Walking in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela…
We took a walking tour of downtown Joburg, exploring what the city looked like during the ’50’s when Mandela was a practising lawyer. His law office was shared with Oliver Tambo just across from the Magistrate Building. Theirs was the country’s 1st black law partnership. The small building, restored in 2010, has now been turned into an outdoor museum telling the story of the freedom struggle. Between 1952-56, Mandela & Tambo represented blacks against the draconian apartheid laws, like the Group Areas Act (1950) and Pass Laws (1952). We passed the building where Mandela sparred on the roof and the statue of him in boxing pose across from his law offices.
Saw the Kholvad House, flat 13 on Market Street where Ahmed Kathrada lived and Mandela was a frequent visitor. This was where history was shaped by the intelligentsia of the freedom movement. Our guide Ishvara mused what a different South Africa there could have been had these men not been arrested at Rivonia and sentenced to prison for the best years of their lives.
We visited a mining compound for male migrant workers (now a Workers’ Museum) with conditions resembling a jail. Later these hostels for men became the dominant form of housing with families being separated and dire conditions prevailing.
Our guide pointed out some of the original buildings still in the neighbourhood with many under threat of demolition and others ripe for redevelopment. Johannesburg is a prime example of urban renewal and rejuvenation providing initiatives such as tax-relief to bring investors back to the CBD. For sale and sold signs abound.
Diagonal Street is a historic area, a very lively street with storefront shops lined with blanket sellers, bold african prints, hardware & kitchenware stores. You’ll also find many informal traders selling fruit & vegetables, candies, roasted corn on braziers as well as Muti shops where Sangomas (traditional Zulu healers and herbalists: Inyangas) continue to practice today.
We visited a shweshwe shop, Becker Street Wholesalers, with floor to ceiling bolts of fabric from the DaGama Textiles with the 3 cats label. Shweshwe is a very durable fabric used to make dresses for (mostly) domestic workers. Textiles are important to South Africa’s history. Starting in the apartheid era, people around the world took to wearing tribal cloth shirts in solidarity with the blacks in South Africa and America.
Rosebank Mall Rooftop Sunday Market
What a great alternative to the crazy mall culture that is so pervasive in South Africa. In an upscale suburb of Rosebank, every Sunday this market is a happenin’ place! Located on the rooftop, (the parking lot really) of a very popular mall. Handcrafted jewellery, art, crafts, clothes from all over Africa, plus local cheeses, meats, and other food items are sold. Such an innovative idea.
Visits of Gauteng Social Housing
Karen Hemmingson, Director of Research at BC Housing arrived in Joburg to do a 3 month volunteer job with Rooftops at NASHO. I was fortunate to participate with her in some of the briefings on the status of social housing in South Africa as well as tour a number of social housing developments in Joburg and Pretoria.
This is a very young sector, with most of the housing having been built in the last 12-15 years. Some of the stock is much older, worker hostels for men and later used by families. This stock is now being either replaced entirely or refitted to better accommodate family needs.
In downtown Joburg is an area called Hillbrow. Built in the early 60s for middle class whites, it was abandoned after Apartheid. White flight meant the buildings sat empty and were ripe for squatting and “highjacking”. Hillbrow became a “no-go” zone, with the city refusing to provide basic services (water, sewer, police). Thugs and gangs ruled the area for many years.
The Johannesburg Housing Company (JHC) came in first, buying up buildings for a song and refitting them for low and modest-income working families. JOSHCO (Johannesburg Housing Company) joined in as did a new SHI, Madulammoho, an offshoot of a church-based organization, MES.
Recognizing that the public realm is a crucial part of neighbourhoods, JHC and other SHIs as well as a private landlord, Trafalgar, worked to start eKhaya, a regeneration partnership between the SHIs and private sector owners. Started in 2004, they registered as a City Improvement District (CID) and have transformed much of the area. Reducing criminal activity, cleaning up and securing lanes between buildings, convincing the city to bring services back, setting up a security patrol system (BadBoyz). One of their major achievements was the reclaiming of a derelict lot which had become a haven for drug dealers. eKhaya Park is now a magnet for the area, running sport and recreation events for the thousands of children who live in Hillbrow.
Much of this is due to the dogged persistence of a magnificent woman, Josie Adler. She was born and raised in downtown Joburg and has now devoted her time and energy to this enormous task. Pretty well everyone who is anyone in the City will know Josie, at least by reputation!
Catherine’s 66th Birthday Dinner
We got invited to “a doppie in the Koppies”…
A doppie is an Afrikaans name for a drink. As you know from previous blogs, the Melville Koppies are hills overlooking the city. George and Heike, the 5th Street gatekeepers of the nature reserve, invited folks to meet at the rock outcrop to have a doppie on the koppies and watch the sun go down.
That’s it for now folks….!