Brian took us to see Rosie’s Kitchen, a place that provided food to the needy of the area. Wearing a white apron, Rosie welcomed us to Khayelitsha. She invited us to look inside her home, which was a converted shipping container. From the outside, it didn’t look like much. However, she enjoyed modern conveniences such as satellite television, a microwave and a DVD player. Surrounded by bright, floral wallpaper, her couch was still covered by the protective plastic sheeting.
“Our small kitchen serves 350 people a day, mainly children,” Rosie explained as we left her home and walked towards the kitchen outside. “Sometimes, we are short and must turn the adults away but we always try to feed the little ones.”
From the open doorway, Rosie pointed into the tiny, wooden kitchen, measuring ten feet by ten. It was hard to imagine how so many meals were prepared in such a small space.
“Rosie is an incredible woman,” Brian told me, as we walked around the yard. “She came here from the Eastern Cape with her two young children, looking for her boyfriend who gave her a false address. She had nowhere to stay so some people took pity on her and brought her to live in Khayelitsha. She worked hard to support her children. During the rioting of 1989, Catholic nuns were too afraid to come here with weekly deliveries so Rosie did it instead. That was how her first kitchen started. The nuns never thought this young girl could handle the work on her own but she proved them wrong.” Brian glanced at his watch and smiled. “Time for a beer,” he said.
Brian led us into a nearby shebeen, originally an Irish word for an unlicensed pub. The term is now applied to licensed and unlicensed township taverns across South Africa. During the apartheid era, blacks were barred from entering ‘white-only’ drinking establishments and, as a result, illegal shebeens sprang up in the townships. They were an important place for socialising and discussing politics. Today, most of these shebeens are legal. Once I had a cold beer in my hand, legal or not, Brian continued his story about Rosie.
“Everything was going well for Rosie, as she was working and had her own shack. However, her old boyfriend heard of her success and reappeared. They lived together for a few years before she had an accident and ended up in the hospital. While there, she learned her boyfriend had sold most of her kitchen. By the time she got back, he was busy loading her shack onto the back of a truck. With the help of neighbours, they chased him away, but she was left with nothing.”
I shook my head as Brian continued.
“As I said, Rosie is a remarkable woman and she vowed to start again. With donated equipment, her kitchen was soon up and running again. There are now over fifty such kitchens in Cape Town.”
While enjoying my second beer, I reflected on what I had seen that day and realised my image of the townships had irrevocably changed. Before, they had been places of violence, but that was largely in the past. No question, Khayelitsha was still a tough place. The vast majority of its residents are trying to get by and provide for their children, surviving any way they can.
Category: Cape Town to Kruger