The School of Governance at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits), is a partner in the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC), based at the University of Glasgow. A consortium of partners from fourteen cities in seven countries have been studying a major and a secondary city – and the neighbourhoods that make them up – for three years. This report summarises findings of a sample survey undertaken among respondents in Johannesburg, the largest metropolitan municipality in South Africa. The survey is one component of a complex, mixed method, multi-year project.

Authors: David Everatt, Halfdan Lynge and Caryn Abrahams


Johannesburg is among the most unequal cities on the planet, and the results of this survey reflect this fact, as two cities emerge: one poor, overwhelmingly black African, with high social capital but poor service access, reliant on state provision of health and education, the other mainly white and Indian (although a fifth of African respondents were in the highest socio-economic status (SES) quintile, suggesting an African elite is prospering), with low social capital but high standard of liv-ing. It is the middle quintile – comprising primarily townships formerly zoned for coloureds and Indians – that seems to be taking the most strain, with high levels of psycho-social, health, crime and other negative factors taking their toll. The city emerges as comprising a wealthy suburban population that primarily use private providers (school for children, health care, transport) and tend to be clustered in small, not very socially engaged groups; and the bottom two SES quintiles, where reliance on ‘the economy of affection’ ensures greater social interaction and engagedness, but in a context of high unemployment and poverty. The middle quintile seems stretched close to break point. The city is uneasily balanced on this continuum.