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Travelers between SA’s urban centres quickly learn one surprising lesson: well-to-do citizens in each of this country’s big cities take inordinate pleasure in contemplating the misfortunes of the inhabitants of the other metros. Such schadenfreude is often accompanied by an unseemly gloating about the successes of the home city. These sentiments may originate in the late 19th century, when the English-speaking elites of Cape Town and Durban were suddenly supplanted in power and prestige. Johannesburg did not exist in 1880. By 1911 it contained 240,000 inhabitants, and the Witwatersrand as a whole held twice that number. Johannesburg remained a city of rough edges, but it became the heartland of money and power. Cape Town thereafter was a backwater. As for Durban, elites beyond then-Natal settled on the view that there was little need to take any further notice of it at all. A shared international schadenfreude partially united the country despite these internal divides. This was sus...

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