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Moving from the Eastern Cape to Cape Town made me feel like a foreigner in my own country

by: Xoliswa Qoni - 2 June 2016

ec to wc_May 2016_©oneleliwani-2

I was born, and grew up, in Kwa-Nobuhle, Uitenhage, in the Eastern Cape. I moved to Gugulethu, Cape Town, five years ago. The change was difficult, and it took time to adjust. Even though I’ve been in Cape Town for so many years, I still don’t feel a sense of belonging here. Everywhere I go, I’m constantly reminded that “ndiligoduka’’ (I’m a migrant).

Discrimination is more complex than the colour of one’s skin

The recent racism on social media from the likes of Matthew Theunissen, Judge Mabel Jansen and so many others, is showing us how deep the effects of apartheid are. But what no one is talking about is the black-on-black discrimination happening in Cape Town townships.

Often referring to themselves as “Cape borners”, black people born in Cape Town somehow think they are superior to those who relocated from the Eastern Cape. The Cape borners believe they deserve first preference when it comes to government housing and jobs, creating an uncomfortable tension between the two groups.

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South Africa, my country, my future

The decision to move here was not an easy one, because I had to to leave my family behind, especially my mother, and start a new life. The main reason for my move was to pursue a tertiary qualification. I chose to exercise the privilege that our mothers and fathers never got to enjoy during apartheid; the freedom to travel freely from place to place within the country.

Although I’m able to go to Camps Bay beach with my friends and family, I’m not comfortable enough to enjoy myself, because I just don’t feel the sense of belonging in Cape Town. The city on its own is divided into two countries.

This feeling worsened when the premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille, made a statement in 2012, labelling people from the Eastern Cape, who move to the Western Cape in search of better education “education refugees”.

That spoke directly to me, because that’s the main reason I moved to Cape Town. Why am I being labelled an education refugee in my own country?

I hear Cape Town is rated among the most beautiful cities in the world, and is seen as the prime destination for tourists. As wonderful as that is, not all is beautiful. Steve Biko once said, “The basic tenet of Black Consciousness is that the black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country of his birth, and reduce his basic human dignity”.

I will not allow Helen Zille or a Cape borner to deprive me of my privileges and rights in my country.


Image: Onele Liwani