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Our friend Pete was waiting for us at the airport. After we’d collected our luggage we drove to his house. The drive across the highway from the Airport to Cape Town was our introduction to the town we’d be calling home for the next ten days. The highway was in excellent condition, and ran through regions of scrub that flowed away the verges of the road towards distant mountains. However ten minutes later we discovered shanty towns that had been erected alongside the highway.

They were a poor reminder than ten years after gaining independence the contrast between the rich and poor has perhaps worsened. The shacks making up the shanty towns were made of every type of material recognized to man – corrugated iron sheets and rusty metal sheets along with wood, cardboard and wire to make an extremely uncomfortable shelter than a family called home. Even more appalling was the truth that most of the shanty houses had run wires to the overhead power lines làm mái tôn.This dangerous link was apparently sanctioned by the electricity board – Pete told us that the municipality and the government were failing to help keep pace with the demand for houses for the poorer members of society, and preferred to leave the shanty towns intact! A refuse collection service run by the area authority was operating to keep the shanty towns habitable. We saw numerous shanty towns along the main highways during our stay in Cape Town.

Pete lives in a suburb called Somerset West, and his home was a functional and extremely modern cluster home in a compound of about 30 residences. This form of living is very popular in South Africa, due to security and reduced overheads. The complexes are very well maintained because each owner contributes towards the upkeep and maintenance of the complex. Some complexes offer communal playgrounds for the resident children, tennis courts and swimming pools. Owners are usually able to help keep pets too, because each house has a unique private garden. Additionally it is an ideal way to live in Africa if one needs traveling or go on christmas – neighbours will watch on the house when you are away. My husband and I were so impressed with in this way of living that the next year we bought into a group complex my then employers were marketing in Harare. Whenever we sold our house in 2003 we reinvested the money in another cluster home. If one wants to live in Africa security is very important, and a group home complex offers the very best amount of security for residences.

Pete’s a bachelor, in order that night he prepared a barbecue in his Weber braai unit. His girlfriend Pat came round to help with the cooking, and we’d a great evening. The view from Pete’s house was superb. Somerset West is built on a hill overlooking the town, and the view from his verandah offered the classic Cape Town view – the sprawling city at the foot of majestic Table Mountain, the lighthouse and the Atlantic Ocean. His house had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a big family room, state of the art kitchen and outside laundry/storeroom. He told us he spends most of his time on his verandah or in his garden.

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