Tatane project: Johannesburg

2011-05-21 18:59

There is a lot more to my Jozi than the billing crisis that, sadly, has defined the electoral narrative. There is more good news, and decidedly deeper and more interesting challenges than elsewhere.

In the next two years, I will travel to its poorest sections and live the day-to-day life of those people who might as well inhabit a different universe from mine (and yours), though we live only kilometres apart.

In this city of four million, the developmental task is to deal with rapid urbanisation (growing at a rate surpassed only by Cape Town’s), and unemployment and unequal development.

This while maintaining the economic infrastructure at the heart of the growing South African economy.

Joburg has highly developed capital markets and commands a significant budget, but it is the council with the deepest liquidity problems.

This must be top of mayor Parks Tau’s inbox, and will be the area I study first.

The city’s record of development is unbeaten in areas like Soweto but it has yet to touch places like Diepsloot in meaningful ways.

The grouchiness of the suburbs, from which the the ANC was routed despite the growing black middle class, tells a story.

Potholes, traffic lights that work, better public transport and decent roads are no longer a “white” issue, but one of significance to all citizens.

Joburg is the first port of call for investors and big money looking for a way into Africa. We must make it a place where it is a pleasure to do business in, or the slogan “Africa’s world-class city” will only fuel the cynics’ criticism.

Ours is the city with the ignominious privilege of being the most unequal in the world.

It is, therefore, one of the most interesting to run. I look forward to shadowing mayor Parks Tau.

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