2009-03-02

Jeremy Clarkson's views on Jo'Burg (the Sunday Times)

I dare you to visit Johannesburg, the city for softies.
It's the least frightening place on earth, yet everyone speaks of how
many times they've been killed that day
Every city needs a snappy one-word handle to pull in the tourists and
the investors. So, when you think of Paris, you think of love; when you
think of New York, you think of shopping; and when you think of London –
despite the best efforts of new Labour to steer you in the direction of
Darcus Howe – you think of beefeaters and Mrs Queen.
Rome has its architecture. Sydney has its bridge. Venice has its sewage
and Johannesburg has its crime. Yup, Jo'burg – the subject of this
morning's missive – is where you go if you want to be carjacked, shot,
stabbed, killed and eaten.
You could tell your mother you were going on a package holiday to Kabul,
with a stopover in Haiti and Detroit, and she wouldn't bat an eyelid.
But tell her you're going to Jo'burg and she'll be absolutely convinced
that you'll come home with no wallet, no watch and no head.
Jo'burg has a fearsome global reputation for being utterly terrifying, a
lawless Wild West frontier town paralysed by corruption and disease. But
I've spent quite a bit of time there over the past three years and I can
reveal that it's all nonsense.
If crime is so bad then how come, the other day, the front-page lead in
the city's main newspaper concerned the theft of a computer from one of
the local schools? I'm not joking.
The paper even ran a massive picture of the desk where the computer used
to sit. It was the least interesting picture I've ever seen in a
newspaper. But then it would be, because this was one of the least
interesting crimes.
"Pah," said the armed guard who'd been charged with escorting me each
day from my hotel to the Coca-Cola dome where I was performing a stage
version of Top Gear.
Quite why he was armed I have absolutely no idea, because all we passed
was garden centres and shops selling tropical fish tanks. Now I'm sorry,
but if it's true that the streets are a war zone, and you run the risk
of being shot every time you set foot outside your front door, then,
yes, I can see you might risk a trip to the shops for some food. But a
fish tank? An ornamental pot for your garden? It doesn't ring true.
Look Jo'burg up on Wikipedia and it tells you it's now one of the most
violent cities in the world . . . but it adds in brackets "citation
needed". That's like saying Gordon Brown is a two-eyed British genius
(citation needed).
Honestly? Johannesburg is Milton Keynes with thunderstorms. You go out.
You have a lovely ostrich. You drink some delicious wine and you walk
back to your hotel, all warm and comfy. It's the least frightening place
on earth. So why does every single person there wrap themselves up in
razor wire and fit their cars with flame-throwers and speak of how many
times they've been killed that day? What are they trying to prove?
Next year South Africa will play host to the football World Cup. The
opening and closing matches will be played in Jo'burg, and no one's
going to go if they think they will be stabbed.
The locals even seem to accept this, as at the new airport terminal only
six passport booths have been set aside for non-South African residents.
At first it's baffling. Why ruin the reputation of your city and risk
the success of the footballing World Cup to fuel a story that plainly
isn't true? There is no litter and no graffiti. I've sauntered through
Soweto on a number of occasions now, swinging a Nikon round my head,
with no effect. You stand more chance of being mugged in Monte Carlo.
Time and again I was told I could buy an AK47 for 100 rand – about £7.
But when I said, "Okay, let's go and get one", no one had the first idea
where to start looking. And they were even more clueless when I asked
about bullets.
As I bought yet another agreeable carved doll from yet another agreeable
black person, I wanted to ring up those idiots who compile surveys of
the best and worst places to live and say: "Why do you keep banging on
about Vancouver, you idiots? Jo'burg's way better."
Instead, however, I sat down and tried to work out why the locals paint
their city as the eighth circle of hell. And I think I have an answer.
It's because they want to save the lions in the Kruger National Park.
I promise I am not making this up. Every night, people in Mozambique
pack up their possessions and set off on foot through the Kruger for a
new life in the quiet, bougainvillea-lined streets of Jo'burg. And very
often these poor unfortunate souls are eaten by the big cats.
That, you may imagine, is bad news for the families of those who've been
devoured. But actually it's even worse for Johnny Lion. You see, a great
many people in Mozambique have Aids, and the fact is this: if you can
catch HIV from someone's blood or saliva during a bout of tender
love-making, you can be assured you will catch it if you wolf the person
down whole. Even if you are called Clarence and you have a mane.
At present, it's estimated that there are 2,000 lions in the Kruger
National Park and studies suggest 90% have feline Aids. Some vets
suggest the epidemic was started by lions eating the lungs of diseased
buffalos. But there are growing claims from experts in the field that,
actually, refugees are the biggest problem.
That's clearly the answer, then. Johannesburgians are telling the world
they live in a shit-hole to save their lions. That's the sort of people
they are. And so, if you are thinking about going to the World Cup next
year, don't hesitate.
The exchange rate's good, the food is superb, the weather's lovely and,
thanks to some serious economic self-sacrifice, Kruger is still full of
animals. The word, then, I'd choose to describe Jo'burg is "tranquil".

2 comments:

David Collins 01:57  

We miss SA badly and watch the news constantly, we hope and pray that sanity will eventually prevail and all can live well and in relative safety.

Jeremy Clarkson touches a raw nerve, he is firstly an ageing buffoon, that, like Jonathan Ross of the BBC who reached his 'sell by date' years ago, struggles to find material to amuse, so relies on the vulgar, shocking, bizarre and the outright silly to make himself heard.

Clarkson and the crew were recently in Australia, and described the prime minister here, Kevin Rudd as so 'shit scared he was speechless' in comparison with Gordon Brown who spoke out boldly about single handed being able to solve the worlds economic problems.

Can't agree with him more, Rudd always looks frightened, unsure and unconvincing, and blunders into spending the nation’s money by giving it away to taxpayers with the hope they will spend it and stimulate the economy.

What they need here is more home industry to employ more people. All their factories have been sent off-shore, where cheap labour makes production more viable.

S'Africa had the dubious benefit of apartheid boycotts; we developed so many home industries and systems. SA banking systems, road systems, marketing and general business attitudes far surpass those in Australia.

South Africa has so much going for it, and this is where I agree with Clarkson, where he has hit the nail on the head, albeit I don't think he knows it, he was too busy trying to be funny.

Not sure this article was not written tongue in cheek. He is seemingly criticising South Africans for complaining about the high crime rate which he conveniently does not go into any detail with.

Is he saying that S'Africans are overstating the crime danger?

Or is nothing being done about crime because it is easier just to blame the ANC as another example of their inability to run a country.

Is he saying 'hey S'Africans get going, stop whingeing , stop feeling guilty about years of apartheid injustice, stop feeling sorry for yourselves, it was a system you wrought, now live with it and get on with making a great country, great for all'.

All countries have their problems, are whites just S'Africans just throwing up their hands in despair and saying ' see what a black government has done'. Did they just allow the ANC to make huge blunders, just to prove the point?

This cutting off noses to spite faces is doing no one any good.

Mbeki was allowed to effect the demise of over 300 000 HIV sufferers, he should have been stopped, just like Mugabe should have been stopped. Harvard University in USA want Mbeki indicted for mass murder. Talk about the legacy of apartheid, what about the legacy of Thabo Mbeki?

Could this have been prevented by more vigorous opposition to his rule?

Did white S'Africans, who should know better ignore the signs and hold back criticism because it was unfashionable to be seen, to be anti the new apartheid scarred regime?

We are getting all sorts of wake up calls now; the threat of a Zuma regime is scary. We mortals may be unable to stem the tide, so must save ourselves, sometimes by emigrating.

But we speak for nearly a million expats when we say please let sanity prevail so we can at least consider returning to the beloved country and help make her great, safe and prosperous for all her peoples, as she was intended to be, not just for the rich as it seems since the ANC have been in power, the rich have got richer and the poor, poorer. Let’s hope the World Cup goes off very well, it will be a show case for SA and help to reinstate her self esteem.

Am wondering now how much Clarkson was paid to say what he did. A recent travel show here on TV said virtually the same things trying to get people to travel to SA ......... sponsored by SAA.

We all know what is going on in JHB, and for years just 'lived with it’......... Jeremy Clarkson has a point, but until he has a scare himself, or loses friends who have been murdered, knows people badly scarred by hi-jacks and rapes, he should be best advised to keep his brand of humour zipped up.........

Was speaking to [a friend] and his wife on SKYPE the other evening, they live in Constantia, Cape, they say they can no longer take a stroll in the long warm evening there ......... a luxury that Jo’burgers gave up years ago.

jason 00:17  

Well David first of all you have no right to judge JHB and our "huge crime problem" as you are not a South african you turned your back on South Africa and left, however I'm a South African living in JHB and I agree with everything Jeremy said, the police force has increased dramatically in JHB and almost everywhere you look there is a presence of police. Sure JHB has its dodgy areas but name me one city in the world that doesn't?. All I'm saying is that the crime here has dropped considerably but that doesn't stop bafoons from blowing it way out of proportion. I think that all the South Africans that have left our country "in search of a better life" have made a terrible mistake!I am a proud white South African and I couldn't live anywher else in the world.

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