Apartheid on the road? Or: How I learned to take the bus in Cape Town . 2002/2003
During my stay in Cape Town – long way back from November 2002 until April 2003 – taking the bus played a very important role. After my arrival at an anthroposophy community in Plumstead, where I could hire a small room, all my house mates were shocked that I did not want to hire or buy a small car to be mobile and to get to my different workplaces of Abalimi Bezekhaya – the NGO where I was volunteering – in Khayelitsha.
Several reasons kept me away from driving by myself. How should I get used to driving on the “wrong” side of the road? I have a distinct left-right weakness! And how should I, who already drives overly cautious in Germany, ever arrive safely here in this mad traffic of Cape Town? In such a big city there had to be public transport, I thought. My new – only white – house mates had neither idea if it even exists nor how it works. “We never take public transport; that is far too dangerous!” Hmmm???
In the beginning one of my colleagues from Abalimi who also lived in Plumstead gave me a lift to and back from work. With and with I observed that buses were driving around in the townships on a regular basis. And obviously I also saw a whole lot of people from the townships leaving in the morning to work in the rich areas of the white people. Bit by bit I got into closer contact with the ladies in the township. „Of course, there are busses from Wynberg Station to Khayelitha.“ And so I rolled up this problem from behind: some ladies and children accompanied me to the bus stop in Khayelithsa and waited with me until the bus arrived. They inculcated the bus driver to take good care of me and to only let me step out of the bus at “Wynberg Station” – the final destination. The next morning the ride in the opposite direction was no challenge for me! I used this bus line nearly six months and I was always the only white person in the bus. I have been always treated very friendly by all the other passengers. Interestingly it was clear to everybody, who I talked to in the bus that I have to be a European and not a South African – before I even said a word.
My house mates in Plumstead observed that I arrived every day at home alive, safe and intact – they treated this fact as a miracle. Most of them had never ever been to a township- they were too scared. Bit by bit their interest had been aroused to take the plunge. And so I transformed to the uncertified tour guide between Plumstead and Khayelitsha, where all my guests were warmly welcomed in the gardens of Abalimi.