Johannesburg experienced extreme thunderstorms this week. A flash flood ripped through the east of the city, flooding one of the major freeways during peak hour traffic.
Cars washed away, people drowned and ordinary South Africans came together to help each other out of dangerous situations. There was untold damage to buildings and factories along its path.
In another part of the city the ground washed away bringing down the boundary wall of the Johannesburg Zoo. All the animals were safe though. And none escape so the inhabitants of the area were safe too 🙂
I took these photos from the 12th floor of the Radisson Blu hotel in Sandton where I was at the time on a training course. Taken from behind windows and through the glass of the lift-shaft.
It was a beautiful day…
Then the storm approached…
I saw that the storm was an ugly one, but didn’t know then how severe its impact was. With the difference in light you can see the reflection of the light fitting in the room.
I don’t know which building is captured in the photos below, I searched the web and came up with nothing. I’m not sure if it’s Victorian or Edwardian architecture. It appears to be undergoing renovation. Che seems to this that it’s the City Hall but that is on Rissik Street.
Victory House (below) on the corner of Harrison and Fox Streets is a building “of great historical and architectural significance and is famous for having Johannesburg’s first ever lift…which had crowds gaping for weeks” and has stood since 1897.
“The lift was a technological marvel, complete with a safety apparatus; it also boasted a polished oak cage and an upholstered seat. The lift was supplied by R Waygood of England. An early letter to the lift firm references the employment of a caretaker and the purchase of a bag of coal to operate the boiler which worked the hydraulic lift. The total cost of the original lift, boiler and engine was 1020 pounds. The staircase was made of cast iron, also made in England it was the first fireproof staircase in Johannesburg” (Wikipedia).
88 Fox Street – I searched for information on this building and found a reference to it being the Equity Building but I’m not able to verify this right now. All I know is that it is in very good condition and the men’s outfitters, Lightbody’s, still occupies the ground floor. Che used to buy his pipe band gear there when he was in high school. This goes back a while, so Lightbody’s has been there, at least, since the 1980s if not longer.
Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa and is the economic hub of the country. It was established in 1886 when gold was discovered on the farm. It’s also affectionally known as Jozi, Jo’burg, Egoli, and Joeys to us locals.
This is the city I grew up in, live in and at different times, worked in, so I have a soft spot for it. When I was at university I used to get off the bus at the start of the inner city and walk all the way to the bus terminus square where I caught another bus home, just so that I could absorb the city’s energy.
The population of Joburg is currently over 4 million people and growing each year.
Today's prompt: What was the last picture you took?
Tell us the story behind it. (No story behind the photo? Make one up,
or choose the last picture you took that had one.)
5th January 20h48. It’s a hot and balmy summer evening. Eskom could have load shed on this evening and I wouldn’t even have minded. The moon provided as much light as any lamp. It was beautiful and no camera could’ve captured its beauty. I tried…
There are those in the world who are fragile by virtue of their socio-economic circumstances. To call these people fragile is not to take away from their humanity, rather it acknowledges their humanity, and ours.
In a place like Hillbrow many of the fragile are women and children. It is so easy for women and children living in poverty to become the invisibles of society. It’s already happening all over world as I write and you read this.
It wasn’t easy to remain dispassionately objective when I visited the Hillbrow Health Precint (HHP). Listening to and witnessing the great work NGOs like the Wits RHI (Reproductive Health Institute) is doing made me doubt the path I’ve chosen to take, the life I’ve chosen to lead.
Hillbrow, once vibrant and bustling was renowned for night-time entertainment, cosmopolitan coffeeshops and 24-hour music and book stores. It was the playground for affluent Johannesburgers. People from all over Johannesburg went to Hillbrow for a night of fun, much like we now go to Montecasino, Melrose Arch and Rosebank.
However, even in its heyday Hillbrow had an edge to it. It’s still bustling but perhaps not as vibrant any more. It’s become an area synonymous with poverty and crime, where dishonest people hide, the displaced seek refuge and the fragile become invisible.
The Shandukani Maternal and Child Health Centre provides a safe haven for women and children. It’s reception is orderly and an atmosphere of peace prevails. I was struck by the gentleness and compassion of the nurses I met. Women in all stages of pregnancy, some with toddlers in tow, sat quietly waiting for their appointment with the doctors. Working here is labour of love in action.
Outside the entrance was this beautiful mural and I was struck by the cleverness of the message – breathing NEW life into Hillbrow – literally and figuratively.
I was humbled by my visit to the Wits RHI and the HHP. It’s easy to remain in my suburban cocoon of comfort, but these issues are not only the Wits RHI’s (and the government) to deal with. They belong to all of us, South Africans, to do something about.
Some facts about the Wits RHI:
We were taken around by Dr. Sebastian Sickle, Deputy Executive Director for Strategy and Development – he talks about “nimbility” – this resonates with me on so many levels – solving problems, quickly, with a sense of urgency in an agile and creative way.
The Wits RHI also partners very closely with government with regards to the Anti-Retroviral Programme (ARV). The prevalance of HIV infection in SA is one of the highest in the world and the South African HIV ARV treatment programme is the biggest in the world – 1,3 million people, which is only 20% of HIV positive people in the country. This programme is run free of charge by the government.
Everyone who works there is bound by their values and the vision is predicated on the notion of social justice. There is the belief that robust debate, a sense of urgency and recognsing the many tipping points allows them to catch the waves of opportunity.
Even though they are not supported by goverment, they partner with them and other stakeholders (including brothel owners so that healthcare services can be provided to sex workers) providing a foil and helping to shape policy.
They believe in a non-linear approach to solving issues when dealing with the very complex issues of health, HIV and poverty in South Africa – dealing with these as they arise with a strong ethos of innovation and encouraging leadership at all levels.
It’s entitled “Why Joburg is the strangest city”. She starts off by saying:
In most big cities, one drives to the dry cleaners, parks, runs in, picks up the clothes, and runs out again. In Jozi - not so much.
The writer tells of wanting to pick up a dress at the dry cleaners, and on the way, of having to deal with vendors at traffic lights wanting to wash her car’s windows, sell counterfeit DVDs and homeless magazines.
At the end of it all she got home with a whole lot of goods she didn’t need, a bunch of homeless magazines and no dress from the dry cleaners.
I don’t want anyone washing my car windows at traffic lights so I normally give the window washer an apple or a sandwich from my lunch. I don’t buy goods simply because my purse is in the boot of the car – on account of all the smash and grabs that can happen, nothing is visible in the car.
It is for the same reason that I dont buy homeless magazines, even though I would be helping a homeless person.
Living in this city is amazing and it is also amazingly complex.