Mention one of Africa’s biggest cities and most South Africans who don’t live in Johannesburg will tell you what a dreadful place it is, crime ridden and every road potholed where every car in the city is damaged after hitting one of these huge holes in the road.
Have a look at Johannesburg or Jozi or Joburg or Jhb closely and you’ll find something very different. You will find the financial hub of South Africa. You will find a city that has a “buzz” and where people are always busy “getting things done” as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s very likely this latter aspect that frightens non-Jozi residents where they refer to the “rat race”, but let’s have a look at different aspects of Egoli – the City of Gold.
The history of Johannesburg goes back thousands of years to when it was inhabited byhunter-gatherer people. The Johannesburg area was the home to Bushmen (San) and Stone Age and over time migrants established and Iron Age Culture and was formally established in 1886 with the discovery of gold and the Witwatersrand Reef.
Below is the farm where gold was first discovered in 1886.
After the discovery, the population of the city exploded, and Johannesburg became the largest city in South Africa. Today, it is a centre for learning and entertainment for virtually all of Africa a far cry from how it started in 1886 and developed by 1890 when this photograph was taken.
Johannesburg was initially controlled from Pretoria, the government capital of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republijk (ZAR) or Transvaal Republic and people came in huge numbers of the country and the world, including the UK, Europe and the USA.
Because of efforts to control the resources, tensions developed between the foreigners and the ZAR government and ended in the South African War (1899–1902). The British government applied scorched-earth techniques which included the burning of crops and killing of livestock. Thousands of Africans and Boer women and children were forcibly moved from their land into concentration camps where it’s estimated that around 40,000 died.
In 1902, ZAR was annexed by the British Empire and the Peace of Vereeniging was signed. The South African War left most of the Transvaal population homeless, poor and destitute leading to urbanization, cheap labour and the huge control of mining rights by foreigners.
During 1910, Lord Milner, governor of the Union government which was part of the British Commonwealth instituted Land Alienation Acts which resulted in many rural blacks being forced to leave for Johannesburg looking for employment in the mining industry.
After the National Party took power in 1948, it established the Group Areas Act and forcibly moved black population groups out of inner Johannesburg areas, such as Sophiatown to the newly developed Soweto, and acronym for South West Townships and which has become a city within a city.
JOHANNESBURG STOCK EXCHANGE
The discovery of gold resulted in mining and financial companies opening and a need soon for a stock exchange and The Johannesburg Exchange & Chambers Company was formed by a London businessman, Benjamin Minors Woollan on 8 November 1887. By 1890 the trading hall became too small and had to be rebuilt but this too was outgrown. Trading then moved into the street. The Mining Commissioner closed off Simmonds Street between Market Square and Commissioner Street by means of chains.
In 1903, a new building was built for the JSE on Hollard Street. It was a storey building that took up an entire whole city block bounded by Fox and Main, Hollard and Sauer Streets.
After 108 years, the open outcry system of trading was changed to an electronic system on 7 June 1996.
In September 2000, the Johannesburg Securities Exchange moved to its present location in Sandton and changed its official name to the JSE Securities Exchange.
JOHANNESBURG LEARNING INSTITUTIONS
Whilst there are many very good schools both private and State funded or partially State funded, it is the two universities that are probably the best known learning institutions in the city and amongst the best in the country.
The older of the two main universities is Witwatersrand University (Wits) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and formerly called Rand Afrikaans University.
Both universities offer a huge variety of courses leading to degrees in many subjects.
PLACES OF INTEREST
“There is nothing to do in Joburg” is what one often hears from “non-Joburgers” but nothing could be further from the truth. A trip into Soweto will take you to such places as the Hector Pieterson Memorial that shows the build up to the Soweto uprising in 1976 where the young Hector was the first person shot and killed by the police.
Also in Soweto you’ll find the only street in the world that has the houses of two former Nobel Peace Prize winners, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Those two houses are in Vilakazi Street in Orlando West.
Restaurants and plenty of them are in Soweto from your traditional “shebeen” serving local food to upmarket restaurants appealing to “white” pallets but with a mix of traditional and western food to suit everyone.
A little way outside Soweto is the Apartheid Museum where visitors spend hours looking at South Africa’s history.
Johannesburg boasts some of the finest shopping in the world and can certainly compete with the best in the world in terms of fashion from exclusive boutiques to the clothing chain stores to satisfy more modest taste and there is hardly any area in Johannesburg that doesn’t have a “mall” and in addition to clothing there are restaurants serving dishes from South African foods, steak specialists to foods from virtually anywhere in the world. Italian, Greek, Chinese, Thai, Sushi and everything else the heart desires.
An aerial view of Sandton shows just how it has developed since those early days of the beginning of the nineties when development started.
A very popular venue, particularly on a restful Sunday afternoon is Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton with its restaurants, and visitors both local and international with photographs being taken all the time of the giant statue of Madiba.
It is virtually impossible to cover all that Johannesburg has to offer in one blog so I will let you take all this in and next week I will complete our trip around this fascinating city of gold.