South African homeless hustle

samfloy~6 March 2019 /East Africa/East Africa Culture

I’m in Cape Town at the moment (for work) after spending a few days with friends and parents on an island in Central Kenya (pics below).

The work side of things in South Africa has been going well, essentially speaking with corporate leaders about their plans to get “data-driven” and then helping them with a way to upskill their employees.

There has been a healthy interest, and an overriding sense of self-improvement, especially when it comes to learning (or rather providing their teams with) the skills of the future.

More noticeable however has been the attitude of people “on the street”.

Whenever I have been out walking to the Waterfront there have been people who have offered to help me cross the busy intersection. They have a high viz jacket and confirm when it’s safe to cross (as cars seemingly come in from any direction). Once guided over the road, there’s an ask for a small payment.

It’s not begging (I don’t think), but rather an attempt to provide a low-touch, but useful service in hope of some financial return.

A similar thing happens at traffic lights.

A person, or small group, will step out at the red lights and perform a small act, whether it be juggling, or basic gymnastic moves on some sort of box. Again, there’ll then be an ask for a small change in exchange for this service of entertainment or at least demonstrate that they aren’t just asking for handouts.

What’s equally interesting is that do directly ask for handouts.

In other parts of the world I’ve been to, the main focus has been on pathos: the route people’s purses being through their hearts and as such communication that highlights, for example, how hungry/ cold/ tired someone is.

The people I’ve seen at traffic lights or on roadsides have primarily been playing to a different emotion: that of (in)justice.

Most of the boards that people carry have messages such as: “I’ve been unlucky in life, this could happen to you” or “Don’t judge me based on my circumstances”.

I’m not sure if any study has been done on the language used in homeless signs around the world, but it could be an interesting insight into what emotions people try to play on in order to get donations, and therefore what that says about the culture/ society.

In South Africa, it certainly seems to be more “We are equals” rather than in other places that play on deference.


In other news…

The pics above are from a place called Samatian Island where I stayed for a few days last week. There are four huts on the island, and it’s possible to kayak over to another island that houses giraffes.

I would highly recommend it if only so you can meet the charismatic owl (named “Hutu”).


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