An Alien in South Africa?
It is always difficult clearing in and out of a foreign country in a yacht. I rush around all day in an attempt to clear out so we can leave tomorrow. To clear out I have to visit the marina office, then the Royal Cape Yacht Club, then Port Control and finally we both must visit Customs and Immigration. They are all several kilometres apart, of course, and the visit to the yacht club makes no sense whatsoever. Everything is paper-based with not a computer in sight, and nobody talks to anyone else.
Paying the marina bill is no problem and they assure me I can cycle thru the docks to the yacht club. Royal Cape Yacht Club is inside the dock security area so I cycle to the entrance and explain to the black woman that I need to visit the club. No, I cannot do that without a security card. So I produce my V&A security card. No, it has to be a RCYC card. I try to explain that I am leaving the country and it is a requirement that I visit the club. No. I ask to speak to her supervisor. OK. So I wait half an hour for him to show up and explain all over again. He can barely speak English and clearly has trouble with my accent. I am tired and have had nothing to eat all day, and it is now well into the afternoon. I fail to convince him that it is an official requirement that I visit the yacht club. He starts saying that I need a permit. In South Africa, requiring a permit is code for graft or worse. No thanks, I say and head off to find another way to get into the yacht club. I know there is another dock entrance. I cycle along the main road out of town. It's busy and somewhat dangerous with trucks and busses flying past, police have pulled up a car and blocked half the road, a truck has broken down right on a corner, but I finally find the other port security entrance. From here I can see the club. When I get to the official at the gate I point to the club and say I need to go there. She opens the gate and I am in.
Now it should be easy, I think, but of course it isn't. I go to the office and someone says "You need Elliot." "Where can I find him?" "See that dinghy? He is driving that dinghy, moving a boat" I look and can see a yacht moving thru the marina but no dinghy. Anyway, I wait, and wait, and wait some more. The yacht has been docked and Elliot has disappeared, if he was ever there. There is nobody around. I go back inside the club but it's deserted. Finally, someone comes past and says I can find Elliot at the other end of the dock in his office. I head off in the direction indicated and find a little cubicle labelled 'Marina Operations'. I knock and enter. It's deserted, but it has Elliot's name on the door so I guess he will be here eventually and so I wait, and wait some more. Finally he arrives and five minutes later I have the required letter from him.
Now I am inside the dock secure area and reluctant to ride back the way I came, so I head off thru the docks back towards the entrance that refused to let me enter. When I get there I lift the bike over the barrier and and cycle back to the boat. Nobody says a thing.
By mid afternoon it is clear that the plates for the furlers are not going to arrive and we are not going to leave on the 29th, tomorrow, the last day of my visa. So, do I clear out and just stay until the work is complete, or do I fess-up to immigration, plead that the boat is not ready and we need more time, or what?
In the end I go to immigration and lay it out for them. But that's not easy either – Immigration is in the same secure dock area and I do not want to cycle all the way around to the other entrance, so I go back to the woman who refused me entry and just walk thru. 'Hey! It's you again!' she yells. I just keep walking, duck past the road block and don't stop.
At Immigration I explain the situation to the pleasant black woman behind the counter. I applied for a visa extension months ago and have heard nothing about it. She says I must contact Immigration in Durban as she can do nothing, then smiles and says "Or, you could just show up next week when you want to clear out and we stamp your passport Undesirable Alien. It only lasts a year – then you can come back." You've nailed it lady, I thought, that is exactly how I am going to depart this country – as an alien. I smile in return, thank her, and walk out the door with a grin from ear to ear and with the tension of the past couple of weeks just gone. The pressure to get everything done before my visa runs out is no longer there. Now I can enjoy my last few days in Cape Town
On the way back out of the security gate the black woman glares at me. I give her an alien finger.
It is now a week later. The furler link plates have finally been installed, and the wonderful lady at Immigration found a way to stamp my passport without declaring me an Alien after all. So formalities have been completed and we leave Cape Town at 1000 tomorrow, 5 February 2022.
South Africa is an amazing country, with a diversity that blows me away: climatically, geographically, and biologically. But it is the human diversity that really stands out. I find the tension of Cape Town, from the extreme luxury of the One and Only 7-star hotel in front of us, to the massive poverty of the Cape Flats just a few kilometres away, very hard to reconcile. There are so many forces pulling in so many different directions that I can't see any simple solution to the inequity of education, property, wealth and human rights here. The problem, it seems to me, is as much the clashing of cultures as it is the inequality itself – like oil and water cultures keep separating. In general, South Africans are delightful people with a fabulous energy and appreciation for life. But South Africa will never be like Australia. I think South Africa must make a plan – its own plan. It cannot follow any other human historical model because there is none. South Africa stands alone at the edge.
Track Anjea's progress live here.