One of my most favourite places in Pretoria must be Church Square. The historic centre of Pretoria, now feared by too many people.

When I first came to Pretoria, the Sunnyside name board in Lynnwood road was the kind of border, going past this border meant going into a danger zone. In my third year myself and two friends had to make a drive through the inner city (in daytime), and for the first time I got the idea that this place might not be that bad, might even be very interesting. In my fourth year I got the job of running outreaches at Universiteitsoord, and started investigating inner city projects. Early into my fifth year we had our first for the outreach group on church square, sitting in our context while talking about it.

Last night we took some friends to the inner city, to show them around. Some parents were somewhat worried (I think my mother was one of them), and some of my friends really feared what was going to happen. Over and over those of us who knew the inner city told them not to worry.

Now, I’m aware that there are more dangerous places than church square, but currently church square must be one of the places in the city where I feel most safe at night! Walking around I was again surprised at the amount of kids on church square at night, and this time also by the families walking around. One family (see photo’s) that really interested me was a father and mother who was telling their kid about Paul Kruger. Café Riche is the home of the Filosofiekafee, situated on church square, and we had coffee there before heading over to the union buildings to look at the city lights.

I get the feeling that church square is more and more being visited by middle-class black people. Might be wrong, but this is my perception from visiting it at night a couple of times over the past 18 months. Later in the evening we were in Hatfield, and I suddenly realised that I felt more safe on church square than I have in Hatfield. I didn’t even worry about working on my cellphone or camera in church square (I guess the kids really have a calming effect), but in Hatfield I constantly feel like I should just watch out!

Click to see some of the photo’s

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Café Riche is situated on the western side of Church squere in Pretoria. It is 14 years old, which mean it was started in 1994, I still wonder who had the mind to start this place in 1994 in the Pretoria inner-city! On the last Friday evening of every month they have the filosofiekafee, a philosiphy café that has been running for about 10 years now.

After reading something written by one of my heroes, Jurie le Roux, who said that he delivered this at this filosifiekafee, and then again finding it when searching for something on Johan Rossouw, I decided to go check it out. So on Friday evening I visited it with some friends.

Rian Malan was speaking on Conservative Black USA and the lessons, even hope, we can find in their writings. In short the conservatives he talked about was against affirmative action, saying that this devalue the black, fought for strong family ties and hard work. The problem in Africa he identified as victimhood, the idea that I am a victim still found in black South Africa.

Sadly this remain an all-white, and almost all-Afrikaner, conversation. When we got out at about 10 PM or so, after sitting in the all-white basement of Café Riche, the restaurant was all-black. This intelectual conversation still miss the context I think. I also got the idea that they kind of sit their talking about the problems of South Africa, but work with the idea that the time of the Afrikaner has passed, so we can’t so anything in any case. I even think Rossouw said this at one point (update: Maryke reminded me that this was actually Malan). Furthermore it’s another conversation with an average age of about 50. And myself and my two friends probably was the only under-25’s in the room (except for one other guy who was their for a little while).

All this being said, I still think it was a good conversation. Some of the people I thought naïve, like the lady who said that Afrikaners are not at all that much Western, because many of us were brought up by black workers (a fact that is very true). Luckily someone else helped out by pointing out that actually, we are just Americans thanx to Hollywood. Rossouw himself also call certain parts of Afrikaner culture a colony of America. This is sad but true.

I have a dream of a conversation of young South Africans. People who are strong intelectuals, who can work through the issues of the day, who can do this in a multi-racial way, in a critical way, and who can provide moral and intelectual leadership to a broken country… Is that too far-fetched?