Joe and I took a walk through Joburg’s Central Business District – starting at the Carlton Centre and then east on Main Street to the Magistrates Court.
There’s a rejuvenation story here although it’s not the same story as Arts on Main, which is a few blocks east. This section of Main Street houses banks, government agencies, and, above all else, international mining companies. It’s where Big Business lives.
Ten years ago, the only people who came here were office workers (who came and went in their cars), mining magnates (who came and went in helicopters from the tops of their buildings), and poor people and gangsters who lived on the streets.
Today, Main Street is a nice place to spend an afternoon. Walk with me.
We parked at the Carlton Centre and walked two blocks up Main Street to Gandhi Square (formerly Van Der Bijl Square), where people were enjoying lunch below the Gandhi statue. Gandhi lived in Joburg from 1903 to 1913, advocating for the rights of South African Indians.
Gandhi Square was recently an inner city wasteland. But it was redeveloped in the late 1990s and the huge bus terminal in the center of the square was renovated.
After Gandhi Square, Main Street is closed to traffic for the next several blocks.
You know you’ve reached the mining precinct when you start seeing massive mining machinery turned into art. This mining headgear near the intersection of Main and Ferreira Streets was dismantled and brought here from Rustenburg Platinum Mines. (Photo courtesy of Joe.)
This section of Main Street feels like the safest place in the world – there are more security guards than pedestrians. (Mining companies don’t mess around with safety.) As Joe photographed the headgear, I had a nice conversation with two guards who wanted to know if there are cows in America.
Joe shoots pictures of the beautiful and controversial “Impala Stampede” outside Anglo American. The statue, which Harry Oppenheimer donated to the city in 1960, used to reside in nearby Oppenheimer Park. But the park became dilapidated in the 1990s and the statue was eventually relocated to Main Street after multiple vandalism incidents. Oppenheimer Park is currently being rehabilitated.
I have a lot more to learn about downtown Joburg. Expect lots more about it in future posts.