Escaping Joburg

David Bullard writes on where best to flee to, from ANC induced urban decay


This week we celebrate our ninth anniversary of the move from Johannesburg to the Cape winelands. It was pretty clear to me back in 2012 that the entire Johannesburg infrastructure was in a state of rapid decline under the corrupt and inept stewardship of the ANC. It wasn’t just the pitiful state of the roads, the piles of uncollected rubbish, the vandalised public buildings (think Rissik Street post office) or stroppy public servants. Rather, it was the growing feeling that things had passed a tipping point and could never get better.

For example, a portion of a road could be dug up one week, possibly to lay fibre optic cable or maybe to discover a seam of gold, and that portion of road would remain dug up for months as it accumulated discarded fast food containers and other detritus. The pavement outside our house in Parktown North was suddenly dug up and nobody could explain the reason why.

After many complaints somebody was sent along to retar the pavement and in so doing they managed to bury our water meter which was located outside the gate. Fortunately we caught them while the hot tar was still wet and persuaded them to rescue the water meter which was now buried in a 4cm deep well of tar. Clearly, whoever had won the contract to retar the pavement hadn’t a clue what they were doing but almost certainly had an influential relative who handled the tenders for such work. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

By 2012 anything resembling planning permission was but a distant memory. If you were crazy enough to apply to the local municipality for planning permission or the rezoning of your property the response was so lackadaisical that you could be waiting months or years for an answer.

This typically common example of ANC inertia obviously led to Joburg residents taking matters into their own hands and going ahead with any changes they wanted to make irrespective of the rules. Who could blame them given the circumstances? This led to many properties in previously residential areas suddenly becoming business premises, bars or restaurants which not only added to the noise pollution but also increased the traffic flow significantly. None of this apparently bothered the people in charge of planning though.

Last week’s news that various parts of Johannesburg would be without water, including some of the previously sought after northern suburbs, came as no surprise. It was simply a matter of time and it’s not because the dams are empty. It’s all down to the unique management style of the ANC which regards money spent on maintenance and upkeep of essential services as money wasted. Rather spend it on a fact-finding trip to Russia or, better still, on a new luxury SUV for the mayor.

Even as recently as 2013 Johannesburg described itself as a “world class African city”. Somebody lodged an objection with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) complaining that the description and the claims of being ‘financially stable’ were misleading and should be withdrawn. The City of Joburg went on to successfully appeal the ruling and could therefore continue to pretend that they were financially stable, creating new jobs despite the economic downturn and (funniest of all) saving the environment.

The electricity was turned back on after just over a month of load-shedding last weekend but that miracle of light lasted just two days before we were back to load shedding. The water crisis looks set to continue with hasty repair jobs keeping the water flowing until the next system collapse.

The real problem in Joburg though, as many media commentators have pointed out, is the lack of any form of responsible or trustworthy government. The ANC have just muscled in for control ousting the DA mayor but since the ANC have been responsible for all the problems to date that can’t be great news for the sorely tested residents of eGoli.

The problem for many Joburgers now is how to escape the ongoing urban decay. Leaving the country doesn’t have quite the same appeal it did ten years ago when there were plenty of options available. The old favourites which were the US and the UK now look decidedly like leaping out of the frying pan into the fire.

Anyone who has recently emigrated to the UK must be experiencing a curious sense of deja-vu at the moment with a collapsing currency, rising interest rates, the threat of power cuts during a long, cold winter, huge energy costs, inflation and a government that doesn’t seem to have a clue what it is doing. With the added excitement of wondering whether Mad, Bad Vlad might want to play with one of his tactical nuclear weapons at some point.

Australia is still a possibility but preferably in the bits that don’t flood regularly, don’t suffer from wild bushfires and aren’t subject to sudden extensive COVID lockdowns because of a power crazy premier. New Zealand is a definite no while the toothy Jacinda is busy creating a clone of communist China in that once charmed land. Besides, they are due for a massive earthquake soon so best avoided. Which leaves a few European countries as possibilities, always assuming you can speak the lingo and find work if you don’t have the necessary millions to buy your way in.

That leaves the Western Cape as a destination for semigrating Joburgers. That always assumes you can sell your Joburg home which I’m told is becoming increasingly difficult as the city of gold falls apart. I went on to Property24 to have a look at what is happening in my old stomping ground and there were 110 properties on offer, many at prices that were pretty common ten years ago. There were a few claims of ‘Under Offer’ so presumably there are still people who are prepared to risk buying in Joburg and banks that are prepared to lend money for those purchases.

Down here in the winelands there appears to be a property boom. New security complexes plus townhouses and apartments are popping up all over the place and the buyers include foreigners as well as refugees from KZN and Gauteng. Cape Town prices on the Atlantic seaboard have gone crazy and living in or near the CBD doesn’t have quite the same charm it had fifteen years ago before homelessness became such an obvious problem. By contrast, property in the Helderberg area offers comparatively good value with easy access to the airport, wine farms and magnificent beaches and CT only a thirty minute drive away.

The upside of all this new development is that there will be more people hopefully paying rates to the City of Cape Town and creating work opportunities as they start new businesses. The downside is that they will all want access to running water so let’s hope the City of Cape Town pays attention to the infrastructural challenges and does a better job than the City of Joburg because I’ve run out of places to escape to.


Having watched the ANC monumentally screw up just about everything it’s possible to screw up when it comes to running a country one must occasionally be thankful for small mercies. One of these is that the ‘ruling party’ are not yet responsible for food distribution in this country. When I hit my immaculately clean local Woollies just after 8 on a Monday morning the shelves are packed with fresh fruit and vegetables, the freshly cut meat is laid out and the second batch of the previously ANC banned rotisserie chickens are already roasting slowly in the oven. The shelves are stacked high with anything you could wish to buy. This doesn’t happen by osmosis.

During the night and the early hours of the morning huge trucks have trundled in and offloaded new stock to replace what was sold yesterday. There’s never a gap on the shelves and never a critical shortage of anything and that’s because the folk who run our food supermarkets understand logistics and how to run a business. OK, many of them bear the burden of what the wokists like to call ‘whiteness’ but I’m not about to hold that against them if there’s a fresh rotisserie chicken for sale at 8 in the morning.

The alternative of ANC cadre deployment performing the same task is too horrible to contemplate. For a start, much of the stuff that should be destined for the supermarket shelves would be stolen en route. The fridges and the freezers in the store would all be vandalized or broken within a short while and most of the staff would be toyi-toying in the aisles or setting fire to something as befits the proud ANC culture.


I was sitting outside our clubhouse and enjoying my last Cohiba cigar the other day when my attention was drawn to new laws that our nanny state wants to introduce to make life even more difficult for those of us who enjoy tobacco products. The most intrusive of these is a ban on smoking in my own home. If, for example, I employ a domestic worker or a gardener I will be forbidden from smoking while they are on the premises.

The obvious solution might be to employ a 40 a day domestic but the proposed legislation doesn’t appear to have taken that into account. I’m also forbidden from smoking in my home if anyone sharing it with me is a non-smoker (which she is). I’m usually courteous enough to smoke in the garden but just suppose the smoke wafts across to my non-smoking neighbours and causes a coughing fit. Have I then broken the law and will the Minister be able to rule that my garden is a non-smoking zone?

The proposed penalties for breaking the law are pretty harsh and you could be facing a three month prison sentence. All of which is rather odd when you can rob a bank, sing racist songs, fire a weapon in the air in a public place and rough up a police officer with no fear of any prison sentence at all. But I guess that all rather depends on whether the judge or magistrate hearing your case is sufficiently terrified of violent repercussions.