At first glance, a swamp looks lush and inviting with its tall trees and greenery. 

The water in a swamp is either fresh if it’s an inland swamp or when located closer to coastal areas; it is salty.

The trees are breathtakingly beautiful, even with if it has a “creepy” feel about it. That is probably a result of the many horror movies that have been filmed in or around swamps. The one aspect that can’t be denied is the stillness of the water and the look of peace when viewed from afar.

A swamp, on the surface, almost silently beckons you to take a closer look, and many people are drawn to its mystic and serenity.

What lies beneath the surface of a swamp isn’t as inviting as it looks and can often be harmful to your health. The swamps tend to attract loads of insects, which can spread disease; the sodden terrain can make traversing them on foot difficult!  Because of all the water, many swamps are prone to heavy fog, making it easy to get lost. Some swamps are also inhabited by dangerous animals, such as alligators.

The City of Cape Town is much like one of the swamps described here. It houses some of the most exquisite, clean beaches that annually attract tourists from around the world. Table Mountain is the most iconic landmark in the country, and many people, even if they don’t live close by, can see it because irrespective of where you live, the mountain dominates the skyline. Tourists flocking to the City would remark on the majestic mountain and the often unspoiled beaches, but much like the swamp, it’s only the surface that is beautiful. The Cape Flats, on the outskirts of the City, is home to mostly poor people living in shacks (informal settlements), and “backyard” dwellings have become the norm. Gangsterism is a problem that is ineffectually dealt with by the authorities, which makes people who are already suffering economically more vulnerable to violence. The drug problem in the City prevails primarily because of poverty. The wage disparity between white, Black and Brown people is widened by many people working for minimum wage (often with tertiary education). Of course, the people tasked with looking after the City tend to focus on areas that need very little assistance, whilst poverty and homelessness are ignored in the hope that they would magically disappear.

Systemic and individual racism remains unchecked, and as a result, some white people from across the country flee to Cape Town in the hope of not “having to deal” with Black people. Brown people living there are deeply divided by internalized racism, class and education. Constant efforts are made by the authorities to move the homeless people away from the City, but very little is done to house or rehabilitate them. 

Approximately 5000 homeless people are living in the City and, the number grows as inequality and unemployment increases.

As a tourist, it is impossible to see these deep contrasts unless you are specifically looking for them, but most tourists are there on holiday, so they tend to frequent popular tourist spots.

The City of Cape Town can be compared to a swamp in the beauty that beckons tourists and migrants on the surface only but what lies beneath when you take a closer look makes for something close to a horror movie. The City is kept clean and largely crime-free unless you take a closer look. The sprawling mansions in places such as Camps Bay, Constantia and Fresnaye make the City an ideal stomping ground for retired millionaires and wealthy entrepreneurs who maybe want a slice of heaven without having to see the inequality on their doorstep. 

The hierarchy is divided by race and economic status, and so Black people, who are at the bottom, find it extremely arduous to move up the “ladder.” The poverty-stricken Brown people experience a similar situation except that they are more “accepted” and are sadly, often the gatekeepers to the wealthy.

There is no desire to radically change the status quo because not many people are concerned about what lies beneath the surface.