Notes on a Friday morning

I saw Jozi last night.

It was everything that the reviewers said it was: charming, endearing, off-beat and left-of-centre amusing, but in the end, no great shakes. (Sorry Robbie.)

What people did not say was that the team had a fantastic and rare opportunity to make a really interesting, and funny, and GOOD movie about Johannesburg. They had some money, they had the time (from conception to completion about four years, I think I heard) they had big-time producers that backed them and WANTED to make a film with them and considerable talent, to boot.

And they produced something that is amusing, but not in any way  impressive, or even particular.  I would call it, really, our first decent TV movie? I feel a little disappointed. (And I really thought the art direction was below par. It looked a little like a student film, from that point of view.) But anyway.

More entertaining by far, unfortunately, is the world at large this morning!

I don’t know where I have been but apparently Beki Cele will now be called “General Cele”. According to the Times this morning, the decision was approved by Cabinet. I am not surprised that they make time to spend on these issues, as discussions about corruption, crime and service delivery must be boring the shit out of them. Upping the rankings of the more colourful panjandrums must be a welcome diversion.

In a letter to the paper Prof Kader Asmal asks,

“Has the Cabinet taken loss of their senses, especially as another proposal was to change the name of the service to ‘Force’ as the deputy minister of police [Fikile Mbalula] with his enormous knowledge of warfare, now desires a military force, which presumably has been discussed in all ANC structures.”

His point is the militarisation of the police services, but I think that by exposing such whimsy as the passing of “idiotic proposals”, he is finally calling a guava a guava.

Also interesting is Gwede Mantashe’s suggestion that Julius’ “kill the boer” invocation at UJ this week should be seen in a “historical context” and that as such, there was nothing wrong with that particular bit of hate speech. Perhaps he has come to the conclusion that Julius really can replace him single-handedly with Fikile Mbalula in 2012, and is hedging his bets.  If we were really perverse, we could argue that Fikile is already building an army (see above) to prop up a classic African military regime. I can just see him and Julius in their camouflage and cigars, tossing valueless currency from the windows of a black state-of-the-art 4×4 in the middle of a two hundred meter convoy.

I sit at my desk of our new offices. The Nelson Mandela bridge is two blocks from my chair. The mid-morning Friday traffic is unhurried and smooth.


Metrobus 101: Waiting for Godot

I don’t know why they changed the name of the Civic Theatre. A big sign board claimed that “Johannesburg Civic Theatre” was too much of a mouthful, and that “Johburg Theatre Complex” was infinitely snappier, which in the long version it clearly is not. Shortened, as always happens, “Joburg Theatre” is beaten by “the Civic” hands-down-no-contest. The latter, I think, is at least as sexy as NYC’s “the Met” with comparable suggestions of the gravity of excellence in performance art. “Johburg Theatre”, on the other hand, positively rings with the pedestrian dum-de-dum of amateur dramatic societies and ballet classes brimming with gauche and resentful preteens.

It is a damning comparison that one could easily apply to other areas of local municipal service, not least of all the Metrobus, and I should know as I was standing in the shade of the Joburg Theatre Complex waiting for it. Across the road the recently-renamed Metropolitan Centre (oh! the parody!) reached formidably into the sky, a mysterious and ugly monument to incompetence, fiscal imprudence, corruption and general idiocy. From last year’s Miss World fiasco to the ongoing, Kafkaesque reports about the water and electricity billing problems that Dumisani Soap and others suffer on a regular basis, our Met does not much inspire confidence in its ratepayers.

So standing at the bus stop was a slightly surreal experience. I was with Mark and Kay, my friends and neighbours who habitually relied on the #3 to get home in the afternoon, but I completely expected the bus not to come. Every now and then we would glance, in unison, down Loveday Street to where it curved in the direction of the city, but in the steadily thickening throng of home-time traffic, no bus would arrive. Continue reading