Clarkson on Joburg

#87. Reach out to Jeremy Clarkson. In Joburg it’s raining Jeremy Clarkson. The British king of car reviewer’s article on this city titled “I dare you to visit Johannesburg, the city for softies – It’s the least frightening place on earth, yet everyone speaks of how many times they’ve been killed that day” is flooding inboxes, circulating faster than Joost van der Westhuizen’s alleged sex video or a minibus taxi going down Louis Botha Avenue.

On March 1 in the London Sunday Times, Top Gear’s Clarkson had this to say about Joburg.

“Every city needs a snappy one-word handle to pull in tourists and investors. So, when you think of Paris, you think of love; when you think of New York, you think of shopping … Rome has its architecture… [Joburg] is where you want to be carjacked, stabbed, killed and eaten.”

He then went  on to say that this is all misrepresentation,  and that Johannesburg is in fact “the least frightening place on earth”.

“Time and again I was told I could buy an AK47 for 100 rand – about £7. But when I said, “Okay, let’s go and get one”, no one had the first idea where to start looking… As I bought yet another agreeable carved doll from yet another agreeable black person, I wanted to ring up those idiots who compile surveys of the best and worst places to live and say: “Why do you keep banging on about Vancouver, you idiots? Jo’burg’s way better.”

Really he said that. And he was here. And you’ve got to love him for that.

The piece sparked a fierce response on the Sunday Times website – 240 comments so far, with Joburg’s defenders taking up words against the good people of Wimbledon  (Joburg’s detractors) who left SA because of crime and now feel that they are being made fun of and in protest are wishing all sorts of unspeakable things would befall Clarkson on his next visit so they can sleep peacefully at night.

Now while there is nothing better than being vindicated by a man with a British accent and a global audience (he obviously never got to the Zoo Lake a few Saturdays ago — the drunk ice cream man, the angry ducks…) Clarkson goes on to say some very odd and silly things about why the city has such a bad rap leaving me wondering what all that was about.

While my intention is not to discourage the tourists from Vancouver from flocking here, it has to be said that Joburg can be a little unpredictable — and that doesn’t only apply to its weather.

Truth is… it’s a city with a heart of gold and an edge of razor wire and no telling which will be on display when you next visit.

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