Johannesburg is a disaster

10th December 2020
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Johannesburg is a disaster


Douglas Gibson | 

09 December 2020

Douglas Gibson says the city is getting worse every month under ANC rule

When I go to the gym, one of my favourite activities is riding stationary bicycles. My gym has a fancy choice where one can choose between scenic rides in France, Canada, the USA and Ireland. I ride for miles on these roads and one aspect strikes me every time: it does not matter whether one is riding in the towns or the countryside, the roads are all immaculate, as are the pavements. The filth and detritus and shockingly unkempt areas that one has in Johannesburg simply do not exist there.

Try riding in downtown Johannesburg, or less worse, try riding in Sandton, the most expensive business and residential area in Africa, paying huge amounts in rates and municipal charges. It is shameful how the waste pickers have been able to take over the traffic island at the corner of William Nicol and Sandton Drive. The state of the pavements and the potholed roads in and around the approaches as well as the centre of Sandton is disgraceful. I feel sorry for the excellent councillors (DA) who have to bear the brunt of complaints. Potential investors visiting our country and our city cannot but be startled by the deterioration that has happened and that is accelerating.

Johannesburg had aspirations of being Africa’s leading city. The truth is that it is getting worse each month and it reflects the inability of the ANC successfully to govern anything, at local, provincial or national level. It is unbelievable that only 8% of towns and cities in the country received clean audits – most of those governed by DA majorities. One can only imagine the waste, the misspending of limited funds and the looting that takes place, all at the cost of local communities who do not receive the services to which they are entitled. How many officials and how many councillors, mayors and highly paid mayoral committee members ever get fired?

Now the city has been shamed to learn of the evidence given at the Zondo Commission that indicates that our mayor, Geoff Makhubo, benefited to the tune of tens of millions of Rand for himself and collected similar amounts for his party in return for lucrative municipal contracts awarded to companies prepared to bribe their way to get business. How can he not have resigned, as an honourable public representative should have done? How can his party permit him to stay in office? How is it that his caucus members appear to retain confidence in him? Are they not ashamed of the person who is leading them?

The local government elections are due to take place later next year. It will be truly interesting to see whether the voters are satisfied with this state of affairs. Are they going to take a broom and sweep out some of the councillors and parties that have brought our towns and cities, and especially Johannesburg, to this sorry state, or are they going to vote for them again?

South Africa is not yet a mature democracy. Unlike many other countries in Africa, we have not yet had a change of government at national level. There have been some changes further down, but not many. Surely it is time that the voters of this city and everywhere else decided to exercise their democratic vote to bring about sorely needed change. Good representatives should be supported; bad ones ought to be thrown out. We cannot carry on sliding down the scale towards a failed state; or can we?

Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and ambassador to Thailand. His website is

This article first appeared in The Star newspaper.


Douglas Gibson
Douglas Gibson
A former opposition chief whip and former ambassador to Thailand, Douglas Gibson is a keynote speaker and writer.

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