Abysiniaby Tilman Versch

(for part 1 of this blog entry see here)

It’s not that easy being the first time in Southern Africa, and then in a city like Johannesburg. The city mirrors the South African society and its sharp and wide inequalities and segregation patterns. It shows all the effects of these inequalities in the streets, the structure of housing and also in the bodies of the people. A huge racial gap between black and white still seems to exist, but the clear line between the races has disappeared. Furthermore, migration is also a big issue in Johannesburg, with a lot of people from the countries north of South Africa moving to the city to live the dream of a better life – which often just seems to be a dream. The life of these people often ends in poorly paid street jobs on the lower bottom of society Continue reading


Text 1by Claudia Mogado

“For Johannesburg was still busy growing out of a mining camp, like it will to the end of all time still be growing out of a mining camp.”

Bosman H C (1986:87)

With its well-developed communications systems, efficient yet pliable banks, and relatively easy access to daily comforts, Johannesburg would appear to have more sophisticated parallel (though often illegal) economies than other African cities. What the inner city provides is an intersection where different styles, schemes, sectors, and practices can make something out of and from one another. In these respects, inner-city Johannesburg is the quintessential African city. Johannesburg becomes a launching pad not only for better livelihoods within the inner city but also for excursions into a broader world, whether Dubai and Mumbai or the pool halls of Hillbrow and the white suburb of Cresta only a few kilometres away. On the other hand, the density of skills, needs, aspirations, and willingness brought to work in the inner city makes it a sometimes brutal place, where everything seems to be on the line.

Simone, A. (2004: 427-428)

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Decoding Operation Clean Sweep: The Place of Street Traders in the ‘World Class African City’


No hawkers sign in the Johannesburg CBD. Photo by Martin Schinagl

No hawkers sign in the Johannesburg CBD.
Photo by Martin Schinagl

by Tshanda Mbuyi and Martin Schinagl

Wide and empty sidewalks. Fewer pedestrians on the pavements than cars on the roads? Such was the result of the eviction of thousands of street traders form the Johannesburg CBD. This was an opportunity to gain insight into the interaction between space, politics, economics and in/formality in the Johannesburg inner-city.

At the beginning of October 2013, the City of Johannesburg embarked on a drive to curb “illegal trading; illegal dumping and littering; land and building invasions and other by-law contraventions; illegal connection of infrastructure including theft of electricity and the lack of a sense of civic pride and ownership‘( By mid-November, around 7000 traders were without any means to support their families, their suppliers (from the Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market ) saw their sales drop drastically and their customers had no place to buy the affordable goods they were used to.

The move was at odds with the city’s policy direction regarding informality and local economic development and elicited reactions from many actors with an interest in the issue: street traders associations, socio-economic right advocacy organisations, academics, professional planners, trade unions and other activists.

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The Gray Area:The Case of Hillbrow in Johannesburg, South Africa ( Part 2)

Precinct delimitation eKhaya Neighbourhood Source: Savage Dodd Architects 2011-2012

Precinct delimitation eKhaya Neighbourhood
Source: Savage Dodd Architects 2011-2012

by Natalia Garzón Arredondo and Nicolette Pingo*

(For part 1 of this blog entry read here)

The eKhaya neighbourhood system is a consortium of various state, private sector and civil society actors. Each private sector stakeholder- private property companies, individual building owners, social housing initiatives and the very active NGO MES contribute towards the neighbourhood management system.

The private property owners contribute financially towards the precinct in order to maintain private security and cleaning services. The precinct has also developed a wonderful park together with a City of Johannesburg subsidiary, The Johannesburg Development Agency. In working with the city of Johannesburg the precinct has sought formal recognition to collect additional taxes from businesses and residential buildings, which are spent directly within the area itself. The City of Johannesburg provides special concessions to such areas and are registered as City Improvement District[2] (CID). In other parts of Johannesburg- these privatised CIDs have negative consequences such as limiting usage by those not deemed to belong through the use of private security services. However in Hillbrow the stakeholder configuration is different and with the aim of making a safe, clean environment for some of the city’s most impoverished residents as a key mechanism for ensuring better businesses for property owners it is different.

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Coexistence between a Hijacked Building and an eKhaya Building in Hillbrow Source: Authors

Coexistence between a Hijacked Building and an eKhaya Building in Hillbrow
Source: Authors

by Natalia Garzón Arredondo and Nicolette Pingo

“Up close, the tower is obscured by tightly packed apartment blocks, many dirt-streaked and dilapidated. The tower’s pink advertising ball sits low and heavy on the horizon. This one kilometre square piece of land, one of the densest in Africa, is the stuff of nightmare and legend.

Hillbrow is where you get hijacked, raped and murdered. It’s where uncontrolled revellers drop fridges from high-rises on New Year’s Eve and the middle class dare not tread[1].”

Verashni Pillay (Mail and Guardian, 20/09/2013) 


Neighbourhood management governance systems are key sites of city making across the globe. This is true in Berlin, Germany and Johannesburg, South Africa. This is the starting point at which we explored the eKhaya neighbourhood management system in Hillbrow, Johannesburg.

This was the second part the collaborative research project, which began with looking at neighbourhood management structures in Berlin- Gropiusstadt. (See the Blog entries here: and here: )

There were various critical aspects in each case study, which allowed for interesting contrasts and observations. Both Gropiusstadt and Hillbrow were developed as Architects’ dreams for modernist cities. Both areas were representative of high-density urban, residential living. The areas have followed cyclically patterns both had heydays in their early development, as rising middle class flocked towards these areas as the epitome of contemporary comfort and style, however Gropiusstadt and Hillbrow have also experienced periods decline and are currently in different ways and processes undergoing regeneration. Continue reading