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Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles!

Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles!

by Sean O'Toole / 18.12.2009

It’s over. Finished. Klaar. Cancel your Kulula flights. Unhitch the caravan. Put away the boogie board. Bank that tollgate silver in your ashtray. Haven’t you heard? The N3 outta Joburg leads straight to hell. No not Heidelberg. That’s hell with a capital D. Derelict. Disgusting. Durban.

At least that’s the word from notorious Durban grump, Snowy Smith, a man synonymous with effluent. “18 million litres of it.” Reading his prickly blog, The Death of Durban, a cut ‘n paste mix of impressionistic journalism and amateur documentary photography, “illustrating the collapse and physical destruction of the beautiful, happy holiday city of Durban”, it quickly becomes apparent that Snow’s problem with other people’ shit has a lot to do with his own shit. The net result is a big stink.

School Trip

“Durban’s tourist area has now become one big, filthy, faeces-smeared, littered, broken glass-strewn squatter camp,” he offers. “In fact all of once so pristine Durban is deteriorating into a squatter slum, a filthy, disgusting, unhealthy mess, with dangerously polluted water streaming into the ocean. The whole place also looks like a permanent prison now, a nightmare scenario with shuttered shops, heavy burglar bars, barbed wire, vagrants and incredible pollution everywhere.”

Welcome to the netherworld of citizen journalism, a digital landscape as exaggeratedly littered with bile and invective as Snowy Smith’s photos of supposedly blighted Durban. Scrolling through Smith’s blog, pausing on the countless photos of “tons of rubbish” and “broken glass”, one can’t help but marvel at the perverse monomania of it all. Here’s a man who routinely and obsessively peers into clogged drains and unwashed rivers to see what’s going on.


Not that this necessarily makes him an environmental activist. That’s just the camouflage he wears, the fancy Christmas wrapping he uses to cover over the insignificance of his offering. Smith is too partial to be believable. Everything pisses him off. Topless bathers. Tycoons. Taxi washers. Of the latter, he writes: “Thousands of vehicles are being washed on the Durban streets and roads every day. All this soap and detergent seep through the garbage stuffed storm water drains, ending up in the already highly TOXIC rivers, streams and the bay and eventually into the sea – KILLING THE ENVIRONMENT…!” And so on.

Beach Camp

Ag kak. Here I am writing about the real life equivalent of Captain Archibald Haddock, the thunder headed salty dog from Tintin, when really what I want to write about is Garth Walker’s photographs of Durban’s beachfront (spread throughout this piece). Garth’s photos are not about blue flags or white anxiety. They’re about hairy backs, leathery skin, freckles, tattoos, underpants, plastics chairs, action stunts, indolence and a young black kid with his face painted white. Life, unspectacular and unadorned: the quotidian. Garth calls the strip where he made these photos the Golden Mile, “Durban’s finest public space”. In deference to the times, his series even includes a mop.

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  1. Decline of the Best says:

    Snowy Smith is not far off the mark. Sure he does not wear the same rose-tinted-glasses of blind optimistic liberalism that you do, nor does he carry the weight of guilt that most pale South Africans tend to wear as a badge of dishonour these days.
    Take a look at before and after pictures. If you can honestly say that there has been no decline in all that is Durban…hell…you need to give some sort of reasonable explaination. If you are one of those who agree with the lowering of standards to allow all to thrive then so be it.
    Durban is slowly going to the dogs…and when people say that she is becoming more of an “African” city…it is not a compliment. She has always been African…South African. But she is rolling down Mogadishu Lane (I’m pretty sure that we’ll have that street name soon…though it is probably a bit to short and easy to remember or fi on a sign…maybe Doctor Black Hawk Down Mogadishu Street…ah African freedom…ignorance sure is bliss)

    I better be carefull, even though I have not mentioned any hues, I may be labelled anti-revolutionary or the big bad R*c&st.

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  2. Sean says:

    I don’t think it is a case of liberal politics versus whatever. The photos of polluted rivers are hard to contest. Period. But, one begins to doubt the intention of this guy when these ‘concerned’ photos get presented side by side with photos of bathers wearing peculiar costumes and boats owned by very rich folk. It more than just his confusion of purpose that makes me doubt his sincerity: his captions pretty much tell the tale of an embittered grump with a an axe to grind against everything and everyone.

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  3. Brian says:

    Could be a great blog to put pressure to clean up the place, but if you write shit like:

    “Durban rivers are polluted with “health threatening levels of E.coli bacteria” – New South African speak for “the local Victims of Apartheid have shat the place broken.””

    Who the fuck is going to take you seriously?!?

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  4. D says:

    Snow white and Garth evader are quite similiar …..they both stay within their own comfort zones…..yet they both have relevance -they should exhibit together

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  5. Decline of the Best says:

    He has every right to be a “grump” and only seems to have an axe to grind against those that he feels let Durban drown in the cesspool.
    Sure, he has not entered into a debate as to why this ignorance is so prevelant in our population (It is obvious that the manner in which Africa was colonised resulted in the further stagnation and supression of whatever potential the masses may have had to adapt to the way of modern world at the time. That was a mistake of the past and the only way forward would be the re-education of the population. Unfortunately the greedy “revolutionary” pigs in control find it more to their advantage to stoke the fires of segregation and keep the masses as dumb as possible to the truths of the modern world. Yes, it would have been wonderful if Africa had been left as she lay and Nature left to take her own course, but, this was not the case and we are left with a mess of capitalism and ignorance)

    The fact of the matter is that the city has become a dump and that there is no real repect (or enforcement ) of the common sense laws that allow for progress.Cleanliness is next to godliness being one.

    What you seem to be doing is trying to justify this decline by blaming the past inequalities and it would also appear that you are living in some hippy hope that things will come right once the masses come to terms with their “new found” “freedoms”

    Not likely without some iron fist control.

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  6. Spright Steppa says:


    You just painted yourself into a corner, buddy. A bitching, white anti-revolutionary, big bad r*c&st corner.

    That veneer of reason is only partially opaque; your discrimination is showing.

    You and Snowy should exhibit together…

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  7. Decline of the Best says:

    You carry on pulling that fall back card Spright Steppa (believe what you will chop) and the world will continue to burn around you…is it not time to take off those kid gloves and actually take responsibility for the future instead of blaming history?

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  8. Doctor L. says:

    Sean, you’re a ‘good’ man.

    Mahala is a ‘good’ website.

    But I feel like it’s time to leave the likes of ‘Decline of the Best’ and ‘Snowy Smith’ behind, now. They were a good starting point to contrast against, a good example of what not to do etc. Bu I feel they cannot take us any further at this point. These people are not intelligent, they fuel their hatred with abstractions and are generally unhappy human beings, with little to no positive, concrete effect or contribution to society, since, because the have little capacity to be happy, they are generally not as invested in humanity as they are their opinions (this is possibly an effect of childhood trauma, personality disorder and/or self-loathing resulting from the former).

    They seem to think of themselves as important when compared to others based on abstractions such as race and class and have a firm belief that they are “right”, without self-awareness or cognizance of the concept that “metaphyiscal” precepts of “right” and “wrong” are abstract and immaterial.

    I really feel like these are the people who cause wars in the world. They are willing to forgo compassion for the opportunity to say: “I told you, so.” They will burn the world just for the opportunity to show us that “You can’t run from race!” – the singular, strongest and most persistent tenet of their ‘logic’, that the world is a bad place because black people are not as intelligent as white people and white people need to stop feeling bad about this/the past and take control of the situation and guide blacks towards decency, civil behaviour, and mental aptitude.

    They do this without self-awareness. How long have humans being on this planet? Sometimes in bed, early in the morning, I’ll think we’ve been around for 200 years and the rest is just fucking bullshit.More than that seems unlikely if you look at what happened between 1909 and 2009 and at the kinds of people who presently comprise the majority of the world’s population.

    But I digress.

    Looking at the comments of Death of the Best and other comments on Snowy Smith’s blog and also Snowy Smith’s blogposts I feel like these people – their ‘conservative’ worldviews, their inability to create or construct, their affinity to deconstruct and critique – are like a cloud of bad information, obscuring an internet presence that could otherwise be used to accommodate better, more effective, positive and/or impartial minds who are concerned with navigating existing circumstances constructively, in a way that might be able to alleviate pain and suffering for humans generally, while also knowing, existentially, that no one person is more important than another.

    The future seems exciting. Naturally, there are minds amongst us which are already luminous with it. I feel like we should take a break from the hate-mongering, the polarized abstractions of ‘liberal vs. fascist’, ‘white vs. black’, ‘Gareth Cliff vs. the ANCYL’ (please don’t feature this story), and give attention to minds and ideas we which are compassionate and engaged with the reality of being a human amongst other humans in 2009/2010. Minds which are concerned with using their abilities for the ‘progress’ and betterment of humanity – the abolishing of suffering, and easier more productive life for progeny.

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  9. Doctor L. says:

    Damn. Just noticed grammar errors and omitted words.

    My bad. I kept ‘spacing out’.

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  10. Decline of the Best says:

    Doctor L. tut tut tut. No point in even trying to communicate with you.. You are so open minded that your brain seems to have fallen out. Time will tell. And just for your record. Your analysis of me was way off the mark.

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  11. Graeme Swanepoel says:

    “You are so open minded that your brain seems to have fallen out.”

    that is some seriously funny shit

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  12. Dr Gerhard Schoeman says:

    Words pollute the river,man.Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles — Lord, indeed.

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  13. Tomas says:

    This woman, a vendor, is perched atop a small plastic chair behind her makeshift table in Pretoria central where, presumably, she sets up her little stall of cheap cheese-curls, cigarettes and all sorts of sweets and other goods every day.

    With no apparent excitement or concern the vendor follows, with her eyes, the movements of the toddler who just moments before sat on her lap.

    The toddler walks over – with practiced execution – to an exposed storm drain and gets rid of a sweets wrapper while still chewing on his last bite.

    The discarded wrapper never makes it far into the sewage system. Instead, it gets stopped by a municipal-dustbin-load of paper, condoms, broken glass and more filth. The whole pipe seems to be clogged, and the waste is literally spewing out into the street.

    Then I look to the left of the vendor. Just a couple of feet away from the woman and her toddler – maybe a drudging two feet further away than the drain – is a perfectly good, thswane-green dustbin with absolutely no waste in it. None….


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  14. of no ethnic or political origin says:

    Tomas, the reason why is because South Africans have started to place greater value on politics and argument than on consensus and action. We naively believe that there is more to be gained by attacking each other’s points of view and motives than in accepting joint responsibility for things that will ultimately affect all of us – things that will threaten our health, wellbeing and the amount of respect that other nations have for us. This is a cancer that will detriment of ALL of us, not just the wealthier and more privileged. It is a cancer that has also started to infiltrate the comment spaces on Mahala.

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  15. Sean says:

    Four years ago I interviewed the Durban-born photographer Peter McKenzie about his project Vying Posie (“going home”), for a Sunday Times article. Reading some of the remarks posted over the weekend, especially those that naively seem to cast this debate in pre/post 1994 terms, I was reminded of my chat with Peter.

    Classified Coloured under apartheid legislation, Peter was 13 when his family was forcibly uprooted from their home in central Durban and relocated to Wentworth. Located in a grim industrial basin south of Durban, an area that includes two oil refineries producing roughly 60 per cent of the country’s petroleum, Wentworth was first earmarked for industrial development in the 1930s. By the time apartheid planners dumped the McKenzie’s and other mixed-race families there, the neighbouring industries were already flourishing.

    “When I think of my home, I always think of the truck pulling up outside where we were supposed to stay. It looked like Monopoly – like somebody had just taken this house and stuck it in the sand.”

    The grim prospect was matched by a dire smell. “Depending on which way the wind blew you either smelt shit or S02 (Sulphur Dioxide) from the oil refinery,” he recalled. The degraded environment wasn’t the only new experience he had to adjust to.

    “There was this incredible tension living in this township. My parents suddenly found themselves living amongst this whole diversity of people who spoke Zulu, Afrikaans, English: my mother was devastated, she just wanted to get away from there.”

    Essentially strangers to one another, Peter said people were tense and suspicious, always sticking closely together: “The environment was very conducive to gang warfare … People died every weekend.”

    In 2001, following the release of a gang member he had known as an adolescent, Peter returned to Wentworth to photograph the old neighbourhood: “I wanted to document how these guys are reconstructing their lives.”

    I asked him why any of this was necessarily important, especially now. Wentworth, he said, was a “microcosm of South Africa: it is a sub-economic place, people are really poor, it is surrounded by industry. It is almost like it has all the ingredients of all the challenges in South Africa now.”

    He also said this: “In South Africa we always talk about national history and the history of the struggle and Mandela, but people in their own little worlds have their histories… I see these people as the repositories of history, if you like.”

    Another story.

    In 1991 I joined the Durban chapter of Earthlife Africa. One weekend we drove up north of Durban to record the testimony of an impoverished Indian community living adjacent a rundown pesticide factory hidden in a dip near Stanger. I was pretty young at the time, out of my depth to be honest. For the most part I simply tagged along, watching and listening as senior members of EA interviewed families about the factory’s emissions and their claims of respiratory problems and skin ailments. The whole scenario seemed pretty benign. As it is, the big issue at the time was a proposed opencast titanium mine in St Lucia. A couple of weeks later, when I asked after this issue, I was told that one of the people we interviewed had died. The St Lucia issue however got all the press.

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  16. Sean says:

    A further thought. A lurking fog of resentment seems to dog this site lately. Things about specifics, photos of Durban beachfront, for example, also Mikhael Subotzky’s photos of Ponte a few weeks back, very quickly amplify (in the feedback section) into digressions on generalities. That’s cool, but perhaps in the pitched contest over generalities (race, history) subtler, more nuanced issues get glossed over, forgotten.

    Since this is a blog that regularly engages with the artistic practice, perhaps some thought should be spared for the issue of photographic truth. It seems relevant here. At face value, Snowy Smith’s photos claim to tell the truth. But do they? Can they?

    In 1979, Allan Sekula, a committed leftie photographer with a habit for hanging out in Seattle teargas smoke and wrecked oil tankers, wrote: “The rhetorical strength of documentary is imagined to reside in the unequivocal character of the camera’s evidence, in an essential realism. I shouldn’t have to point out that photographic meaning is indeterminate; the same picture can convey a variety of messages under differing presentational circumstances.”

    This is by no means a controversial statement.

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  17. David Steynberg says:

    Reading every single arguement and counter-arguement, I am seriously shocked at how debate so quickly turns into character assassination and name-calling based on ill-informed historical stereotypes.
    People are people. Some are bad, some are good, some don’t give a shit while others just shit. We seem to be evolving (or is it devolving) into a society of passive whiners who choose to take photos of pollution and post them on blogs, moaning that nothing is being done and that this beautiful country of ours is going to the proverbial dogs. Maybe, just maybe things would improve if our esteemed camera-wielding nay-sayer would get off his high horse, rope in some friends (I sincerely hope someone like this has a friend or two a little more optimistic than him) and pick up the plastic bottles and Nick-Nack packets!
    It’s easy, once someone spots someone else who cares enough to pick up other people’s shit, maybe they too would join in? Or not. But the point is that it has to start somewhere, and that place is not on your own blog.

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  18. Decline of the Best says:

    An imaginative and common excuse spewed from the mouths of the ignorant for not making use of rubbish bins is that by littering they are creating jobs…sustainable development…I suppose.

    Silly question. But. Why clean up somebody else’s mess? A mess that needn’t be present in the first place. Seems a bit counter revolutionary. In days of old, those that did not want to participate in the upliftment of the community were banished and excluded from sharing the benifits.

    You offer a hand, they take your arm. If you hadn’t noticed, there is a pervading culture of victimhood in which everything is expected for…mahala.

    Contrary to current popular African beliefs, much can be learnt from western “civilizations”.
    After all, Europe (Please don’t confuse my respect for their feats with eurocentrism) did raise herself out of the filthy dark ages [not without blood (rivers of bitter claret), sweat (from hard, effective, work…a foreign concept in these humid tropics) and tears (not of the crocodile variety)] I don’t think begging and pity were the tools of progress.

    I do agree, in part, with your sentiments David…”…be the change you want to see in the world…” but by the same token, it really means nothing if only 10% (somewhere around there) of the population actually participate.

    For how much longer will the past be an excuse for regression toward the mean?

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  19. David Steynberg says:

    Wow Decline! Just reading your response puts me in the safe and comfortable easy-chair of human-loathing. I find myself having to breathe in deeply (maybe reminding myself to breathe, rather) when I read what other people, who hate the country they pay their taxes to but still choose to remain in said country, write.
    I for one believe with all my heart that it would be better to be that 10% of the population who chooses to roll up its sleeves and turn the soil, than to be the 90% that moan that “Africans” are backward-thinking savages who have let down their white counterparts! As if their white counterparts were the perfect Aryan race Hitler envisaged: blue-eyed blondes living in their cocoon-like Utopia ideals.
    Wake up, man! Try agreeing in full to “be the change you want to see in the world…” and maybe it’ll surprise you with what the power of optimism combined with positive action can do.
    Or maybe get some new friends who possess these characteristics. Hell, I’ll be your friend (go ahead and look me up on Facebook)!

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  20. Decline of the Best says:

    “Not everyone who chased the zebra caught it, but he who caught it chased it.”

    Time will tell.

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  21. Not so bad says:

    The Durban beachfront is not that bad but the streets behind the hotels are a ghetto. Urine smells everywhere and choked with traffic. Do they think tourists don’t go walkabout behind the hotels?

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  22. Anonymous says:

    There is by no means any long run good fortune with this sort of diet. The child regularly begins by means of fasting (apart from for water) beneath close scientific supervision for 24 hours. A reason why to devour vegatables and fruits daily. Early power kidney disease. For those who in finding that an exclusion nutrition identifies sure meals that make your ibs symptoms worse, they’re regularly called ’cause foods’ (as a result of they ‘trigger’ the indications). 3-day diets go through numerous names, including the fax nutrition, army vitamin, military diet, cleveland medical institution diet, and many others. Most end result are restricted, however a few fruit (instead of watermelons and bananas) is allowed as long as it does now not produce weight gain

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  23. Snowy Smith says:

    Durban is BANKRUPT (I told you long ago)
    That Stupid White Liberal, Left Wing Extremist, Socialist ANC “puppet” Michael Sutcliffe and the Corrupt ANC have Bankrupt DURBAN.
    They now want to borrow money from FRANCE.
    France is OWNED by the New World Order, Zionist Freemason, Illuminati JEWS Occult.
    French President Nicolas Sarkozy is a Jewish Extremist who is a “PUPPET” of the New World Order, Zionist Freemason, Illuminati JEWS Occult.
    The whole of the French Government is “PUPPETS” of the New World Order, Zionist Freemason, Illuminati JEWS Occult. France is OWNED by the New World Order.
    When you are bankrupt with a R9.6 BILLION bank OVERDRAFT you do NOT borrow money to fund capital projects. YOU STOP SPENDING.
    Even an uneducated illiterate dumb ass fool knows that. STOP SPENDING.
    WASTED: R6.5 Million Durban Website, R4.5 Billion Soccer stadium, Bus disaster + + + + + +.
    ANC Fraud Theft and Corruption R3.5 Billion on Fraudulent ANC Tenders. Not one ANC member is in JAIL.
    Michael Sutcliffe has turned Durban from a Tourist MECCA to a third world SQUATTER SLUM.
    Michael Sutcliffe you must be very proud, Durban is BANKRUPT for the first time in history.
    20% Electricity increase this year.
    Snowy Smith, Cell: 082-964-8877 WFF
    I belong to the “I hate Sutcliffe Fan Club”.
    Please make many copies of this pamphlet and give to friends.

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  24. Snowy Smith says:

    Here’s a man (ME Snowy Smith) who routinely and obsessively peers into clogged drains and unwashed rivers to see what’s going on.

    There is +-830 SEWERAGE WORKS in South Africa and only 27 are actually working.
    NEAT Sewerage is flowing into our rivers.
    Our DRINKING water comes from those same rivers.
    The same ANC corrupt Municipalities have STOLEN all the money more than R50 BILLION.
    There is NO money for chlorine to purify our drinking water.
    Most of the purification works are NOT working.
    Also all that SHIT is flowing into the Durban Bay and the SEA.
    YOU are swimming in it every time you go to the beach.
    You will get ear infections and throat infections.
    How did the water taste at the beach?
    That ANC “Puppet” Sutcliffe says the water is safe, do you believe him?
    The International Experts disagree with liar Sutcliffe, they have withdrawn Blue Flag status for very good reasons the water is POLLUTED and unsafe.

    Snowy Smith’s photos of supposedly blighted Durban. Scrolling through Smith’s blog, pausing on the countless photos of “tons of rubbish” and “broken glass”, one can’t help but marvel at the perverse monomania of it all.

    YES I have more than 10 000 photos peering into clogged drains and unwashed rivers to see what’s going on.
    Not that this necessarily makes me an environmental activist.

    The World is full of talker and very few do-ers.
    What are YOU doing about it?
    Just to get you motivated I can post you a DVD of South Africa how it has been turned from a Tourist MECCA to a Squatter SLUM.
    Send me your postal address
    Snowy Smith
    faircivillaw at yahoo.com
    P.O. Box 3022, Durban, 4000.
    Cell: 082-964-8877

    PS did you know that “Man Made Global Warming” is a New World Order SCAM?
    Its time to do some homework.
    Good luck with the swimming and the drinking water.

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  25. pissed off says:

    Snowy Smith is a fraud , liar, a racist cunt white trash ! He needs to check himself in at a mental hospital. Son of a bitch! Go to hell Snowy hell is waiting for ya!!

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  26. Pascal says:

    Snowy Smith needs a hug.

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