More than two decades since the collapse of apartheid, the legacy of its division continues to shape Cape Town.
The ashes of apartheid birthed a thriving middle class of non-whites. Some members of the new black middle class have flocked to formerly white suburbia. Others remain in the townships, building tidy pastel homes that sit shoulder-to-shoulder with the chaotic slums of the apartheid era.
With the slow demise of racial segregation in Cape Town, economic divisions separating the races also began to lessen. Families in modern, middle or upper class neighborhoods — whether white, black, Coloured, or Asian — began adopting additional security measures, barricading themselves (and their newfound wealth) away from the crime lurking in the outside world.
In a UN evaluation of 60 countries, South Africa was ranked second for assault and murder per capita and first for rape per capita. As a result, the middle and upper classes hole up in gated communities and cloak themselves behind guard dogs, electric fences, and 24-hour private security patrols. Because police are widely considered too unreliable or too slow to be effective, affluent communities hire private security forces. The use of personal security has become so popular, in fact, that private security guards currently outnumber official policemen in South Africa nearly two to one.
There are, however, few private security patrols in Khayelitsha. Residents complain that criminals are rarely apprehended, gang activity hinders convictions, and that a weak street police presence has left victims of assault or rape screaming to deaf ears.
Class distinctions, once a matter as clear as black and white, have blurred. It is no longer obvious whom the literal and figurative walls of South Africa are safeguarding, or against whom.
The middle and upper classes wear the badge of privilege in subtler ways — in weekly visits from domestic workers, in the trimmed hedges of a tidy suburban lawn, in the gates, guards, and deadbolts protecting the “haves” from the dangerous desperation of the “have-nots.”