Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Some Negative Incidents

A couple days ago, three Canadians and I went for dinner.  Even though it was the beginning of the week, we began to brainstorm ideas of how to spend our weekend.  We decided that we wanted to check out Tanz Café in Fourways since it usually hosts local bands on Fridays.  Moreover, there’s a specific building that one of the interns wanted to see and take photos of.  The only problem is that Fourways is quite far north from our neighbourhood.

Should we drive there and take a partner taxi home?  That means that the taxi brings two people: the taxi driver and someone to drive your car home for you.

Or should we cab it both there and back?

“Why don’t we take the minibuses up there?”  I asked.  “You want to take photos so it’ll still be light outside.  We can leave right after work!  It’s only 10 rand each and really fast.”

The other three shook their head.  They had no interest in taking a minibus taxi.

“Don’t you want to experience how the majority of Joburg travels?  And it’s not that bad.  Honestly, I kind of enjoy taking them – it’s always an adventure and everyone is so helpful!”

The intern who’s been here a few months already and knows me pretty well answered for the group:

“B Dobs, of course you enjoy minibuses.  You love everything.  I’ve never heard you say something negative about anything.  C’mon… tell us something you don’t like.”

After the conversation, I started to think about this blog and how I portray Jozi.  I hope that all of you reading don’t think that my natural optimism is causes me to downplay the negative aspects of this city.

As a result, I’ve decided to write about some of the bad things that have happened:

Two weeks ago, there was an armed robbery a few blocks from my office in which one policeman was shot and killed and another was severely injured.

Three days ago, we heard two gunshots just as I was getting ready to walk to the store.  Because of the recent shootout, I decided to wait a bit before leaving.  Five minutes later we heard sirens go by.  Fifteen minutes later I left for my walk.  Life in Hillbrow goes on.

Last night a minibus taxi lost its breaks while it was flying down Claim Street (the road that worries me the most on my bi-weekly drive to the pool).  It hit a woman and flung her into one of MHA’s buildings.  She died on impact.  The taxi took off.  The driver probably didn’t have insurance.

Since I’m currently taking minibus taxis again, this incident has made me slightly more concerned.  What would I do if my taxi hit someone and fled?  What would the driver do about the commuters still inside?

Want some stories outside of Hillbrow?  In early December, my neighbour and his friend were mugged at gunpoint on 7th Street (the busy commercial street) of Melville at 11am.

Something less dramatic?  My bachelor suite hasn’t had hot water for over a week.

I can continue.  It’s easy to keep listing horror stories – especially robberies and muggings – but we hear about that enough in the news already.  Like most cities in the world, crime rates in Johannesburg have dropped significantly over the past 20 years.

Enough of this.  Tomorrow’s post will describe the best parts about taking minibus taxis again!


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