Race, inequality and urbanisation in the Johannesburg Region, 1946-1996

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University of Cape Town

The city of Johannesburg lies at the heart of a sprawling metropolis. This metropolis, which we shall call the Johannesburg region, roughly corresponds with the boundaries of Gauteng Province.1 It stretches from Soshanguve in the north to Vanderbijlpark in the south and from Carletonville in the west to Springs in the east (Fig.1). While Johannesburg is an obvious example of a large city in a poor country that is riddled by social and economic inequality, there is a certain irony in its portrayal as a world city. After all, only five years ago, Johannesburg was the hub of a pariah nation that was the object of one of the most successful international sanctions campaigns. Notwithstanding the impact of the boycott against apartheid, Johannesburg has long served as the major urban centre of southern Africa. It is an unusually cosmopolitan city, with extensive demographic, political, and economic connections with Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, that date back to colonial times (Parnell and Pirie, 1991). Increasingly strong links are now also being forged with Australasia through immigration and sport.