Grunt 8 Augustus 2012

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Bloemfontein is famous for a variety of reasons, even if we’re not always aware of what those reasons are. Of course, the most obvious is that it is the city where the ANC was founded a century ago. But we should not overlook the fact that Bloemfontein not only has the name of a city but also has all the necessary bureaucratic requirements to acquire the status of a city. I’m not sure what all those requirements are but I would speculate that having regular water and electricity supplies might be another, together with some sort of sewage system, street lights, etc. If my speculations are vaguely close to the mark, then Bloemfontein is indeed a city, although, when we suffer electricity outages or water supply cuts, I wonder then whether our city’s status falls away, if only temporarily, until the power is restored, when we reacquire our city status. I wonder, too, whether an appropriate municipal sewage system includes having massive qualities of human waste flowing down streets, bubbling up out of manholes – the covers having been stolen for scrap metal by the indigent and the impecunious – and flowing steadily across the main access routes to one of the city’s malls. Be that as it may. I really don’t want to appear cynical. I’m led to believe that having a cathedral building is another prerequisite. But a well-known personality visiting the city a good while ago remarked that any city worth its salt should also have at least a monumental architectural abortion within its city limits. Without indulging in the invidious practice of identifying specific structures, I do believe that we are blessed with a goodly number of potential candidates. But, very recently, Bloemfontein has acquired fame as a city linking it to regions right across the planet. This reputation, which is attracting international attention, centres on the city’s new-found prominence as one of the earth’s major earthquake zones. Bloemfontein’s earthquakes, like much else here, are unique, not because of their severity or their frequency, but simply because no one feels them. Isn’t that extraordinary? Yeah, right!