Intimidation: A Tale of Two Cities


Sandton: capital of southern African capital

Home of western consuls, logos, values

Constant razing, raising the competing towers

Of the one percent, growth measured in Rand

A lego-ed landscape of tearing down, building up,

Removing ancient landmarks, stripping familiarity

Intimidating with power of its unknowns, 'til

Fear drives the traveller to conform.


Across the way, Alex; across the land

the same, capitals of the lubricating labour

Home of refugees from the homelands

From a failing, broken, corrupted order

Constant packed in packing shacks

Growth measured in bawling lives

A lego-ed landscape of adding on, 

Squeezing in, filling up, pushing out

Intimidating with the power of its unknowns, 'til

Fear drives the traveller to confess.


Sandton pushes upward to the sky

Kyalitsha sprawls downward to the sea.


About this: I reflect on my feelings while travelling in South Africa: how intimidated I always feel in the wealthy, glitzy business centre of Sandton, where I never seem to get oriented, find my way, because the landmark buildings are so transient, I never develop a mental map.

And compared that to how intimidated I feel by the sprawling poverty of the townships, where I am socially disoriented, never able to develop an understanding of the culture.

And how the similarity of my feelings is paradoxical, given the dissimilarity of the communities, and the lives lived in them.

And how much they typify the country, 20 years on, with its still shocking inequality, the yawning gap. 

And how that is echoed in the contrasting patterns of growth--

--Wealthy Sandton reaching vertically for the sky, Babel like, grasping for a secular heaven; 

--shanty Kyalitsha whose human tide sprawls horizontally, uncontrollably, across a barren landscape, to be stopped only when it reaches the sea.

 © Philip Knight 2018