what I need.


A conversation that comes up fairly frequently at social events these days is how the EFF might score in next year’s elections and what would happen if they ever came to power.

Intelligent South Africans of all races are gradually coming to realise that the EFF has only one central policy; the complete elimination of the white race. Julius Malema has made that abundantly clear on many occasions and enjoys the full support of the SA Human Rights Commission whenever he makes a comment about killing whites.

Other than that the EFF has no clear and well defined policies unless you count opening borders, creating a State Bank which will lend to people who never previously qualified to borrow, nationalising anything that may have some financial advantage and distributing free land, electricity, water, education, healthcare and broadband to all registered EFF cardholders.

Quite how this will all be paid for is a little hazy but presumably all that white land that has been ‘repossessed’ can be lodged with the State Bank for loans at generous interest rates. As to where the unlimited deposits for the State Bank will come from we will have to wait and see but rumour has it that Juju has shares in a smallholding in Limpopo which grows magic money trees.

But of more concern to the paler members of society is how the ‘great white cull’ will be handled. Will it be through a humane painless injection such as the vet administers to a sick animal. Or will Juju want to make more of a headline grabbing occasion of it with plenty of machete activity and sledge-hammering? My educated guess is that it will be as brutal as possible because that’s the EFF way of doing things as we’ve seen in parliament.

Shrinking violets, they definitely aren’t. Of course, all his bluster may just be talk as the mainstream media believe. On the other hand, in true African despot style, it may not be.

We’ll find out who’s right in 2024.