Is the Fairest Cape a pretty foul place, too?

By Bianca Coleman

Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

We know this not only because we live in it, but because everyone else
keeps telling us it is so, and urge tourists to visit it before they
die. What they fail to mention is several Capetonians die here every day
through violent crime.

To be fair, this doesn't only happen in Cape Town. Donal MacIntyre has
travelled around the globe seeking out the World's Toughest Towns
(Discovery, Sundays at 11pm). Two weeks ago he went to Paris and this
Sunday it's Naples. It might be a bit of an ostrich attitude along with
a healthy dose of Mother City patriotism, but when picking a South
African city for this show, I'd have expected him to choose
Johannesburg, like Louis Theroux did when he gave his security detail
heart palpitations by insisting on exploring a Hillbrow tenement by night.

Then again, perhaps the point is to highlight cities that are better
known for their beauty and then flip them over and view the seedy

Paris is the city of lights and the city of lovers. There can be few
places more romantic. But outside the city itself, the suburbs are rife
with racism and riots. Second generation immigrants from North Africa
and law enforcement clash regularly; although the extended rioting in
2005 and 2007 were well documented around the world, it's a weekly
occurrence albeit on a slightly smaller scale.

MacIntyre's style is balanced - he tries to get all sides of the story,
from interviewing police and citizens to gangsters and activists who
incite hate crimes. He went to visit Le Bosquet, a suburb about 17km
outside Paris, and although he enlisted the protection of a local named
Zid he was still surprised when he came back to his car to find the
window smashed and the camera stolen. Zid shrugged his shoulders and
said he couldn't understand how anyone would do such a thing.

The opening and subsequent sequences of the Cape Town episode showed
plenty of shots of Camps Bay and the V&A Waterfront, as well as some
lions and Ndebele women. There was a lot of creative licence taken with
the editing, yet viewers will naturally take it at face value. It's a
little disconcerting because you realise that not even documentaries are
true reflections of their topics. It's like watching something with
subtitles while understanding the original language, and seeing the
translations are not entirely accurate.

Cape Town was introduced as one of the most stunning places in the
world, "beautiful and deadly and in the grip of a violent crime wave".
Like Paris, however, this is not taking place at the sleek, glossy
tourist attractions, but on the Cape Flats and in the townships. The
juxtaposition of a luxury yacht in the harbour and corrugated iron
shacks drives home the point.

Included in the programme are self-defence classes for "students united
by their common fear of crime", the thriving private security industry,
the Hout Bay neighbourhood watch, a visit to the morgue where each of
the pathologists are only allowed to perform three autopsies a day or
else they will "lose the plot", a gun shop and shooting range, and
riding along with the flying squad in the townships.

I'm not sure how much of the irony is intended. When MacIntyre tags
along with the cops, they give him a bulletproof jacket with "POLICE"
emblazoned across it. Why they don't just paint a bull's-eye I don't
know. Within minutes they were at the scene of what the police have
nicknamed a "lovers' quarrel" - man shoots woman then self.
Blanket-covered bodies with one sandalled-foot revealed, blood seeping
into the pavement shown in loving close-up. Through reality or clever
editing filmed in gritty night vision, MacIntyre was witness to many
more crimes as they happened.

"Unbelievable," he intoned gravely into the camera. "Unbelievable."

Over in Hout Bay, two ladies of a certain age hopped into a hatchback
and roared off in a cloud of smoke from a protesting gearbox. "Sorry,"
said the driver. "I'll get it right one day." They cruised the leafy
avenues, eyeing out the men loitering under trees. "He's walking very
fast for an African," noted one of them suspiciously. Their big crime of
the day was a stolen cellphone.

In another segment, MacIntyre went to meet some tik addicts. Since the
drug causes paranoid delusions and violent behaviour MacIntyre was
concerned about the potential mood of the addicts. He need not have
worried. After arriving and smoking a quick straw, the spokesman emerged
from the cupboard and declared the heavens were now open, and that he
was feeling light and energetic. He did concede though that once the
straw was finished they would have to get more soon or they would run
around like mad people.

"What's in it," MacIntyre inquired. "You don't want to know," they
answered, waving around a five-litre bottle of industrial bleach. They
then listed a string of ingredients anyway, include Rattex and toilet
cleaner. Yummy.

After interviewing Ellen Pakkies, the woman who murdered her tik addict
son, claiming he had abused her for years, MacIntyre promised that now
he had spoken to the users and the victims, he would investigate those
who pulled the strings of the narcotics industry.

There were hints at the Russian mafia and the Chinese triads, but this
segment fizzled out like a damp squib with an interview with Shane
Harrison of Mavericks and something about Yuri The Russian - who was
gunned down more than two years ago. It was all a little bit outdated
and vague.

It's always interesting to see how foreign journalists portray your own

I'm not saying MacIntyre is off the mark, but noticing the small
liberties that are taken to present a rather sensational programme will
make me think twice before believing everything I watch about Naples
this Sunday.

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