Urban decay

I travel 20km odd to work everyday, 10 or so of that is through “wastelands”. between two old mine dumps covered with alien looking vegetation and trees bent unnaturally, a bit like something out of a Stephen King novel.

Anyhoes, the road itself can get fairly busy and has two lanes each way, only thing is, going South, only the left lane can be used due to a humongous crater that has settled in the right hand lane and has a life of its own by growing ever bigger with every tire and rim it eats. This thing has been around for the last 6 odd months or so. The road lights set on the median strip between the roads are vandalised every single night (EVERY NIGHT) with the result if you are travelling North, you only use the left lane as you will inevitably drive into a light pole around a curve, said pole either laying across the road or is bent over into the driving lane about level with a car’s windscreen or your head. I’m not sure whether these poles are then promptly stolen overnight and then replaced by the council and the cycle repeats itself, as it varies where it is, but you keep your eyes peeled for it anyway because its there.

The traffic robots at the intersections suffered the same fate during last year and was eventually replaced by stop signs (said signs are now also missing). One of the craters are occasionally filled in with odds and ends by a petrol garage, but not too regular as I’m sure they do make a penny off replacing tires, perhaps when custom gets a bit busy they fill it up just to have a break and pour fuel for a change.

Between my home and these wastelands is a poorer area, most of these old, old homes have been taken over by Nigerians and the like, for some reason these roads dont have potholes, but you tend not to linger your eyes too long on any given structure at an intersection as it will give you serious doubts as to how the structure is still standing, the area is collapsing, pavements arent maintained and the one park I pass doesnt have a single blade of grass, its a piece of dead ground just sitting there. Very eerie. This same area has (obviously) 34 (I counted them the billboards and signs this morning) churches on a stretch of 3 or so km. It also advertises a grand total of 6 independent schools with loads of promises. Not sure who enrolls their kids in these dodge places but to each their own I say.

A couple of you live in more rural areas and CT, what does your world look like? I’d imagine CT is a bit better than Jo’burg?

Urban decay is a fact of life around the world. It’s a cyclical phenomenon where cities go through phases of renewal and decay. In the 80’s even New York was pretty much a dump with a spiralling crime problem and an enviable rat infestation.

However, Africa seems to only attempt the “renewal” phase half heartedly and slumps straight into dereliction again. Mostly I try to not stray south of Wits… such is my privilege I guess.

In Port Elizabeth proper the roads are not bad at all, but it deteriorates rapidly as you move away from the city into the Uitenhage and Despatch area. In the RDP settlements surrounding these towns, the roads are really in a dangerous state of repair, and I wouldn’t go driving there at night, though I often do during the day to pick up workers. Bad roads, though, I can still live with. It’s the littering that gets to me. And the poorer settlements seem plagued by it. It’s as if there is no drive to manage waste at all. I don’t know how these people can live between so much rubbish scattered everywhere. I’d find it depressing.

Still, there are always new buildings going up almost everywhere, so I don’t feel like things are stagnating or decaying. It’s just friggin’ filthy.


The people grow up under such conditions. That is partly why South Africa is a nation of litterbugs and we have “troops of monkeys” littering the beaches of Durban: if you grow up in the midst of litter, it no longer strikes you as abnormal or unacceptable.

Here in and around Centurion, roads are quite well maintained. I now and then drive out to Bronkhorstspruit, and to avoid the toll road I use the old road; it too is in great condition and well maintained.

Looks like it’s a bit of a mixed bag, and differs from area to area.

Provincial roads are definitely now better than they were 12 - 15 years ago, but the municipal roads, especially the poorer performing ones, not so good. You can travel on a fairly good road but notice straight away when you cross over the town line, tows like Aliwal North, Steelpoort, Lightenburg and so on. Also roads in the EC, WC and NC are better than the northeastern ones.