Clem Sunter

What is it about Benoni?

2010-07-01 08:00

What is it about Benoni to produce two drop-dead gorgeous women, one of whom has bagged an Oscar and the other a Prince? Is it something in the air? Something in the water? Something in the genes? Something in the boerewors?

Charlize Theron is the one who is the Hollywood star. She may have got the Oscar for Monster, but I found it a very depressing movie. In fact, my wife and I had to go and see As Good As it Gets with Jack Nicholson immediately afterwards as an antidote. She was much better in the Italian Job, but I’m biased as I drive a Mini Cooper S.

Charlene Wittstock is engaged to Prince Albert of Monaco. She represented South Africa in swimming before she met the prince. She has a big act to follow because Grace Kelly was her predecessor as princess. I always thought Grace Kelly was the most beautiful actress of her generation although Audrey Hepburn came close. Remember High Noon with Gary Cooper and the wonderful ballad: “Do not forsake me, oh my darling, on this our wedding day.” She also proved she could do comedy alongside Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby in High Society.

Returning to Benoni, I have fond memories of taking my children to the “Bunny Park” and chasing rabbits around. Latterly, I have done a few presentations at the Benoni Country Club where the audiences are always warm and hospitable. Of all the East Rand towns, it is the most prosperous and well laid out.

Nevertheless, the whole of the East Rand has a warm spot in my heart. I started out in the gold mining business there doing the feasibility study for Ergo which eventually went on to treat many of the old slimes dams that were a relic of the golden days of the East Rand. Anglo also had a gold mine in Springs – Sallies – which I visited often. It outlasted virtually all of the other mines in the vicinity. Underground, there was always a challenge to keep the water out of the stopes. I don’t think the current inhabitants of Johannesburg have any idea of the huge river flowing through the defunct workings of the mines that put the city on the map.

More importantly, the East Rand towns stretching from Nigel through Springs, Brakpan, Benoni and Boksburg have survived the exhaustion of one of the richest gold orebodies ever discovered. Life is tough; but plenty of foxy entrepreneurs have found ways of making money by servicing the greater metropolis of Johannesburg in other ways. The East Rand has a peculiar soul of its own – you either have to live there or work there to experience it. The gritty spirit displayed by East Randers has come down through many generations, starting with all those prospectors and diggers who set up camp in the hope of making a personal fortune.

So it really is no surprise that two of South Africa’s most famous exports grew up there. You need only examine their golden roots. I bet some of the Bavarian babes who showed us that ambush marketing is the way to go emanated from the East Rand. It would appear, though, that you need a Christian name beginning with “Char”, such as the two mentioned plus Charlotte, Charmaine etc, to hit the genuine big time.

On account of all the South Africans who have emigrated to Perth in Western Australia, the city has up till now enjoyed the nickname of “Benoni by the sea”. I would recommend Monaco for the title in future.

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Read more on:    charlize theron  |  charlene wittstock

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