A Fresh Coat of Paint

Derek Watts
By Derek Watts | Follow @DerekWatts
Derek Watts has been a journalist for nearly 30 years, presenting on South African television since 1985 as a sports anchor. Derek has been an anchor and presenter on Carte Blanche since the programme's inception in 1988. See full profile

The Carte Blanche team have been regular visitors to Port St. Johns. Unfortunately, not usually to cover the town in glory.

And it has a rather grim claim to fame with Second Beach having had the most fatal shark attacks in the world.

It is one of the most scenic places in the country and has been a popular holiday destination for many decades. Port St. Johns has that laid back Wild Coast atmosphere with cows sauntering on to the golden sands and very chilled music emanating from a range of backpackers’ lodges.


And while you won’t find a casino or five-star hotel, there are some excellent “boutique” establishments and B&Bs overlooking the ocean or on the river’s edge.

But PSJ, the original home of Capital Radio, has lost some of its lustre over the years and it doesn’t help when it’s about a five hour drive (allowing for the perennial roadworks) from Durban or East London.

It also doesn’t help to boost tourism when the Thambo Municipality seems to have fallen prey to the country’s endemic wave of mismanagement which leaves officials driving limousines and workers begging for salary increases. Or, at times, just to be paid.

That may not be an excuse to dump loads of rubbish on the potholed streets or cover the Town Hall with faeces in protest. But it gives you some idea of the level of frustration felt by Municipal workers.

So you may be surprised, more likely shocked, to hear that we headed there to produce a positive Carte Blanche story. That’s because a band of citizens are rising up with their own protest… not with knobkerries but with paintbrushes.

And they are not just painting the town red, it’s every colour of the rainbow! The bridges, the picnic tables, the garden walls – even some of the dustbins – are getting a bright splash of paint.

I wasn’t sure if that would really constitute a Carte Blanche story. That it may resemble a plaster, so to speak, over a festering sore. But what we saw was something different. It wasn’t just about a few pots of paint and a slight lift for some well-worn structures. It was a community fighting to save their town with a common goal and spirit. From restaurant owners to waiters and schoolchildren, they are making a stand with brushes in hand.

And amidst the remaining rubble and signs of decay, there is an optimism and even faith that the new Mayor will be a further catalyst for revival.

I’m looking forward to my next visit. It is probably the last resort where you could still wear a red Speedo. And only the cows would be shocked.