Tang Shanshan, Zhang Yang, Chen Huiyin
KNOWN as a city rich in gold and coal resources, Johannesburg in South Africa attracted gold diggers from all around the world starting in the late 1880s. Owing to the gold rush, the city was established in 1928.
Mining has brought prosperity to Johannesburg, but it has also contaminated the city’s air and water.
Johannesburg is now seeking a new route to become a modern city and sustainability and livability are the cores of its development, said Parks Tau, mayor of Johannesburg, during an interview with Shenzhen Special Zone Daily
Innovation is vital to a city’s development, Tau said. In his opinion, innovation comes from the combination of ideas, creativity and technology.
Ideas are the most important element, meaning having plans and the courage to confront difficulties. By creativity, Tau means not only material and technological innovation but also the improvement of the soft environment, such as the vitality of a community and household income.
In terms of technology, Tau said it is the opportunities technological innovation brings rather than technological innovation itself that matters.
The city of Johannesburg has tried hard to achieve innovation. After a nationwide broadband technological revolution, the city has broken the digital isolation that has existed for a long time in many African countries and granted the poor as much access to information as the rich.
The city is also building an efficient public transportation system, which could help integrate society. In addition, the city promotes a low-carbon and environmentally friendly lifestyle and has been actively developing renewable energy to ease its dependence on coal.
“Sustainability and livability are the core of a city’s future,” Tau said. To become a sustainable city, Johannesburg has strived to tackle the problems of natural resource shortages and pollution.
Johannesburg is a city based on coal sources, which is nonrenewable and highly polluting. The city must try all means to save energy and develop new resources, Tau said, adding that the government offers subsidies to encourage its residents to use solar energy.
Mining has been an important part of the development of Johannesburg, but it has also caused serious environmental problems. The city is now taking measures to alleviate the pollution, such as afforesting abandoned mines, applying new technology to mining and mineral wastewater treatment.
“We also pay considerable attention to the preservation of the ecological environment,” Tau said. “People must get permits from the government for logging and fishing. Otherwise, they will be fined or put into prison.”
A city of migrants
Like Shenzhen, Johannesburg is a city of migrants. The majority of its over 12 million population comes from outside the city. These migrants have contributed a lot to the city’s development.
“The first and foremost thing is to make sure every one in the city has equality of opportunity,” Tau said. “We want to give them a sense of belonging.”
But there are various challenges facing the city on the way to achieving equality, such as housing and health care.
Tau said his city designates an area for new migrants to live, makes it easier for them to get job information and holds activities on a regular basis to help them integrate into the local community.
Low-income or unemployed migrants can get free water and electricity and apply for low-rent housing or housing allowances from the government, Tau said.
Migrants bring different cultures and religious beliefs to the city. The city holds a variety of activities to enhance communication and understanding among the residents from different backgrounds.
The city of Johannesburg also tries to preserve its local cultural heritage. For example, the city holds artistic festivals to promote local culture and protects relics with strict laws.
Cooperation with SZ
Johannesburg is seeking a stronger cooperative relation with Shenzhen. Mayor Tau praised Shenzhen as a city of miracles that is driven by high technology.
Johannesburg has become an important base for many Shenzhen enterprises to expand their market to Africa. Enterprises such as ZTE, Huawei and BYD, have established branches in Johannesburg.
Shenzhen’s top leader, Wang Rong, visited Johannesburg last year to promote the economic and trading cooperation between the two cities.
Tau said he expects more cooperation with Shenzhen in the telecommunication area. With advanced telecommunication technologies, Shenzhen will help Johannesburg develop into a city of wisdom, he said.
Mayor of Johannesburg
Parks Tau, 41, is the mayor of Johannesburg, South Africa.
Born and raised in Orlando West, Soweto, Tau was elected mayor in 2011 and was named the regional vice president of the African National Congress in Johannesburg the same year.
He played a leadership role as the president of the Student Representatives Commission at Pace Commercial College and was also the president of the Soweto Youth Congress.
City of Johannesburg
Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa and the second-largest city in Africa. The city has an area of 508 square kilometers and its population was over 12 million by 2011.
Known as a city of gold, Johannesburg is the world’s biggest gold production center. It is also one of the top 10 global financial markets and is regarded as the “Manhattan of Africa.”
The city is divided by its railways into two parts: a heavy industrial district in the south and the downtown in the north. University of Johannesburg, formed in 2005, is one of the city’s best-known universities.