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A1 Gran Prix Driver Speaks

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A1 Gran Prix Driver Speaks
Submitted by capdog on Thursday, April 26, 2007 - 14:33 |

"So Durban is a ... [hesitates]... nice ... city, but not what I'd call my number one tourist destination."

So says James Hinchcliffe, the Canadian A1 Gran Prix driver who competed in this year's event on the Durban street track. In his YouTube video post, he talks about being dealt a poor hand in the race when his engine blew; as well as recounting a few stories influencing his view that Durban is a dangerous city, one that tourists would be better off avoiding.

He says: "I went looking for an ATM, and asked at the hotel reception... and they kinda stared at me for a second as if I was about to say 'no, no, just kidding, I don't want to use an ATM, are you crazy?' So when they realised that I did actually want to use it, they got all concerned and said 'Ok well there's an ATM just down the street, so I'll call a security guard and he can walk you down there'"

The thing is, the hotel staff are right to take every precaution. I've read multiple accounts in the local press and on overseas travel blogs of tourists becoming victims of crime by merely stepping out their hotel room on the Golden Mile. This is sadly not news. To be a tourist in Durbs, you need a rental car and a keen eye for identifying danger, something that most first world visitors probably do not have.

He goes on to say: '... not to mention the big sign in the hotel, 'Welcome to A1 GP, Thanks For Coming To Durban!' with a p.s. underneath... 'Don't walk to the track in groups of less than three...' Ahhh.. the track was literally a two and a half minute walk from the hotel, and you weren't allowed to walk in groups of less than three... right."

Hinchcliffe was probably staying in one of the beachfront hotels, and his shock at being told not to walk anywhere alone is completely understandable. I mean, it's an international event, right? With the world's press attending and all the South African dignitaries around, surely they can secure the area between the beach hotels and Suncoast, such that one of the drivers could take an amble by himself to give his car a quick pre-race spit polish?

It's a bit annoying, seeing as the council spends millions on the A1 to promote the city, only to have the team drivers warning their friends and fans not to come here. James' video headline is "Let's just say Durban, South Africa is not a tourist destination". And this is a guy who travels around the globe competing in A1 races on every continent, including other third world countries. It's not like it's his first time out of Canada. He also speaks highly of Cape Town, so don't think it's an attack on South Africa as a whole. Just Durban.

Maybe we should be diverting some of the funds from the A1 Gran Prix to housing the homeless, because at present it seems a bit of a waste to invite everyone around for a bit of racing, only to have them some of them leave with a really poor perception of the city. Where they actually make a point of warning the general public about the dangers of crime in Durban. Imagine if he had been a victim.

I don't assume that every driver's experience was as poor as this, but I'm writing this article in context of the recent shenanigans by the city council.

Is it too much to ask that money get poured into fighting crime, rather than changing street names and pissing off all the ratepayers?

And I hate to say it, but the A1 pales in comparison to 2010 Soccer World Cup. What will famous soccer stars be saying about Durban on their YouTube videos when they experience the same treatment?

In the news today, I read that Metro cops "have threatened to accept bribes if the city takes away allowances for night and shift duties." (which the council has plans to do). When does the madness end? It seems that if we ever get around to housing the poor, it will be the police officers in the front of the queue for poverty relief.

Such potential, this city has. Let's not let a knucklehead council ruin it for everyone.

Check out James' video:


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Subject:  Seeing this video influenced me
Author:  Carl (not verified)
Date:  3 May, 2007 - 04:26

I'll admit that as a soon-to-be Durban resident, I was somewhat troubled after seeing this video a few days ago -- I'm moving in a few weeks and was attempting to get some background information on the city.

Still, I'm trying to take it all in context and keep in mind that with proper caution and in less tourist-ridden areas crime may not pose as constant a risk.

Any perspectives from Durbanite readers would be appreciated.


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Subject:  Hey Carl Where are you from?
capdog's picture
Author:  capdog
Date:  3 May, 2007 - 08:44

Hey Carl

Where are you from? I assume you are not from SA? Crime in this country is pretty bad, regardless of where you go. Joburg is said to be worse, and Cape Town slightly better, but overall precautions need to be taken.

There are bad areas that are marketed as tourist destinations, which are really unsafe. For example, you wouldn't walk around the main beachfront and city centre at night. But there are places that are safe, which are generally privately managed with security, like Wilson's Wharf. Slightly removed from the city there are areas which are a lot safer too, like Morningside.

Umhlanga (a small seaside suburb about 20mins drive up the north) is relatively safe at night, and has everything you'd expect from a city, like restaurants, big shopping centres, business and residential zones.

It's all about making enquiries and knowing where to go.

But to put South African life into context, is that sooner or later, everyone gets something stolen from them. I've never met a person that hasn't at least been a victim of a petty crime, normally it's a stolen car, housebreaking, mugging or hit-and-run. :(

We deal with it and still have a great time though! There are a lot of beautiful beaches, places to see, holidays to be had, friendly people to meet, etc!


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Subject:  ahem ahem... safe where???
Obi's picture
Author:  Obi
Date:  3 May, 2007 - 08:54

I would have to disagree with your assessment of Morningside being safer. Not really the case when you have had over 10 cars stolen from outside your house in 3 years. Goes back to the age old saying of provide jobs and crime will decrease but we all saw the mail on why the government likes crime because they earn large from it. If you didnt see it mail me on thelappies@gmail.com and i will get it to you. STOP SPENDING MONEY ON SHIT LIKE NAME CHANGES FOR ROADS AND GET RID OF CRIME.

Capdog, do you have an e mail adress for Mike Sutcliffe?

You cannot escape your destiny. You must face Darth Vader again - Obi Wan Kenobi


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Subject:  Mmmyess...crime. We got that.
Author:  hedmekanik
Date:  3 May, 2007 - 14:12

Well, what can be said about it, this crime?
It doesn't seem to affect politicians. Maybe that's 'cos it's real hard to hijack a car that's doing 200km/h in a Blue Light Convoy, and it's a tough nut to burgle, a house surrounded by flak-jacketed snipers. It's tough at the top.
Crime is everywhere, not just here in South Africa. But we have a particularly wide chasm that separates the haves and the wannahaves. There's more than enough motivation for the poor to take what they can't otherwise get. Which could be laid at the governments' door as a matter of job creation for not filling this divide.
Or else there isn't enough effective policing because the morale (and working wage) of our security forces is so low they couldn't care less. Which just makes it all the easier for crims to a) do what they want and b) pay a bribe if, on the odd chance, they get caught.

As for beachfront crime, it's not as bad as it once was, but I would venture that hotels are erring on the side of caution by keeping guests paranoid - otherwise they might get sued for not informing their patrons of the dangers that lurk beyond their door. Along the beachfront boulevard it's pretty safe, because there are constant patrols from South to Snake Park beaches. Behind the beachfront.... well, you take your chances there until the fabled Urban Regeneration Genie waves its wand over everything that lies between Argyle, Brickhill, Gillespie, uShaka and Point. Or should that be Mao, Pol Pot, Castro, Limpet Mine and AK-47....:P

Sure, we've got quality of life. But then, you pay for it.
One way, or another. I'm gonna find ya, I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha...


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Subject:  hey man
Author:  chris (not verified)
Date:  9 May, 2007 - 12:52

hey man

please send that thing about how the government makes money out of crime, would dig to read it

email addy - chrisso2007@gmail.com

shot bro


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Subject:  will send it now
Obi's picture
Author:  Obi
Date:  10 May, 2007 - 10:56

just trying to get my machine back on the net. had to reformat yesterday and have now lost all my fkn settings.

You cannot escape your destiny. You must face Darth Vader again - Obi Wan Kenobi


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Subject:  yo Obi - whakine - ping me please
kliktrak's picture
Author:  kliktrak
Date:  10 May, 2007 - 11:00

Yo Lappies bru

hope you well, please get in touch, not sure if you got my recent emails

check out www.kliktrak.com and email me from there
also check http://www.counterculture.co.za/electric/

need to chat about organising the retrun tour for the Durban Event

KLIKTRAK
http://kliktrak.partychief.com


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Subject:  Yah shot man hmmm. Whether
Author:  chrisso
Date:  11 May, 2007 - 12:51

Yah shot man

hmmm. Whether intentional or not they do benefit

Doesn't help when Bheki "racist" Cele opens his stupid mouth

If they are above the law, why then as taxpayers we must be as well..


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Subject:  Didn't you know?
Author:  hedmekanik
Date:  11 May, 2007 - 14:21

Eish, didn't you know that there's two sets of rules - one for the plebs and one for the new nobility? And we as the little man in the street must shut up and put up or else we'll get the full force of the Law on our asses.
That's democrazy, bru!


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