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Johannesburg is the most populous city in South Africa and the second most populous city in Sub-Saharan Africa, behind Lagos. Local residents refer to the city as Jo'burg, Jozi or eGoli, the latter meaning "place of gold" in Zulu. Forty percent of the world's gold has been found near the city, but this name is seldom used, even colloquially. Johannesburg is the provincial capital of Gauteng Province, the wealthiest province in South Africa, and the site of the South African Constitutional Court. It is among the newest major cities in the world, having been founded in 1886, and is one of the few major cities in the world not along a coast or near a large river. Other such cities are Mexico City and Phoenix.

Johannesburg is the financial capital of South Africa, hosting the JSE Securities Exchange, Africa's largest stock exchange. It is also the site of a large-scale gold and diamond trade due to its location on the mineral-rich Witwatersrand. Johannesburg is also the site of Johannesburg International Airport, the largest and busiest airport in Africa (although technically it lies in Kempton Park, in the Ekhuruleni municipality, which, although it may be considered part of the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Area has a separate municipal government).

According to the 2001 Census, the population of the city is more than three million. Johannesburg's land area of 1,644 km² is very large when compared to other cities—causing the population density to appear very low, at only 1,962/km². The population of the metropolitan area is almost eight million, based on projections from the 2001 census and other sources. This includes figures for the East Rand and West Rand, which are functionally integrated into the Johannesburg conurbation. The city is one of the 35 largest metropolitan areas in the world. Johannesburg is also listed as being Africa's only world city.

Johannesburg is also the largest urban forest in the world. There are an estimated 10 million trees across the city: 2.5 million trees in parks, cemeteries, nature reserves, conservation areas, by the roadside and on pavements, and 7.5 million trees on private property.

Johannesburg is twinned with Birmingham, England and New York City in the United States.



Main article: History of Johannesburg

The region surrounding Johannesburg has been inhabited for millions of years. The discovery of the 3.5 million-year-old Australopithecus africanus in a cave northwest of Johannesburg in 1998 is among the oldest human skeletons ever found.

Much later, around 100,000 years ago, South Africa became home to the nomadic San people. The San continued to live in the region surrounding Johannesburg until the Bantu-speaking people migrated into the area around the year 1060. The Bantu people were Iron Age people who domesticated animals, farmed crops, worked metal, made pottery, and lived in villages.

Johannesburg is situated in the northeastern quadrant of South Africa. This city's growth is testament to the gold rush in the region towards the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century.

Having initially discovered gold in the nearby eastern regions of Barberton and the area now known as Pilgrims Rest in the 1880s, prospectors soon discovered that even richer pickings were to be had on the Witwatersrand region.

The town was initially much the same as any small prospecting settlement, but as word spread, people flocked to the area from all other regions of the country as well as from North America, the United Kingdom, and Europe. As the value of control of the land increased, tensions developed between the Afrikaners, who controlled the region during the nineteenth century and the British, culminating in the South African War of 1899 to 1902. The Boers lost the war and control of this province, known as Transvaal, to the British.

When the British declared South Africa a Union in 1910, this paved the way for a more organised mining structure. The South African government instituted a harsh racial system whereby Blacks and Indians were heavily taxed, barred from holding skilled jobs and consequently forced to work as migrant labour on Johannesburg's growing crop of gold mines.

The South African government then instituted a system of forced removals, moving the black and coloured population into specified areas.It is this system that created the sprawling shantytown of Soweto (South West Township), one of the areas where Blacks were forced to live during the Apartheid era. Nelson Mandela spent many years living in Soweto and his Soweto home in Orlando is currently a major tourist attraction.

At the other end of the scale, Sophiatown during the early years of the 20th century was a vibrant centre in which many races lived alongside each other in relative calm. However, the National Party government changed that with its policy of Apartheid in the 1950s, forcibly removing residents in favour of a "whites-only" policy.

Large-scale violence broke out in 1976 when the Soweto Students' Representative Council organised protests against the use of Afrikaans, considered to be the language of the oppressors, in black schools. Police shot into a student march, and 1000 people died in the proceeding 12 months protesting the apartheid system.

The regulations of apartheid were abandoned in February 1990, and since the 1994 elections, Johannesburg has, in theory, been free of discriminatory laws. The black townships have been integrated into the municipal government system, and to some extent, the suburbs have become multiracial.


During the apartheid era, the area now Johannesburg was divided into 11 local authorities, one of these the original white Johannesburg. The local authorities were seven white and four black. The white authorities were 90 percent self-sufficient, spending Rand 600 (USD 93) per capita, while the black authorities were only ten percent self-sufficient, spending Rand 100 (USD 15) per capita.

The first post-apartheid city council was created in 1995. The council adopted the slogan "One City, One Taxpayer" in order to highlight its primary goal of addressing inequal tax revenue distribution. To this end, revenue from wealthy, traditionally white areas would help pay for services needed in poorer, black areas. It is now divided into four regions, each with a substantially autonomous local regional authority that was to be overseen by a central metropolitan council. Furthermore, the municipal boundaries were expanded to include wealthy satellite towns like Sandton and Randburg, poorer neighbouring townships such as Soweto and Alexandra, and informal settlements like Orange Farm.

In 1999, Johannesburg appointed a city manager in order to reshape the city's ailing financial situation. The manager, together with the Municipal Council, drew up a blueprint called "Igoli 2002". This was a three-year plan that called upon the government to sell non-core assets, restructure certain utilities, and required that all others become self-sufficient. The plan took the city from near insolvency to an operating surplus of Rand 153 million (USD 23.6 million).

The municipal council consists of 217 councillors, headed by a mayor.


Like most major cities, Johannesburg has a crime problem. After the Group Areas Act , one of Apartheid's key pieces of legislation, was scrapped in the early 1990s, Johannesburg was affected by urban blight , as thousands of poor, mostly black, people who had been forbidden to live in the city proper, moved into the city from surrounding black townships such as Soweto. Crime levels rose and non-payment of rent led to apartment buildings being abandoned by landlords, especially in the high-density areas such as Hillbrow. Many corporations and institutions, including the JSE Securities Exchange, moved their headquarters to the suburb of Sandton to avoid the crime of the city centre. Reviving the city centre is one of the main aims of the municipal government of Johannesburg. Drastic measures have been taken to reduce crime in the city. These measures include closed-circuit television on street corners. The latest police statistics show that crime levels in Johannesburg have dropped as the economy has stabilised and begun to grow.

Geography and climate

South Africa is in the southern hemisphere, and experiences the opposite seasons from the northern hemisphere. Johannesburg is located in the eastern plateau area of South Africa, known as the Highveld, at an elevation of 1753 metres, which enjoys a dry, sunny climate with the exception of occasional late afternoon downpours from the months of October to April.

Temperatures in Johannesburg are usually fairly mild, with the average maximum daytime temperature in summer being around 26°C, dropping to an average maximum of around 20°C in winter. During the winter, the temperature occasionally drops to below freezing, causing frost. The annual average rainfall is 600 mm to 800 mm, which is mostly concentrated in the summer months.

Johannesburg's relatively dry climate has not stopped local residents and the city council from planting an abundance of trees, and the city prides itself on having the most planted trees of any city, about six million, which has created a forest-like appearance, especially in the lush northern suburbs.

Johannesburg from the
Johannesburg from the International Space Station


According to the 2001 South African National Census, the population of Johannesburg is 3,225,812 people, who live in 1,006,930 formal households, of which 86% have a flush or chemical toilet, and 91% have refuse removed by the municipality at least once a week. 86% of households have access to running water, and 80% use electricity as the main source of energy. 22% of Johannesburg residents stay in informal dwellings. 65% of households are headed by one person.

Black Africans account for 73% of the population, followed by whites at 16%, coloureds at 6% and Asians at 4%. 42% of the population is under the age of 24. 6% of the population is over 60 years old. 37% of city residents are unemployed. 91% of the unemployed are black. Women comprise 43% of the working population. 19% of economically active adults work in wholesale and retail sectors, 18% in financial, real estate and business services, 17% in community, social and personal services and 12 percent are in manufacturing. Only 0.7% work in mining

34% of Johannesburg residents speak Nguni languages at home, 26% speak Sotho languages, 19% speak English, and 8% speak Afrikaans. 29% of adults have graduated from high school. 14% have higher education (University or Technical school). 7% of residents are completely illiterate. 15% have primary education.

34% use public transportation to commute to work or school. 32% walk to work or school. 34% use private transportation to travel to work or school.

53% belong to mainstream Christian churches. 24% are atheist. 14% are members of African Independent Churches . 3% are Muslim. 1% are Jewish. 1% are Hindu.


Johannesburg is the economic and financial hub of South Africa, producing 16% of South Africa's gross domestic product, and 40% of Gauteng's economy. Mining is the main source of the Witwatersrand's economy, but is importance gradually declining. While gold mining no longer takes place within the city limits, most mining companies have their headquarters in Johannesburg. The city has a great variety of manufacturing industries, including steel and cement plants. Many banking and commercial companies are also located in there. Johannesburg has Africa's largest stock exchange, the JSE Securities Exchange. Due to its commercial importance, this city is the site of a number of government branch offices, as well as consular offices and other institutions that are usually found only in capital cities. The Witwatersrand urban complex is a major consumer of water in a dry region. Its continued economic and population growth has depended on schemes to divert water from other regions of South Africa and from the highlands of Lesotho, but additional sources will be needed early in the 21st century.

The container terminal at City Deep is purported to be the largest "dry port" in the world, with some 60% of cargo that arrives through the port of Durban arriving in Johannesburg. The City Deep area has been declared an IDZ (industrial development zone) by the Gauteng government, as part of the Blue IQ Project.

Johannesburg's largest and most prestigious shopping centre is Sandton City. Other centres include Eastgate, Westgate, Northgate, Southgate and Cresta. There are also plans to build a 250 000 m˛ shopping centre, known as the Zonk'Izizwe Shopping Resort, in Midrand, on the outskirts of the city. "Zonk'Izizwe" means "All Nations" in Zulu, indicating that the centre will cater to the city's diverse mix of peoples and races.

Communications and media

Several newspapers and magazines have their offices in the city, among them the most important are:

Johannesburg has two TV towers, the Hillbrow Tower and the Sentech Tower.


Main article: Suburbs of Johannesburg
City Centre

The streets of the city centre and the surrounding inner-city suburbs, such as Joubert Park, Hillbrow, and Berea are lined with skyscrapers which house many of Johannesburg's largest companies. Many people from Soweto have given up township living to join the African immigrants who've thronged to the inner city, taking over abandoned office blocks and decaying warehouses. On the western edge of Hillbrow is Constitution Hill, the seat of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.


Soweto is a mostly black urban area to the south west of the City Centre. During the apartheid regime, Soweto was constructed for the specific purpose of housing African people who were then living in areas designated by the government for white settlement, such as the multi-racial area called Sophiatown. Today, Soweto is among the poorest parts of Johannesburg, however there have been recent signs of economic improval and Soweto has become a centre for nightlife.

Eastern suburbs

Yeoville, east of Berea, is a hub of Black nightlife in Johannesburg. East of Yeoville is Observatory, a quiet area with large houses. Directly east of the city centre are Troyeville and Bez Valley, patches of which are slowly being gentrified.

Northern suburbs

As the city centre has seen a major demographic change over the past ten years, with some urban blight and inner city decay, many businesses have relocated to the northern suburbs. The northern suburb closest to the city is Parktown, which has many wealthy inhabitants and Edwardian mansions. Just west of Parktown is Westcliff.

Directly north of Parktown are the suburbs of Saxonwold and Houghton. After Houghton is Rosebank, then Hyde Park, Sandton, and Morningside, all predominantly white and very wealthy enclaves. Since 2000, Sandton is the home of the JSE Securities Exchange, turning it into the financial centre of the city.

Northwestern suburbs

West of Parktown is Auckland Park, which is where the South African Broadcasting Corporation and the University of Johannesburg are located. The nearby suburb of Greenside has enjoyed a resurgence in property value and investment.

North of Auckland Park lies Melville, which has been transformed into a bohemian enclave of restaurants, cafés, bookstores and nightspots since the South African Broadcasting Corporation moved its headquarters to the adjacent suburb of Auckland Park.

West of Melville is Sophiatown, once one of the most vibrant black suburbs in the city. Considered a criminal and political hotbed, the entire suburb was razed to the ground in the 1950s. In its place was built the all-white suburb of Triomf, meaning triumph in Afrikaans. The only remaining Sophiatown building is the Church of Christ the King. The area has since reverted to its original name of "Sophiatown".


Johannesburg is not generally known as a tourist destination, but the city is a transit point for connecting flights to Cape Town, Durban, and the Kruger National Park. Consequently, most international visitors to South Africa pass through Johannesburg at least once.

Tourists from Africa alone spend $1.5 billion per annum at the many shopping malls located in the city, causing some to refer to Johannesburg as "the Dubai of Africa".

The Cradle of Humankind [1] UNESCO World Heritage Site is 25 kilometres to the north-west of the city. The Sterkfontein fossil site is famous for being the world's richest hominid site and produced the first adult Austropithecus africanus , and the first near-complete skeleton of an early Australopithecine.

Sports teams and stadiums

Johannesburg is a major regional centre for sport and home to the following sport clubs :
Johannesburg will be the location of some of the matches of the FIFA 2010 World Cup, which is to be held in South Africa.


Johannesburg, much like Los Angeles, is a young and sprawling city geared towards private motorists, and lacks a convenient public transportation system. However, as many of Johannesburg's residents are comparatively poor when compared to those of Los Angeles, a significant number are unable to afford their own cars and are dependant on the city's informal minibus taxis.

Mass transit

Johannesburg's metro railway system connects central Johannesburg to Soweto, Pretoria, and most of the satellite towns along the Witwatersrand. The railways transport huge numbers of workers every day. However, the railway infrastructure was built in Johannesburg's infancy and covers only the older areas in the city's south. In the past half century Johannesburg has grown largely northwards, and none of the northern areas, including the key business districts of Sandton, Midrand, Randburg, and Rosebank, have any rail infrastructure.

The Gauteng Provincial Government's Blue IQ Project, however, has made provisions for the creation of a rapid rail link running north to south between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and east-west between Sandton and Johannesburg Airport. Slated to be ready in time for the 2010 Football World Cup, the rail system is being designed to alleviate traffic on the N1 freeway between Johannesburg and Pretoria, which records vehicle loads of up to 160,000 per day.


Johannesburg is served by Johannesburg International Airport for both domestic and international flights. Other airports include Rand Airport , Grand Central Airport and Lanseria. Rand Airport, located in Germiston, is a small airfield used mostly for private aircraft and the home of South African Airways's first Boeing 747 Classic, the Lebombo, which is now an aviation museum. Grand Central is located in Midrand and also caters to small, private aircraft. Lanseria Airport is used for commercial flights to Cape Town, Botswana, and Sun City.


Johannesburg is served by a bus fleet operated by Metrobus, a corporate unit of the City of Johannesburg. It has a fleet consisting of approximately 550 single and double-decker buses, plying 84 different routes in the city. This total includes 200 modern buses (150 double-deckers and 50 single-deckers), made by Volvo and Marcopolo/Brasa in 2002. Metrobus' fleet carries around 20 million passengers per annum.

Metrobus also operates a number of open-top buses in the "City Slicker" role, using them to provide guided tours around the city.

In addition there are a number of private bus operators, though most focus on the inter-city routes, or on bus charters for touring groups.


Johannesburg has two kinds of taxis, metered taxis and minibus taxis. Unlike in most cities, metered taxis are not allowed to drive around the city looking for passengers and instead must be called and ordered to a destination. Metered taxis are rare, in comparison to many other cities.

Minibus "taxis" are not really taxis. They operate as unscheduled small buses. Each tends to ply one route, each passenger pays a fare, and the "taxi" does not leave until it is full. Typically the minibuses used are rented by the day by the driver for a fixed fee who then must compete for passengers in a mad free for all. Turf wars are common and organised crime plays a big part. Consequently the minibus "taxis" are regarded by many as an utter menace to other road users. Many of these taxis are unlicensed and unroadworthy and some drivers blantly disobey traffic regulations and signs.

Usually the metered taxis are used from time to time by the wealthy middle classes, the minibus "taxis" are the de facto standard and essential form of transport for the majority of the population.


Main article: Johannesburg Freeways

The fact that Johannesburg is not built near a large navigable body of water has meant that from the very beginning of the city's history, ground transportation has been the most important method of transporting people and goods in and out of the city. One of Africa's most famous "beltways" or ring roads/orbitals is the Johannesburg Ring Road. The road is comprised of three freeways that converge on the city, forming an 80-kilometre (50-mile) loop around it: the N3 Eastern Bypass, which links Johannesburg with Durban; the N1 Western Bypass, which links Johannesburg with Pretoria and Cape Town; and the N12 Southern Bypass, which links Johannesburg with Witbank and Kimberley. The N3 was built exclusively with asphalt, while the N12 and N1 sections were made with concrete, hence the nickname given to the N1 Western Bypass, "The Concrete Highway". In spite being up to 12 lanes wide in some areas (6 lanes in either direction), the Johannesburg Ring Road is frequently clogged with traffic. The Gillooly's Interchange, built on an old farm and the point at which the N3 Eastern Bypass and the R24 Airport Freeway intersect, is purported to be the busiest interchange in the Southern Hemisphere.

Universities in Johannesburg

Johannesburg is home to many of South Africa's largest universities, and is the centre of higher learning for all of South Africa. The city's universities include:


  • Early Johannesburg, Its Buildings and People, Hannes Meiring, Human & Rousseau, 1986, 143 pages, ASIN 0798114568
  • Gold! Gold! Gold! The Johannesburg Gold Rush, Eric Rosenthal, AD. Donker, 1970, ISBN 0949937649

External links

Last updated: 06-01-2005 22:46:20
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