Battling Jozi’s mean streets


The summer morning is magnificent, the sun already blazing as I drag myself into consciousness and out of bed. There’s not a breath of wind, no hint of the dreaded easterly that terrorises Durban at this time of year. It’s early, so if I watch my timing I can make it to the beach for a quick swim before I get myself together and start clawing my way through the mountain of copy I have to move by the end of the day.

I hit the floor, amped, in search of my baggies and a quick coffee.

As my head clears an awful thought hits me: the baggies are in Durban, I’m in Johannesburg and that invigorating plunge in the Indian Ocean is an awfully long distance and a good three days away.

For my sins — and they are plethoric — I’ve ended up in the self-proclaimed centre of the universe for the week. Five days of wearing long pants and shoes. Five days of going to the office, newsroom meetings and small talk. I have mixed feelings about the trip: it’s great to connect with the people I work with, especially after a real monster of a year, but Jo’burg is not the place for me.

It’s not just the absence of an ocean. Jozi, for all its money, bling and cosmopolitan veneer, remains a mining town at heart, a place that would never have existed were it not for greed.

The jazz is great, but this is a cold, merciless place, the kind of town where you can die on the pavement and passers-by will either walk over your corpse or rifle your pockets. There’s also that bizarre obsession with who said what about who on social media, which I’ve never been able to fathom. And the absence of a decent curry.

The mobile goes.

It’s Visvin Reddy, who, along with Bishop Bheki Ngcobo, is one of the founders of People Against Petrol and Paraffin Increase (Pappi). Before founding Pappi, Reddy was with the ANC. Before that, he was with the Democratic Alliance. Before the DA, Reddy was a lieutenant of the late Minority Front boss Amichand Rajbansi. After Reddy left the DA, the Tiger, as Rajbansi was known, clouted him in public. Reddy is now convener of Pappi, which has been marching against fuel prices and in support of former president Jacob Zuma for some time now.

Reddy is not happy.

The bishop, who is his deputy convener, has apparently read from the wrong prayer book in his announcement that Pappi is going to contest the poll. This isn’t going to happen. Pappi, Reddy says, is never going to become a party and contest any election.

Pappi is going to stay in the street.

Reddy has given the bishop an ultimatum: withdraw his statement within 48 hours and apologise or face suspension and a “full inquiry into his behaviour”.

Fair enough, although I do believe that the bishop, with his purple robes and salt-and-pepper hair, would have looked rather fetching on the ballot paper.

The fact is, whether Pappi contests the poll or not, we’re not going to be short of nutters to vote for in May.

I’m looking forward to reading the manifesto of Black Label First, especially the policy on cats, once the Guptas have signed off on the draft from Bell Pottinger. And paid them.

The Beast of Auckland Park, former SABC chief executive Hlaudi Motsoeneng, has already made it clear that he’s ready to throw his hat into the electoral ring. Hlaudi is a one-man freak show, so his manifesto should be good for a laugh.

I’m looking forward to the elections. The hustings always draw out the freaks, so there’s never a shortage of the bizarre — politically and otherwise — to bring on the sense of wonder.

I’m also looking forward to voting again.

For obvious reasons, the Dagga Party gets my cross, provided that they don’t miss the deadline for registration as they did in 2014. We need more stoners in Parliament. Who else can we trust?

I’m also voting for the Socialist Revolutionary Workers’ Party, due to launch this weekend, as long as they field Irvin Jim, leader of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, as their presidential candidate. The poor man’s Mike Tyson is alright in my book, the kinda cat Parliament needs to keep the punters honest.

It would also be beautiful to have an actual socialist in Parliament.

At last.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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