I’ve been wondering if xenophobia really is a phobia at all. I mean, it’s nothing like arachnophobia, for instance. If it were, people who suffered from it would run screaming whenever they saw a Congolese car guard heading their way. Instead, our xenophobics actively seek out foreigners, then run aggressively towards them. It’s an odd way of showing fear.
Everybody seems to have something to say about the fresh hell erupting around Joburg. Here’s an excerpt from Trevor Noah’s contribution. “I don’t see (my) fellow African as a competitor, but a fellow compatriot who is struggling to feed his family and have some comfort in this short lifetime.”
Yeah, I guess you won’t see many unruly mobs of Africans outside your Manhattan studio fighting to get application forms for your job, Trev. Not much competition from these parts, mate. And, yes, of course you can relate to your fellow compatriot struggling to feed his family. After all, you’ve just bought an apartment in New York for the knock-down price of $10-million. That’s R130-million in our rinky-dink currency. Or, in a language your struggling African comrade might better understand, a billion Happy Meals for him and his skinny-ass family.
Moving on to that wretched cybernated universe infested with cats, food and other people’s children – yes, Facebook – where a DA uMhlanga councillor earlier this week pronounced on our own itinerant colonies of fringe-dwelling gutterpups.
“Wanna know why vagrancy is such an issue in North Durban? Cause some people still continue to give beggars and vagrants money. Like the man who just gave a beggar R50 bucks in Broadway, Durban North. There are NGOs and welfare organisations who would love that R50. Instead he will go make the bottle stores rich.”
While we’re making wild assumptions here, I bet it was a white man who gave the beggar that red lion. I’m also willing to wager that the mystery benefactor is involved in one or other white-collar crime. No law-abiding, wage-earning office drone has that kind of cash to give away willy-nilly. I’d say our guy is likely up to his eyeballs in one or other commercial crime. Whiteys, even the compassionate ones, love tax evasion and fraud more than they love fishing and golf. No mess, no fuss. Hell, if he’s a genuine empath he probably turned to crime just to be able to support the destitute as well as his family.
I give money to beggars at robots, but only if they get to my window before I can close it. If they tap on the glass, I drum on my steering wheel to create the impression that I can’t hear them because the music is too loud. Sometimes they jump on the bonnet and bang on the windscreen. Then I have to pretend I’m blind, which is harder to do.
When I was growing up in the area, Broadway was lined with trees alive with millions of screaming, defecating Indian mynahs. You wouldn’t be able to hear a beggar if he exploded. You’d see it, though, and perhaps wonder why a beggar had exploded. The only possible explanation would be that the mynahs had driven him mad and he’d blown himself up.
The trees and mynahs are long gone and, if the DA is to be believed, have been replaced by marauding bands of mooching dipsomaniacs who, upon receipt of a modest sum, will proceed as fast as their suppurating legs will take them to the nearest bottle store instead of doing the sensible thing and using the money to enroll their bastard children at Kearsney College.
In the minds of some, seekers of alms will forever be associated with alcohol. Journalists, too. When I get paid for this column, I take the money directly to the bottle store. The only difference between me and the Broadway beggar is that I work for it. Okay, fine, this can hardly be called work. In fact, I’m drinking on the job right now – something you rarely see beggars doing. I’m worse than a beggar.
Beggaring is a lot tougher than my job, let me tell you. On your feet all day staring beseechingly into one impassive face after another, a curt shake of the head or a dismissive wave of the hand the only validation that you even exist. God help us if they ever sober up enough to form a militia.
I don’t know if the councillor happened to be passing by when he witnessed this evil money-giving thing happening or if he regularly patrols Broadway monitoring the indigent. Incidentally, councillor, it’s called Swapo Avenue now. And has been for years. If you go berserk at the sight of someone giving R50 to a man who has nothing, I imagine you’re still not comfortable mentioning Swapo unless it’s followed by the word ‘terrorist’.
The councillor’s post received 20 ‘likes’ plus four ‘Wow’ and four ‘Angry’ emoticons. Vishen was the first to suggest that vagrancy in Durban North wasn’t so much caused by people giving beggars money as it was by the failure of the government, NGOs and welfare organisations to deal with homelessness in the first place. Pamela and Cristina agreed with Vishen. Bloody communists.
Rick said beggars are there because they want to be there. On three occasions he had offered R200 on condition they came to his house and did yard work. He said they refused. Of course they did. I wouldn’t get into a car with a strange white man either. Well, I might. But he’d have to offer a hell of a lot more than R200. I’d also expect unlimited access to beer once we were there. And a guarantee that I won’t have to take my broeks off.
Johan said, “I had some Aussie friends over a while ago and they were not impressed when approached by a beggar in Broadway.” Shame. I hope they went for trauma counseling. Australia doesn’t have a problem with indigenous folk loitering in the streets because they had the decency to allow themselves to be decimated by the settlers before going walkabout into areas where respectable white Australians wouldn’t have to be offended by looking at them.
Lurching back into the fray, the councillor threw a second punch in case anyone had mistaken him for a bleeding heart altruist. “People who donate money to beggars in Broadway do nothing but encourage alcoholism and drug abuse.” I always thought unscrupulous employers, appalling working conditions and an intolerant, insular society which shuns the sick, lonely and weak was responsible for that. And, of course, marriage, which has done more than anything to encourage people to hit the bottle or reach for the meds.
Claire, who seems to be another avid beggar-watcher, chipped in. “There is a vagrant who sleeps on Savell Ave by the petrol station. And as he gets food etc he stays.” This is outrageous. Money is one thing, but food? What next? Silk pyjamas? Tickets to the ballet? Timeshare in Margate? You give these people food and all they do is put on weight. The next time you see them, they expect a gym contract.
Nkosinathi, who must be one of the DA’s black members I’ve heard about, had his own tale of horror. “I’ve just seen 3 guys outside the church in Broadway, they looked quite high on something, definitely not from juice.” High on Jesus, maybe? I prefer to think they were high on life, Nkosinathi. After all, Durban North is essentially Stepford without the submissive and impossibly beautiful wives.
Theo was clearly on drugs when he wrote, “I will rather give that beggar the R50 irrespective of what he spends it on than give it to some organisation who takes R40 to cover their expenses and only R10 goes to the homeless.” We don’t need your kind here, Theo. Humanitarianism is nothing more than satanism in a cheap suit. Once word gets out that there are kind, generous people in Durban North, it’s only a matter of time before the Syrians start arriving with their tattered children, crudely severed limbs and cheap plastic begging bowls.
But don’t for a minute think that’s where our problems end. Our fearless councillor posted this a day earlier. “Have been keeping track of people in public restrooms. Wanna know why everyone is getting sick? So many people do their business and just walk out without washing their hands. It’s disgusting!” Trumpian parallels aside, I’d also be reluctant to hang about and wash my hands if a creepy white guy was standing in the corner watching me.
A few days earlier, he posted this. “Who can help their poor long suffering councillor with some furniture for his office? Need a coffee table and a couch or two.” Begging for a handout, councillor? Hmm. How do we know you’re not going to pawn that couch and buy a bottle of vodka or a bag of weed? It’s a slippery slope, my friend. It starts with free furniture and before you know it you’re sucking on a bong and snorting cocaine off a Cambodian hooker’s belly.