Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Johannesburg is the city built on gold, or rather, now, the absence of gold - the south-west section of the city is resting on a honeycomb of old mine shafts - it might collapse one day and sink a couple of kilometres. Johannesburg (or Joburg, or Jozi) is the biggest city in SA at some 8 million people (the census is very approximate) but it's not the administrative /governmental capital of South Africa - that honour rests with Tshwane (which is also called Pretoria), some forty kilometres to the north. It's an unfortunate part of my job to have to go to talk to people in government now and then, which means hours in the traffic - there's one motorway, the notorious N1, which often crawls at stop-start walking speed for half the journey - it regularly takes two hours to cover those 40 kilometres, especially starting at any time between 7-10 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. Thousands of people do this as a daily commute. A high-speed train line is being built, partly to help with the influx of visitors for the 2010 World Cup, but it's hard to believe this will make much of an impact - the distances within the two cities are enormous, and most people will want to use their cars to get to their actual destinations, not just to the main train stations. The problem is compounded by the appalling public transport situation in the cities - there are very few buses (and they're not safe anyway) and thousands of "taxis" - unmarked minivans which stop anywhere and everywhere and drive at top speed the rest of the time, cutting up the rest of the traffic, so also not safe.
I've been to Pretoria twice in the past 24 hours so feel particularly affected by this - eight hours of my life in a traffic jam - when it's a country with an enormous amount of space and an enormous amount of natural wealth - and yet some 200,000 cars a day are channeled into one clogged road. It can't help global warming much, either.
On a more positive note, I love my new flat, so it's nice to get home when I do. Pix above: the swimming pool (I haven't used it yet but it's nice to know it's there, waiting), the gas-fired barbecue on my balcony (ditto about usage); and the flat from the road - mine's the top one.
Posted by Marsian at 9:26 AM