Cape Town Shuns Black Talent

July 24, 2012 § 8 Comments

originally appeared in my Cape Times column on July 16 2012

SIX YEARS ago, I packed my bags in the Mother City and headed for the City of Gold. I left Cape Town behind despite its beauty, my many friends and the many beautiful women who adorn the city. About the many beautiful women allow me an aside. I went to Cannes, France in my first year in Joburg. While I was there, many people who had visited Cape Town would say: “That place has some of the most beautiful women in the world.”

In Cape Town, I had the most diverse group of friends. In fact – at the risk of sounding like that guy – some of my best friends were white. I’d probably say 60 percent were white; the rest were a mixture of black and coloured.

After I’d moved to Joburg, a white friend said to me: “Most of your pictures on Facebook were with white people when you were in Cape Town. Now that you are in Johannesburg they are just of black people.” We laughed, but it was true. I will never forget looking at a picture of five of my friends one day. All of them had left Cape Town for Joburg that year.

All those in the picture were black. Hardly any of my white friends had left Cape Town for Jozi. In fact, the thought of moving to Joburg was completely revolting to them. This got me thinking – why? Well, my black friends felt that they could not progress in their careers in Cape Town. There was a feeling that they were not taken seriously and were just there to make up numbers.

The prospect of making it big in Cape Town was just never there and the possibility was never shown to them. And the money was not attractive, either.

The white kids didn’t feel there was no place for them to make it in Cape Town, so they were comfortable in their careers and did not feel the need or pressure to move.

Once my friends had moved to the City of Gold, they had bigger responsibilities and were well supported by the business owners who hired them. They didn’t feel as if they had been hired as a favour; rather, they were expected to be good at their jobs. And they were.

It was the last place I worked at in Cape Town where I really felt valued. In fact, I had my most creative years in advertising when I worked there.

Cape Town needs to rethink how to retain black talent. Everyone wants to feel that they are important to the progress of an organisation. The more Cape Town denies that there is an issue with retaining black talent, the tougher it will be for the city to retain and attract black talent.

Some organisations like to use the age-old excuse that black talent wants a lot of money. It’s not just black folk that want to be well paid. Everybody wants that.Black people already know that working in Cape Town will be tough for them, so they’d rather be paid well while working in a hostile environment.

It’s only logical. No one goes to work in Dubai to be paid the same as they would be here. The weather is terrible and you have different rights than the local people. It makes sense to be paid well for the sacrifice you are making to be there. Black people do want to work in Cape Town, but the environment isn’t friendly to them. They would rather work where they are welcome; they don’t have to beg to work in Cape Town.

If Cape Town doesn’t change, soon, businesses in the city will have to pay more than Joburg for black talent because there will be a lack of supply.

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§ 8 Responses to Cape Town Shuns Black Talent

  • Zeni says:

    Thought provoking article. Having not worked outside of joburg, I have not experienced what you’ve described in your article. I have spoken to some friends of mine that have talked about feeling like second class citizens in industry in CT in particular. It would have been good if you made mention of specific industries as examples. Just to show the comparison to Joburg.

  • Mdu says:

    My chief. I work in Cape Town and most if not all of your observations are true. However, we also need self reflection. There is no drive at the youth level to be involved in things that make us better people.
    1. You are seen as too black or trying to be like JHB guys if you talk politics
    2. You can’t really discuss further education. I have been told that “refugees” tend to think we are better than Cape Tonians with these talks. Being from out of CT, English was the only thing I could speak and even that made people uncomfortable.
    3. People just don’t mix. Business is heavily white (not to be ignored). But when there are networking opportunities, people would rather go to Cubana for Moets and sundry. This is why it is very difficult to get an artist or great talent sold cos networking is just not happening enough.
    4. The environment is not very conducive for a JHB lifestyle; however people want to copy JHB lifestyle. Hence it is only when JHB people are here (Jazzes, JHB Met) that you see influential darkies coming out
    5. Circle of Influence: with Parliament here, major wine makers here, fisheries and tourism, don’t you think it is more of not being able to adapt to business idea than white people shunning us out? Most darkies want a tender. Things like toursim for whales and sharks are seen as a white thing. We also change boet

    I however think that the money is not good relative to the cost of living. An average man/woman can buy a decent house in a JHB suburbia. In CPT a well-off man can buy an average house. Check house prices, rediculous. I would rather be in a 4 bedroom house in JHB than be a bachelor pad for the same price just to see the mountain

  • styleandstylability says:

    I graduated in Cape Town and got on the beat job hunting, the offers were such a joke- financially speaking, that I was actually earning more than what they would pay me to be a copywriter, as a part time waitress. I moved to London (they had better offers) and visited Cape Town on holiday- what smacked me in the face was the outright racism I had been blind to as a student. Now I’m a Joburger, happily and blackly so.

  • JJ says:

    Khaya you wrote an interesting piece but I feel you looking through the wrong glasses – those glasses are too coloured.
    Cape Town shuns everyone whether they black, white, pink , orange etc. She is like a very scared timid little girl who does not allow just anyone into her circle especially new “outsiders”. When I first moved here, the only friends I made for a long time were foreigners. Quite the opposite to Joburg. It’s the same in the USA, on the east coast (NY) people are friendly to “strangers” but on the west coast (LA), people do not allow “strangers” into their circle of friendship – you have to earn it. The same goes for Cape Town – no matter whether you Black, white, pink, blue – you have to earn their friendship and respect overtime.

  • Clive says:

    Why is it that every time a white person refutes, ignores or just plain does not want to be friends with a black person, it is considered racism??? We live in a free country with freedom of speech and freedom of choice i.e. you can chose who you want to be befriend. It’s time to move on as apartheid ended years ago.

  • BeeKay says:

    Cape Town is a hard nut to crack. I’m a young black woman who has been trying to enter the film industry for the past five years and it still hasn’t happened (inspite of my ever-growing skills in this industry) You all make valid points, but the racism part of this is the most rife. The minute your cv has an African name, rest assured you will be sidelined because they (white business owners) think you couldn’t possibly have the skill other white applicants could have, no matter what your academic and skills background on your cv says. This is very disheartening because we (blacks) are very clear in our goals and aspirations and all we ask for is an equal opportunity to floss our hard-earned skills. As for the friendship part of things, Cape Town allows you to network with a variety of people, whether white, foreign, coloured etc. It is them who will then decide to let you in or not, judging on the type of personality you carry. Fortunately for me, this doesn’t worry me much because whether or not you allow me in your circle of friends, that doesn’t change me or my hustle, I’m merely letting YOU in on my dopeness. Take it, leave it, I don’t care. I know who I am, you don’t have to appreciate me. As long as I know what I have to offer, I’m very content with that. In fact, it’s your loss, whether you are white, coloured or otherwise. I am however, looking to move to Jozi, purely because I’m tired of not being recognised for my efforts where I work. If a whitie steps in, he/she will step up the ladder way faster than me only because of his/her skin colour, nevermind the skills needed for the job. I want to go to Jozi purely because I want to see what the city has to offer a person like me, a person who knows her job and does it too well. The money is a factor but not a big one. Most of us are all about the love and the passion of the trade but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be appreciated financially. The struggle will always be there, no matter where you go, we just want to be recognised and appreciated.

  • mandisa Bongo says:

    This is true and is still happening educated blacks have no place in the Western Cape

    • Jim says:

      Mandisam, What you say is true except for the fact that I find it is white experiecned educated people who have no place. Every job interview I apply for they say they are looking for someone of colour becuase they need to fill their BEE quotas. What is a democracy or a free country when you cannot be employed becuase you are not the right colour??

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