For a person who is born and bred in the Karoo, I feel like a stranger every time I enter town during the holidays. Not sure whether it’s the vast change of landscape and surroundings, or the great social evolution of the town.
Tuesday, April 30th, 1996. The start of my life in the great and massively praised Earth. The semi-desert Great Karoo, on the outer skirts North of the Western Cape border, serves as my birth place, in the biggest town of the region, Beaufort West, one of the oldest town in South Africa and home to the first heart transplant surgeon, Dr Christian Barnard.
“Bhova”, as we call it, is split into four major areas, namely: Lande, Hillside, Rusdene and Kwa-Mandlenkosi. The town is also known for it’s wonderful diversity and non-judgemental attitudes from every resident, with isiXhosa and Afrikaans serving as the major languages spoken in the town by majority of people living in the glorious town.
I grew up in Kwa-Mandlenkosi. I lived in the house with my grandparents, and four cousins. My mother lived in George with my father, and I joined them at the age of two. The following year, they got divorced. Months later, my mother got into a serious accident, which almost made her lose her right leg. Luckily, she didn’t, but she was rendered unable to work, and so we moved back to Beaufort West. In July, my baby sister was born.
Beaufort West is known for its hot summers and cold winters. At the age of five, I got to experience the weather. I went home after a wonderful day of playing street soccer with blisters from the hot brown soil, smelling of sweat due to the town’s relentless heat burning my moisturised skin.
The adolescent in me didn’t mind the heat, because the afternoon was well spent with friends, playing and laughing the entire day, before emptying the streets due to Dragonball Z or Yu-Gi-Oh! Playing late at five.
Being one of the smallest towns in the country, resources were limited, especially in the education sector. Thus, there is only one primary school and one high school that has English as a medium of instruction and isiXhosa as a subject. I attended HM Dlikidla Primary School, and then started high School at Mandlenkosi Secondary, until I got a scholarship to the Cape Academy.
Throughout my childhood, I’ve known iBhova as the peaceful town, with no gangsterism, no violence, hardly any crime to the residents. But, returning year after year, the peaceful town lost its peace and harmony to gang wars and crime.
Like any other place in the world, crime starts with improper and unhandled drug use. Drug users become desperate for their next fix, making them to start robbing, house breaking, smash and grabs and any other type of crime. I’ve been robbed twice, both times in Beaufort West. That says a lot about the changes of the town.
It’s not only the drug users that have stolen the purity of the town. Drug dealers start wars amongst themselves for territory, for greed or just for any excuse to kill one another. But the community is also affected as there are casualties in every gang war.
The world has given up in showing the world a better life after crime. Graduates don’t find jobs, the uneducated become rich. Our youth gets sucked in to substance abuse, and the death statistics increase by the day. We need to find a solution and fast.
Before the world comes to an end.