Good question, but we may not like the answer

(An old letter from 2015, but relevant today still)

Letter to Cape Talk in response to a caller who asked why people living on the most fertile land in CT are poor – suggesting it may be lack of talent.

Hi Africa,

Re: The gentleman who called in and said something along the lines of people are living in poverty right on top of the most fertile land in the city and maybe lack of talent is the problem.

I am not sure if he has been in Philippi and make no assumptions about his story and experiences.

However, it sounds like he is speaking about a different place. I have interviewed and walked alongside people from Philippi (across the entire area) who are living in extremely tight living conditions, back to back, shack to shack, little thin corridors between shacks, shacks built on water-logged land (Graveyard Pond, Philippi), constant threats of evictions, farm owners who have no idea even how their own labourers live. Extreme poverty! Extremely cramped conditions. NO poor people OWN land there. That is the problem.

Does he think people OWN the land they eke their living out on? There is no ‘free’ land unowned.

He mentioned talent or the lack thereof and I nearly choked. The people who live in Philippi have no land. They are seen as ‘squatters’ — many of them have lived and worked on other people’s land there for generations and are still poor and are then evicted when inconvenient (Egoli, Philippi).

He is right. We do have to ask why people living on such fertile land are poor … and living in such poverty BUT … what people like him and many of us privileged Capetonians do not know is that we may not like the answer to that question … land. When people cry “give us back our land’ they are speaking about the cycle of poverty that is continued and will keep their children in poverty. And what we may not like about the answer is that it may cost something to the privileged. It is not talent that is lacking, it is the will of the privileged to share what has been taken unjustly over generations.

I am more than willing to take this gentleman to Philippi and let him see the reality of how many extremely ‘talented’ gifted people are surviving – against all odds.

Linda Martindale