Musings of a mlungu on a kasi road trip

A brick monument of sorts said: "Welcome to Khayelitsha". The air was hot and smelled of braaivleis. (David Harrison, M&G)

A brick monument of sorts said: "Welcome to Khayelitsha". The air was hot and smelled of braaivleis. (David Harrison, M&G)


The air was crisp and smelled of urine. I asked how to get to Muizenberg from Somerset West. The best route was via Khayelitsha.

The taxi filled up quickly.
There was a sense of optimism, with what sounded like a pastor preaching what could have been the gospel on a radio station that probably went out to millions. A car backfired, which sounded like a gunshot going off. Everyone laughed.

We got on to the N2 and the money started rolling in from the back. A R20 note: two. A R50 note: two and one. I regretted getting in the front straight away, yet there I was: a sleepy white guy in over his head. The driver told me to put the money down. I did.

We took a left onto Baden Powell Drive, followed by a sharp right at a four-way stop I normally go straight over. A brick monument of sorts said: “Welcome to Khayelitsha”. The air was hot and smelled of braaivleis.

The taxi was filled with women, or maybe that was just my perception around Women’s Day. The lady next to me said: “Today I’m going to kill someone’s daughter.” I sat up a little. A small girl came into view. The lady appeared to be her grandma, the threat an expression of love.

I reclined.

We stopped at the police station, where two women got off and another three stepped on. I moved over a little. Next stop was Site C, not SightSee as I first thought. My connecting taxi was parked next to a container. It was empty.

  I got in and opened the Sunday Times I’d bought earlier to a full-page spread featuring public protector Thuli Madonsela relaxing at home. I relaxed. If there was ever a time to look inconspicuous and informed at the same time, this was it. I read the article very slowly. An hour later we hit the road. Next to me this time was a mother breastfeeding her baby.

We passed a burning shack, the warm glow hitting me right in the face. News reports the next day would say two children died in that fire.

We turned right onto Baden Powell, with False Bay right beside us. The sea breeze gave our drive a real roadtrip feel. The baby to my left gagged and looked as though it might throw up. Muizenberg came into view.

The driver said this was Muizenberg; didn’t I want to get off? I said: “No, I’m getting off at St James,” feeling very white as I heard how pretentious that sounded.

We stopped in front of St James station. I got off, mumbling: “Enkosi”, and stood on the sidewalk watching as the taxi drove off.

The air was cool and smelled of tourists.

JS Smit

JS Smit

JS Smit is a Cape Town-based freelance writer. Formally trained as a copywriter, he took a break from ads in 2010 to write a blog for the Mail & Guardian's Thought Leader and since 2015 has written for the Mail & Guardian. Read more from JS Smit

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