views updated May 18 2018


Getting There
Getting Around
Public Safety
Health Care
Parks and Recreation
Performing Arts
Libraries and Museums
Holidays and Festivals
Famous Citizens
For Further Study

Johannesburg, South Africa, Africa

Founded: 1886;
Incorporated: 1928
Location: On the Highveld in the South African interior
Time Zone: 2 pm in South Africa = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Ethnic Composition: 70% black; 25% white; 5% Indian or mixed race
Elevation: 5,700 to 5,930 feet (1,740 to 1,810 meters)
Latitude and Longitude: 26°10S, 28°2E
Climate: Temperate, with mild summers and winters
Annual Mean Temperature: 15.5 °C (59.9°F); January 24°C (75°F); July 13°C (55°F)
Seasonal Average Snowfall: N.A.
Average Annual Precipitation (rainfall): 700 mm (28 in)
Government: Municipal and local councils
Weights and Measures: Metric system
Monetary Units: The rand
Telephone Area Codes: 11 (Johannesburg); 27 (South Africa)

1. Introduction

Located in north-central South Africa, Johannesburg is the country's largest and fastest-growing city, with sprawling suburbs fanning out from the central city to cover an area of 1,100 square kilometers (424.7 square miles). The nickname "eGoli" ("city of gold") evokes Johannesburg's origin as a mining town in the late nineteenth century. Today, it is still the capital of South African mining and commerce and home to the headquarters of the country's mining companies and major financial institutions, as well as headquarters to a variety of multinational corporations and transportation hub of southern Africa.

Johannesburg is also a city built on a history of racial division that achieved its most dramatic form in the twentieth century policy of strict separation known as apartheid. This legacy is apparent in the racial divide between its various districts and suburbs, ranging from the teeming streets of Soweto to the posh mansions of the northern suburbs. The political changes of the 1990s can be seen most readily in the central city, which has become a bustling multicultural area where thousands of street traders earn their living in the shadow of the city's giant skyscrapers, and a blend of African and European languages evokes the city's unique cultural and social history.

2. Getting There

Situated on the interior South African plateau known as the Highveld, Johannesburg stretches across a series of ridges called the Witwatersrand, or "Rand." Located near the center of South Africa and at the heart of a vast developed area in Gauteng Province, Johannesburg is a transportation hub for the region and the country as a whole. The closest major city is Pretoria to the northeast.


The Johannesburg area has a well-developed highway system that carries thousands of commuters between the city and its suburbs every day. The major north-south route, N1, becomes M1 when it reaches the metropolitan area, while N1 becomes part of an urban highway (the Eastern and Western Bypass) ringing the city. Also leading north out of the city, R28 joins N1 leading to Pretoria and beyond. A number of highways radiate outward from Johannesburg to the east, south, and west, including N12 and N17 (east), N3, R26, N1 and R29 (both leading to Soweto from the south), and N14 to the west.

Bus and Railroad Service

Inter-city bus service is provided by Greyhound, Intercape, and Translux, all of which arrive at and depart from the Rotunda, which also serves as the city's rail terminal.


Direct flights to cities in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Western Hemisphere, as well as service to destinations throughout southern Africa are available at Johannesburg (formerly Jan Smuts) International Airport, South Africa's largest international airport. It is located around 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) east of the city. International air traffic to Johannesburg has increased greatly since the lifting of foreign embargoes against South Africa in early 1990s, and major renovations of the airport are underway.

Johannesburg Population Profile

Population: 2,412,000
Area: 1,100 sq km (424.7 sq mi)
Ethnic composition: 70% black; 25% white; 5% Indian or mixed race
World population rank 1: 126
Percentage of national population 2: 5.2%
Average yearly growth rate: 2.1%
Nicknames: Jo'burg; Jozi; eGoli (City of Gold); Africa's Manhattan

  1. The Johannesburg metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of South Africa's total population living in the Johannesburg metropolitan area.

3. Getting Around

Greater Johannesburg consists of over 500 suburbs fanning out, mostly northward, from the central city over an area more than 518 square kilometers (200 square miles).

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

Double-decker buses are operated by the municipal transportation system, with most routes originating from the main bus terminal in Venderbijl Square. Buses run within the city and between the city and suburbs but usually not from one suburb to another. Since it is intended primarily for commuters, bus service is provided mostly during the work week, with few routes and infrequent runs offered during the weekend. Many blacks use minibuses, called "kombi-taxes," operated by privately owned black companies.


Bus and minibus tours of Johannesburg, Soweto, Gold Reef City, and area parks are available. There are also tours of the Parktown mansions. Specialty tours include balloon tours over the Magaliesberg Mountains and informative tours of Johannesburg mines.

4. People

Johannesburg is a multicultural and multiethnic city. Racially, its population is approximately 70 percent black and 25 percent white, with the remainder Indian or of mixed racial background. However, there is great diversity within each racial group. Virtually every ethnic and linguistic group in southern Africa is represented among Johannesburg's black population, and the white population, although primarily of English or Afrikaans origin, also includes Greeks, Portuguese, Italians, Russians, Poles, Lebanese, and other groups. A dozen or more languages are spoken in the city on a daily basis.

In 1995 Greater Johannesburg had a population of approximately 4.5 million. Its average population density was the highest in South Africa.

5. Neighborhoods

Central Johannesburg is laid out in a rectangular grid pattern with narrow streets dating back to the city's early history, although today they are lined with office towers that turn many of them into virtual canyons and have inspired the nickname "Africa's Manhattan." The central city today is primarily a business district devoted to the financial and mining industries and government. Located in this district are the Magistrates Court, the Gauteng Legislature, the public library and main post office, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and the 50-story Carleton Centre with an observatory that affords an excellent view of the city. A variety of small shops and street traders provides a traditional atmosphere at odds with the city's skyscrapers. The New-town district just west of the city is home to a number of cultural institutions, including several museums. The northern neighborhood of Braamfontein is home to the University of the Witwatersrand.

When first built, each of Johannesburg's suburbs and townships was racially restricted under the apartheid system as spelled out in the Group Areas Act. The Group Areas Act was nullified in 1991, but Johannesburg's neighborhoods remain largely segregated racially, with most blacks living in townships close to the central city. The two most populous are Soweto, with a population of at least one-and-a-half million, and Alexandra, with about half a million. Living conditions in the townships range from middle-class enclaves to squatters' camps with no plumbing or electricity. Black migrant workers still live in hostels on the outskirts of the townships.

Most of the city's mixed-race population is clustered in townships west of the central city while the Indian population lives in the township of Lenasia. The inner-city suburbs of Joubert Park, Hillbrow, and Berea are formerly white areas that blacks began moving into when apartheid began to crumble in the 1980s and 1990s. Today they are mostly black and house many immigrants from other parts of Africa, especially the Congo and Nigeria. The suburbs of Yeoville and Observatory, formerly Jewish and Portuguese neighborhoods, are multiracial areas with a colorful street scene.

City Fact Comparison
(South Africa)(Egypt)(Italy)(China)
Population of urban area12,412,00010,772,0002,688,00012,033,000
Date the city was founded1886AD 969753 BC723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy)$64$193$172$129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)$34$56$59$62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.)$9$14$15$16
Total daily costs$107$173$246$207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city11132011
Largest newspaperSunday TimesAkhbar El Yom/Al AkhbarLa RepubblicaRenmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper567,9341,159,339754,9303,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established1906194419761948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.

Johannesburg's western suburbs, including Briston and Melville, are home to middle-class whites while the northern suburbs, such as Parktown and Houghton, are elite enclaves with posh homes.

6. History

Settlement of Johannesburg began in 1886, when gold was discovered in the Witwatersrand by an Australian prospector named George Harrison. The discovery spurred a feverish gold rush as fortune hunters from all over the world descended on the area. Blacks from all parts of southern Africa came to work the gold fields either permanently or temporarily as contract laborers. The government of the Transvaal, then a Boer republic, established a city at the site, and in the space of three years it became the largest settlement in South Africa. By the 1890s, several large mining companies had taken control of the area's gold mines, creating huge fortunes for their owners. Tensions between the mine barons, the English-speaking newcomers to the area, and the Transvaal's Boer governmentfed by British colonial aspirations in the regionled to the Anglo-Boer War of 18991901. By its end, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State were under British control.

At the start of the twentieth century, the population of Johannesburg had reached 100,000. Early in the century, the British colonial government began forcibly relocating blacks from the central city to areas on its outskirts, inaugurating the principle of racial separation that became entrenched in the administration of the city and eventually led to the system known as apart-heid. The substandard conditions in which most of the city's black majority lived led to protests and strikes, including a 1920 strike by 70,000 black mine workers. There was agitation among Johannesburg's white miners as well, culminating in the general strike and "Rand Revolt" of 1922, in which over 200 people died.

The growth of manufacturing in the 1930s and 1940s brought an even greater influx of blacks into the city, especially during World War II (193945), when many white workers were serving in the military. The city's black population doubled, with many of the new arrivals crowded into squatters' camps. The beginnings of a black nationalist consciousness that arose during this period led to a white backlash in the 1950s when the conservative National Party came to power and implemented the policy of apartheid, banning all black opposition movements. Beginning in the 1960s, hundreds of thousands of blacks were relocated from Johannesburg to remote "homelands," and their movements were regulated by strict enforcement of pass laws.

The milestone event in the black resistance movement that eventually overthrew apartheid and white dominance came on June 16, 1976, when South African police opened fire on a student protest in the black township of Soweto. The shooting sparked a months-long popular uprising that spread to dozens of other cities in South Africa, and unrest continued through the 1980s, with massive violence erupting in Johannesburg's black townships again in 1984. Black militancy, combined with the effects of international sanctions, finally toppled the apartheid system in the early 1990s and led to South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994.

With the removal of discriminatory laws, Johannesburg's black townships have slowly been integrated into the city's municipal government, and blacks have moved into formerly white districts in the central city and inner suburbs. The city still faces many challenges, including a serious crime problem and de facto segregation as many whites retreat to the northern suburbs.

7. Government

Greater Johannesburg has a multilevel system of popularly elected local government that has been in place since November 1955 and has extended the boundaries of municipal government to include the surrounding black townships in the political process. At the highest level, there is the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Board, a metropolitan council that oversees the distribution of municipal resources. Next there are four local councils that handle city services within their communities. The local councils are divided into wards, each of which has its own elected representative. In addition to voting for individual representatives from their wards, residents also vote for the party of their choice in elections for both the local and municipal councils.

Johannesburg is also the legislative capital of Gauteng Province (formerly called the Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vaal triangle).

8. Public Safety

Violent crime is enough of a serious problem in Johannesburg, particularly in the downtown area, that many businesses have relocated to northern suburbs such as Rosebank and Sandton. Muggings and car-jackings are common occurrences in the central city, and travelers are routinely warned to exercise caution, whether walking, using public transportation, or driving. The government tourism office advises motorists to know their routes in advance, keep their doors and windows locked, lock valuables in the trunk, and park in well-lit areas.

Traffic control is handled by local police forces. Other aspects of public safety are under the jurisdiction of the South African Police Services.

9. Economy

Johannesburg is South Africa's major commercial, financial, and industrial center. It is home to the South African stock exchange, the leading banks, the country's mining companies, the Chamber of Mines, and the government regulatory agency in charge of mining. South Africa's major insurance, retail, engineering, and construction companies are also located in the city. Johannesburg is also a major manufacturing center whose factories produce a wide range of goods from steel to textiles. The city is also home to some 10,000 to 12,000 street traders whose operations in the central business district bring in an annual combined revenue of some 500 million rand.

10. Environment

The central city and some of the suburban areas suffer from a variety of environmental problems. These include water pollution from industrial effluents and sewer blockages, air pollution from industry and vehicle emissions, dust from mine sites, litter from the many street traders in the downtown area, and excess refuse caused by overcrowding (which also results in noise pollution). Soweto and the surrounding area have poor air quality due to the burning of coal and high levels of water pollution. Other than Soweto, the greatest environmental problems are found in Alexandra, the Klip River area, Roodepoort, Orange Farm, and Poortje.

11. Shopping

Offering a great variety of consumer goods in its shops and malls, Johannesburg is one of the major retail centers in southern Africa and attracts shoppers from throughout the region. The thousands of informal street traders who operate in the central business district every day generate an estimated annual turnover of about 500 million rand.

Greater Johannesburg is home to some 20 shopping malls. Among its more popular malls are the Carlton Centre, the Smal Street Mall, and the upscale Hyde Park Mall. Further afield are the Randburg Waterfront, a shopping center built around an artificial lake; the Rosebank shopping complex, which is a series of interconnected malls; and the huge Sandton City Shopping Centre.

The city's shops, galleries, street vendors, and flea markets make it the country's premier shopping destination for arts and crafts, including wood carvings, jewelry, beadwork, and such traditional items as fertility dolls. Among the better-known crafts shops are Art Africa; Diagonal Street, which has a large selection of Sotho blankets; Jacana; Mai Mai Bazaar, which sells Zulu crafts, foods, and other items; and Zebra Crossing. A large array of crafts can also be found at the Rosebank Rooftop Market.

A good selection of recordings of African music can be found in numerous small shops in the central business district.

12. Education

Although the legal framework for racial segregation has been dismantled, primary and secondary schools in Johannesburg, as elsewhere in South Africa, remain largely segregated in practice.

Johannesburg is home to two universities. The University of Witwatersrand, originally founded in 1896 as the South African School of Mines, is the country's largest English-speaking university, granting degrees in architecture, art, business, education, engineering, law, medicine, and dentistry. The university has a staff of about 4,000, including 1,250 faculty members, and enrolls around 18,000 students, conferring 4,500 degrees each year. Its main campus, at Milner Park, covers 68 hect-ares (168 acres). Rand Afrikaans University (RAU), founded in 1968, offers degree programs to Afrikaans speakers. Soweto is home to a branch of Vista University. Johannesburg also has several technical and teachers' training colleges.

13. Health Care

Decades of apartheid have left a legacy of substandard health conditions in Johannesburg's black townships, where the incidence of infant mortality is significantly higher than that for the city's white communities, and tuberculosis remains endemic.

Located in the center of Johannesburg, Johannesburg Hospital, a State Health Service Hospital operated by the Gauteng Provincial Administration, is a multidisciplinary teaching hospital affiliated with the University of the Witwatersrand Medical School. The hospital has approximately 1,200 teaching beds in all areas of medicine. Its Level I trauma center, staffed in conjunction with the Department of Surgery of the University of the Witwatersrand, is the only comprehensive unit of its kind in South Africa and receives patients from throughout Gauteng Province, neighboring provinces, and neighboring states. The unit provides all levels of trauma care, from treatment of minor injuries to major traumas, and its staff has full 24-hour-a-day access to diagnostic, laboratory, and therapeutic support facilities. Approximately 20,000 trauma patients per year are seen in the center, and some 1,500 major resuscitations are performed annually.

Besides Johannesburg Hospital, other publicly operated hospitals include the J. G. Strijdom Hospital, the Hillbrow Hospital, and Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. The city's premier private health care facility is Morning-side Clinic. Millpark Hospital is another private facility.

14. Media

Home to daily newspapers, major weeklies, and the country's national television broadcasting service, Johannesburg is a major media center. The Johannesburg Star (circulation 206,000) , an evening paper published seven days a week, is the major English-language daily. The Sowetan (circulation 225,000) , South Africa's top-selling daily newspaper, is targeted primarily to a black audience and is available throughout the country. The most authoritative news source is the Weekly Mail & Guardian (circulation 30,000). It is affiliated with and draws most of its international coverage from London's Guardian newspaper. Business Day (circulation 41,000) , also published in Johannesburg, is South Africa's major business daily. The Citizen is a conservative English-language daily. Afrikaans newspapers include Beeld and Rapport.

The government-supported South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) operates three public television channels. One broadcasts mostly in English while the other two divide their time among South Africa's remaining ten official languages. News and sports programming and movies are available to viewers who subscribe to the M-Net satellite television service. The SABC also offers both AM and FM radio programming. Voice of America English-language broadcasts can also be heard in Johannesburg. As part of a nationwide telecommunications expansion, licenses for over 30 new radio stations were granted for Gauteng Province in 1995, most of them in Johannesburg. Notable for their quality musical and/or public affairs programming are Johannesburg's Greek and Portuguese stations and stations in the black townships of Soweto and Alexandra.

15. Sports

With the end of apartheid, South Africa returned to international sports competition in the 1990s, most notably in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games. South Africa also hosted (and won) the 1995 Rugby Union World Cup tournament, giving the sporttraditionally considered a largely Afrikaaner pastimea major boost in popularity. In Johannesburg. Rugby Union is played at Ellis Park in Doornfontein east of the central city. The main stadium there can accommodate as many as 100,000 fans. The South Africa Open tennis tournament also takes place there.

The Johannesburg area has two venues for soccer, the favorite spectator sport of black South Africans: Rand Stadium near Turffontein; and Soccer City, on Soweto Road, which can hold 130,000 spectators. The Johannesburg area is home to two of the nation's top local soccer teams, the Orlando Pirates (popularly known as the Bucs) and the Kaiser Chiefs. The traditionally white, English sport of cricket has attracted new fans through programs to promote the sport in the black townships. Wanderers in Melrose North is a top-notch cricket grounds; Elhak Ovel, a newer cricket site, is located in Soweto.

Auto racing takes place at Kyalami between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and Turffontein is the area's premier horseracing venue, with events scheduled nearly every week.

16. Parks and Recreation

Greater Johannesburg has more than 600 parks and green spaces, mostly in suburban areas. The Braamfontein Spruit Trail, which winds for about 25 kilometers (15 miles) through Johannesburg, Randburg, and Sandton, links a number of municipal parks in the region, including the 100-hectare (250-acre) Florence Bloom Bird Sanctuary, which encompasses two dams and has special areas provided for bird watchers. Other self-guided walking trails include the Bloubos Trail, the Parktown Urban Walk, the Sandspruit Trail, and the Randlords Heritage Trail, which includes views of the mansions built by Johannesburg's early gold barons. The 60-hectare (148-acre) Johannesburg Botanical Garden in Roosevelt Park extension includes rose and bonsai gardens, pools, and fountains.

Over 3,000 species of mammals, birds, and reptiles are on view at the Johannesburg Zoological Gardens, where large animals including lions, tigers, giraffes, and elephants are enclosed in areas surrounded by moats rather than locked behind bars. The zoo also contains a lake, with a playground area and rowboat rentals. Snakes, reptiles, and fish can be seen at Johannes-burg's Aquarium and Reptile Park. De Wildt Cheetah Research Centre at Silkaatsnek, where cheetahs and hyenas are bred, is north of Johannesburg and open to the public, with two-hour guided tours available weekends. The Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, located on the Nigel/Kliprivier Road 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Johannesburg, is the most extensive nature reserve in Gauteng Province. It contains vegetation typical of the Highveld, as well as many bird and other wildlife species, and has hiking trails and facilities for picnicking and camping, as well as an educational center. Of archaeological interest are the Sterkfontein Caves and the Kromdraai Caves near the town of Krugersdorp west of the city. The nearby Rhino Nature Reserve has white rhinos, wildebeest, hartebeest, giraffes, and antelopes. The northern suburbs of Johannesburg have many parks and other open areas suitable for picnicking, bird watching, and other outdoor activities.

South Africans participate avidly in outdoor pursuits, including such sports as soccer, rugby, and cricket, as well as hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, bird watching, canoeing and rafting, flying and other aerial sports, such as gliding and hot air ballooning.

17. Performing Arts

Johannesburg offers a variety of resources for those interested in the performing arts. The National Symphony Orchestra performs regularly at Linder Auditorium in Parktown. Mainstream musical theater and opera is staged at the 1,100-seat Civic Theatre in Braamfontein, the city's premier theatrical venue, which encompasses four stages. Experimental and ethnically oriented theater is offered at a variety of venues by small, innovative troupes. Johannesburg's other well-known multi-stage theater complex is the Johannesburg Market Theatre, located in the city's former produce market. It has three stages, and is the city's traditional home for protest theater. Alternative theater is offered at the Windybrow Theatre. Leaders on the city's dance scene are the Dance Factory and the Moving into Dance Academy, where many choreographers are trained.

Johannesburg is South Africa's premier locale for popular entertainment. Jazz, blues, and rock music are offered by both local groups and touring performers from all over the world. Major venues for large concerts are the Standard Bank Arena in Ellis Park and the FNB Stadium.

18. Libraries and Museums

The Johannesburg Public Library, founded in 1889, has a wide network of branch libraries. Johannesburg has a diverse selection of museums and galleries. Established in the early twentieth century, the Johannesburg Art Gallery, in downtown Joubert Park, has South Africa's most extensive collection of paintings by the European Impressionists. In recent years representation of African artists has grown, and today its gardens are enhanced by the work of South African sculptors while local artists receive exposure in temporary exhibits. Commercial galleries, such as the Everard Read Gallery in Rosebank, also display a wide variety of works by African artists, ranging from landscapes to traditional tribal art.

Museum Africa, which dates back to the 1930s, has an outstanding section focusing on the history of Johannesburg, including such displays as reconstructed squatters' shacks and homemade weapons. The museum's other collections encompass geology, rock art, and the Bensusan Museum of Photography. Temporary exhibits are also displayed. The South African Transport Museum houses vintage steam engines and automobiles, ox wagons, and other items. Visitors to the South Africa Breweries Museum, in the Newtown district, explore the history of brewing, including the brewing of European ale and lager beer. The South Africa Museum of Military History displays weapons and war memorabilia dating back to the days of the Boer War (18991902). The Madiba Freedom Museum is dedicated to the life of national hero Nelson Mandela (b. 1918), affectionately nicknamed Madiba by his countrymen. Mandela's hero status is based on his position as a black nationalist leader, joint recipient of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, and South Africa's first black president (199499). The Workers' Museum, located in a converted compound that once housed utility employees, is a national monument. Other museums in the Johannesburg area specialize in Africana, banking, archaeology, Judaica, and costumes.

19. Tourism

As elsewhere in South Africa, Johannesburg has seen a dramatic rise in tourism since the end of apartheid, with the greatest number of tourists coming from Great Britain. With the variety of cultural and recreational attractions in the city and its environs, tourism is expected to play an important role in its economic future.

20. Holidays and Festivals

Chinese New Year

Castle Cup Cricket Final
Botanical Gardens Autumn Show

FNB Vita Dance Umbrella

Human Rights Day
Benson and Hedges Cricket Final
Windybrow Theatre Festival

Rand Easter Show

Family Day
Constitution Day

Workers' Day

Women's Day

Guinness Jo'burg Jazz Festival
Heritage Day

Arts Alive Festival

Currie Cup rugby final
Johannesburg Biennale art exhibition

SA Formula 1 Grand Prix

Day of Reconciliation
Day of Goodwill

21. Famous Citizens

Nadine Gordimer (b. 1923), Nobel Prize-winning novelist.

Miriam Makeba (b. 1932), internationally acclaimed vocalist.

Nelson Mandela (b. 1918), black nationalist leader, joint recipient of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, and South Africa's first black president (199499).

Cecil Skotnes (b. 1926), painter and printmaker.

Oliver Tambo (b. 1917), political leader and president-in-exile of the African National Congress.

Desmond Tutu (b. 1931), religious and political leader.

22. For Further Study


Mail & Guardian home page. [Online] Available (accessed December 30, 1999).

TimeOut Johannesburg. [Online] Available (accessed December 30, 1999).

Tourism Board website. [Online] Available (accessed December 30, 1999).

Virtual Africa. [Online] Available (accessed December 30, 1999).

Government Offices

Most government offices are located in the capital city of Pretoria.

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

Johannesburg Metropolitan Tourism Association 0113376650

South African Tourist Corporation (main office)
442 Rigel Ave. South
Erasmusrand 0181
Pretoria, South Africa


Business Day
4 Beirman Place
P.O. Box 1138

The Sowetan
61 Commando Rd.
Industria West
P.O. Box 6663

The Star
47 Sauer St.
P.O. Box 1014

Weekly Mail and Guardian
139 Smit St.
P.O. Box 32362


Chipkin, Clive M. Johannesburg Style: Architecture & Society, 1880s1960s. Johannesburg: Thorold's Africana Books, 1993.

Kallaway, Peter, and Patrick Pearson. Johannesburg : Images and Continuities: A History of Working Class Life through Pictures, 18851935. Braamfontein, South Africa: Ravan Press, 1986.

McCrea, Barbara, Tony Pinchuck, and Greg Mthembu-Salter. South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland. Rough Guides. London: Penguin, 1997.

Paton, Alan . Cry, the Beloved Country. New York: Scribner's, 1948.

Schadeberg, Jurgen. Sof'town Blues : Images fromthe Black 50s. Hurlyvale, South Africa: African Book Centre, 1994.

Sepamla, Sydney Sipho. A Ride on the Whirlwind: A Novel. New York: Readers International, 1984.

Themba, Can. The Will to Die. Ed. Donald Stuart and Roy Holland. London: Heinemann, 1972.

Thompson, Leonard Monteath. A History of South Africa. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.


Johannesburg [videorecording]. Super cities. Johannesburg. San Ramon, California: International Video Network, 1995. 1 videocassette (30 min.): sd., col.; 1/2 in.


views updated May 23 2018


JOHANNESBURG , largest city in the Republic of *South Africa; center of the world's most important gold producing industry. The city was founded in 1886, when gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand. The first Jewish inhabitants came mainly from Britain and Central Europe, but they were soon followed by immigrants from Eastern Europe, chiefly Lithuania, who later formed the bulk of the city's Jewish population. Some leading Jews – most of them not recent East European immigrants – were prominent among the "Uitlanders" whose demands for greater rights precipitated the South African War of 1899–1902. In 1896 there were 6,253 Jews in the city, more than half of them from Eastern Europe. By 1899 the Jewish population had risen to between 10,000 and 12,000. After the South African War ended the number increased rapidly, making the Johannesburg Jewish community the largest in South Africa, with half the country's total Jewish population. In 2001 Jews numbered approximately 48,000, about 66 percent of all Jews in South Africa. The vast majority live in the northern and northeastern suburbs.

Jews have been prominent in Johannesburg life from its earliest days. They were among the leaders of the gold mining industry and helped build up the city as South Africa's commercial, industrial, and financial center. Prominent among the Jewish "Randlords" were the colorful Barney *Barnato, Solly *Joel, and Samuel *Marks. From the earliest days of local government Jews were members of the municipal councils and Johannesburg had a long line of Jewish mayors, first of whom was Harry Graumann (1910). Jewish contributions to all aspects of cultural life have been considerable. Between the World Wars there was an active Yiddish theater with Sarah Sylvia as the leading actress. Four weekly Jewish newspapers (one in Yiddish, others in English) were published in Johannesburg and three monthly journals – one in English and the others in Yiddish and Hebrew. Jews are well represented in the teaching staff and student body of the Witwatersrand University and in the professions.

Communal Life

The first congregation in Johannesburg (the Witwatersrand Old Hebrew Congregation) was formed in 1887 and the first synagogue built in 1888. In 1892 the Johannesburg Hebrew Congregation built the Park Synagogue, which was opened by President Paul Kruger and served the community until the Great (Wolmarans Street) Synagogue was built. J.H. *Hertz was rabbi of the Old Hebrew Congregation (1898–1912); J.L. *Landau became rabbi of the Johannesburg Hebrew Congregation in 1903 and chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation in 1915. He was succeeded from 1945 to 1961 by L.I. *Rabinowitz and by B.M. *Casper in 1963. C.K. *Harris became chief rabbi of the whole of South Africa in 1988, a position he held until the end of 2004 when he was replaced by W. Goldstein. After its foundation in 1892, the Johannesburg Orthodox Hebrew Congregation, whose members were primarily Eastern European immigrants, opened a synagogue the following year and moved to new premises (Beth Hamedrash Hagodal) in 1931. The first minister was Moshal Friedman and later incumbents were Isaac Kossowsky (1877–1951), who came to South Africa in 1933, and his son Michel (1908–1964). The growth of Johannesburg's suburban areas led to the establishment of many new congregations and synagogues. They numbered 55 in 1969, including three Reform temples, whose chief ministers have included rabbis Moses Cyrus Weiler (d. 2000) and Arthur Saul Super (d. 1979) and one Masorti congregation. There are 33 Orthodox synagogues, three Reform temples, and one Independent temple, affiliated to the Conservative movement. There has been a large growth in the ba'al teshuvah movement (returnees to Judaism), and 27 small shtieblach (synagogues) function in and around Johannesburg. The Lubavitch movement has made inroads into the community since its establishment in 1972. Ohr Somayach, Aish HaTorah, and Bnei Akiva also run highly successful programs. Bnei Akiva inaugurated a synagogue at its headquarters.

Johannesburg has a number of educational institutions set up or supervised by the South African Board of Jewish Education: a seminary for training teachers; three King David primary and two high schools (with a total enrollment in 2001 of 3,300). There are 18 Hebrew nursery schools. More intensive religious Jewish education is provided for approximately 2,000 pupils by Yeshiva College, the Torah Academy of the Lubavitch Foundation, the Bais Yaakov Girls' School, the Sha'arei Torah Primary School, Yeshivas Toras Emes, Yeshiva Maharsha, the Johannesburg Cheder and Hirsch Lyons. Yeshiva College, the largest of these schools, began as a part-time yeshivah in 1951 and became a full-time day school in 1958. The Menorah School (later called the Laila Bronner School) for girls was added in 1969. In 2004, Yeshiva College had a total of 850 students from nursery age to matriculation.

The United Hebrew Schools of Johannesburg provides Jewish education for pupils attending the government schools. Two religion schools are maintained by the S.A. United for Progressive Judaism in Johannesburg. There is a department of Hebrew with a full-time chair at the University of the Witwatersrand.

The Johannesburg Jewish Helping and Burial Society (Chevra Kaddisha) is the most important welfare institution in Johannesburg. Founded in 1887, in 2004 it incorporated a number of other important welfare institutions under its umbrella, amongst them the Jewish Women's Benevolent Society, Jewish Community Services, the Arcadia Jewish Orphanage, and the two Jewish aged homes – Sandringham Gardens and Our Parents Home. Other important welfare institutions include the free-loan societies the Witwatersrand Hebrew Benevolent Association (founded 1893) and the more recent Rambam Trust, the Selwyn Segal Home for Jewish Handicapped (1959), Yad Aharon, Hatzollah (medical rescue), Kadimah Occupational Centre, B'nai B'rith, and Nechama (bereavement counselling).

Zionism took early root in Johannesburg. The South African Zionist Federation was formed there in 1898, and the Zionist Center built in 1958 became an important cultural center until it was eventually sold in 1999. The headquarters of all Jewish national and many semi-national institutions are situated in Johannesburg. In addition to the three major organizations – the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (sajbd), the South African Zionist Federation (sazf), and the South African Board of Jewish Education – a large number of other institutions have their head offices in the city. In 2000, the sajbd, sazf, Union of Jewish Women, Israel United Appeal-United Communal Fund and a number of smaller organizations moved into single, shared premises, known as Beyachad. A range of welfare institutions, including the Chevra Kadisha and the South African Union of Jewish Students are affiliated to the sajbd. The Jewish community is not to be measured merely in terms of its numerical strength. The intensity of Jewish life and identity and its strong Zionist devotion is to many a model for community organization.


L. Herrman, History of the Jews in South Africa (1935), 238–40; P.H. Emden, Randlords (1935), passim; G. Saron and L. Hotz, Jews in South Africa (1955), index; L. Feldman, Yidn in Johannesburg (Yid., 1956); Bernstein, in: South Africa Jewish Year Book (1956), 29–39; M. Gitlin, The Vision Amazing (1950), index. add. bibliography: M. Kaplan and M Robertson (eds.), Founders and FollowersJohannesburg Jewry, 18871915 (1991).

[Louis Hotz and

Gustav Saron /

David Saks (2nd ed.)]


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Johannesburg City in ne Republic of South Africa; capital of Gauteng province. It was founded in 1886. Today, it is South Africa's leading industrial and commercial city, and the administrative headquarters for gold-mining companies. Industries: pharmaceuticals, metal, machinery, textiles, engineering, diamond-cutting. Pop. (1996) 1,480,530.

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