WHEN I first got to Cape Town, I was pretty amazed. I kept thinking "what's wrong with these people?". What blew my mind was the seemingly chronic inability to care about less-fortunate people. All this gaily running around the mountain as without a care in the world. I was amazed by the stark imbalances, and how so clearly racial they are. Every day, tens of thousands of black and coloured people get onto buses and trains and taxis from the Cape Flats to go and work for white people, who live in the city and the suburbs. That's how Cape Town works.
Since then, however, I've met more people. And I've worked out that while there is indeed this layer of dramatically entitled hipster white folk here with an infuriating accent, there are also a great many ordinary people who regard Cape Town's imbalances with the same horror I do. Indeed, those upcountry people who have rained scorn upon this city need to look at themselves.
Cape Town's disastrously overcrowded townships, such as Khayelitsha, are not a function of Cape Town being a "racist city". They're a function of being in South Africa. The City of Cape Town is no more structurally responsible for the unpleasantness of Khayelitsha than the City of Joburg is for Diepsloot.
Joburg and Cape Town face vastly different challenges. Joburg is Egoli; it attracts migrants from across the continent, and on a scale that makes Capetonian problems seem very small beer. But, it also has a far greater capacity to absorb them. Gauteng is the place that produces 10% of Africa's gross domestic product, according to one report.
Cape Town's challenges lie in the fact that it is a small city with a limited capacity to absorb new arrivals. Helen Zille got into a lot of trouble when she noted that the city was attracting "economic refugees" from the Eastern Cape, but Cape Town's size means it cannot absorb people fleeing the collapse of education and healthcare in that province into its economy.
Cape Town's imbalances are maintained not by political intent, but by the lack of capacity to grow away the problem. If you look at car ownership as a measure of wealth, there are 80% more registered cars in Gauteng now than in 1994. Joburg has boomed, and that's created a black middle class. In the pie language so beloved of leftist commentators, Joburg hasn't just been slicing the pie differently, it's crucially grown the pie as well.
So, then, all this shouting at Cape Town seems a bit off. A bit too easy. It's self-flagellation in a way, because the truth of the matter is that, yes, in Joburg there is a large and growing black middle class and this is a very good thing. But Joburgers (and I am a proud one, I'm just in exile at the moment) need to understand they live in city that has a fairly unique ability to at least begin to grow the problem away. But the rest of the country doesn't look at all like that.
Outside of Gauteng, change in the demographics of wealth are awfully slow - in Cape Town, but also in Port Elizabeth or Durban or Bloemfontein.
Cape Town's detractors don't like the Democratic Alliance, and, I daresay, they don't like the ("entitled") white and ("over-supplied") coloured folk who keep on voting for them. So, really, who's racist now?
Joburg's relative success at getting wealth into black hands is because of its economy, not just because of endless fiddling with growth plans and state interventions. If people want the face of middle-class South Africa to look more like Joburg than Cape Town, it's the economy that'll do it. Because the government can't. If only they would see that black people - not enough, but some - are getting rich in Jozi. And there's a reason for it that could be exported nationally. It's the economy, stupid.
Oh well, in the meantime I suppose we all ought to cut our coats according to our cloth (so unlike a Joburger to say that, I know), and while the eurozone's perpetual crisis rumbles on, a notable trend in car buying of late has been the down-buyers. People replacing a posher car with a not-so-posh car.
The skill is to find the cheerful among the sort-of cheap, and I've been driving something with the potential to be just the thing. It's the Suzuki Swift Sport. It is an absolute hoot. It looks great and is simply brilliant fun to drive.
It's completely chuckable and it enthusiastically snouts about like a little ferret of a car in the twisty stuff. The steering could be better - it's a bit lifeless - but the chassis is a real gem.
It's also got a lovely snick-snick six-speed gearbox, a great driving position and a sane ride quality. The 1,6l motor pushes out 100kW, which is just enough to qualify the Sport as an amusingly quick little hot hatch. It'll dispatch 100km/h in about nine seconds at sea level.
Inside, it's pretty basic. There's lots of cheap plastic and the spec is really pretty Spartan. Not so much as a USB dock or Bluetooth for your phone. That's old school, to put it nicely.
And that's the problem with the Swift. It's just R15000 or so cheaper than an equivalent Mini Cooper. Yes, it's a smidge quicker, but it's not quite as fun to drive, and the Mini is distinctly more than just R15000 more premium inside.
Now, I know a good reason to buy the Swift is because everyone in the world seems to have a Mini. Fair enough, I suppose, but price this thing at, say, R199000 and it makes a ton of sense. At R213000, and with the Cooper at R228000, I fear everyone will carry on buying the Mini. And that's a pity, because the Swift is a seriously fun little hatchback. Somebody at Suzuki needs to be brave and take a punt on volume, not margins.