No go in ZA

In March I reported on the death of sometime Formula 1 driver Jackie Pretorius, who was killed when intruders broke into his house in Glen Austin, a top-end suburb of Johannesburg. It was, I wrote, the second such attack on the Pretorius house, Jackie’s wife Shirley having been killed in a previous assault a few years earlier… Such things are all too frequent in the modern South Africa.

Pretorius was not just your run-of-the-mill F1 driver. In South Africa he was aristocracy. A decendant of one of the earliest Dutch settlers, he was related to Andries Pretorius, who created the Transvaal Republic and his son Martinus, who was the first president of the South African Republic, wrote the constitution and founded the city of Pretoria in honour of his father. The message that came from this article is that South Africa is a dangerous place. It has a shocking record for crime and most emigrants report that the principal reason for their departure is the crime. For a long time it was carjacking that scared the tourists away, more recently bands of thieves have taken to entering restaurants and robbing the people eating in them. Wealthy people, such as Pretorius, live in gated communities with guards at the entrance.

The idea that South Africa was going to have a Grand Prix never made much sense to me. I was there when we last visited back in 1993 and even then one felt threatened. The local government may think that taking a sporting event to the country will help to soften the country’s poor image, but that is only going to happen if there are signs that the place is safe. Dropping 2000 F1 people into Johannesburg does not bear thinking about.

It is thus something of a relief to hear that plans to try to host a race in Guateng Province (the area around Johannesburg) have been abandoned following a review by the recently-appointed Member of Executive Council for Economic Development Firoz Cachalia. A seasoned minister at provincial level, Cachalia said that the plans failed to meet government guidelines to fund only events which meet the needs of the majority. He also said that existing race contracts violated clauses in the Public Finance Management Act.

So it is bye-bye to South Africa. If there is to be a Grand Prix on the African continent, the focus will need to switch back to the Mediterranean states.

11 thoughts on “No go in ZA

  1. How about a Grand Prix of Egypt, lots of nice hotels in Sharm and Taba. Nice and warm in March if the Aussies loose their bottle.

    It would also be fun to see the Egyptians haggling with Bernie ~ “What is your best price?”

  2. As a South African living in Johannesburg I’d like to point out a few things. While it’s true that crime is a problem here, I honestly think that things are starting to look up.

    We had the confederations cup here recently, and there were virtually no incidents. Next year we have the FIFA world cup, and hopefully that’ll go off without too many problems either.

    Still, even though I’m a fan of F1, I’m glad that our government will not be spending ludicrous amounts of money to stage a F1 race when there are plenty of things which should surely take priority as having a more direct impact on our lives. Things like better policing, stamping out corruption, housing, healthcare, etc. I honestly don’t know what the Gauteng province is busy sponsoring the Renault F1 team for as an example.

  3. Interesting you don’t seem to have a problem with the rampant crime in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Or will you wait until a “sometime f1-driver” is murdered there to speak out against running a race in the country?

  4. “If there is to be a Grand Prix on the African continent, the focus will need to switch back to the Mediterranean states.”

    Where is the modern-day Italo Balbo when you need him.

  5. A large numbver of people from my home town recently travelled to ZA for the British Lions rugby tour and I have heard nothing adverse about security or safety since their return. Having said that, knowing some of the lads that went I think ZA was in more danger from them.

    There is a quite interesting article about the real problems faced on the Lions tour here:
    It asks how the country will ever be able to cope with the forthcoming Football World Cup given it’s massive inability to copy with one tenth the number of Lions supporters.

    The article also suggests that the biggest risk to life and limb is road safety reporting that road traffic accidents are frequent and that the infrastructure is very poor.

    However, the Lions tour and the World Cup are big multi venue events and hosting a single venue event such as a Grand Prix may be easier.

    Having said that I completely understand your reluctance to go there Joe.

    You pays yer money…..

  6. Joe – I think you’ve got this one all wrong. I’m from the UK and have spent the last ~3yrs in Joburg and loved every second of it.

    Crime is an issue but isn’t as rampant as you make out. Pretorious was deeply unfortunate and given his background was likely targted by the gangs.

    As others point out the townships of Joburg are no worse than the slums of Sao Paulo and that country successfully hosts F1 year after year.

    Saying that the Government has better thing to spend its money on that a GP. However, if an event were held there there is no question it would pass off with no incident.

    South Africa hosts international cricket and rugby tournaments with no ado.

    Let’s see what the World Cup 2010 brings. I suspect you’ll soon see the error of your ways.

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