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Secure the parking lot; charge the mall

Author: • Jun 25th, 2008 •

Category: Ballardosphere, consumerism, urban revolt, war

We pick up the story as the Metro-Centre shopping mall is overrun and sealed off by a private paramilitary force, forcing a confrontation with police and regular army outside…

‘The Metro-Centre is secure … Withdraw all army units … Repeat, the Metro-Centre is secure … We have hostages … Repeat, we have hostages …’

I stared at the heavy shield, and helped the elderly man to the chair by the enquiry desk. He thanked me and said: ‘Your foot’s bleeding.’

‘I know. Tell me — are we sealed in?’

‘It looks like it.’

‘The North Gate entrance?’

‘I imagine that’s also closed.’

‘And the side exits?’

‘Everything. The car parks and freight entrance.’…

‘…these shopping malls haven’t learned how to cope with violence. When they do…’

‘War will move into the world’s consumer spaces? That’s quite a thought. Up till now, buying a washing machine has been a safe option…’

J.G. Ballard, Kingdom Come, 2006.


In the latest attack in Gauteng, a policeman was critically injured in a shoot-out with a gang of 12 bombers armed with AK47 and R5 assault rifles. In the early hours of Friday morning the gang took control of a parking lot at Bracken City shopping centre, in Brackenhurst, south of Johannesburg. They took about 20 people hostage before blowing up a First National Bank ATM.

“They were like a mini army. The shoot-out ensued when the police heard the explosion and came to investigate,” police spokesman Steady Nawa said.

News report, the Times (South Africa), 2008.

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6 Responses »

  1. Yes, South Africa has its Ballardian moments.

    The former wife of FW de Klerk was killed in a secure gated community.

    A friend of mine’s wife was killed by a security guard from her secure gated community after she gave him a lift.

    Outside Jo’burg at a place called Diepkloof there’s an exclusive secure gated community opposite one of the less well-of townships. A notable feature of the landscape is a giant elevated sewage pipe running to a disposal site somewhere in the bush.

    No parallels to Alphaville, though. But if you Google Ponte City — erected around the time High Rise was written — you might find something to interest you.

  2. 1) When I was last in South Africa, the news was that a party of German travel agents taking a bus tour of Khayelitsha township had stopped to watch some “traditional dancers”, who immediately demanded money and valuables at the pistol’s point from everyone except the organiser and driver. It struck me that it might almost have been deliberately arranged as part of the show.

    2) At the same time, a young man who had been unavailingly trying to obtain his national identity card for several years took hostages at the ID card office. An ID card was made out in haste and flown from Pretoria to the scene of the crime by helicopter, after he phoned a radio show to issue demands – the authorities were galvanised by the degree of popular support other callers showed.

    3) MTN found a way of filling their spankin’ new 3G network – a service that lets you monitor your home surveillance cams from your mobile phone.

    4) Cape Town newspapers’ personals are full of “French-speaking black men” advertising escort services. I don’t know if the French bit is a codeword.

  3. 1. The carnivalesque qualities of crime are surely unappreciated in this country.

    2. The bureaucracy in question is pure Kafka, only to be outdone by the experience of going through the border into Zimbabwe (where the officials direct you to black market currency touts).

    3. This makes it possible to apply the Alphaville model to society as a whole. Now you can experience the comforts of alienation anywhere, anytime.

    4. I have no idea about this but I’ll be sure to find out. My guess is that ‘French-speaking’ means ‘exploitable to the hilt’. Cape Town is rotten with paedophilia, so that could be a code of sorts.

    Incidentally your story about almost being hit by an electric truck has given me a lead for an article I’m working on. Thanks!

  4. All right!

    Ponte’s been revived — ‘beautiful living in the roughest part of town’ — let’s see what happens next.

    http://www.newponte.co.za/

  5. To you both: wow. Just wow.

    Bosse, we know all about Ponte and its correlation with High-Rise! http://www.ballardian.com/you-are-hochhaus-ballard-in-berlin

  6. I would say the “french-speaking” is literally french-speaking men. There are thousands of french-speaking immigrants from west africa living in south africa. perhaps the current xenophobic climate makes prostitution a desperate source of income.

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