Conventional wisdom dictates that crime is a result of poverty. But what is ironic about Johannesburg is that it is blessed with immense natural resources, and yet its people remain impoverished and reliant on illegal activities for survival. Johannesburg is South Africa’s largest and most populous city. It is also the provincial capital of Gauteng, whose economy is considered the most prosperous both in South Africa and in all the metropolitan regions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Johannesburg does not form one of South Africa’s three capital cities, although it is often assumed to be South Africa’s capital.
However, South Africa’s highest court, the South African Constitutional Court, is located in Johannesburg. Johannesburg’s main industries are gold and diamond trade, taking advantage of its location on the mineral-rich Witwatersrand range of hills. It also has the O. R. Tambo International Airport, South Africa’s largest and busiest airport and a gateway to all international flights to and from the rest of South Africa. As of 2001, Johannesburg’s population was estimated to be at 3 million.
It has a large land area of 1,644 square kilometers (635 square miles), resulting in a population density of only 1,962 inhabitants per square kilometer (5,082 square miles). The population of the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Area (the area surrounding the city of Johannesburg) is almost 8 million. In the southwest, Johannesburg also includes Soweto, a town established by the apartheid government to accommodate the large number of migrant workers in the country. The original inhabitants of Johannesburg were the Bantus or the blacks.
European settlement did not begin until the 1880’s, when the discovery of gold in the area led to a gold rush. As news of the gold rush spread, people from all over South Africa as well as those from North America, the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe flocked to Johannesburg. However, increasing price of land control resulted in tension between the Boer government and the British, leading to the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1901). A more organized mining structure emerged with the 1910 declaration of the Union of South Africa.
However, the South African government later imposed a harsh racial system, where blacks and Indians were heavily taxed, barred from occupying skilled jobs and forced to work as migrant laborers in Johannesburg’s gold mines. The South African government then created a system of forced removals, which moved the population of non-European descent into specified areas. This resulted in the sprawling shantytown of Soweto (Southern Western Townships), where blacks were forced to live during the height of apartheid.
Violence erupted in 1976 when the Soweto Students Representative Council protested the use of Afrikaans, which was not mastered even by most teachers, as the primary language of instruction in black schools. 1,000 people died protesting the apartheid system in the 12 months that followed. Johannesburg has been free of discriminatory laws after the abolition of apartheid in 1990 and the 1994 elections. The black townships have been assimilated into the municipal government system and the suburbs have become multiracial to a certain extent.
However, large-scale migration of businesses and commerce from the Central Business District and the southern suburbs to the more affluent northern suburbs resulted in a rise in the crime rate, serious traffic congestion, inadequate public transport and a taxation system in favor of landlords in the northern suburbs. Johannesburg is considered as the crime capital of South Africa. Its crime rate actually increased in the midst of a major anti-crime offensive in from October 2006 to December 2006.