23 April 2014

South Africa: Lies and Damn Lies - the Northern Cape, or Looking for Votes in All the Hot and Dry Places


When Gertrude Stein returned to her hometown of Oakland and couldn't find her childhood home, she famously, gnomically said that there was 'no there there'. Stein was lamenting the growth and urbanisation of Oakland and the 'painful nostalgia' she felt.

The Northern Cape is not Oakland; there's quite a lot of there there and most of it isn't going anywhere for the foreseeable future. The province is, however, poised for a fair bit of change and a clump of new investments in mining and energy. Is its political landscape facing a similar reconfiguration?

The Northern Cape is a sort of inverse of Gauteng. The latter only takes up a sliver of the total land mass of the country but is home to about a quarter of us. The former sprawls across the north-western corner of South Africa but is home to barely 2% of the population.

The Northern Cape is not just a very big place physically but also metaphorically. It stands for the harsh, desolate beauty of the Kalahari which early missionaries couldn't tame; the home (if not the birthplace) of the original South Africans; the outer limits of civilisation and safety. The tiny town of...

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