News & events


29 September 2014

Cape can learn from Columbia’s Medellin

Independent Online

Medellin in Colombia – once the world’s most violent city – is turning back the tide on deep social blight. With the right political will, Cape Town can do the same, Ivan Turok tells Michael Morris.

Cape Town – One of the most powerful men in Colombia’s recent history once wrote a note for his sister to keep in the cubbyhole of her car. It read, with surely unnerving understatement: “This car belongs to my sister, Alba Marina. If you steal it, please return it, in order to avoid problems.” It was signed: Pablo Escobar.

The murderous king of Colombian cartels even saw fit, perhaps as a joke, to include his thumbprint. It wasn’t necessary. Nobody needed reminding just who he was and what he was capable of doing.

A photo of this note in the 2007 Paris Review conveys at once the chilling reach and the shabby would-be panache of Escobar’s brutality. But there was more to Medellin’s nightmare.

Behind Escobar’s casual assertion of bandit power – something we glimpse now and then in the everyday, near-commonplace, killings on the Cape Flats, and the cocky talk of gangsters – stood a society deeply riven by inequality, political instability, poverty and despair.

Medellin’s pathology is all too familiar. But the remarkable thing about Medellin is that it has turned things around.

Read the article online

Independent Online

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