Do We Have a Revolt?
Johannesburg is a city of contrast. Incredible beauty stands adjacent to decay and squaller. The glory of a golden sunrise reveals a shadowy underbelly. The sunlight reflects off the rooves of train carriages that are standing still. There are no passengers, and there are no trains to catch. The train yard is a ghost town.
As a regular visitor to the city with the Tyrone Harriers, I see it up close and in detail. In the early morning darkness, running in the light bubble of a headlamp, every open manhole and broken pavement is a hazard. If staying upright and intact is a priority, then total concentration is a must.
Contempt is the only word that adequately describes how I feel when I see media reports about politicians supposedly “cleaning up the city”.
Johannesburg symbolises complete dysfunction and represents the failed ideology of those who have governed it.
One of the many routes we run through the city is named the “Rand Revolt”. The route passes what was the underground headquarters of the 1922 uprising and makes its way through Fordsburg, a hotspot during the revolt.
The revolt was started by mineworkers who were rebelling against the state. Having returned from World War I, miners were deeply unhappy that jobs were being lost to cheaper labour.
The government brought in a military force of 20,000 men to crush the rebellion. The rebels dug trenches across Fordsburg Square and defended themselves against the falling bombs of the South African Air Force.
One hundred years later, you would be forgiven for thinking that this same area looked like a war zone. Buildings are dilapidated. Fences are broken. Road intersections look like bomb craters filled with water.
The difference is that there is no revolt. The people are compliant. Their liberators are in charge, and this is what freedom looks like. Freedom in South Africa is entropy. It is the freedom to do nothing and accept the way that it is. Where no one is accountable, and anything done in the interests of the poor is just a power grab. It is a long slow slide into disorder and decay.
On the homeward leg of our run, we drop down past the SABC into Aukland Park and run along Kingsway Avenue. Here the captured execs of the SABC get to look out of their office windows at the relatively new infrastructure that is mostly in working order. It is as if we crossed the train tracks to the other side of town.
The war zone that is out of sight over the hill may as well not exist. It doesn’t fit with the propaganda about a better life for all.