Do you know what I love the most about Cape Town (aside from the barely contained social angst lurking behind the tanned smiles, bleached teeth and carefully lined eyes)? Everything works. I’m not suggesting that the city is a super-streamlined machine, devoid of kinks, functioning at optimal... um... functionality. It’s no utopia, but it beats the hell out of hiking three kilometres up a mountain to fetch your drinking water (Grahamstown) and at least our Home Affairs has shelves (P.E.)
Granted, both my examples are set in the Eastern Cape, and one could argue that they have a valid reason behind their slip in services.
Makana Municipality recently set up a multimillion-Rand government-funded research department to investigate and analyse what is being tagged as ‘The Event’. Two city councillors were sitting by the highway, throwing rocks at cars, when one accidently dropped his speckled stone. There was a flash of light and the surrounding grass began to glow a bright orange and yellow. Almost immediately, the grass began to crackle and turn black. To their surprise, the councillors discovered the strange radiance to be incredibly hot when they burnt their hands trying to pick it up, and inedible, when they burnt their mouths.
Officials believe that this curious energy could be the key to vastly increased production and a drastic change in lifestyle for all South Africans. To this end, the majority of Eastern Cape developmental funding is being channelled into the study and attempted reproduction of this event, what has become dubbed as the “Ow-wi Orange Shoo-Shoo.”
All other provincial services have subsequently been put on hold.
|The Eastern Cape Premier takes science seriously.|
Other provinces, however, have little to no excuse. Xenophobia in Gauteng, the elderly in the Northern Cape and pronunciation in Kwazulu Natal; all of these are rampant problems that have yet to be correctly addressed.
Cape Town and the Western Cape, on the whole, seem to have sorted their shit out. Having moved here only a few years ago, I’ve been in the perfect position to observe the functioning of this city from the perspective of an outsider (that is, until I got my wrist chipped and the roaming DA Medi-van popped by my apartment and prescribed me my daily morning vitamin shake).
|Helen says, “Drink this.”|
I’ve been impressed. The streets are clean and the people are generally friendly... after a few drinks and several quick trips to a bathroom stall.
What most impressed me, however, were the police stations.
Having been born and raised in the Eastern Cape, I’ve always been less than impressed regarding cop-shops. The E.C. police aren’t known for their effectiveness and are more likely to extort money from you than make any attempt to solve whatever the offending crime may be.
|These are cops trying to get out of the Walmer Township.|
Imagine my delight, then, when I first popped into the Rondebosch Police Station. Clean, with friendly and knowledgeable staff, I left the building feeling a dozen times better, even though I knew I had about as much chance of seeing my stolen camera again as the Queen has of teaching etiquette to a vegetable wrap.
Similarly, Claremont Station was a delight and even Mowbray was pleasant. It appeared that Cape Town policing had their customer service down pat... until I moved across the mountain.
It seems that there is an impressive gulf between the attitudes of the Southern Suburbs police and those of the CBD. Impressive like the “Wow, isn’t it impressive that Gacy managed to keep all those mutilated, teenage boys buried beneath his house for over half a decade and no one suspected anything?” kind of impressive.
|What? A serial killer? This guy?|
Last month, my Macbook was stolen through the window of my top floor apartment. Nature had become unbalanced. The sky turned red. The sea turned black. Horses attacked and ate each other. Gary Coleman rose from the grave to open a fish and chips franchise. A Camps Bay Miniature Doberman gave birth to a three-course, Taiwanese extravaganza with suckling pig, sweet and sour chicken dumplings, leather napkins and silver candelabra. Gary Coleman ate the Doberman.
|Almost time to feast...|
With tears on my chin and snot in my eyes, I made my way to the Cape Town Station to report this heinous crime. Little did I know that my suffering had only just begun.
|“Are you sure this is the right building?”|
We waited. Oh did we wait. By the time we were helped, the world had moved on. Mankind had ceased to be and the world was now ruled by a race of super-intelligent salamanders. But that’s another story.
The building was strung with colourful Christmas decorations as a horrible joke. It went, “What’s hung-over, hasn’t showered, is mildly paranoid about walking into a building it spends the majority of its life trying to avoid, and is in no way in any position to enjoy the happy, festive atmosphere of this beautiful city we live in? Also, it doesn’t own a laptop anymore. Nothing? I’ll give you a hint. It’s you. Now fuck off. Hope holds no place within these walls of despair.”
I didn’t think it was funny either.
My friend John (who kindly decided to accompany me) and I watched, through an office window, a group of merry officers tucking into the evidence locker. They gave no indication of noticing us. I began to wave. Still nothing. I was beginning to wonder whether, through a stroke of creative, ironic genius, the architect who had designed the building had placed the one-way glass the wrong way around when a polite looking, elderly sergeant stepped through the door, eggnog in hand, turned to face us and waved, as if to kindly remind us that he didn’t give a shit.
Eventually, we were helped (the salamanders had left the earth now, a broken, dry husk, and had spread themselves out amongst the stars to colonise new worlds).
To call the person who helped us a policewoman would be an incredible stretch of the word ‘woman’ (see how I didn’t make fun of her for being a cop?). She was so big that when she sat down, the chair next to her creaked in protest. She looked at our faces, not our eyes, as if she were imagining the day that the fuddy-duddies upstairs would give her a fucking gun so that she could get out of these chairs and down to some real policing.
She began to speak, or at least that’s what I imagine it was. Somewhere down the street, a dog began to howl.
She began to ask questions, like; “What time was it stolen? No, what time! Not when do you think it was taken; what time exactly. I don’t care if you were asleep. Who sleeps at night? Night-time is for FEEDING! NOW TELL ME THE EXACT... FUCKING... TIME!”
Luckily, John was ready with his wooden stool, and by the time she had swallowed several chunks from its splintered surface, she had calmed enough to continue.
She asked whether I wanted the crime investigated, to which I said yes. She then asked if I wanted the crime investigated, to which I answered yes, and if I wanted the crime investigated, to which I replied, “Yes.”
She asked if I had left the door unlocked, to which I responded that it had been stolen through the window. She asked how they had entered the apartment and what they had taken, and I reminded her that it was just my laptop, which had been stolen through a window. She asked me to make a list of the laptops stolen, in response to which I stared out blankly at the world, all notions of hope evaporating, while she slowly chewed her cud.
And she raped her nose.
|In response to ‘nose rape’, Google gave me these. All appropriate, I think.|
It was horrible to watch. I felt the gall rise in my throat. I had to look away, but she kept asking me question after idiotic question. No nose deserved that. It was inhuman. I could hear her excuses already: “Her nose had been dressed slutty,” “Her nose had been asking for it,” “Her nose had said, ‘no’, but meant, ‘yes’,” “Her nose was a tease and deserved what it got.”
That poor nose was getting drilled harder than a priest in prison. I wanted to weep, but didn’t want to draw attention to myself, lest her lusty fury be turned on me.
She was two knuckles deep and pressing for a third. Occasionally an eyeball would bulge outwards, as if being pressed from behind. Every now and then, her voice would skip or go silent, jump, jitter, reverse and change volume as her probing finger brushed against the nerve bundles around her frontal lobe. At one point, she spoke perfect Spanish.
I had the distinct impression that, were I to grab hold of her rotating arm in a desperate attempt to force it still, her head would simply begin to spin atop it like some terrifying, unstoppable gyroscope.
Like this, but less lame and more life-scarring.
To make matters even worse, she began switching hands. Pen in right, nose on left. Pen in left, nose on right. With every thoughtful pause or deliberation came the swopping of the pen from one hand to the other. Left, right, left, right. Switch, switch, switch...
Had it ended there, this story would have been traumatic enough, but it was not to be as she turned to me with her ghoulish eyes, held out the soiled pen as her finger weeped away the last of its innocence and commanded: “Read this, then sign.”
What was I to do? Taking the pen by the very end (not that I held out hope that any part of it had been spared abuse) I hastily scrawled my signature. But what was I thinking when I hesitantly pointed out how, contrary to what she had written, I really did want the case investigated?
John and I barely managed to escape as her warp spasm set it. As her swollen, distorted body ripped and tore with sharpened teeth and taloned hands at the tiny office that confined her, we piled into my small car and sped off at terrifying speeds, swearing as we fled that we would never speak of this harrowing experience again.