Facts About Durban Diary - Page # 7

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27 September 2003

This week it emerged that Durban now has its own theme song which is called Mdubane and was written in Zulu by Kwazulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor Phelelani Mnomiya. It was first performed on 24 September by the Durban Serenade Choral Society, the Durban Symphonic Choir and the Chesterville Choral backed by the KZNPO.

The Natal Mercury on 23 September provided the following English translation:

Mdubane [isiZulu for Durban*]

I gaze at the sunrise from the East
As it shines the lustrous ocean's waves
Beautiful Durban!

This huge and aged home
This kraal of variety
Clean Durban. Beautiful Durban!
A sweet breeze blows
Birds sing above the trees
Beautiful Durban! Clean Durban.

From the Wheel** to the Workshop**
I met Ngobese and Koekemoer at the Pavilion**
And at Gateway** was Govender and Smith
Oh Beautiful Durban!
There they are, going this way and that way
Signalling up and down

Hear the buzz of the wagons
Taking commuters from place to place
Oh what a beautiful Durban!
When the sun sets
They head home, back to their homesteads
The sun rests to the West
Between the clouds and mountains
Beautiful Durban! You're still beautiful!

House for songbirds and a kraal for song
I will not leave you
Oh Beautiful Durban!

*I speak a fair bit of Zulu but I don't remember ever hearing the word Mdubane used. I'll have to investigate further…
**Some Durban shopping malls.

I can't quarrel with the sentiments expressed and I look forward to hearing the song. I'll see if I can get a recording of it for you to download.

28 September 2003

Our subject today is parking meters which, I admit, is quite a jump from the matters choral which we discussed yesterday. Parking meters were introduced in Durban from 8am on 14 October 1957. The meters were Venner MkI Park-O-Matics and were placed in West Street between Broad Street and Aliwal Street. Motorists had to pay threepence to park for 15 minutes and sixpence for 30 minutes.

eThekwini Municipality's Kevan Mardon
with one of the original parking meters.

The Daily News reported later that day that things had started pretty quietly in West Street with many empty parking spots but that they had soon filled-up with the arrival of shoppers.

The reporter said that motorists had been caught on the hop by the meters and had to dash, swearing, into nearby shops to get change. Only the arrival of a man from Mars could have caused more excitement, said the reporter, as groups of 15-20 people gathered round City Policemen who were explaining how the meters worked. One 'kindly old gentleman' outside a tearoom cinema [the Roxy or the Capri perhaps] spent more than six shillings showing passersby how the meters worked.

The fines were £1 for staying longer than 30 minutes and £2 for not putting money in the meter at all. Motorists would be charged £2 for sticking notices onto or writing on meters and £5 for tampering with a meter or attempting to insert an incorrect coin.

Press reports at the time show that the majority of motorists were in favour of parking meters but many people did complain that half an hour was not long enough to do their business.


In the packet of stuff handed to me by Kevan were a couple of extracts from the annual reports made by the City Police to the City Council which raise a number of other trafic-related points:

  • In the report for the year 1955/56 the Chief Constable said that it was hoped to begin phasing out the traffic signals [robots] located in the middle of intersections in favour of ones at the sides of the streets. It was also hoped, he said, to fit two-way radios to six City Police patrol cars and six motorcycles to enable communication between them and the Police Station. There were 116 fatalities on the road in Durban during the year.
  • The 1957/58 report said that the radio equipment had been fitted to 6 cars and 4 motorcycles. It was also intended to mount four 'Native Constables' on bicycles to take action against cyclists flouting the law.
  • The 1958/59 report states that the conversion to traffic signals at the sides of the roads was complete, During the period 15 people were killed after 'rushing blindly into the road' and 7 were injured playing games in the street.

3 October 2003

On the last diary page I told of HMS Cornwall which was a fequent visitor to Durban in the early years of WWII. I have now recieved two new pictures of her which may be of interest.


Pictures courtesy Reg Monckton

<== Click the images to view enlargements. The one of the side view is wallpaper sized (1024x768px).

The pictures are undated but were taken sometime just before WWII. The large rectangular box visible on her deck in the side view was the hangar used to house her two seaplanes. The oval shapes mounted on the side of the hangar are the liferafts which were to be the salvation of many of Cornwall's crew.

12 October 2003

It's been a long time since my last entry in the diary but thats due to lack of time and not material. I have also had to order a new batch of Facts About Durban from the printers and I took the opporunity to produce Edition 1.1 in which some typing errors and inaccuracies have been corrected.

I saw by the Natal Mercury last week that Durban has now been twinned with Bremen in Germany and that a statement of intent has been signed with Nantes in France. In Facts About Durban I wrote:

Twin Cities

One of Durban’s earliest twinning agreements was with Eilat in Israel. We are also twinned with four ports around the world including Chicago in the USA, Guangzhou in China, Leeds in the UK and Rotterdam in Holland. These cities are also among the most important industrial powerhouses in their respective countries and all are important hubs for the movement of goods and people. Durban has lately concluded twinning agreements with Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, Oran in Algeria and Alexandria in Egypt. In early 2003 it was expected that an existing unofficial twinning with Bremen in Germany would be formalised and that agreements with the City of Nantes in France and a number of other cities in the southern hemisphere would be pursued.

The two agreements were signed during the recent Celebrate Durban Week as was a Memorandum of Understanding between eThekweni Municipality and the Port of Durban. The agreement was signed on 26 September 2003 and I know that it sounds a bit strange at first. The thing is that the port is not controlled by the municipality and it is probably just as well to remind the port authorities occasionally how important it is to Durban.

New photographs of the locomotive Natal which ran in Durban on the first railway line in South Africa have arrived from Transnet Foundation Trust. I've put them up on the Natal's page.

28 October 2003

Sorry to have been offline for so long but I was involved in helping out with a conference at the ICC and needed time to recover after that. I've been trying to track down the first computer in Durban and this is what I've found so far...

eThekwini Municipality Information Analyst John Mayor recently answered an appeal in my regular computing column in the Sunday Tribune for information about the first computer in Durban.
He told me that Durban Borough Treasurer's Department ran Hollerith Electro-mechanical Plugboard Tabulators from the early 1930's to generate telephone accounts and to keep a track of payments to the department. These devices were able to read data off of punch cards and print out invoices. John, who encountered similar machines in the early stages of his career, told me that his abiding memory of them is the smell of the vegetable oil used to lubricate the moving parts and which gave off a pleasant aroma reminiscent of frying chips as it heated up.
I personally believe that tabulators can be classified as computers and I think it is reasonable bet that the ones owned by the council were the first computers in Durban. (This was later proved incorrect. See Diary Page # 8 for Details- Allan.) Tabulators served the municipality until 1960 when an HEC (Hollerith Electronic Computer) 1202 was installed. It was the third electronic computer installed in South Africa with the first being at Old Mutual and the second at OK Bazaars.
This machine was replaced in the mid-1960s by an ICL 1301 at the behest of City Treasurer Ossie Gorven. It was replaced in turn in the late 1960s by an ICL 1904 mainframe which worked off transistors and had a whole 32Kb of memory to play with. It was equipped with paper tape readers, punch card readers, tape decks and exchangeable hard disks with a capacity of 8Mb each.

Picture courtesy John Mayor
An operator at the controls of Durban's ICL 1301 computer.

This machine was used until 1984 when it was replaced by an ICL 2948 which ran on silicon chips but it didn't function under testing as advertised and was replaced free of charge by the manufacturer with their 2952 model. The City Treasurer now has an IBM System 390 and two IBM AS400 machines which, incredibly enough, still run some of the programs first written for the ICL 1904 in the Sixties.

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