About Gangs and Water Troubles–The everyday writing routine for South Africa is quite different.
While I dealt with rallies, paintings and golf in “Madeira Grave”, the topics for my new South Africa crime novel are quite different.
Serious topics make writing more sombre
Is it because of the current political situation and the almost daily worsening water shortage in South Africa? In any case, this crime novel is more sombre than its predecessors. It is fitting that it was written in the grey winter months of Hamburg, even though it deals with heat and drought.
Everyday life of the street gangs in the townships
Writing about South Africa means dealing with the problems in the townships. Many tourists who travel to the Cape of Good Hope every year see the beautiful sides of Cape Town with its waterfront. They wander through the Winelands and look at the cute penguins in Simon’s Town. All things that I also did and enjoyed.
But not everything in a crime novel is rosy …
and so I looked into the gang structures in the townships around Cape Town. I already knew that gangs can be very militarily organised. Through my research, however, I first understood what different types of gang typologies there are in the Western Cape.
For my crime novel, I took some artistic liberties and also included “street gangs” in Khayelitsha, because I found this type of gang formation with its very high hierarchy particularly interesting. There are the so-called “Soldiers”. These are, as the name suggests, the soldiers who carry out the orders of the bosses. Very few of them know the actual boss, the “leader”. He operates in the background and has his “shot callers” who are responsible for the actual organisation.
Whoever reads the following article about the gang members in the Western Cape will understand why my Captain Pieter Strauss is so careful when he has to investigate in the townships.
The Great Drought
The second theme that preoccupies me in my crime novel is also not pleasant. When I had the idea for this book two years ago, I didn’t expect that fiction would turn into reality so quickly. My crime novel is about drought and how despair over it changes people. Now, in early 2018, this is becoming a sad truth.
The water reservoirs are empty. The water reservoir for Cape Town at Theewaterskloof Dam, near Villiersdorp, is almost dry as the big rains have failed to come for the last three years. Cape Town is experiencing the worst drought since 1904.
There have been small glimmers of hope the last few days, thunderstorms and rain, but these do not change the situation itself. Water is becoming scarce and the government has granted water mining rights to foreign companies, robbing the country of hundreds of thousands of litres a day. The townships are the first to be affected, and water is already often cut off for several days.
In Soweto, this has already led to riots after several babies died from E.coli contamination in the stagnant water that had formed.
Day Zero is near
The day when water will have to be rationed is not far away. At the end of January, there was still talk of 12 April as “Day Zero”. Due to the light thunderstorms and rain, 21 May is now calculated as the cut-off date (UPDATE 21.02.18: new cut-off date: 7 July 2018).
Then the military will have to allocate water to every resident and household at the water points. There will then be no more than 25 litres per capita per day.
The two hundred distribution points required for this have already been set up. One cannot imagine the queues that will form at these points in a city of 3.5 million inhabitants. A terrible development. Cape Town is on the verge of becoming the largest city in the world to run out of water.
If you want to read more, here is a selection of interesting articles on the subject:
In the next few weeks I’ll be back with another report from my daily writing routine, then about one of South Africa’s Nationalsports. I’ll tell you this much: The sport that Captain Pieter Strauss and his friends play with enthusiasm in their spare time is not football …
(this blog post was published in German in February 2018 during publishing “Tod am Kap“)