Johannesburg, South Africa – June 1999
Not much has changed since last month: we’re starting to accelerate into election mode, (our 2nd democratic elections) so a sort of gentle hysteria is building, along with weerd political slogans & promises. The oddest incident to date is the ANC having to withdraw a poster because it was deemed racist!
Madiba, (AKA Nelson Mandela) will hold his last official engagement as South African president – when he formally hands over to his expected successor Thabo Mbeki on June 16. This will be a serious jol.
Winter is definitely here: the electric blankets and heaters have come out of storage, and Johannesburg tends to be buried in soft brown cloud of smog. Night time temperatures are currently around 5 degrees C. (40 F) and dropping.
Joburg’s Slang Words
Some of the words/colloquialisms that you will hear in Joburg, and South Africa, can be confusing, so here’s a quick primer:
Jol (Jawl) – Party/Piss-up/Rave. A generic sort of word, usually meaning to go out and get trashed.
Lekker – Good/Excellent. “It was a lekker jol” (I can’t remember ANYTHING!)
Robot – Traffic Light.
Rubber – Eraser
Coathanger – Gautenger, person from Gauteng province. Slightly derogatory.
See You Later – Goodbye. A tricky one, “Later” can be anything from a few minutes, to never.
Howzit – Hello.
Barbie/Babelas – Hangover.
Dagga/Boom/Grass – Marijuana
Gatvol – (Afrikaans) Guts full.
Boet – (Afrikaans) Brother. Useful if you can’t remember names. “What’s happening boet?” A local version of “dude”
This list is not complete. The word “kaffir” is rarely heard these days, unless between people who know each other extremely well, or people in the middle of a violent confrontation.
Many of the Afrikaans names have been dropped from maps, but they’re still around. This can be a little disorientating as you might be looking for something called Glehove Road, and the street sign will say something like Glenhoveweg. My personal experience of this was in Germany: due to slight differences in the way Autobahn signs are laid out, I spent quite a while thinking “‘Ausgang” was a city! (Prior to every exit there was a big sign “AUSGANG”…”oh..ok…that’s obviously the exit for Ausgang…must be a bloody big city…”)
Straat – Street
Single – Crescent,
Weg – Road
Rylaan – Drive
While on the subject of navigating, we drive on the LEFT here. There’s also a few “rules” you won’t find in any book:
1) Don’t leave anything valuable on the passenger seat, or on the dashboard.
2) Minibus taxis will stop anywhere, anytime and change lanes without warning.
3) Many drivers believe an Orange traffic light means “Accelerate”. The effect of this tends to be a lot of red-light jumping, so if the signal is green for you, don’t just go!
4) The shortest period of time known to man is the time between the traffic light turning green, and when the car behind you starts hooting. (see rule 3)
One of the lesser-publicised places is:
The Drum Cafe
369 Jan Smuts, Craighall, Johannesburg.
Wednesday Nights, from 8 till 11.
R20.00 entrance fee, R10 to hire a (Djembe)drum.
Seriously good fun!
To search SA sites for what you’re looking for…
try one of the better South African search engines.
“Backpackers” will turn up some good links.
For newspapers which will turn up interesting headlines like:
“Police Station Robbed by Armed Gang”
“Man gets 40 years
for shooting gorilla”.
More South African travel info at,
If your like mountains, and spectacular scenery…head East, young person!
Check out this seriously refreshing Africa site, particularly for female travellers.
Finally, visit my website which is where this is written.