The City of Johannesburg

Essay by mahomedafzal January 2007

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Goudstad, Gauteng, Egoli. These are local names for Johannesburg and they all mean "City of Gold". There was certainly nothing above ground to encourage the development of such a large city on this spot, and the lack of a river, lake mountain or sea is sorely felt from a recreational point of view.

Many thousands of people work in central Johannesburg, and then rush home in the evenings to the townships, suburbs and neighboring cities, relieved to get away from what is admittedly one of Africa's "big smokes". But there are those, like me, who work and live here, and love it.

Concerning the notion that Johannesburg experiences "bad" weather, I spend many hours at my 21st floor windows watching the highveld thunderstorms build up and strike the city.

Shopping is interesting and fun. Let the suburbs keep their American-style shopping malls. We've got fruit-and-veg at reasonable prices at countless street mall; department stores and supermarkets; upmarket boutiques; multi shops; trendy shops; a range of cafes, and colourful and often educative graffiti which provides eye-pleasing entertainment.

It is at night that central Johannesburg truly comes its own, although violence and crime, for which our city unfortunately notorious, has harmed our theatres, music venues, cinemas, restaurants and clubs to some extent. Nevertheless, there are always full programmes everywhere.

Sad to say, there is the element of poverty. Nobody knows how many people, including children, live on the streets in makeshift shelters. Thousands of people live in rundown and overcrowded flats, certainly a step up from the street, but no fun to live in without electricity and heat. But we enjoy living here and want to see it flourish.

Poverty, unemployment, crime and dilapidation notwithstanding, my admittedly biased view is that central Johannesburg has a great future. For a taste of...