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In the United State, the cry to “build the wall” has been at the center of political conversation. When a woman in a workshop I attended the other day complained about “all the foreigners” coming into the country and using South African resources, I couldn’t ignore the similarities between her argument and recent discourse in the states. Apparently an electric fence is already constructed along the South African border with Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

South Africa is a country of fences.

Every permanent building has a wall around it. There are metal gates and concrete barriers and electric fences. Windows are covered in bars and lines with spikes.

I never noticed how free movement in my world was before coming here. The fence around my home is meant to keep the dog in, rather than anybody else out. There isn’t even a lock on it. By breaking through one glass door, anybody could rob my home.

Even in the gated communities in my town, the fences are only for show. When I was younger I would climb over one to swim in the neighboring community pool. That is not the reality here, despite living in what is often described as the safest neighborhoods in Cape Town. If I managed to hop over the eight feet of concrete and another two feet of electric fences that guard most of the houses here, I would still have to contend with the security guards.

When I walk down my street in South Africa, the only thing I see are these fences. Our bed and breakfast is surrounded by a tall gate and strategic hedges, such that nothing outside of home seems to exist. There is something about this confinement that makes me feel like an observer rather than a participator. Every space I enter is demarcated as separate from the world around it.

Although I recognize the potential necessity of these security features, the very real crimes that occur every night in this city, there is a part of me that can’t help feeling disturbed by them.  Sometimes I feel like in this city, the definitional separateness of apartheid continues to exists even between neighbors.