National Geographic : 2004 Apr
suburban office parks by the commercial giants that were headquartered here. In 2000 the Johannesburg Stock Exchange followed its clients north to Sandton. Yet the streets beneath the seemingly empty office blocks of the city center still bustle by day-crammed with vendors hawking fruit and vegetables, plastic shoes and secondhand clothes, to a TASTII clientele of black township commuters, but ar "It's changed, it's changing, but survive dying it isn't. It's not the apartheid share city of the past; it's an African city knew that reflects the demography of the libera country," insists Neil Fraser, director of the Central Johannesburg Partnership, an alliance of city and private sector interests that is coordinating the battle to revitalize the down town economy. Garbage collection is being improved, police patrols boosted, and the unlicensed vendors who choked the streets are being regulated, all in an effort to attract res idents and businesses. A web of surveillance cameras now spies on the city center, con nected to a complex computer brain known as the matrix, whose operators report directly to the police and to the city managers. John Penberthy, head of the enterprise that runs the system, says street crime downtown has been significantly reduced. Meanwhile, the South African government, in a major effort to improve the lot of blacks in Johannesburg, is building one of the largest housing projects the world has ever seen, tens of thousands of basic homes with running water and electricity. It's a Sisyphean task: The appeal of eGoli is as strong now as it was to the pros pectors more than a century ago, and as fast as new houses are built, more shanties are thrown up by fresh crops of hopeful arrivals. I visit a shantytown mushrooming on a farm called Bredell near Johannesburg Inter national Airport. Such is the nervousness of foreign investors that the shantytown's appearance had lowered the value of the rand, South Africa's currency. Riot police soon arrive and, as they so often did in the apartheid past, they stand guard over a demolition team: 200 men in red fatigues armed with crowbars the so-called Red Ants, who wait for the order to destroy the shacks. Constance Mamatlepa stands at her front 76 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * APRIL 2004 door. Upon it is painted a figure of Christ on the cross, complete with a crown of thorns, bloodied ribs, and a serene smile of forgiveness. "We have three choices,' she says, surveying the forces arrayed against her. "Tear gas, rubber bul lets, or police dogs." NG FREEDOM Police put a bullet in his spine, ntiapartheid activist Kgomotso Modise, at right, red to become the head of an ad agency and a smoke with a friend. He wishes more blacks such prosperity: "Economically we are still not ted. It's going to take a generation or two."