Open letter to Helen Zille from a Black professional: iLIVE

27 February 2012 - 14:30 By Khumbulani Maphosa by email

I hope your will read this with an open mind and also bear in mind that I am the affected party and therefore I might sound subjective.

I would like to get a response on your take and actually maybe a wider debate about the race issues in the Western Cape in general ( but more so in the Cape Metropole Northern Suburbs).

Here is my story.

I consider myself an educated person, having got my Honours Degree in Finance from UCT ( one of the best universities). I also hold an Honours Degree in Accounting from UNISA. Therefore, I consider myself  “educated”. I am also about to qualify as a Chartered Accountant ( 2013).

I have a good job and I worked hard for it. I own a house in the Northern Suburbs. This, is my way of repaying my family and my kids with a better living environment.

This house in Brackenfell  ( number 41 Sceptre Crescent, Protea Village ) is the source of so much pain, where I have been abused racially profiled, sworn, called all kinds of names – merely because I happen to be Black.

I have lived in this house for three years, but I have experienced racism more than I have experienced in my 39 years of living.

On the 23rd of February on Thursday, I was walking down my street ( Sceptre Crescent). I was then stopped by a guy, staying at number 22 on the same street.

A White guy and his wife I must add. I deliberately put emphasis on the race.  I was then asked for my name and where I come from ( Ala the Apartheid dompass and Group Areas Act style). When I demanded to know why I am being asked all of this, I was told because “do not seem to belong here".

"This is not the location, you know. And you are carrying a computer, and I have dozens of these in my house, how do I know the one you are carrying is NOT ONE OF THEM”. I was dumb-founded and speechless.

When I asked the guy whether he knows my Afrikaner neighbour, Johan, and the other neighbour opposite my house  ( an Afrikaner as well), he said no. He did not know them. So, I stayed cool and asked him whether he asks everyone who walks in this street. His answer was NO. Just that I DONOT look like someone who belongs here!

When I asked him what criteria he uses to single me out, his answer was: “They still from us”. I asked him about “they” and what he meant. Did he mean Black people? He became aggressive and his wife then said “we can run you over with this car if you make noise here”. Just like that.

I called 10111, who did come through. BUT, racism is NOT a criminal offence. So, I have to live with that!. No case. Nothing. Nada.


Helen Zille has been quoted as saying Capetown is NOT racist. As I stated above, I have experienced racism in my short stay in Capetown, than I experienced even at the height of Apartheid. I am 39 years old, which tells you I was not a small child during the late 1980’s or early 1990’s.

Helen has been quoted as calling Simphiwe Dana a “professional black”.  I have dozens of cases of BLATANT and also SUBTLE racism directed at me. I even have a letter of apology from one of the biggest steak houses in South Africa, which was also done “conditionally” after they had refused to acknowledge the racial profiling disguised as bad service. Their MD finally came to his senses when I threatened to go to the Equality Court.

We have been told how Black professionals do not want to come to Capetown. Well, I am one of the Black professionals and I am in Cape Town. But what is the price of being here? 

Knowing that as you walk around you are bound to be asked for a “pass”. Knowing that your school going kids cannot fail to answer a question in class, otherwise it will be attributed to their BLACK genes. Knowing that you will not be served promptly like all customers that walk into a restaurant.

Knowing that everyday, you face the ignominy of being asked “ Oh, you speak good English, where did you go to school. You not like the others”. Knowing  that every political conversation will start with “ Oh, I love Mandela….but this bunch blah, blah…” .

Knowing that you cannot drive a good car without being suspected of selling drugs or being a BEE tenderpreneur. When you walk pass people, they pull their hand bags closer?

Knowing that you cannot get to rent a flat because you have money, but you need a White person to vouch that they know you and that you do not have “too many friends in the location”.

In essence, live with constant reminder that even though you have gone to the summit and scaled the corporate ladder without anyone’s help, you still have to live a “half life”.

If you complain about racism, you are stuck in the past. You have a chip on your shoulder, if you question why this meeting is conducted in Afrikaans.

You cannot complain about bad service without being labelled “ Black people are cheapskates and he is looking for a discount”. Knowing that your complaint is being solved by vouchers!