City’s War on Geographyby Alex Sudheim / 28.04.2010
In his heroic effort to strip South Africa of its pernicious past, Durban municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe is embarked upon a bare-knuckle campaign to cleanse the city of apartheid-era factotums by renaming every street, road, avenue, embankment and cul-de-sac he can lay his hands on.
First on his hit list was Ridge Road, the stretch of blacktop connecting Durban’s southern suburbs with its northern neighbours. The ridge, a jutting stratus of granite approximately 542 million years old, is said by Sutcliffe to be a right-wing racist foe of democratic transformation in the country. “We have incontrovertible proof that The Ridge was visited personally by both Hendrik Verwoerd and B.J. Vorster,” said Sutcliffe. “Clear evidence that this raised stretch of rock is racist and needs to be renamed.”
Asked for comment, The Ridge, certain of whose pegmatite and metamorphic rock content can be traced to Precambrian shifts in the earth’s tectonic plates some 1.8 billion years ago, offered an indifferent shrug. “I vaguely remember the dinosaurs tickling a little,” it recalled. “But after the rain of fire and eternity of ice, when was it – last Tuesday? – They’re all just fossilised bone somewhere in my upper epidermis now. Whatever is crawling around up there at this point in time doesn’t concern me in the slightest really.”
Having only been officially classified as a “ridge” in terms of human language a mere millennium ago, the geological feature is blissfully unaware of its etymology. However Sutcliffe is adamant that the raised land formation is anything but innocent. “It was here that the first British settlers set foot,” raged Sutcliffe, “thus beginning the evil age of empire.”
Sutcliffe himself is soon to be renamed Jabulani Tokoloshe Biko Mandela by the Durban City Council to erase the insidious imperial past he and his name represent. Ridge Road, in the meanwhile, has been renamed Peter Mokaba Road after the man whose valiant struggle to disprove the existence of AIDS came to an abrupt end when he died of, uh, “respiratory problems”.
And if you hadn’t noticed, this is SATIRE.