Address at the Launch of Johannesburg (Inner City) Urban Renewal Strategy, Johannesburg City Hall – 1997/07/17

Master of Ceremonies,

Today we are assembled in the centre of a great city – the city of Johannesburg. Like to all great things, give tribute to where tribute is due. This is a city to which outstanding musician Hugh Masekela paid bitter tribute.

“There is a train that comes from Namibia and Malawi there is a train that comes from Zambia and Zimbabwe,
There is a train that comes from Angola and Mozambique,
From Lesotho, from Botswana, from Zwaziland,
From all the hinterland of Southern and Central Africa.
This train carries young and old, African men
Who are conscripted to come and work on contract
In the golden mineral mines of Johannesburg
And its surrounding metropolis, sixteen hours or more a day
For almost no pay.
Deep, deep, deep down in the belly of the earth
When they are digging and drilling that shiny mighty evasive stone,
Or when they dish that mish mesh mush food
into their iron plates with the iron shank.
Or when they sit in their stinking, funky, filthy,
Flea-ridden barracks and hostels.
They think about the loved ones they may never see again
Because they might have already been forcibly removed
From where they last left them
Or wantonly murdered in the dead of night
By roving, marauding gangs of no particular origin,
We are told. they think about their lands, their herds
That were taken away from them
With a gun, bomb, teargas and the cannon.
And when they hear that Choo-Choo train
They always curse, curse the coal train,
The coal train that brought them to Johannesburg”.

Despite the truth told in these words, this city, Johannesburg, like Cairo in Egypt and Lagos in Nigeria, is one of the great cities of Africa.

For a century, it has stood at the heart of the process of the birth of our nation. Built by both black and white hands, it constitutes a tribute to the industriousness of all our people, their creativity, their spirit of enterprise.

It stands at the heart of the birth of our nation, because it attracted to itself all our people, regardless of language, culture, colour, gender and ethnic origins.

Thus it can be said, that Johannesburgers were among the first modern South Africans, who could speak one another’s languages, enjoy one another’s cultures, and blend their localised origins with the great character of one South African nation.

As the eloquent words of Hugh Masekela indicate, Johannesburg is the product, not only of the people of the city but of South Africa and the entire “hinterland of Southern Africa”.

From this point it follows that the renewal of the city should also mean a renewed relationship with the people who have contributed to this city’s growth and development.

It is our understanding that the concept of the city encompasses all communities which contribute to its growth and to its prosperity. Those are the communities who should be the main beneficiaries of that renewal, growth and prosperity.

In the case of Johannesburg, the extent of the significance of this point is multiplied many times over.

The broader perspective to the challenges which face this city is instructive for several reasons.

Firstly, the economy, life and culture of Johannesburg is impacted upon, and in turn impacts upon, not only on national life, but also in the life of the entire Southern African region. The experience of this city and the region with the migratory labour system is a graphic example of this interdependence.

The social, economic and cultural renewal of the city will depend on the success of the renewal of our social, economic and cultural relations with the people of the region. As a result our work will be greatly enhanced if it is in tandem and harmonised with our national and regional programmes.

Secondly, the success of our renewal strategy depends on the success of our policy of reconciliation, national and regional unity, as well as social and political stability. Johannesburg needs a nation and a region of mutual trust, peace and well-being.

Thirdly, it is important for us to realise that, to a large degree, the current border conflicts and tensions in some parts of our country, derive mainly from uneven socio-economic development between different areas of our country.

The confounding factor is that most of our provincial boundaries coincide with the geography of ethnic concentration.

Speaking in this truly African city, we must make the point that we should, at all times guard against the danger of pursuing regional or provincial interests in a manner which poses the danger of turning these differences into antagonistic ethnic, racial, regional or provincial conflicts in the course of the scramble for limited resources.

We believe that an important aspect in our renewal and our celebration of this day is the need to make a total commitment that the past and all its horrors shall never happen again and that the bad legacies of that past which are still evident in the larger city shall be eliminated with the greatest possible speed.

The arrival of the democratic order, with its opening to free economic activity, the freedom of movement by the people, has emphasised the point that all of us share a common South African existence and a common economic resource.

Irrespective of colour, race, ethnicity or creed, indeed all of us belong to a single neighbourhood.

Master of Ceremonies,

The economic experience of the city of Johannesburg has also brought to sharp focus the fact that it is risky to build and anchor your economy on a reservoir of diminishing natural resources and potentially volatile commodity markets.

For this reason, part of the renewal strategy should entail diversification and shifting resources steadily from the extraction and procession of primary products, to the production of competitive manufactured goods and services as a basis of our economy as we enter the 21st century, which will, in part, be defined by the impact of the revolution in information and communication technology.

Master of Ceremonies,

The changing international economic flows in production, finance and service industries has also necessitated a paradigm shift in the way in which cities structure their economies.

The greater mobility of human resources and economic activities within and between countries has engendered greater competition for investment between cities across the globe, beyond the confines of national borders.

We see the strategy of the renewal of the city of Johannesburg as constituting an important element of our national Masakhane campaign. The Cabinet has declared the 1st to the 7th of September, this year as the National Masakhane Week.

I take this opportunity to call on the nation – in our localities, in the schools, prisons, government structures, civic organisations, the private sector, sport and cultural bodies, etc.. to take part in a campaign which should help us develop an outlook which is in line with the kind of society we are trying to create, consistent with the demands of service to the people and which is conscious of our collective responsibility to our shared existence.

Masakhane is not simply about paying for services but it is about rediscovering our oneness as South Africans who appreciate and understand our shared democratic rights as well as our social obligations.

Master of Ceremonies,

Today the city of Johannesburg is experiencing it s rebirth. Today Johannesburg is placing the people at the centre of its philosophy. Those people who have, all their lives placed their brains and their brawn to its service, should be the first beneficiaries of its renaissance.

We are talking of the street-child who has given it its survival instinct, the street vendor who has given it its informality, the aged whose vitality it has tamed but not vanquished, the investor who has given it its industry and the worker who has seen it grow from a paupered dwarf to an economic giant.

We can now all look forward to a day not too far, when the sound of a Choo-Choo train will make none of us curse the coal train which brought them to Johannesburg.

Indeed, this renewal should mean that we all begin to own the city of Johannesburg and the fruits it is going to bear, because the contribution of all of us in its renewal, its growth, its prosperity is recognised as indispensable.

It should not be that a poor worker who burrows out of a mine shaft, the workers forced to live in squalid conditions in the HIllbrow flatland is driven to ask the questions the poet Bertold Brecht posed:

“Who built Thebes of the Seven Gates? In the books you will find the names of kings. Did the king haul up the lumps of rock…

Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finished Did the Masons go? Great Rome is full of triumphant arches. Who created them?”

On behalf of our president, Nelson Mandela, I bring you the warm greetings of the national government of our democratic

Republic and its commitment to side by side with you as you resuscitate the heart of the city of Johannesburg.

Issued by: Office of the Deputy President

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