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?
‘East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet’, or so claimed Rudyard Kipling 125 years ago. The rest of his poem goes on to subvert a trite truth with something deeper – geography is immutable but people can transcend their circumstance. The Eastern Cape has become a symbol of stagnation, unfortunately, where nothing changes for the better. Those that have migrated westwards, in their hundreds of thousands, have been labelled refugees for their troubles. What will happen to the place they have left behind?