About one week ago I visited the filthy, stinking harbour city of Durban. I had a few essential errands to run in various places in the city centre and decided that it would be easier doing so on foot than driving around in the heavy traffic looking for a parking spot at every location. I was well aware that my white face would stand out among the black masses and that I would also be a target for mugging. So armed with a canister of pepper-spray within easy reach and with my cellphone and wallet safely tucked deep inside my trouser pockets, I hit the streets of Durban, which at that point in time was decorated with an assortment of election posters. I was also armed with good advice from a friend living in Durban who had been mugged on several occasions. The following is a summary of my observations and opinions:
My first impressions of the city was, ”my golly the place is overpopulated!”
Like most of all the other Central Business Districts in our major cities, Durban had also malformed into a true African-tribal dump.
I passed a small group of angry Indian demonstrators standing near the High Court but couldn’t figure out what they were so noisily protesting about. I followed the advice from my good friend and walked at a fast pace thinking about minority groups and-all and-all, changing lanes often in case gangsters were stalking me. Something else that struck me with awe was the obesity of the people, especially the big fat mama’s. It’s advisable to rather keep out of their way when you see them coming, because for some reason you appear invisible to them, --- but then you never know whether to keep left, keep right, or to stay focused on going straight ahead! You also never know whether you are swimming upstream or downstream. In the end you feel like a fish that doesn’t belong in the river. The electronic security gates at Woolworths buzzed endlessly as hordes of blacks pushed through to buy the overpriced luxury commodities in this store.
Everywhere I went the overall picture was one of fat abundance and plenty of cash. The same African tribal ambiance I have witnessed in the cities of Pretoria, Johannesburg, Kimberley, Louis Trichardt, Polokwane (Pietersburg), etc… were also prevalent in the streets of Durban.
The incessant noise of the so-called “tribal music”, taxi-hooters, and election-campaigners blowing that stupid horn with its forlorn sound is enough to drive one crazy! Various pamphlets advertising herbal medicines, traditional African healing methods, and so on…. were scattered everywhere. I can recall one that read: “We Remove Tokoloshe From Homes – Strictly by Appointment”.
I encountered a few elderly white tramps on the street and was tempted to give them a few rands, but then on second thought I remembered my friend’s advice not to dawdle in one spot for two long flashing a wallet around. All the street names on every single corner were in the process of being changed. The old names were still visible but were crossed out with red tape, serving as a solemn reminder that the old South Africa was being deleted bit by bit.
At the end of the day I treated my friend to a sundowner at one of my favourite spots, “Café Fish”, but the rotten stench in the air spoiled the atmosphere. Durban reminds me of a girl I once knew: