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Friday, 31 October 2014

The Friendly City: Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Written by Siyanda Ntsumpa
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There is a society of women that gathers weekly outside a rather unsavory, yet highly favored fish and chips shop in the busiest district of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The purpose of these meetings is to stand in line to purchase the abundant pre-used cooking oil that is regularly made available by the proprietor of this fish and chips shop to interested consumers. This proprietor, a jovial Indian gentleman, operates this sale of his used oil on a first-come-first-served basis, so you will understand the commotion as the women queue and watch while their counterparts at the front of the line buy the oil in bulk. At first glance this oil resembles something that should be placed in a vehicle engine; however these ladies are undeterred by the oil’s appearance as they appreciate its affordability. 


Reusing cooking oil is a common practise in most parts of Port Elizabeth; or The Friendly City, as it is known throughout South Africa. These often animated, bulky and abrasive women purchase this oil in 25 liter drums and large plastic bottles. They view this sale as a bargain, as they utilise the oil when frying ‘fish backs’, an economical fish delicacy sold within the disadvantaged black communities. Apparently the various spices the shop owner uses to flavor his fish enhance the zest of the ‘fish backs’ and these budding entrepreneurs are therefore spared the extra expense of purchasing seasoning agents. 


Lurking close to these women are paper boys distributing pamphlets advertising the services of a Nigerian herbalist who is able to cure just about any aliment, including HIV Aids. According to these ubiquitous pamphlets, this herbalist also possesses the extraordinary power of enlarging small penises! Amongst his other skills he holds the power of fortune telling, lifting curses and is capable of shunning away all financial woes! In recent years there has been a tremendous influx of these herbalists into Port Elizabeth, however I have not received any glowing reports regarding their abilities, yet I can confirm that their lottery predictions are quite pathetic. 


On a random drive through the city you might discover the odd Hummer and of course BMWs and Mercedes Benz are plentiful, however you will not observe any Lamborghinis or Porches roaming these streets. There are no fierce Captains of Industries here, but that is not to say there is an absence of wealth, on the contrary, there have been several Powerball winners in and around the city, even though it is said that most of them have relocated to Cape Town. 


There is also another, more daring society of women, who offer their services (primarily to truck drivers and construction workers) behind some lush green bushes by the seaside and are said to be more flexible pricewise should you provide your own condom!


I am by no means deterring any potential tourists from sojourning here, as long as they take me with them when they leave.


©Siyanda Ntsumpa

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