Modern view of Johannesburg. Braamfontein is a central suburb of Johannesburg in South Africa. credit: Nataly Reinch /

This article was originally published by SAGE publications in ‘Environment and Urbanization ASIA’. Please visit the link below to view and download the full article.


The city of Johannesburg offers insights into urban governance and the interesting interplay between managing the pressures in a rapidly urbanizing context, with the political imperatives that are enduring challenges. The metropolitan municipality of Johannesburg (hereafter Johannesburg), as it is known today, represents one of the most diverse cities in the African continent. That urbanization, however, came up hard against the power of the past. Areas zoned by race had been carved into the landscape, with natural and manufactured boundaries to keep formerly white areas ‘safe’ from those zoned for other races. Highways, light industrial plant, rivers and streams, all combined to ensure the Johannesburg landscape are spatially disfigured, and precisely because it is built into the landscape, the impact of apartheid has proved remarkably durable. Urban growth is concentrated in Johannesburg’s townships and much of it is class driven: the middle class (of all races) is increasingly being found in cluster and complexes in the north Johannesburg, while poor and working-class African and coloured communities in particular are densifying in the south. The racial and spatial divisions of the city continue to pose fundamental challenges in terms of governance, fiscal management and spatially driven service delivery.

Abrahams, C., & Everatt, D. (2019). City Profile: Johannesburg, South Africa. Environment and Urbanization ASIA