Stored in limited shade against a wall, quarts of beer do little to cool temperatures, but are raised when the first of the BMWs heads straight to the flat tar area, immediately creating a cloud of smoke and causing the small scrum of enthusiasts to abandon their posts, swirling their towels in the air and creating a cacophony of appreciative tjovitjos (whistles). The tyres don’t take too long to implode as the tar consumes the molten rubber.
BMW has a long relationship with South African townships. In the early nineties it was common for township guys to illustrate their affection for the 325is by giving them names like Gusheshe (hurry up), with later models in the 3 Series range being christened the Dolphin, the G-string and, more recently, the Shabir Shaik (named after the 7 Series in which the Durban businessman cruised to court during his corruption trial in 2004 and 2005).
The old 5 Series was referred to as Isandla Semfene (the hand of a monkey), and an earlier model went by the Matchbox moniker because of its shape.
The 325is, though, was the best of them all and remains a thing of beauty. It was also sometimes associated with folks who indulged in criminal activity from time to time. Over the years, however, the car – like Converse All Stars – it has become a symbol of cool, often driven and worn by abokleva (wise guys), do-gooders and regular Joes alike.
Back in Block F, the death of Bongani Makhubo, who was reputed to be one of the best spinners in Gauteng, has mobilised Soshanguve Spin City to portray their sport as a clean, safe endeavour in his honour. Makhubo, who died after a short illness, was part of Spin City (co-founded by Reikhutsitse Malala, Thabiso Mosima and Fassie Masilo), and left behind an ambition to see the sport of spinning reach lofty heights; something like the prestige and corporate support that drifting and drag racing enjoy. But beyond its commercial potential, the sport remains an expression of township swagger and cool essence.
And today’s hip-hop lifestyle, a staple for most township youth, has no chance of eclipsing its appeal in the eyes of the twenty-something professionals at Spin City. They speak a strange combination of Setswana, Sesotho and Afrikaans that no one outside of Pretoria seems to understand, but their passion is as bright as the sun above.
“The attitude which accompanies driving a BMW makes you feel manly,” says Malala, who is also the marketing manager of Soshanguve Spin City.
“The engine is something else and it releases the inner beast in you. There is this misconception that these cars are driven by thugs, which is completely false, but sometimes the carefree nature of thugs can be attractive to people. Getting inside a 325is can make you feel uber-cool and carefree all at once. Even the girls will be looking at you with an approving eye. In the United States, they talk about American muscle like the Chevrolet Impala or Mustangs, but ko kasi (in the township) it’s the BMW all the way. I don’t know what it is about this car, maybe there is witchcraft involved in the way it makes us feel.”