Article about Pinelands

Brian Watkyns, the local DA councillor for the Pinelands area, has just sent out his most recent Newsletter Pinelands Focus Update Number 79.

In it, he mentions that an article appeared in Die Burger newspaper earlier this year. It took me a while to find the Afrikaans version of the article, titled “Pinelands en die integrasie-droom” on the internet. Here it is, and it appeared on 21 April 2009.

Brian quoted an English translation of the entire article, and so I include it here.

“Pinelands and the dream of integration”

“On the edge of Cape Town’s southern suburbs, Pinelands has long rid itself of its image as secluded garden city, to become a happy integration of the diverse instead, writes Carina le Grange in this last instalment of Die Burger’s visits to Western Cape communities in the run-up to the elections.

The name Pinelands conjures up more or less the following picture: thatched roofs, leafy streets, a park at every turn, and plenty well-established citizens and retired people. Affluence and privilege form the subtext.

Still, Pinelands is but part of the southern suburbs, though somewhat removed from the rest, and is surrounded by more industrial and less affluent areas than one would have expected. It also forms the centre of Cape Town’s Ward 53, which includes Maitland, Ndabeni and part of Langa.

But tonight, we confine ourselves to Pinelands, and should you be looking for the local hang-outs on a Saturday evening, a search for clubs or street life will leave you high and dry (these are non-existent).

If residents are not elsewhere in town, you will probably find them quietly at home, or in one of the two restaurants, Magica Roma (Italian, said to be one of the best in town, one has to book weeks in advance) and Joe Fish (for fish – what else?). Or you could just sit in your car and order from McDonald’s.

The past weekend, Joe Fish has been abuzz with Afrikaans. All of them readers of Die Burger, they say. And funny enough, the paper is always available at every outlet in Pinelands – surprising for an ‘English’ suburb.

Three families sit at a jolly table for ten.

Of course they are planning on voting! The response is enthusiastic, accompanied by a look as if to say: “What sort of question is that?”

A MINI-UN

“That however is not to say that everyone around this table supports the same party,” someone is quick to remark. It is Mrs Maryna Botha, an attorney.

She is “absolutely, undoubtedly” certain of who will be getting her vote. Her husband, Mr Johan Botha, a conveyancer, speaks in the highest terms of the management of the school their eldest girl attends, “the only little blonde in her class”.

They have just returned from the autumn concert in the Dutch Reformed Church in aid of the Siyafunda bursary fund, which has for the past 20 years been supporting children from the surrounding areas, who are experiencing great financial difficulty, to obtain an education.

Also at the table is Sarah-Nicola Botha (7) and Veranza Joubert, a pianist, who shared the concert stage with other performers such as Sidwill Hartman, Albie van Schalkwyk and Hendrik Hofmeyr (who is by the way also from Pinelands, and is a member of the brilliant Hofmeyr family, whose other member, Willie Hofmeyr of National Prosecuting Authority fame, often makes the news).

Mrs Sarie Jacobs, grandmother to the little blonde and her sister, Nina, raised five children here. Pinelands is where she belongs. Mrs Linda Wallace, her daughter, who teaches in Durbanville but attended school and got married in Pinelands, has also made up her mind on who to vote for.

“I will be voting for the party who has read George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and who has understood it,” she says.

Mr Pieter Joubert tells the story of how, being built in the shape of a cross, the longer leg of Pinelands’ Dutch Reformed Church building serves as beacon for Ysterplaat’s pilots when they approach to land. He grew up in Pinelands, it is where his roots are, but now lives in Rondebosch.

Pieter Dirk-Uys (and his sister, Tessa, well-known pianist) also grew up here, even though now he is Darling’s darling.

Since 1994, Pinelands is also home to among others Ms Patricia de Lille, leader of the ID; our Judge President, John Hlophe; the jazz musician Jimmy Dludlu; and the (now apparently absent) former Premier Ebrahim Rasool.

Due to ethnicity or geographic origin, some streets could be turned into a mini-UN, and when school adjourns in the afternoon, children stroll home in colour combinations that were unimaginable prior to 1994.

REAL CHANGE

The minister at the table, Dr Cas Wepener, describes Pinelands as a “wonderful, integrated area”. It is also animal-friendly and ecologically conscious, his wife, Clara, adds.

Perhaps then there is some truth in the popular statement that (in racial terms) Pinelands is one of the most integrated middle-class suburbs in the country. (This statement is not documented, but appears in legitimate media and internet history sources.)

At the table it is told that in the sixties already, Dr Kallie Heese invited a minister from Langa to come and deliver a sermon, “on the pulpit”.

The conversation keeps coming back to Pinelands; little is said about the elections.

So, does democracy only really work for people who are not hungry and cold, in places where the demons of drink and tik are not lurking at every turn?

Only the restaurant’s co-owner, Ms Sally Johnstone, mentions the Z word: “I hope Jacob Zuma doesn’t make it.” She wants to see real change.

The young waiter, Kevin McIntosh, studies Electrical Engineering during the day. He respects the DA’s work, and will be voting for them provincially. Nationally he will be backing Cope, “who wants to fix what is wrong”.

On our way home, we stop by McDonald’s.

Behind the counter is Ms Asanda Mngomeni (23), busy figuring out an order placed by a group of twelve men from South India whose English is causing trouble. Apparently they are here on business, but do not want to elaborate.

Mngomeni stays in Langa. This will be her first time voting, and she is excited at the prospect. She has obtained her matric, and is grateful for her job.

Seven other people share her thankfulness – she and her grandmother are the only two breadwinners who keep the home fires burning for an extended family of eight.

She hopes her (secret) choice at the polls leads to better opportunities for the youth. “Our lives are difficult.”

The thing is, “we” (she kind of points to herself and her colleagues, all black) “are lagging behind. We need to feed everyone (at home)”.

HIV/Aids and crime are the main problems, she says. If only there were more jobs! The customers in this suburb are nice, she hurries to add when we say goodbye.

FROM ALL DIRECTIONS

In the morning and afternoon there is no sign of a peaceful suburb, and you are stuck on Forrest Drive for half an hour together with all the other commuters from elsewhere who are trying to “take shortcuts” to and from Viking Road and further north, Parow and Bellville, on a route that, along so-called quieter back roads, links them to places closer to the mountain.

Fortunately, quietness descends along the Elsieskraal River, which, albeit on a bed of concrete, runs parallel with Forrest Drive, the road that divides the suburb into two.

It makes a pretty picture, with joggers, hikers, and dogs with their owners on a leash, under windblown, leaning trees, even if the catchment often catches industrial effluent instead of water.

From here, Epping is a stone’s throw away. Until late at night, residents in this part of town can hear trains being shunted just on the other side of Jan Smuts Drive, which would take you to Athlone within minutes.

Sometimes you can hear the sound of minstrel groups practising at the stadium. Above early morning birdsong, one can hear the Muslim call for prayer, provided the traffic is not already too heavy.

Closer to home, like every Monday, those making a living out of others’ rubbish and waste are scavenging, running about, calling each other.

During the day, Pinelands is their territory; God knows where they actually stay – and no, don’t come with nonsense like politics. Pinelands is not the secluded garden city of its original blueprint, and perhaps never was, besides on paper, in thought, and in people’s dreams.”

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