Boarding houses, trading stores and an SUV

2009-01-02 00:00

The story that rates as the most significant for its impact on society was the exposé of illegal boarding houses in the city which I wrote in April.

Following a letter from a concerned mother, we discovered a network of unregistered boarding houses where parents, mostly in the Eastern Cape, paid inappropriate amounts of money for their children to live in unacceptable conditions.

The story prompted the Department of Social Development and the Msunduzi Municipality to address the issue. Boarding house owners themselves have also formed an association. Bureaucracy is not known for working swiftly. However, to date, some of the worst establishments have been closed down, others are being prosecuted and municipal and government officials seem serious in their efforts to stop this exploitation.

I was surprised by the story that elicited the most numerous and warmest responses from readers: trading stores. Clearly this story evoked fond childhood memories for many people: “From Hilton through Howick, Tweedie, Lidgetton, Lion’s River and Balgowan to Nottingham Road, the experience was repeated. Visiting general dealers’ stores felt like stepping back in time.”

The assignment on which I had the most fun has to be “the Subaru job”. Firstly, I got to fly to Johannesburg for the day and drive almost half a million rand’s worth of motor car at the launch of the Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Then, I borrowed a Tribeca, a full-scale SUV named after a sophisticated suburb on New York’s Manhattan Island, and my family and I set off into the country. It was a smooth, comfortable, dust-free ride over some very rough roads.

Finally, I had a new Forester SUV for a long weekend, which confirmed for me why these vehicles are the brand’s most popular vehicle locally. Clearly Subarus really can do more than park on pavements and handle pesky speed bumps with disdain. All that remains is for me to convince management to pay me enough to buy and maintain one...

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