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Best of 2012 | It Could Be Worse

by TO Molefe / Illustration by Rico / 06.01.2013

Originally published 10 January 2012

Sitting at the counter inside the Vida looking out on the Street, I notice walking on the pavement a man – except he is not a man. He is far less. He is a bergie. Uncertain, he hesitates before (and this is me, assuming) hunger presses him forward.

He approaches a young man sitting at the tables outside. The young man has a perfectly coiffed quiff and is wearing round eyeglasses. Hand cupped under hand, the lesser man asks for the last of the young man’s breakfast wrap. It has too little bacon, too much egg and anyway tastes of cardboard, so the young man hands it over with some uncertainty.

Before the lesser man, Untermensch, can tuck in, a Barista approaches.

“You do not belong here,” his cocked head and twisting, stacked delts say.

Untermensch steps back and mutters under his breath, which the South Easter lifts, exposing that which is at the conflux of the barista’s mom’s legs. Quick as a flash, Barista has Untermensch by the scruff. He hoists him – one, two, three – he hurls him out of our sight.

“Hectic,” the guy next to me says.

“Hectic,” I say, “but this is Cape Town.”

Sensing an opportunity to affirm our solidarity, he presses on. “It’s a public street. Untermensch has every right to be here,” he says, flashing his counterculture credentials.

I check them. They’re three A4-sized pages long, and laminated. Leafing through I learn he’s an AfrikaBurn vet and votes AZAPO. He’s seen and loved all three members of the current Trinity in concert, Bantwini, Mathambo and Blk Jks – amen. I flip them over. On the back it says they were issued by a liberal university and paid for by his dad, a Greenside podiatrist, and his mom, a work-from-home art teacher.

Duly impressed, I hand them back. “Of course Untermensch has every right to be here. It is a free country, after all,” I say. “But this is Cape Town.”

“I’m from Joburg – it’s like this everywhere,” he says. “You know it’s not about race anymore.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, it’s more about class, man” he says. He pauses to think. “Fuck the class system,” he says.

“Fuck the class system,” I say. I raise my latte and give a nod.

Before I can return to my book, Untermensch steps back into view. Barista and his delts are behind the till and coiffed quiff boy skedaddled at the first sign that shit was about to go down. Untermensch catcalls a blonde model-type who walks by pretending not to hear. He leans against a lamp pole and adjusts his dirt brown and faded cap, which has a J-Crew emblem stitched to the front. He closes his eyes and lifts his face to the sun.

“Does it make it any better,” I ask aloud, “if it truly is now about class, not race?”

“Of course, man,” guy-next-to-me says. “Just look at the history of the world, of this country. Racism’s pernicious and grotesque. We’d be fucked if we were still doing it.”

“Which is why racists get a swift kick to the keister when they show their asses. It’s the kind of thing only a fucked-up person would see happen and not try to stop,” I add.

“For sure! I’d kick a racist’s ass all day any day.” He bangs the counter.

“Me too, my brother, me too,” I say. “But a classist, I would not touch. Why should I? I’m on this side of the glass and Untermensch, well, he’s over there.”

Guy-next-to-me flushes pale. I raise my hand for a fist bump. He leaves me hanging.

“Buck up, old boy,” I say. “It could be worse. At least you’re not a fucking anti-Semite.”

We both look out again at Untermensch. He’s looking right at us. He smiles warmly and grabs his crotch. He flashes us a peace sign, palm inwards. Drawing his hand to his lips, he snakes his tongue between the two erect fingers.

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RESPONSES (20)
  1. random says:

    dope

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  2. Hoogasta says:

    So until the usual gang of pitbulls (Davis, Edmonds, Young, Chetty, Moorosi et al.) comes back, we have to deal with this impressionistic, shallow, undergrad rommel?

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  3. Shan says:

    Awesome. And love the Rico illustration.

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  4. Gallo says:

    But that’s Cape Town.

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  5. Tim says:

    <3 Illustration

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  6. Onan the ambidextrous says:

    A good piece of social commentary – thought provoking, entertaining and structured. It confirms the perception that Cape Town under the DA is becoming increasingly elitist, and that the poor are being expelled from the city and suburbs. Apartheid has returned, with the untermenschen herded into the suppurating settlements out there on the periphery. Out of sight, out of mind.

    @Hoogsta
    If you were abused as a child it would explain the ugly countenance behind the words. Dig yourself out of your hole, stop masturbating in front of your computer and try liking someone.

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  7. muffdiver says:

    and “a blonde model-type who walks by pretending not to hear” is a woman on the other side of it all…the guys talking through their turf…:)

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  8. Who Killed JR? says:

    @Onan

    I think what Mr Molefe is trying to say is that he sat there behind the glass not meddling in the injustice before him just the same way as the white folk did during apartheid … because it didn’t prejudice him.

    Cape Town’s alright in my book … that type of behaviour is going down everywhere … inter and intra racially. The struggle is over and the compassion is sparse.

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  9. Chuck H. says:

    And … Just how is this scene significantly different that stuff I see frequently, a very wide ocean (or two) away from Cape Town?

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  10. Rol says:

    I can almost smell the latte.

    “exposing that which is at the conflux of the barista’s mom’s legs” – I’d fistbump you, TO Molefe, I’d never leave you hanging. Great piece

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  11. Meg says:

    Nice man…..

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  12. Anonymous says:

    “The fundamental class division in any society is not between rich and poor, or between farmers and city dwellers, but between tax payers and tax consumers”

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  13. eel nigiri says:

    Well said ‘nonymous! The world we live in does not run itself.

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  14. Tim says:

    I find it funny that workers complain about tax… like the flip of that coin is better. VAT; everyone who consumes is a taxpayer.

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  15. maki mono says:

    Hey Tim, there’s a whole lotta difference between paying 14% VAT on something that you buy vs around 40% of your salary (if it’s vaguely generous) before you even get to buy ANYTHING with it. It’s been stated that around 8% of South Africa’s population keeps our economy afloat through their disproportionate contributions via taxation.

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  16. Tim says:

    Yeah, and it turns out that 8% of the country holds 95% of the wealth of this country, so fucking DUH… Are the poor supposed to magic amajika money from where exactly?

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  17. endamame says:

    0.45*95% + 0.14*the remainder means that at least 45% of the wealth in this country goes to government coffers to be spent on ALL South Africans, even/especially those who do not work. Those who have above-average financial security and any creature comforts in South Africa pay a VERY high premium for that privilege.

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  18. Tim says:

    So that’s not the poor people’s fault. It’s still all on the rich, cos if they perhaps shared a little more, the cash wouldn’t have to be pried from between their greedy fingers…

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  19. Elizabeth says:

    >Those who have above-average financial security and any creature comforts in South Africa pay a VERY high premium for that privilege.

    Not really. To live the kind of life a rich South African does in Europe, you’d have to be a millionaire. In SA you can have servants too, and lots of space.

    Nice article but oh how I long for this site to have a decent copyeditor.

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  20. Reader says:

    Rich taxpayers that own 90% of the country, complaining about life in south Africa. priceless.

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