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Durban Poison

Durban Poison

by Samora Chapman / 19.04.2010

I tend to dodge the typical debates around the braai-vleis on a Saturday arvy. The topics are predictable. The opinions even more so, pros and cons, who’s right, who’s wrong… it’s just a flock of words disappearing into the air with the sizzling fat from the carcass. “Malema is a racist tenderpreneur”, “Zuma is a sex machine with the moral hygiene of a pimp”, “Road name changes, street children, the poor starving masses…” Fucksake I’d rather be blissfully ignorant.

The embarrassing truth is that I would rather listen to American rap music than read the newspaper. One of my favourite rap dog prophets Sage Francis imagines a perfect world where, “the cool kids were all rocking votes, I shit you not I was pistol whipping cops for hip hop!” Sage mocks the apathetic cool kids and 50 cent candy rappers so poignantly. And I am one such youth. I have never voted. Neither have many of my peers.

However, there is absolutely no escaping the carnival of carnage. The newspaper headlines on posters fill the city with an on-going commentary of current issues. Everywhere I look the quotes jump out at me like little commands, unavoidably absorbed into my thought patterns. A lovely autumn morning in paradise is tainted by nauseating poetry from the merchants of chaos… “Welcome to hell on earth”, “Moscow Rush Hour Bomb Attacks”, “I believed I would suffocate in the hole”, “Girl Raped in Hospital”.

My problem (or excuse) is that I am completely desensitized. We’ve had this shit coming out of ours ears since we were old enough to tune in. Growing up in post-apartheid South Africa means being plagued by the lingering memory and manifestations of savage racial conflict, mish mashed with fear of violence and disease and surrounded with the gloom and thunder of the global economic recession. This coupled with the simple fact that if you step onto the street anywhere in Durban you have to avert your eyes from those starving to death in the gutter.

This brings me to the point. The reluctant revolutionary would like to ask one question. If you live in Durban, you’re thinking it. If you have eyes on your face, a brain in your head and a heart beating in your chest, you’re thinking it. No matter what race, creed, age or gender you have to ask the question:

How the fuck did Durban build a 3.4 billion Rand stadium for a one month sporting event when our people are dying faster than in the Middle East war zone?

Yes it is beautiful. A sign of grandeur to live on as a monument to the genius and power of our civilization. Like the pyramids of Giza or the Parthanon. Really? How does a third world country get tricked into this kind of gratuitous façade? The astonishing bridge over the stadium is aptly named “the victory arch” and reaches 100m into the sky. The answer comes in the form of some loosely strung words on the stadium’s website… “The Moses Mabhida Stadium is an engineering feat that provides Durban with a defining landmark to match the Eiffel Tower, Sydney’s Opera House or The London Eye”. And another herd of ants on the page; the stadium is “a state-of-the-art landmark sports facility with excellent amenities, and a sustainable recreational and multi-disciplinary sporting venue”. The key word here being, “sustainable”.

We have the worst HIV-Aids incidence on the planet. Poverty. Violent Crime. Minimal social welfare. Our public transport is chaos. Orphans. Homelessness. Corruption. Any other issues on the agenda? And we decide to build a stadium with a capacity of 80 000 people right next-door to the perfectly good, albeit shabby, little Absa Stadium, so the suffering masses in the depths of degradation can bow down and worship this vision of unattainable wealth and glory. Let us worship these international superstars – 80 000 Euro a week earning demigods – who uphold the image of beauty and success we should all aspire to. Let us build them a towering shrine, whilst our own people die in the gutter.

Children live on the streets sniffing glue for breakfast and on the other side of the ridge road the poor cats in Cato Manor don’t have quite the same view of our new skyline as the Musgrave mansions. If they had to look out of their shack window and see that monument of stupidity I would forgive them for rioting and inciting civil war, overthrowing the government and ransacking the Spar for some chow. Actually I would be right there with them.

Problem is it wouldn’t manifest like that. It’s all mixed up with race in this country

The Durban horizon is now dominated by this gigantic white shrine, like the sea gave birth to a most glorious pearl. Standing on the corner of Umgeni and Argyle, the same toothless rogue still begs at the robots sweating in the blazing heat. The same poor working class soldiers march diligently to work, insecure and in debt. And the few elite fat cats who got the 3.4 billion rand contract to build the Moses Mabhida stadium are laughing while they sip Martinis at the Sun Coast Casino where you have to pay 5 Rand just to go to the beach and sit on luminous green grass instead of god’s sand.

All imaes © and courtesy Samora Chapman.

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