The new fences of suburban snobbery
It’s another chatty evening on my street’s WhatsApp group. The digital signals form the only contact, as homeowners lock their gates and hunker down behind their two-metre walls. The crackle of electric fences mixes with the bark of a dog left alone at home. The street is now the domain of security companies.
Those companies are a point of contention. One of the dominant group members starts a diatribe about “vagrants”.
Apparently, a nearby security company is doing a great job of removing people who have “no justification” to be in the area. Everyone is envious.
Now, the fact that racism – mixed with class segregation – defines how many people interact is nothing new. Our attempt at a rainbow nation only momentarily coloured in the divides. But here is a group casually discussing an act whereby people are denied their right.
It’s a conversation that seems to unite people from the top of the sloping street to its end, 500m away. Most will have suffered as a result of pass laws, but this is now. Class is the great divide.
I download a PDF of the Bill of Rights, just in case I missed something. Nope. In this country – where my street runs parallel to a dozen just like it – everyone has the right to “freedom of movement” and “the right to enter, remain in and to reside anywhere in the Republic”.
But in my street, property dictates your level of rights. Old houses from when this was farmland sit squarely next to brightly painted monstrosities, trying to replicate the Cape Town style that keeps drawing neighbours to migrate south.
My partner is tempted to mockingly suggest to the group that we have some sort of identification – let’s call it a pass – to show to the patrol cars. But we don’t. This group might take it as a legitimate proposal.