Remember that popular South African song from the 1960s, Ag Pleez Deddy, by Jeremy Taylor? If you don’t, ask your parents or grandparents to sing it for you.
Penned in what some call “South African creole English” with a smattering of Afrikaans, it’s about a little boy who’s bored being stuck at home and pesters his father to take him to places of entertainment like the drive-in, funfair, a wrestling match and, of course, Durban - with the chorus beginning: “Popcorn, chewing gum, peanuts and bubblegum”.
To jog your memory, here’s a verse:
Ag pleez Deddy, won’t you take us off to Durban
It’s only eight hours in the Chevro-lay
There’s spans of sea an’ sand an’ sun
And fish in the aquari-yum
That’s a lekker place for a holi-day.
The boy is right - Durban is a lekker place for a holiday - the “hottest place to be”.
But when his deddy eventually brings him to Durbs-by-the-sea, he will soon discover we, as a city, have much to do to live up to those clever PR catchlines.
For a start, if the boy’s eager to visit Anant Singh’s much-vaunted, multibillion-rand eThekwini Film City at the old Natal Command site, he’ll be in for a shock.
Although conceptualised over 15 years ago, I haven’t seen a single brick laid yet. The beachfront plot is largely vacant apart from a few learner motorists practising three-point turns, a few randy couples in search of some privacy and snoring Uber drivers waiting for their fares on a night out at Suncoast.
If the youngster has an interest in local history and wants to see the beachfront monument commemorating the arrival of the first indentured Indian labourers here some 160 years ago, he’ll find there’s nothing but sea sand.
Despite being proposed and budgeted for over 10 years ago, it has yet to get off the ground.
If Deddy has any plans to show the boy the Neo-Baroque architecture of the historic Durban City Hall, he’s wasting his time. The streets in the city centre are invariably gridlocked by toyi-toying protesters and you can’t get anywhere near it.
Even if you do, you’ll also have to worry about possible paraffin poisoning.
The boy and his father will also find the once-bustling Blue Lagoon complex has lost much of its appeal; the doors of the popular Stables Lifestyle market may soon have to close and the Sky Car at Moses Mabhida Stadium has ground to a halt, needing spare parts.
To say nothing about the heart of the city - the CBD - which is now over-run by crime and grime as business owners leave in droves.