#093: South Africa - Survival Guide for World Summit delegates

"The Jhblive Survival Guide for World Summit Delegates"

By Steve Blues

First of all let me welcome you all to the vibrant, bustling metropolis
that is affectionately known as the Gangster's Paradise by its residents.

As a fellow foreigner who has made this urban African sprawl my home for
the past decade I am well placed to fill you in on all the real information
you need to ensure a safe and enjoyable stay. So far, you have been the
unsuspecting victim of a public relations whitewash. Johannesburg is not
a tourist haven full of happy, smiling and accommodating rainbow people
desperately awaiting their opportunity to make your stay more enjoyable.

In fact, quite the opposite is true.

So, if you should choose to wander out from the protective womb of the
Sandton Security Enclave and don't have the luxury of police escorts,
heavily armed bodyguards and fawning South African government officials
to ensure your taste of the local flavour is a pleasant one then please
take note of the following:


Like any other big city in the world, getting laid is simply a case of
how much you are prepared to pay and for what. But, like everything else
in Johannesburg, the search for sexual gratification has a nasty little
twist in the tail. We have the highest incidence of the most lethal
sexually transmitted disease on the planet, AIDS.

Luckily though, our erudite State President has determined that getting
infected with HIV does not, in fact, cause AIDS. It is rather caused by
the social-economic conditions that our poor and destitute endure.
Therefore, if you shag without a condom and contract the South African
version of the disease you don't have to worry about dying from it unless,
of course, you live in abject poverty in your own land.


The phrase "Public Transport System" is local slang for walking. If you
want to get around the city you only have two viable options, hire a
car or rent a taxi. Anyone not used to driving while under the influence
of super-charged aggression and reckless abandon is advised to take a taxi.
Be careful which type of taxi you end up in though. The minibus or "Zola
Budd" taxis are notorious for being driven by reincarnations of Japanese
kamikaze pilots and generally are about as roadworthy as a kit car built
by retarded chimpanzees.


Even though it is quite difficult to see much of the real Johannesburg
behind the labyrinth of American-style shopping malls that dominate the
city, the bulk of the local populace actually do most of their shopping
elsewhere. There are two main retail channels that should be de rigueur
for any delegate wanting to experience true local trading conditions.

The first unique local shopping channel will make itself apparent at
the very first traffic light you come to outside of the recently cleared
Sandton district. Do not panic when half a dozen people rush to your
car while you are stopped at a red light, as they are more likely to
be informal sales representatives for cheap knock-offs than they are
car-jackers. The other distinctive local shopping experience can be
found in that ragged lump on the pavement that you initially thought
was a pile of discarded rubbish. Hawkers are the lifeblood of our
local retail market but I do not advise buying anything perishable
from them.


Johannesburg is the modern day tower of Babel. A total of 11 (yes...
eleven!) official languages are utilised by the locals, 10 of which
are complete gibberish to anyone north of the Tropic of Capricorn. We
even have one language that consists mainly of loud clicking sounds and
another that seems to have been developed purely to permanently damage
the vocal chords of the uninitiated. Luckily though, most locals speak
a dialect of English known as Souff Effricen Ingleesh and while this
is largely unintelligible to most of the English speaking world you
should be able to get away with vigorous hand gestures and the following
handy phrases:

"Hola" which means hello
"Foot-sack" which means goodbye, and...
"Jou donder se bliksem se moer" which is a traditional greeting exchanged
between road users.

Tourist Sites:

If it weren't for the recent casino developments this would be an extremely
short section. Most of the historical or cultural sites the city has
produced during its short history have been vandalized, stolen or neglected
to the point where locals are totally oblivious to their existence.
In fact, the closest thing to an historic landmark we have left are the
chalk outlines left behind by the police investigating yet another
cash-in-transit robbery.

The city was once famed for its plethora of mine dumps (massive yellow
mountains of highly toxic waste) left over from the gold mining industry
but, sadly, these have largely been removed. It gives some insight into
the collective mind of Johannesburg residents when you grasp the fact
that the mine dumps were not removed for health or environmental reasons
but purely because some clever bugger figured out how to extract more
gold from them.


Our local currency is called the Rand and holds the dubious distinction
of being one of the few global currencies where the paper it is printed
on is actually worth more than the money it represents. The Rand,
ironically, does present a good investment opportunity for the business
savvy delegate. Instead of exchanging your left over Rands for your own
hard currency on departure (unless you need a good laugh that is) rather
take the local notes home with you and realize a healthy profit by
selling them to your nearest paper recycling plant.

Personal Safety:

Unfortunately, for a number of naïve foreigners looking to savour the
taste of the real Johannesburg, the taste turns out to be remarkably
similar to that of cold steel or hot lead. That said, there are very
few cities in the world where it is advisable for the tourist to wander
about with half an African country's GDP dangling from their necks in
the form of expensive cameras and so on. The best advice I can give you
is to leave all your valuables back in your hotel room and try to dress
like a local to fit in. Surprisingly, South Africans only ever wear
traditional African tribal dress when welcoming foreign dignitaries or
posing for postcard photographs. The rest of the time they spend wearing
easily recognisable global brand fashions such as Diesal, DKNI, Pollo,
Juess, Nikke and Guci.


Contrary to the generally ill-formed opinion of most of the civilized
world, African wildlife does not ordinarily roam the streets terrorising
the local citizenry. In order to view lions, elephants, antelope and the
like, Joburger's do what most urbane people do and go to the local zoo.

There are a few small game reserves around the outskirts of the city but
the sense of being one-with-nature is rather spoiled by the squatter
camps and heavy industrial plants that encroach on the view. However,
all is not lost for the ardent pursuer of a unique wildlife experience.
Delegates should simply get onto any highway heading east of the city,
take any off-ramp after they have reached Benoni and enjoy interacting
with a group of people that make you wonder why anthropologists haven't
located the missing link yet.

Health Care:

South Africa's world-class medical universities provide the finest medical
training available on the African continent. This is of little comfort
however, since a large number of these highly trained doctors promptly
emigrate to Canada, Australia or Great Britain upon graduation. If you
don't have Dollar based insurance cover to pay the exorbitant medical
fees that keep the riff-raff out of our private health care system then
you had better not need medical attention while you are here. Ending up
at the mercy of Johannesburg's understaffed, under funded and ill-trained
public health system is probably the scariest thing that could possibly
happen to you. Even if you need emergency open-heart surgery you are
probably better off grabbing a sharpened spoon, a bucket of boiling
water and a copy of The Beginner's Guide To Heart Surgery.


There can be no denying that Johannesburg has one of the finest climates
a population could hope for. The occasional chilly snap through the
June - July period is considered to be winter even though it would be
considered summer in most Northern Hemisphere countries. The balance of
the year is dominated by sunny skies, which encourage the outdoor lifestyle
that most South Africans have come to love. It is unfortunate though that
the global pollution you guys were supposed to curb at the last Summit
over a decade ago continues unabated and the ozone layer continues to
thin alarmingly. This means that any exposure to the South African sun
between the hours of 10am and 3pm is one of the most carcinogenic
experiences known to man.


As the economic epicenter of a sports-mad nation Johannesburg boasts
some of the finest sporting facilities to be found on the African
continent. No matter what your sporting passion there is bound to
be a world-class facility within a few kilometers of where you are
staying. There are however, a few unusual local sporting customs you
should respect. Firstly, it is customary to dig up a portion of your
chosen playing field prior to your game and bury an assortment of
entrails, herbs and excretement under it in order to ward off evil
spirits. The second South African sporting convention dictates that you
have to be either a grumpy, argumentative and downright sore loser or
an insufferable, gloating winner. If you are participating in or
watching a sport regulated by a referee, umpire, judge or similar
then it is considered polite to physically assault them, usually
while the game is in progress.

[Lifted off the 'net]



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