Cracking the Street-Racing Empire

Cape Town Street-Racers

Cracking the Street-Racing Empire

by Mia Arderne

Cape Town’s street-racing scene is a high velocity subcultural thrill, centering in Athlone and branching into dark streets throughout the city. After 10 PM, a host of stylishly skilled drivers revel in a dangerous nighttime pleasure far beyond the gaze of the tourists and, more compellingly, the law.


In Athlone on Wembly parking lot, I get out of my car – my little Toyota Tazz has never felt so diminished it all its life. The parking lot is techni-colored and buzzing in an influx of neon caps, brand-name tracksuits and a palette of modified vehicles. This is a world where men are identified by the cars they drive. The boosted-GTI driver next to me takes one look at my common unmodified ergonomic Toyota Tazz and scoffs. You are what you drive.

Tip 1: Show up in a boosted vehicle if you want any respect.

It is a clear night. I can almost see the stars through the dusty clouds of diesel pollution. 11 PM is daylight for street-racers. This crowd only meets on certain nights, as not every night sees a race. It’s Sunday, and Sunday is a big race night. So are Thursdays. Fridays and Saturdays sometimes are too, but Sundays and Thursdays are the biggest. And never waste your time going to a race when it rains. A wet road equals no race.

Tip 2: Get your timing right.

A Honda with at least 16 subs drives past, the bass shaking the tar beneath my feet and rattling  my spine. A symphony of whale’s penises and branch-fitted exhausts fills the air. What are whale’s penises, I hear you ask? Enhanced manifold filters used to increase the noise and fool the gullible rivals. Also, here in the Mother City, we do not race, we dice.

Tip 3: Familiarize yourself with the jargon.

From the back of the fast food Roadhouse queue, I smell the masala steak on the grill. This is half the reason I’m here. Wembly’s fast food Roadhouse just across the street from the techni-colored parking lot. Buy food anywhere else during the race, and you would be missing out. Not that you could, because everything else is closed on Sunday at 11 PM. Prices are good, portions are gigantic, spicing is sublime.

Tip 4: If you know nothing about cars, get yourself a sizzling steak roll and just watch.

Abdul and Ashraf pull up in a RunX RSI and a yellow Honda Civic respectively. The Honda Civic is stabilized by silver rods, adorned with a fin and credited with lowered suspension. The rivals greet each other with a respectful, “Slamat” – and a kiss on either cheek. With one hand in his pocket and the other one smoking a Rothmans, the Honda Boy gets out of the vehicle and joins the other Hondas. The racing crews are sectioned out: Honda Boys, RunX Boys, Nissan Boys, V-Dub Boys etc.

 Tip 5: Understand that you may be affiliated according to what you drive.

I do not race. I have one reason for this: I don’t have a fast enough car and I will not make a fool of myself. This is okay. There are many spectators here with steak rolls, hookah pipes and brandies (artfully concealed) to enjoy the race. If you do decide to race, however, make sure you know the stakes. You can race for fun, for status, for money or for pink slips.

Tip 6: Assuming you haven’t watched The Fast & The Furious, pink slips means you’re racing for your opponent’s car and he is racing for yours.

My street-racing friend, Leatin Booys, with his neon green sneakers and their oversized tongues sticking out beneath his tracksuit, is ready to dice. Foot on the pedal of his emerald Nissan Saber 2lt VVL, Leatin neglects to see the police insidiously snaking towards us. When he looks in his rear-view, the flashing blue lights are invasive and the howling siren signals panic. All systems go. He drops the clutch. Cars flood from the garage. It’s every man for himself now. And I’m stuck in a car with no pull-away power.

Tip 7: Be aware that street-racing is illegal. And the cops in Cape Town are a merciless bunch of thugs with chips on their shoulders who don’t need half a reason to rough you up properly.  

The Ghost Eater and Other Stories


My contributing story, ‘The Fool’ is a comedic short story about thievery. It is about a girl who falls in love with a woman only to find out that her lover is not who she thinks she is. When she wakes up after an enthralling seduction by this professional temptress, she encounters a very unpleasant surprise. ‘The Fool’ was recently published by Umuzi in an anthology called ‘The Ghost-eater and Other Stories’, compiled by Diane Awerbuck and edited by Louis Greenberg.



My Hometown Downtown Cape Town

The Other Side of the Mother CityMy Hometown, Downtown Cape Town,

By Mia Arderne

The drug lord twists around in his wheelchair with sudden and violent fervor. I can barely breathe. Around his neck are two gold chains thick enough to whack someone dead. I’m in the grimy Northern Suburbs of Cape Town.

I’ve come here for cheap booze after hours. In Cape Town, retailers cannot legally sell alcohol after 6 p.m. and pubs cannot legally sell alcohol after 2 a.m. It is 2:35 a.m. on the Thursday of one shitty week, and so the tavern is my only refuge right now.

Smokkies. Taverns. Yaardts. These are illegal establishments selling illegally acquired alcohol in every dubious suburb, should you venture beyond that line of privilege. The goddam privileged little cushion of central Cape Town is the reason I’m here in the first place. I can’t afford the CBD anymore.

All Hail Cape Town’s Uptown cosmopolitan CBD, the wine-farms and the sea. Table Mountain. Long Street. Beach Road. High-heeled glamour sluts, young Black Economic Empowerment executives, old money hipsters, Maserati-driving retirees, botoxed cougar moms and shore-dwelling cocktail-sippers…

I’ve lived here for twenty-four years and I tell you that Cape Town is what I like to think of as the Third World Bourgeoisie. A place so pretentious, I can’t afford a drink because a drink requires posh boutique clothing and an exorbitant entry fee.

So, here I sit, in downtown Cape Town, in a nameless tavern – All the good ones are nameless. The dingy, rickety building in the declining suburb is identifiable only by the string of expensive cars outside – Mustangs, Hummers, Audi R8’s and even a Ferrari or two. There are similar smokkies in Delft, a few in Ravensmead, a couple more in Belhar – don’t bother with the big, infamous one in Gugulethu – that one was specially designed for tourists.

Rough laughter erupts from the alcohol-soaked. The regulars hold their glasses of brandy while they recline on loose car seats scattered in the yard. Their decor is broken fenders and shattered glass. I watch the drug lord’s potbelly jiggle. I see the three Alsatians follow him around. Mercenaries. At the click of his fingers, three of my limbs could find their way into a different hound’s snout.

The brandy slides down my throat. I consider: What’s the best thing about this place? I don’t have to make conversation about marketing with a hipster wearing a Ramones T-shirt, ordering a R60 Mojito in a club that costs me R50 to walk in.

The kingpin is speaking to a customer. He slams his drink down so hard, I brace myself for the glass to smash and splinter into pieces. It doesn’t

His bubbling emphysema laugh reverberates through the yaardt and seizes everyone’s attention. The drinkers burst out laughing with him. At nothing. Because, in downtown Cape Town, you learn to laugh, genuinely laugh, at nothing.

A Taxonomy of Youth Culture in Cape Town

This piece deciphers the Mothers City’s Cliques, analyzing the Yuppies, the Hipsters, the Poppies and the Zef riffraff, so you may know where to place yourself – or not to place yourself.

“A Taxonomy of Youth Culture in Cape Town” is formerly known as my “Cape Town Cliques, A battle of sub-cultures” – and you may find it all at the bottom of this blog.

It has since been published by Matador Network.

Here is the Link:

Cape Town Cliques

Cape Town Cliques

Pigs In Golfs, A Novella


My novella, ‘Pigs in Golfs’ is an urban horror. It explores the twisted appetite of a brutal policeman. The story traces his despicable acts until the cop’s final collision with a street-racer, his gypsy lover and a Glock .22.

‘Pigs in Golfs’ is published by Fox&Raven.





– Composed by the brilliant Adolf J de Beer