Next stop... Johannesburg

March 07 2015

It was crazy of me not to realise of course that there must be some organisation for so many people. Soweto stretches far and wide and has built into a huge area. Intermingled of course was the mass of people going about their business on and off the streets. Markets, stalls, the obligatory goat and cow where grazing allowed, and on the edges, the put up shanties, where the ladies washed clothes in the river, and probably drank the water too. There are many with no jobs and no hope of improvement. We did not delve deep so cannot speak from anything but feel, but compared with Cape Town where the township visits seemed hopeful, with real pockets of worthwhile production from united endeavours and sustainable projects, Soweto felt somewhat downcast and less optimistic.

Rainer Becker was honest and somewhat depressing about current affairs in South Africa, especially Johannesburg. He has lived and run businesses here a long time and was extremely knowledgeable as a guide. His attitude has been coloured by first-hand experience of how things work, or don't, here. Many big businesses have moved out of the centre to set up elsewhere and big high rise offices have been abandoned. Laws have changed and it's really hard to get tenants out if they don't pay their dues; many apartments end up with squatters, long abandoned by their landlords, unsellable as an asset and not able to be policed. Eventually the Mafia, usually opportunists from other parts of Africa, move in and use their own methods of policing.

On the other side of town where it is green and pleasant there are pretty parks, golf courses, shopping malls, big houses and private security. The police do not take any interest. It is the hub of the more affluent society where business takes place. The outlying towns are connected by good busses and trains to ensure a ready labour force but the two lives are still miles apart.

I paint a depressing picture but life goes on. In time one only hopes that common sense will prevail and the people will vote for what they believe in rather than being swayed only by tribal power. One hopes that money is poured into the infrastructure and education of the people of this great country rather than leeched out into powerful pockets.


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