Growing up in Cape Town I seldom heard a good word about Joburg. The city was commonly denigrated for not having a coastline and for being a hotbed for hijacking, murder and robbery.
But lately I’ve also heard good things. Particularly, how welcoming people are, unlike the insular Cape Town set.
At times I’ve flitted with moving to Joburg and trying to seek my fortune among the rest of the people hustling in the city space. Through work and travel I’ve become increasingly attracted to world cities and the urge to know Joburg has grown ever stronger.
Today was the fourth of a five-day trip to the city of gold. A break from Cape Town, a chance to watch Bruce Springsteen rocking the FNB stadium, and a chance to explore the city spaces. Newtown, Braamfontein and the rest. It was also an opportunity to get robbed.
I pulled up to a red light in Newtown at about noon, window rolled halfway down, driving alone, on my way back from Museum Africa. Out the corner of my eye I saw two guys at the window. “I don’t want to hurt you,” said one. “But give it.”
The second guy was standing right behind him. I’m still not sure if they were holding weapons. Could have been since the guy in front seemed to be holding something under his shirt. Automatically, I reached for my wallet and handed it to them. That wasn’t enough. They also wanted my phone, which I handed over, meek as a lamb.
After parting with my valuables I pulled off, and immediately began beating myself up for not checking to see if they had weapons, and for not just dropping the car into first and pulling away before they could rob me. I could have been a lot tougher about the whole thing. Not an easy victim.
The rest of the day was consumed by an unmemorable wash of admin: cancelling bankcards, getting my sim card blocked, changing passwords for email and twitter.
Jozi screwed me today. Part of me wants to write the city off and not give it another chance. But that would be shortsighted. I have the feeling I’ll be back, hopefully a little more streetwise. And since I met someone minutes after he’d been stabbed during a mugging on the path up to the car park from Sandy Bay in Cape Town last Wednesday, I can’t say I feel much safer in the mother city either.