Rescuing Johannesburg's 'hijacked' buildings

Andrew Harding
Africa correspondent
@BBCAndrewHon Twitter

Image source, AFP

Spring has blown in across the South African veldt to Johannesburg, and in an attempt to match the sunny weather and do my bit to balance out weeks of necessarily negative headlines about mines and violence, I have been looking at the seismic changes reshaping the city centre.

It is a theme I have banged on about before on this blog - apologies but I do live here - and I think it warrants the attention.

The report - which you can watch below - focuses on the issue of low-rent accommodation, and the role that private and public money is playing in reclaiming the heart of Johannesburg from the gangs which "hijacked" entire office blocks and transformed them into the grimmest hostels imaginable.

There is still a long way to go, but - and this is something mirrored across the continent in the aid v investment debate - it is interesting to see private business achieving what decades of government intervention could not.

I am not sure if Johannesburg has reached a "tipping point" yet.

But the demand for decent - you have to see the wretchedly inhuman conditions in "hijacked" buildings to believe them - low-rent accommodation is soaring, and as mothballed skyscrapers are renovated and the urban population grows, the pressure is growing on the city authorities to provide enough schooling for the new inhabitants.

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