Choosing the Rebel Tour

A visitor to Cape Town takes an alternative look at South Africa's recent past

On our way back to Cape Town, which was only a half hour by car but seemed like a thousand miles away, we talked openly about the changes taking place in the new South Africa. Both Thabo and Vuyani expressed appreciation for what the new government is trying to do to improve conditions in South Africa, while pointing out their frustrations because big gaps remain between rich and poor.

"Things are better than yesterday," Thabo said. "Today everything is more equal. We've got more schools, big hospitals, we've got water, and in some informal areas we have electricity. The only trouble is when we are unemployed it's very difficult. And that is true across color lines."

By early evening, we were back at my hotel in Cape Town. I had only been away for a few hours, yet the city seemed completely different to me now. It was one thing to read about reconciliation. But it was quite another to venture into the townships with former resistance fighters, who believe that forgiving doesn't necessarily mean forgetting, and actually live that philosophy every day. South Africa is showing the world, and me, forgiveness is a powerful and obtainable human quality.

Thabo told me that it wasn't long ago he thought "all white people were wrong, whether they were South Africans or Americans. But today I can look at you straight in the eye, without shaking . . . . By taking this tour, you are helping to cross the racial divide, where people can look at each other, not as black or white, but as human beings."

I thanked him and Vuyani for the tour, said goodbye to the two Americans, and turned to Desmond Henry. During the tour's quieter moments, Yazir's father and I had discovered a common interest--that is, sports.

Now as we parted ways, Desmond told me that if I returned in 2010--when South Africa hosts the soccer World Cup--I could stay with him in the Cape Flats. I'm not sure what the tourism board would say about that, but it sounded like a great idea to me. Along with Team USA and South Africa, maybe I'd even find it in my heart to root for Germany.

If you go: WECAT runs half-day tours into the Cape Flats for about $35. Email wcat@iafrica.com for more information. Inkululeko Tours (inkululeko@mweb.co.za) also runs recommended township tours in Cape Town. Hotel Fritz is at 1 Faure Street, in the Gardens district. Contact fritzhotel.co.za.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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