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I adore visiting Jo’burg; something I’ve been doing just about weekly for the past month or two. Mainly because I get home feeling massively grateful to be living in Durban.
Those poor landlocked sods are obsessed with traffic… and little wonder. Between the roadworks and the accidents, they count themselves lucky to make it to any destination in under three hours.
“I left home at ten to six and only just got here by 8,” a hotshot government official shared with me at a conference in Midrand a couple of weeks ago.
“It took me three hours to get to a bloody kitchen tea on Saturday,” a woman huffed at a Consumer Protection Day conference in Fourways yesterday.
The punctuality-challenged among them must love it. No matter how disorganised they are, they can always arrive four hours late, blame it on the traffic, and no-one will disbelieve them.
It’s the mover-shaker capital of the land, but frankly, I don’t know how they make it all happen when they spend so much time crawling along in their cars.
Teleconferences on the move, perhaps?
Durban may be a dorp in comparison, but details of people’s troubled commutes rarely dominate the conversation.
Not unless someone fails to dodge a massive pothole … but that’s another blog entry for another time…!
We Durbanites are very predictable. Faced with someone raving about how beeyootiful Cape Town is, many of us will trot out the tired old line: “Yes, but the sea is just for show – the water’s so bloody cold you can’t swim in it. Now in Durban we can swim in the sea all year round..!”
Of course, most of the people who say that probably haven’t had their toes in the Indian Ocean for years, but it makes them feel better.
With the SAPS (SA Police Services) men and women having recently chosen Greyville racecourse as their training ground, as part of new top cop Bheki Cele’s mission to get them in shape, I now take my two dogs down to the beach for a run in the mornings instead, after I’ve dropped the kids at school. I park at Pirates Surf Lifesaving Club, alongside Suncoast Casino, then hit the sand and head north towards Blue Lagoon. The beach is near deserted at that time, bar the odd jogger, and some serious sand moving equipment as part of the massive pre-2010 World Cup beachfront revamp which is underway.
I must confess to ignoring the “no dogs” signs because I figure they’re disturbing no-one at that time, and I pick up after them. Watching the two of them tearing along the water’s edge and dodging the waves is amazing therapy, as are the gorgeous vistas. Where else in the world would I have this almost all to myself every morning?
Just one thing mars the sublime experience – litter. Polystyrene containers, chip packets, paint buckets, cooldrink bottles, most of it left within throwing distance of the many bins. This morning there were even two dead sacrificial chickens left on the sand.
One of the things I love about Durban is its rich cultural mix, but I can’t say I delighted in the sight of those dead birds. If I’d had my camera with me, I could have captured the corpses and the glorious Moses Mabhida soccer stadium in the same shot. Maybe next time. The Durban Solid Waste team does an incredible job of cleaning up the beach, but they can’t be everywhere, 24 hours a day.
I find it terribly depressing that in almost 2010, we’re mostly a nation of litterers. Selfish, immature individuals simply drop their trash wherever it pleases them, some offering the absurd justification that this provides work for people. Well, here’s a thought – we’d have a more thriving tourism industry in this city if we didn’t have our Dirty Durbs reputation, and that would create heaps more jobs.
How are we ever going to embrace green initiatives such as conserving energy and recycling when so many among us have so little regard for the environment that littering is considered okay?
Durban’s not big on landmarks; we’ve got the sea, you see, and um, until recently, that was about our most noteworthy physical feature. Now we’ve got the Mabhida Moses. The tired old soccer stadium opposite Kings Park was flattened to make way for our 2010 FIFA World Cup stadium which will hold 70 000 soccer fans during the big event.
This marvel of modern design and construction, named after the former general secretary of the SA Communist Party, Moses Mabhida, boasts, as its crowning glory, a massive arch with a funicular – not to be confused with a cable car – which will carry visitors up to a platform at the top of the arch for panoramic views of the city and sea.
For now what I’m loving about the stadium is how its changing our views, literally. It pops up all over the place: take the dogs for a walk around Greyville Racecourse and, voila! – there it is to the north. Visit a friend at her Morningside home and there’s the Moses Mabhida, beyond her kitchen window. My favourite view of it is from Innes Road, which is just the right distance from which to appreciate its scale and design, as well its dramatic impact on that part of the city.
At night , its now-complete Teflon-coated, glass-fibre membrane roof is lit up in a translucent glow, making even the most cynical Durbanite feel warm, fuzzy, and yes, proud.
As I write this, the pitch – grass grown in the Ballito area – is being laid. The municipality keeps telling us that the stadium belongs to all of us and that it will be very accessible once it’s opened in November. Wonder if I’ll be able to kick my slops off and feel that grass beneath my feet?