South Africa: Last Day in Cape Town

Today was a busy day for the group. We started the morning in a cheetah and bird conservatory. The bird center was a rehabilitation and release facility for injured and rescued birds. The facility had three baby owls that had been rescued from a demolished home, and were abandoned by their mother. The owls were being taught to fly over a period of several days and would be released soon. These wildlife programs were very interesting.

We learned about the housing policies in South Africa. During Apartheid, housing took an approach of three concentric circles, with the white citizens (or Afrikaans) in the middle of the city center, the “Coloureds” (which is the South African term for people of mixed decent) in the middle circle, and the black African citizens around the outside, the furthest from the city. You can still see the effects of this system today. For example, many houses in South Africa were built by the Apartheid government. Because of this, the housing in the areas away from the city — those built for the black Africans — are of the lowest quality, and the housing toward the center of the city is much nicer. And it seems that neighborhoods are segregated much in the same way today.

The country of South Africa has a 48-hour squatting law; that is, if a person takes up residence, usually in a tent or shack, on government land, the government has only 48 hours to find and remove the person. If the person is not removed within 48 hours, the government cannot evict that person from the land. Because of this law, there are many squatter camps scattered around Cape Town. Many of these are only tin shacks, with tin roofs held down with heavy rocks. This is astonishing as the winds are very strong in the Cape Town metro area, and so many families live in these small make-shift homes.

The disparity between the rich and the poor is obvious in the housing in South Africa. The laws and policies of the Apartheid government are still very apparent in the greater Cape Town area, as much of the aftermath still remains.

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