Deepening Division in Johannesburg

Perspecta 50
Yale School of Architecture | MIT Press
October 2017

More on the publication here

<< <  >

This chapter was published in the 50th anniversary issue of the annual Yale School of Architecture journal, Perspecta. The theme of the journal concerned urban divides. My chapter explored ways in which post-apartheid social division and inequality were deepened across a variety of scales. An extract from my text follows:

“Maboneng is fraught with contrasts. An architectural language of patina, urban accumulation, hard surfaces, and tough facades conceal elegantly spartan interiors, industrial lighting, and austere furniture. On the street, narrow sidewalks are planted with small trees, and recent paving demarcates those areas that fall within the unfenced development. Chairs and tables occupy the public realm, protected by private security guards stationed on corners. Just outside Maboneng’s vague borders—which in many instances involves crossing a nondescript road—Johannesburg’s underserviced and seemingly forgotten eastern edge remains. Here, public infrastructure and private buildings require significant maintenance and renovation, shops serve patrons through security bars for fear of crime, and overcrowding is palpable.

During March 2015, residents of buildings in Jeppestown, the neighborhood just to the east of Maboneng, were forcibly evicted by a private eviction and security service known as the Red Ants. Evicted residents demonstrated and the eviction turned violent, with 22 residents being arrested. Propertuity CEO Jonathan Liebmann denied early reports that evicted buildings were earmarked for development and inclusion into Maboneng and stated, “We are not responsible for any evictions. We have never done any gentrification.” Whether or not Propertuity was planning to develop the buildings under eviction is inconsequential given that the Maboneng development has fueled property price increases and speculation across the east of the inner city.

Although Maboneng could not be directly implicated in the evictions, the protesting residents held signs stating “Fusegi Maboneng” and chanted “Sifuna ukudla iSushi noMaboneng!”—Go Away Maboneng, and We want to eat sushi in Maboneng! Advanced by litigation, municipalities are mandated by the court to provide alternative temporary accommodation for evicted residents in close proximity to the site of the eviction. Attorney Teboho Mosikili, representing evicted Jeppestown residents, notes that the city’s actions do not signal a commitment to finding alternative accommodation—if so evicted residents would not have to keep applying for court orders. Throughout the Jeppestown protests, and as demonstrated in similar inner city evictions, low-income residents are further marginalized through the actions of private actors and the inefficiencies of the public sector to support them, even in times of crisis.”