Proud spirit in poor Maputo puts dirty City of Gold to shame
I VISITED Maputo for the first time last week. Based on what I had been told, I was expecting the city to be more run-down than it turned out to be.
Admittedly, the ugly high-rise tenement blocks, built in the utilitarian style of the sixties, wouldn't win any architectural prizes. Although many are rumoured to be little more than multi-storey slums with broken lifts and highly unpredictable plumbing systems, there were surprising numbers of new satellite dishes sprouting like fresh mushrooms on the sides of buildings.
It is difficult to know whether there is a building boom or not in Maputo because so many projects were abandoned either due to the war or because the developers ran out of money. So an apparently half-built building gives no clue as to the state of local economic activity.
But it's amazing what some plastering and a coat of paint can do and there seems to be a steady programme to smarten up the centre of the city. New pavement cafés and restaurants are opening up and, although there is the most dreadful poverty in the country, one feels that a pride in their city is at last returning to the people of Maputo.
The roads weren't great but they were certainly no worse than Johannesburg's roads have become under the current maladministration. I suppose the Avenida Julius Nyerere could be called the main drag in Maputo in that it takes you past the five-star Polana Hotel and to the government guest houses and the gaggle of highly fortified foreign consulates.
I am ashamed to tell you that the Avenida Julius Nyerere is infinitely cleaner than the Avenida Oxford Road in Rosebank, which also takes you past a five-star hotel and to the once elegant suburb of Dunkeld . . . now known as Dunkeld sur le Garbage. I only mention this depressing fact as a further example of how Johannesburg and its suburbs are being allowed to further deteriorate while, in the words of a recent ANC internal report, "Money is being wasted on salaries for staff who spend valuable time reading newspapers".
Rubbish collection is increasingly becoming a game of chance. Last week, in my neighbourhood, rubbish which was due to be collected on Wednesday sat on the pavement until Sunday. Apart from the appalling stench, piles of rotting garbage are a health hazard. After a few days the bags split and decaying food and vegetable matter spill out onto the pavements and yet, only a few yards away, people are expected to eat at outdoor restaurants.
POSTER pollution has been a constant gripe of mine and, for a while, I thought the situation might improve. Democratic Party Councillor Mike Moriarty has fought a valiant battle against posters and phoned me some months ago to tell me that new regulations regarding posters had just been approved.
Unfortunately, it hasn't proved to be effective. In Rosebank, the main arterial roads like Jan Smuts Avenue and Oxford Roads are a disgrace. There are often six or more posters for every lamp post, hanging in various stages of bedragglement and disarray. Old posters are rarely removed and new posters are simply tied over them. Occasionally they are ripped down (probably by irate residents) and left to blow around in the street.
I am no Reg Lascaris but I cannot believe that this is effective advertising. Cheap certainly, but is anybody really going to support the National Symphony Orchestra after they have littered the suburbs with their posters?
THE ruling on posters as it was originally explained to me is that, apart from political election campaigns, posters are allowed only if they are advertising a community project. Most of them don't fall into that category and are purely for commercial projects. The strange thing is that they all have a municipal sticker on them for which I am told the advertiser pays a small amount. Does the municipality have a limit on how many stickers it hands out and therefore on how many posters can be put up? Clearly it does not, just as it has no intention of enforcing any of the relevant bylaws.
The final evidence of the decline of Johannesburg came to me last week as I was a walking back to Times Media House at three in the afternoon. As I turned the corner in Cradock Avenue to cross the car park a stream of warm urine hit my trouser leg . . . and it wasn't mine.