The city of Johannesburg is the most densely populated city in the Republic of South Africa. It is the economic and entertainment hub of the country and boasts the richest square mile in Africa, a posh and classy outskirt by the name of Sandton. A lot can be said about the city of gold.

Although car hijackings have come to be a thing of a national sport in the country in recent years, it was here in fact in these streets of Johannesburg where the first hijacking was recorded in 1995. It houses the biggest township in Africa, Soweto, which is home to the two biggest soccer teams in the country, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates.

The city of Johannesburg is amongst the biggest but fairly new cities of the world coming into existence because of gold deposits discovered in the area in the late 1800s; it has an advanced transport system, world class airports, malls, mega malls, shopping centres, parks, amusement parks, a zoo, theatres, domes, stadiums and arenas. But with all of this beauty and development, opportunities and it being a world class city, Johannesburg is not only glitz and glamour; a less talked about Johannesburg exists. Johannesburg has a less lit side, a place where light and dark coexists in perfect harmony… downtown Jozi.

Downtown Johannesburg is the cities’ best kept secret. It is the part of Johannesburg that is not on the brochures. It is forgotten, there is not a lot of development here. Everything seems like its falling apart, the buildings, apartments and even the people. There is not a lot of recreation, the parks have become refuge for the homeless, there is literally a homeless person on every street corner and we have unfortunately and ignorantly become used to it. There are a lot of cracks around these parts with all kinds of pus flowing out of them, burst sewage pipes, druggies, kingpins, thugs and prostitutes and everything is completely done on the open with no fear of authorities whatsoever because you can only be a bad cop in downtown Johannesburg. The system has long been broken and police vans only show up to drug dens to pick up their “cold drinks”.

There are also varied theories amongst the residents on how this once lively part of the city came to be in the condition it’s in. Some blame it on the influx of Nigerians post-apartheid South Africa dealing drugs and running prostitution rings in places like Hillbrow and Yeoville rendering those areas the slums that we know of today. Some blame the increase of violent crimes on the inflow of Mozambican and Zimbabwean rebels smuggling their war weapons in the country after the end of those countries’ respective civil wars. Some white South Africans blame the deterioration of downtown Johannesburg on the native’s incompetence in governing himself. Racists have found a voice in the decline of this predominately black part of the city. It is not certain if the ruins were because of a single event or a particular group of people but some are confident that the government is to blame while others argue that most of the worsening buildings and flats in downtown Johannesburg are privately owned and are on the hands of white monopoly capital.

I personally feel like the conversation is distorted. The discussion should try point out the injustices generations had to endure to its extreme forms, subpar education, restrictions to facilities, institutional racism, no libraries so no books to get information from. The intelligent were reduced to freedom fighters then graduated to statesmen after serving lengthy sentences in Robben Island dorm rooms. Families were broken apart when heads of households were displaced by either being cheap labour in coal or gold mines miles away from their families or were exiled in foreign lands for defying the laws of the day rendering generations upon generations fatherless. People of colour should not be subjected to such living conditions in this country twenty three years after democracy.

The question still remains, why is the government incompetent in keeping this vital part of Johannesburg safe and clean? But my question is this one, is this incompetency in governing and maintaining of this particular part of Johannesburg by the current government a result of all these past injustices? How does one even begin to teach a group of liberators who spent a great part of their lives behind bars to govern a country, a new democracy at that? Downtown Johannesburg is not the way it is because of the arrival of foreigners or a single event or occurrence. Downtown Johannesburg exists because of the past and its prejudices. It is a physical monument of our segregated past, a result of apartheid and is a clear substantiation of the deprivation of knowledge and opportunities and the effects it can have years after those inequalities are ratified.