Friday, April 07, 2006

The other side of Florida Road

So, you might recall my entry about our beloved Florida Road. I had described it as a fun, safe oasis in Durban where you can stroll from bar to restauraunt and forget that you are in one of the most dangerous cities in Africa.

That is unless you were strolling tonight and encountered the knife fight that happened no less than 20 feet from our restaurant. I present it here in a somewhat lighthearted manner, but a the time, it was anything but.

We first noticed a gathering of police cars around one of the cross streets that we use to get to Florida Road from our house. We were a little worried because while we always considered Florida road to be safe, the cross street (really more of an alley) is dark and a little scary. So we wanted to know if anything had unsafe happened on our somewhat hidden shortcut.

We saw police and a medic hovering around a particular corner outside a restaurant. They seemed concerned and were talking on their radios and walking around briskly. Their actions seemed rapid and purposeful. Then we noticed they were carefully stepping over a body that was laying on the sidewalk. We were shocked to see a black man on his back with his limbs sprawled out awkwardly around him. After a careful look, it was clear that he was not breathing.

Not know what else to do, we just stood there and stared. I couldnt believe what I was seeing. It was hard to believe that a man was lying dead on the sidewalk where we so frequently walked. We asked some people what had happened, and they said that two car guards had gotten into a fight and one was stabbed in the heart.

A car guard is a very common job in South Africa. They stand and wait in your parking lot while you are away, ostensibly to prevent crime and theft. You typically give them a few Rands when you return. They range from very official car guards with uniforms who are often employed by a shopping mall, to the unsavory, often drunk ones that you only give money to because you are afraid they might attack you if you dont.

Apparently, two of them had gotten into an altercation over who deserved the 3 Rand tip (about 50 cents) and one was stabbed as a result. There was no blood on the sidewalk and I imagined the man was stabbed in the heart, causing it to stop pumping instaneously. It occured literally a few steps from a popular Italian sidewalk cafe. It was tragic and surreal to see the lifeless body on the pavement next to a crowded restaurant full of white diners. Unbelievably, most of them continued to eat, not paying too much attention to the commotion.

So this was our first real brush with crime and violence in Durban so far, and I am hoping it is our last (yes, I just knocked on some wood). While it likely doesnt happen very often on this side of town, I unfortunately think its not too uncommon of an occurence in Durban. It still seems like an unreal scenario and one I likely wont forget.

I just looked over my old post about Florida Road (see link above) and it seems quite ironic that I had been so recently touting it as a safe, fun, hip place to spend an evening. Kind of makes me feel trite and superficial after what I saw tonight. Unfortunately violent crime has become a real part of South Africa, whether it occurs in the townships or on Florida Road.


At 4/29/2006 12:49:00 AM, Anonymous Hilary said...

Maybe not the right place to ask, but what's happened to Lindiwe? Was very moved by her story & would like to know how she's doing if you've had recent news. Last news was 2 months ago, I think.
Thanks for a great blog!

At 10/26/2006 10:42:00 AM, Anonymous Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Hey, where are you? Have you stopped blogging?


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