A few weeks ago I stopped at the intersection of Strand and Adderley Street. While waiting for the traffic signal, my 8year old daughter asked me what the young African girl sitting on the concrete periphery of the road was doing. I realized that, the young girl was breast-feeding in public view.
Farther along the road a matured white man was cycling wearing only tiny shorts that resembled underwear. My daughter wanted to know why the man was basically naked in the middle of the city.
Her curiosity brought back memories of events years ago when I was councillor for parts of Claremont and Kenilworth. One day I visited an irate elderly white man who complaint that his recently moved in coloured neighbour had packed pumpkins on the roof. Since this was the view from his dining area the elderly man demanded that I have the pumpkins removed. Likewise, I once visited a tearful woman who moaned that her Muslim neighbour was keeping sheep in his backyard. The woman was a vegan and lived in a flat overlooking the sheep. She was aware of the day of sacrifice after Ramadaan and was worried about the fate of the sheep.
In the same way, in the Middle East the majority of workers are from Asia. Some had a tradition of chewing tobacco which they would then spit. This habit may have been tolerable in rural Asia but it was eventually eradicated in the Middle East. With swift action which included fining and slapping offenders, the police eventually reduced the nasty cultural habit and the unsightly tobacco residue.
I once read an article that suggested that it was impossible to keep Cairo clean. Egyptians have the practice of discarding their litter anywhere. Government efforts were limited and this produced a culture of general public untidiness.
To keep Cape Town hygienic, multicultural and inclusive does not entail that we reject civilized values, whatever that may denote. Since politicians are trained in the art of political correctness there words tend to be rounded. If there words have a cutting edge, the words may return to wound. This suggests that the broader community and the media should manage a process from which locals can determine what suitable values are.
Since there are many newcomers living and operating in Cape Town, it is vital that the authorities constantly remind them that we have standards. What may be acceptable food standards in the Congo or Bangladesh may not be acceptable in Cape Town? For example, tossing your used cooking oil in the public gutter or second-hand hair in the street drain is not hygienic.
If this education is absent, we may import or encourage practices that are not enlightened like piling pumpkins on a roof in uppity Claremont or witness Councillors grooming their nails during meetings.
Cllr Yagyah Adams
Cape Muslim Congress