News / Africa

Johannesburg Ordered to Pull 'World-Class African City' Ad

  • At the foot of one of Johannesburg's most recognizable landmarks, the Hillbrow tower.
  • Johannesburg is a mix of urban cityscapes and nature.
  • "Prophets" advertising in the inner city Hillbrow precinct.
  • A young couple in front of the skyline of the Sandton business district.
  • One of the city's countless minibus "taxis" -- the main mode of transportation for many Johannesburgers.
  • The Magogo Minimarket, which is about as wide as this door.
  • City skyline, in relief.
  • A view of the city's industrial area.
  • Local African greens for sale in inner-city Johannesburg.
  • A lunch counter in Soweto.
  • The city is full of instances of mid-century architecture, like this defunct hotel.
  • Hillbrow night. Taken from Constitution Hall.
VOA's Anita Powell ditched the SLR camera and took to the streets with just her iPhone to capture these photos of life in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Anita Powell
There is a fine chocolatier in the South African city of Johannesburg that carefully giftwraps confections in frothy layers of tissue paper. It’s down the road from the Ferrari dealership and the boys’ school where annual fees start at $7,500 - roughly equal to three years’ tuition at the University of Johannesburg.
 
But drive your Ferrari a few miles north and you’ll find Diepsloot, the notorious, trash-strewn shack settlement known for violent attacks on foreigners, episodes of mob justice and protests by residents demanding running water and electricity.
 
It’s those sharp contradictions that bothered resident Steven Haywood when he heard a radio ad touting the city with the tagline, “Joburg, a World-Class African City.”

And this week, South Africa’s Advertising Standards Authority upheld his complaint, ruling that Johannesburg must stop airing the ad, arguing it is inaccurate.

The authority made its decision based on data that shows that the city has been audited three times, that its waste management company often leaves trash lying about for days, and its roads agency doesn’t have money to fix the roads.  

The city, Haywood noted, has also had to write off $1.2 billion in missing revenue.
 
The data was published on the city’s own website.
 
Nthatisi Modingoane, a city spokesman, said the city will appeal the ruling on the grounds that Johannesburg is striving to be financially and environmentally strong.
 
“Whoever is listening might be saying [that] I’m biased, because they pay my salary. But for me it’s beyond that. … We attract so many people coming to Johannesburg," said Modingoane. "People are rushing here. It says there is something that is being talked about through the word of mouth in terms of how great this city is.”
 
Gerald Garner of the Joburg City Tourism Association said he thinks this city is “one of the most exciting on the planet.”
 
“The city is a melting pot, it’s a very creative place, one of the most creative cities on the planet, and you never have a dull moment in this city. … If you talk about diversity, there are so many different areas, but it’s also so many different stories," he said.

Many South Africans love to sneer at Johannesburg. Since its founding in 1886, this mining town has been a place where people come from all over Africa to make money. Johannesburg is often accused of not having a soul.  
 
Garner strongly disagrees. He said, “I think that is the biggest misconception on the planet. Johannesburg especially has soul, look at the art and culture in this city, look at the public art in the inner city, look at the incredible regeneration of the city happening, look at this entrepreneurial spirit. I mean, if that’s not soul, then I don’t know -- the one thing Johannesburg has is soul.”
 
Sometimes I am reminded of my childhood home of Houston, Texas, a sprawling metropolis filled with big houses built on oil money.  

But in other ways I’m often reminded of the town I consider home: Austin, Texas. The city’s motto is “keep Austin weird,” by virtue of its organic grocery stores, its live music scene and its unofficial patron saint, country singer Willie Nelson.
 
Johannesburg is a city with more people than Chicago or Berlin, yet there is no consolidated transport network. Packed minibuses careen wildly through the streets, seemingly impervious to physics and road rules, and screech to a stop for passengers who deploy a wild array of hand gestures to indicate their general destination. It’s a wonder anyone gets anywhere.

I once asked a passenger, “where is this bus going?” “I’m not sure,” she replied, “But I’m sure we’ll find out.”

Officially Johannesburg’s nickname is “Egoli” - or the city of gold.  But the unofficial motto of this place also seems to be “you’ll get killed.” Johannesburgers of all stripes have said this to me, as if this city is stalked by a ninja hit squad.
 
"You want to walk through your neighborhood?" asks the woman who takes the bus in everyday from the impoverished township. Oh, no, my dear, you’ll get killed. "You live where?" says the friend who lives five minutes away. You’ll get killed.  
 
Even inanimate objects promote this. There is a cheap local beer that comes in milk cartons, called Joburg Beer. Emblazoned on the side of the carton is “don’t drink and walk in the road. You may be killed.”  
 
So far, knock on wood, they have all been wrong.
 
This is the place that formed the front line of the fight against apartheid, but where until six years ago a main road was still named after Hendrik Verwoerd, the man who came up with the racist, discriminatory system.  

There is a Louis Vuitton store - the busiest in Africa, I’m told - and an internationally respected art and literary scene.
 
This is also a city where you can purchase desiccated monkey paws at a bustling traditional market and hire a self-appointed prophet to do anything from bringing back your lost lover to enlarging parts of your anatomy.  Some prophets, I’m told, will consult with you on your iPhone.
 
This all sounds a bit chaotic, and perhaps not fodder for a compelling ad. But this city’s hard edge is tempered by an energy that I’ve rarely seen elsewhere - certainly not in Cape Town, the so-called “mother city,” whose intense beauty is chilled by the frostiness of its residents.
 
Here in Johannesburg, anything goes and everyone is welcome. And we like it that way. The other day, as I drove to work, I watched, captivated, as a man did a series of backflips in the intersection.
 
Across the road, an artist sat on the sidewalk, offering an assortment of beaded giraffes, sheep, and monkeys. He looked up and saw me - and then held aloft a fully beaded, accurate-to-scale AK-47.
 
World-class weirdness, indeed.
  • At the foot of one of Johannesburg's most recognizable landmarks, the Hillbrow tower.
  • Johannesburg is a mix of urban cityscapes and nature.
  • "Prophets" advertising in the inner city Hillbrow precinct.
  • A young couple in front of the skyline of the Sandton business district.
  • One of the city's countless minibus "taxis" -- the main mode of transportation for many Johannesburgers.
  • The Magogo Minimarket, which is about as wide as this door.
  • City skyline, in relief.
  • A view of the city's industrial area.
  • Local African greens for sale in inner-city Johannesburg.
  • A lunch counter in Soweto.
  • The city is full of instances of mid-century architecture, like this defunct hotel.
  • Hillbrow night. Taken from Constitution Hall.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Michael Ambrose
July 17, 2013 2:24 AM
Easy to Use App to stay informed on news, articles, agency gossip and newly released ads for anyone working in advertising. I found this gem over a random Google search. Great for following advertising industry news and agency updates! Today In Advertising App provides handpicked and real – time advertising industry news and it continuously monitors and adjusts online source lists to include new writers and publications as well as opinion leaders of note.

by: Brian from: Johannesburg
July 12, 2013 11:25 AM
The SA government and media tries to portray johannesburg as this "melting pot", "creative space", biggest lie ever, it's a war zone, from being hijacked in your car at the traffic lights to getting jacked at the ATM. The place is a hole.
In Response

by: Billy Banter
July 12, 2013 5:07 PM
Brian talks nonsense. Johannesburg is one of the great cities in the world. Our clients from UK, Germany, Poland love it.

Its in the top 5 cities of advertising creativity (per Cannes Lions); in the top 5 cities for design (per Wallpaper.)

Brian is either an accountant or he doesn't live in Johannesburg, which actually has - yes, this is true - a lower crime rate than ... well, who wants to talk about crime when we're being creative ... but than another SA city close to the ocean. Go away Brian. Go far away.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs