Parades of people urgently walk to their respective workplaces accompanied by a cacophony of Coloured teenagers playing their music out loud– by choice. I am on my own route, a new adventure—my first day at CPUT. However the parade and Roeland Street are two different worlds. The parade is diverse, authentic and many other things. Roeland Street is for the elite.
Every place you enter in the street will give you a misconception about the demographics of South Africa but a real insight into the economical situations.
If you are travelling from the airport, Roeland Street will be the right turn on the M3. If you’re coming from Vredehoek, it would be the left turn on the M3. Roeland Street is located on the Eastern Precinct of Cape Town City Centre. If you were to travel by train or bus, Roeland Street is by the end of buitenkant street or if you on the M59 travelling up, you will encounter the street at a four-way. You then turn either right or left as it stretches from the main road to the parliament.
I remember, and often when sitting at the bars, a feeling of uncomfortably. In my first year at CPUT, I was asked to swipe my card first at one of the pubs in Roeland Street. Yep: Guess who was the only person to be asked to swipe first? the only person of colour. But that could have been a coincidence, at that same bar, they have a food menu. On my first time buying food there— a cultured chip roll. I found a hair in my food, yes nauseating right? It gets better. So instead of apologising and saying that the new chip roll would be free to apologise for the inconvenience. They instead just took the hair out and put in an extra chip to compensate.
What you will also regularly see if you walk down the street in the late afternoon, is often a brick into one of the cars windows. At least more than 6 times in 2016 have I seen a car broken into by the parking areas next to Harold Cressy High and the Western Cape Archives and Records Service. The security guard there refused to answer questions when I spoke about the constant break ins.
However Fatima Khan, a mother of one of the Harold Cressy High students parks her car there every day because she works in Buitenkant Street and had this to say, “You know what, it did bother me, at first but that’s the reality of our surroundings, they steal, rob and kill everywhere now. But if you had to ask me about whether I’d feel safer if I parked my car here than Mitchells Plain then Roeland Street is so much better.”
But the street gets better, one of the students in my journalism class last year got robbed in Roeland Street. Someone had just run behind him, grabbed his phone and ran on and because he had anxiety, he felt unsafe walking in Roeland Street ever again. Not to mention the constant harassment women go through in that road from the homeless people who locate next to Food Lovers Market: Who have to sleep in a road where if you walk in there late enough, has a rat problem. You most likely will see a dead rat or two or have one run past you if it’s early morning or late night.
But not all is bad about the street. As the phrase goes, “any road with the right people is not long”. I’ve had many self-made great memories in Roeland Street. I’ve met war veterans who have just needed someone to talk to in a pub, searched for specials and met beautiful people. Drunk walks to the Company Gardens, which is around the corner from Roeland Street. I’ve seen plenty of protests as people constantly march to parliament, seen ministers being rushed through traffic with 4-6 guard cars on standby because they had an “urgent meeting”.
It is literally the road that never sleeps. It’s hip and modern but not vibrant enough, not cheap enough. If there wasn’t Food Lovers, students would suffer in silence