Thu. Feb 25th, 2021

A run-down mess: Joburg now far from a city of world-class standards

Filth and falling standards have turned the City of Gold into a less desirable place to live, forcing many of its residents to consider greener pastures.

a run down mess joburg now far from a city of world class standards 1024x768 - A run-down mess: Joburg now far from a city of world-class standards

Johannesburg is losing its appeal as one of the country’s most desirable places to live. And this in a city often thought to be streets ahead of other towns and metros in the country, earning it the title of a world-class African city.

A recent study placed Johannesburg on the list of the world’s top 10 unhealthiest cities to live in, according to Lenstore’s Heathy Lifestyle Cities Report 2021, as published in BusinessTech earlier in January.

The once-proud African city which used to be in a class of its own appears to be a shadow of its former self. Falling standards, failing infrastructure, mass corruption, lack of maintenance and poor service delivery are among the factors making Johannesburg no longer worthy of the gold status the local municipality once bestowed on it.

JOBURG A FASCINATING METROPOLIS

Johannesburg is a sprawling metropolis that is home to the largest number of people in the country. The city was developed more than a century ago following the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand, despite there not being a reliable water source nearby, making Johannesburg one of the only cities in the world that was not established near a water source.

Johannesburg is also known to have the largest manmade urban forest in world, with an estimated 10 million trees having been planted across the city. Magnificent views from Northcliff Ridge, Houghton’s Munro Drive or Kensington Ridge reveal this urban forest.

JOBURG THE POWERHOUSE OF SOUTH AFRICA

Johannesburg is the largest city in the country and the economic powerhouse of South Africa. The decentralisation trend began decades ago, when leafy suburbs began to sprout up around the city centre. Many of Johannesburg’s residents relocated to the city’s suburbs, seeking more suburban lifestyles.

The city boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the country, including Africa’s richest square mile, between Sandton and Rivonia. Many of Johannesburg’s suburbs, however, do not look like they belong to a prized metropolis.

CITY OF GOLD NO LONGER WORTHY OF GOLD STATUS

86b5ba66 joburg flooded - A run-down mess: Joburg now far from a city of world-class standards
Yet another burst pipe in Mendelsohn Road, Roosevelt Park. Image: Lorne Philpot

Despite the city’s natural beauty, Johannesburg is a city in a state of decline. Many parts of the city and its suburbs are beginning to resemble urban settlements in dysfunctional parts of the world. 

Disruptions in electricity supply are common aggravations which residents all over the city face almost daily. These may occur as part of scheduled loadshedding cycles or unexpected power outages. Many parts of Joburg have planned power outages twice a day, for up to four-and-a-half hours at a time.

1ac5accb joburg pothole - A run-down mess: Joburg now far from a city of world-class standards
Potholes are plentiful, even in upmarket suburbs like Northcliff. Image: Lorne Philpot

Then there are also water cuts. Parts of Johannesburg often have no running water for several hours or even days at a time. It is most aggravating when both the water and electricity supplies are disrupted simultaneously.

Potholes, litter and burst pipes among the problems

63b36b9f joburg pole down - A run-down mess: Joburg now far from a city of world-class standards
A mangled street light lies alongside Beyers Naude Drive at Northcliff Corner. Image: Lorne Philpot

Roads peppered with potholes, impassible pavements covered with overgrown vegetation, sewage spills, streets lined with litter and uncollected garbage, and burst waterpipes are just some of the issues residents have to deal with daily.

Add to that vandalised infrastructure, mangled traffic lights and dissembled street signs at every turn, and it becomes a mess.

IMPACT OF DETERIORATING INFRASTRUCTURE

80b65b53 joburg pavement - A run-down mess: Joburg now far from a city of world-class standards
Pavements with parts of the paving missing are all too common. This is in Blackheath. Image: Lorne Philpot

In many respects, the decline of Johannesburg can be attributed to deteriorating standards, and the lack of service and maintenance of public infrastructure. 

A Fourways resident recently took to social media swimming in the “pool” he had created from a flooded sinkhole. The video clip went viral, highlighting the service delivery issues the city experiences on an ongoing basis. 

Lack of maintenance makes several parts of Johannesburg an eyesore. With paving ripped up during maintenance work and often never replaced, it is often not possible to walk along pavements.

Many of the city’s public areas have overgrown vegetation or are blighted by litter or illegal dumping.

Driving at night a scary business in Joburg

Driving in parts of Johannesburg at night can be scary, especially when roads are studded with potholes, there is a lack of overhead lighting from vandalised or malfunctioning streetlights, and traffic lights are damaged or non-functioning.

It seems there is little ability or desire to maintain the city’s once world-class infrastructure. Residents complain the rates and taxes they pay don’t appear to be used for maintenance or upkeep of the city’s infrastructure.

THEFT AND VANDALISM PLAGUE THE CITY

850005e6 joburg damaged street sign - A run-down mess: Joburg now far from a city of world-class standards
A vandalised street sign in Risidale. Image: Lorne Philpot

Theft and vandalism are also a cause for concern, leaving parts of Johannesburg looking like they have been transformed into a dark underworld. Many streets no longer have pavements as the paving has been removed.

Many public bins are overflowing and damaged, street names and road signs have been vandalised or uprooted, and are no longer fit for purpose. Bus shelters, too, have not escaped destruction, many of them bearing signs of graffiti and vandalism.

Johannesburg is home to a large number of parks which are prized open spaces for the city’s residents. Many of the city’s parks are strewn with litter and so overgrown they cannot safely be enjoyed. Many have become home to the city’s growing number of homeless residents.

DECLINING QUALITY OF LIFE SPARKS EXODUS 

Sadly, the standard of living in Johannesburg is no longer what it used to be, forcing many residents to seek a better quality of life both elsewhere in South Africa and outside the country.

“We are hoping to get out of Joburg. We would love to be in a small dorp somewhere. I just want to be away from this madness,” Fourways resident Louise Mathias said.

Lonehill resident Petro Berg said: “All of my closest friends have left Johannesburg. Mara moved to Haga Haga, Cheryl went to Parys, Ellie moved to the Natal Midlands and Christine moved to England within the last few years. I have no friends left in Joburg any more.

“If my daughter decides to emigrate, I will move to a small town like Parys.”

Northcliff resident Mary Wellington said: “I have a house in Plett. I am going to move back there. Who wants to live in Joburg any more? If my grandkids weren’t here I would move back to Plett tomorrow.”

Impact of emigration and semigration

Emigration and semigration have always been a phenomenon Johannesburg has had to deal with.

A growing number residents, who previously might not have considered leaving Johannesburg, are now thinking about or moving away from a city that used to offer a world-class standard of living.

Semigration has been a big trend in South Africa since the lockdown, with residents from big cities like Johannesburg increasingly seeking a more laid-back country lifestyle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *