Speaking as a boomtown rat -

So, President Thabo Mbeki, exquisitely dressed as always, had a little huffy the other day about gated communities, accusing them of perpetuating apartheid-style separation. I can’t say that I’m a big fan of them either.

As much as I love those grandiose fountains and dinky conifers, all in a row, I worry that one day I’ll visit Tuscany for real and be tired of it by the time I get out of the car.

That aside, it’s absurd to suggest, as some naughty leftists have, that race plays any role in deciding who gets past the boom gate.
I’m delightfully dusky-toned myself, and only recently I visited a friend for a DVD night in a gated community. I was flagged past the boom without question.

I happened to have a pile of pizza boxes piled on the passenger seat beside me, though, so there’s every possibility that I was mistaken for a delivery guy.

Regardless, I find the greatest obstacle to my getting into Poshville is not the colour of my skin, but the condition of my car, a 1984 Volksie, rust-coloured, except where there’s a bit of paint left.

The way I see it, however, the best bit about being rich has to be pointing and laughing at the less-thans. I’d do it. And until I’m the pointer, I’m happy to be the pointee.

If you don’t want to live in Tuscan bliss, playing out scenes from The Taming of the Shrew on your lawn with the neighbours on a lazy Sunday afternoon, you can always consider illegally booming off your public road.

The beautiful dream, of course, is that the little kiddies will be able to play gaily in the street. Hopscotch. In slow motion. Dodging fast-moving German automobiles and sparing the perfectly manicured kikuyu lawn daddy paid so much for. We must do whatever we can to protect what is ours.

Electric fences are another option. I know this guy who put up one such fence two months ago and he hasn’t had a break-in since. Of course, it helped that his house burned down the day they installed the thing. Damned dodgy wiring.

Perhaps it’s best to stick to the sign-in-sign-out system. A security guard with a clipboard is a powerful deterrent, as anybody who’s had a finger trapped under one of those metal clips will know.

The clipboard system is second in infallibility only to the supermarkets’ anti-shoplifting-system, which employs a little bit of neon tape to stick your shopping bag shut. Which dastardly criminal mastermind could navigate its way past that impenetrable band of gumminess?

And who could doubt the keen observational powers of the average security guard? Then again, I’ve been sneaking into the staff parking of a major shopping mall for over a year by flashing the guard everything from my movie club card to a tin of sardines.

And yes, I’ll admit I’m the bastard who signs in as ‘I R Baboon”, but I’m sure you can rely on criminal types to be less silly and write down their real names.

‘Oh, no!” thinks the would-be baddie, swag-bag slung over his shoulder. ‘It was all going so well! I remembered to wear the ski-mask and everything! And now I have to sign in!” The jig, as they say on the streets, is up.

Streets paved with gold

When President Thabo Mbeki fired his broadside against boomed areas and golf estates this week, African National Congress secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe must have been sweating.

That’s if he wasn’t dreamily ‘golfing, swimming, walking, or riding a bike”, in his six-digit gated estate in Centurion, where ‘reflections of cobalt skies, elegant Tuscan estate homes and limpid dams and streams” abound.

Motlanthe lives at 19 Cuper Road in the Blue Valley Golf and Country Estate, which describes itself on its website as a ‘secure, serene haven”. Given Mbeki’s warnings about the dangers posed by such developments to residential integration, we hope there is no suggestion here of a haven from the lower orders.

Mbeki spoke of the urgent challenge of ‘bringing to a stop the pro-rich housing development strategies that ensure that the best located land that is close to all the best facilities is always available to the rich; a situation where the best land is allocated especially to create gated communities and golf estates, where the poor can only access dusty semi-developed land far away from modern infrastructure.”

The cost of the units in Blue Valley — described as ‘a location under African sky blue second to none in the Gauteng area” — range from R1,9-million to R2,9-million, while the green fees for the Gary Player-designed golf course are R2 800 annually.

Incidentally, the Mail & Guardian understands that the Kensington house of Johannesburg’s ANC mayor, Amos Masondo, and the R3,2-million Forest Town, Johannesburg, mansion of ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma, also stand in boomed areas.

Motlanthe said: ‘I think the president was just making a general point.”—Vicki Robinson

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