Johannesburg Stories

Jovial Rantao hopes a little sustainable development trickles down to Jo'burg from the Earth summit to be hosted north of the city

The World Summit on Sustainable Development, known to everyone here simply as the WSSD, starts in Johannesburg in eight days. Except it isn't actually taking place in Johannesburg.

When Tony Blair, Jiang Zemin and the rest arrive for the formal part of the summit, they will be based in up-market Sandton, north of the city, and will meet in the huge convention centre there. Once Sandton was just a suburb for the rich. Now it is a separate municipality that has sucked the smart shops and many of the businesses and jobs out of the heart of Jo'burg.

There is poverty a stone's throw away in Alexandra township, and plenty more in Soweto, Thembisa and Katlehong, if delegates want to look for it. The government representatives might not have the time or the inclination, but if you don't believe the saying that an African will easily give up his or her bed to a visitor, try the real Johannesburg: with more than 40,000 people attending what some say is the biggest summit the world has seen, accommodation will have to be found all over the city, including the parts in need of some sustainable development.

There are some who believe the summit will solve all of Jo'burg's problems – "Boon time for Jo'burg", screamed one newspaper poster. Ordinary citizens who might not have been up to speed with what the WSSD is, and what it is meant to achieve, are unable to distinguish between the political agenda of the summit and the logistics that have gone into preparing for such a major event.

Roads have been dug up and resurfaced, maintenance work has been going on for months and many new facilities have been built. There will be a rush of foreign currency and short-term jobs. Many people I know have spruced up their houses and cottages and look forward to making a fast buck by hosting summit visitors.

The formal hospitality sector is smiling. The transport industry is looking forward to its best two weeks ever. And so too are our alternative businessmen – the criminals who have given Jo'burg its often exaggerated reputation.

The website for delegates shows an awareness of this reputation. Extra police are being drafted in, it says, as well as soldiers to protect certain summit venues. "South Africa will be as safe as any other place in the world where a summit could be held," it assures, before going on to other safety issues, such as warning visitors from the northern hemisphere, "notably the European countries", to use sun cream.

One news agency thought it would be helpful to explain some of the local lingo to summit-goers. If a Jo'burger tells you to turn left at a robot, for example, he doesn't mean something out of Star Wars, he means a traffic light. It listed many other useful words, such as bakkie (a pickup truck) and braai (a barbecue), although one was missing: tsotsi, as criminals are called here.

But if the tsotsis are rubbing their hands, the police are promising they won't be able to do anything else during the summit. And that would indeed be a boon.

A burly Afrikaner made a name for himself during a Tri-nations rugby match between South Africa and New Zealand a few days ago. Pieter van Zyl broke through the security and tackled the Irish referee, Dave McHugh, who had to go off with a dislocated shoulder.

One section of the nation, mainly white and Afrikaner Springbok supporters who believe they have been cheated by the referees in this Tri-nations series, saw Van Zyl as a hero. Another section, mainly black, saw his action as pure thuggery. Amazing how much a small incident on a rugby field can tell about a nation.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game