Have fun in Durban this festive season, but think twice before swallowing the sea water

The upside of swimming in the sea for anyone going to the KZN coast this month is that if they get tired, they can always grab a stool, says comedian Rory Petzer. With the amount of untreated effluent being pumped into the sea by the hapless Durban City Council, nobody should even think of dipping their toe in the water, notwithstanding the ludicrous efforts of local politicians to wrap themselves in lycra and frolic in the waves.

The politicians should however consider doing it twice a day from now to Christmas. They can be the canaries in the coal mine, a human pH test; how much shit can a human take? It’s a fair question. Load shedding has become the norm, in fact the entrepreneurial Petzer is doing a thriving trade with T-shirts for the discerning South African – printed with an average load shedding schedule in different colours.

We just get on with it. The economy shows that too. Figures this week have puzzled analysts and delighted the rest of us. The country has returned to pre-pandemic output levels, which is incredible since Eskom’s power cuts are at an unprecedented (in the true sense of the word) level in terms of scope and scale. Load shedding is almost continuous.

People are making a plan, creating workarounds to make up for the failure of their elected officials and the public service who together consume about a third of the annual national budget. The country is functioning without power (except for those who live in national key points like our cabinet ministers in Bryntirion), without SAA in real terms – although flights are horrifically expensive – and without much of a functioning rail network either. The ports are shut down by strikes. There are incredible backlogs. Yet still we rise: Pep delivers parcels far better and cheaper than the Post Office and even unemployment is slightly down.

Crime isn’t down. Despite spending tens of millions of Rands, the only people who feel protected and served in this country are the politicians with the blue lights. Even the cops themselves have to be guarded in their police stations by private security guards.

Our ostensibly socialist-leaning government has nurtured a growth industry of service providers from private health to private security, private schools and private pension funds. Many government leaders avail themselves of these same services too when it comes to their own health or their kids’ futures. 

We have moved seamlessly from a kleptocracy under Jacob Zuma to a kakistocracy under Cyril Ramaphosa. It actually says what it is: government by the worst people, or as we would say in South Africa: the kakkest people.

You can make a plan when you go to Durban. You won’t be able to swim in the public pools on what used to be known as the Golden Mile, because they’ve apparently become public urinals, but you might take a chance in the sea, if the rip tide is in your favour and flushing the output.

Just don’t swallow, whatever the mayor tells you.

Originally published by the Saturday Star in 10 December 2022.