City’s filth reflects our state of depression
Iam driving along the richest mile in Africa: Illovo, Sandton. It is rush hour. There are more Porsche Cayennes than 15-seater taxis here. I know because I count them. It’s become a twisted but favourite pastime of mine.
Beautiful women in high heels are walking briskly to work. The place is buzzing. Then, suddenly, they scatter, running away from big rats that seem to have lost all fear of humans.
Recently, I went back to my old neighbourhood. As I get out of my car, I see this rat looking at me as if it’s come to say: “Hello, homeboy. Long time...”
Maybe it has heard of me, because in primary school I was a seasoned hunter of the striped mouse called imbiba.
Apparently, its meat prevents boys from wetting their beds. Apart from that, it tastes good. Winter is the best time to hunt; the grass is low. You pour water into the hole, and they come running out. Then you club them.
Make a fire and it’s a good braai day. Then you fasten the skins around your small forearms and, voilà, you’re a warrior ready to take on the world.
One morning in Grahamstown, I feel this thing moving in my bed, inside the blankets. I wake up. It’s a mouse. As soon as it realises I am awake, it jumps off the bed and runs out the window.
“Hey, you basket!” the good me swears. It’s gone.
Rats, on the other hand, have a hero mentality. It is as if they compete over who is most daring among them.
“Joburg rats,” a friend of mine once told me, “know how to work a mousetrap. They know that cheese is a luxury. So if it’s free, it’s bait. They’ll eat bits off and come back for seconds.”
Back to this rat that’s looking at me. I close the car door, and it is still looking at me.
“This is not Illovo, you bloody rat! Show some respect,” I exclaim, as I kick it in the head. It’s dead. I take it and throw it in the bin.
No, I am not calling for a wholesale lynching of rats and mice, but they can’t be allowed to harass ratepayers the way they do. Wait. Before you issue a tender to do a study on what causes rats to run amok, I can give you some free advice. It’s dirt. Joburg is the capital of filth, and it is bad for the people and bad for business.
Johannesburg prides itself on being a “world-class African city”, but that means nothing when the crash barriers on the highways are broken. What is world-class about poorly maintained parks? And nothing is more anti-African than a dirty environment. Remember the song Shanyelan’ amabala zingane ... Sweep the yard, O children...?
The filth in our city tells a bigger story than we care to think about. We are like someone who has sunk into a deep depression; someone who has no dream to chase any more, and the last time he had any excitement was when Nelson Mandela became president. In short, nothing matters any more.
Johannesburg needs a big clean-up, but first we must start in the mind. We need civil servants who are proud of their country and whose mission in life is to serve the people, as their profession suggests.
The city must create a sense of ownership. It must plant beautiful flowers along the major roads, and the residents must stop littering and treat their city as their treasure.