President and Sister Dunn

Monday, September 22, 2014

Know Where You Live

On Saturday September 20th, we spent a day getting to know the community in which we live and serve.  So we took the rare opportunity to come to to the city for the day and learn.  We drive through downtown coming and going, but today we spent time in the heart of the city, touring around Johannesburg, affectionately know as Joburg. (Hoorah for P-Day's)

This is also a special day back in our home community, Salt Lake City. September 20th is this year's Annual Legacy of Lowell Community Service Day. So, since I could not participate locally this year, I am happy to report I did my own version of coming to know my community, so we can engage in more projects in the future.

Johannesburg is a city that has a reputation of not being safe with a blighted urban area, badly needing renewal. However, it has much to offer and a great deal of contrasts.  We were excited to know Joburg more personally for ourselves, since we are here for the next three years.

We talked to our neighbors, the Van Breda's, (Cecil, Lynne and their son Pierre) when we had them over for dinner a month ago, about our desire to know the city of Johannesburg. They are Afrikaaners and are native to South Africa and had lots to share with us from their experience and perspective. We really enjoyed getting to know them.

Pierre, their  delightful 26 year old son offered to help us organize a tour and be our guide for the day on the Joburg City Sightseeing Bus Tour. Even though the bus lets you on and off as it goes around to many of the important sites in the City, Pierre offered to plan the excursion and be our personal guide. How do you pass up an offer like this?
So, here is Pierre, ready for a great day ahead! He is so wonderful to be willing and enthusiastic about giving up a rare day off to spend with us.  I extended the offer to our senior couples serving in the Johannesburg Mission office and also Dr. Barton and his wife Connie from the Area Office. We work so closely with Dr. Barton, as he is the area medical doctor ( and we talk daily!)
So, off we went for a day of getting to know our new community and city...Johannesburg, South Africa, aka Joburg! So, all 11 of us joined together for a full day of fun!
Pierre also invited his co-workers, Greg and Jenny to join with us. We were explaining to them that we were all missionaries for the LDS church and after a bit of explaining, they said..."we understand, we are also members."  So, it was nice of Pierre to surround himself all day with a whole group of Mormon tourists.  He did a wonderful job making it interesting and so much fun.
We are off! haha

The Allred's have just been here less than a month. So glad they could join us!

The Thompson's and Barton's ready for the day.
Pierre with his amazing camera.  He works for a photo and camera company. Many of the better pictures on this posting come from Pierre's camera, not mine.
It looks like we are on a ride at Disneyland!

The Barton's and the Hansen's
The Hansen's and President Dunn are holding up the back of the bus!
The big red bus turning into the first stop, Ghandi Square.
So many  interesting buildings dot the skyline.  There is a sense of new resurgence in much of the City.

Since 2006 Johannesburg has been going extensive ongoing rejuvenation with organisations such as the JHC (Johannesburg Housing Commision) and the JAI (Johannesburg Architectural Institute) spearheading the operations.

A prime example of the success they have had with their operations is the Braamfontein Precinct.
Formerly a district that was taken over by illegal immigrants from our Neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe and Mozambique seeking refuge,it wasn't long until the area turned into a slum.

Bit by bit the area was reclaimed and eventually turned back into a dynamic,vibrant area where now the fashionistas and trend-setters of the city converse socially.This is also now the design hub of the city with many Architectural firms,Interior Design and Graphic Design studios having relocated here from places such as Sandton for example.
But many dilapidated buildings still exist all around the downtown area. Fire has left some of them empty, but also the financial realities of Apartheid ending and the downtown area completely changing.  It is surprising to see many tall buildings standing, but vacant. Many of the vacant buildings have squatters living in them, with no utilities.  Pierre told us that there is a military group called the Red Ants and they choose a building and evict all the squatters and then commit to refurbishing an area and a building.  They have tried to clean up parts of the City. They come fully armed and after eviction is complete, they get financing to  redo the building and start the process of urban renewal.  Below, is the Hillbrow area and Vodacom Building.  Before Apratheid ended, this area was the high end real estate area of the city. Now, the buildings have flats that are run down with high crime. It has the reputation as one of the most dangerous parts of the city to be in. Missionaries have served here in the past, but currently we are re-evaluating the security measures to have missionaries be able to be in Hillbrow. Ironically, it is one of the strongest wards in Joburg and we desperately have a need for missionaries to be here. Hopefully it will be soon.

The building with the Vodacom sign on top is in fact Ponte Tower,a very important structure,here is more about it:

Ponte City Apartments is a skyscraper in Hillbrow .It was built in 1975 to a height of 173 m (567.6 ft), making it the tallest residential skyscraper in Africa. The 54-story building is cylindrical, with an open center allowing additional light into the apartments. The center space is known as "the core" and rises above an uneven rock floor. Ponte City was an extremely desirable address for its views over all of Johannesburg and its surroundings. The sign on top of the building is the highest and largest sign in the southern hemisphere.

11 Diagonal Street was Designed by world famous Architect Helmut Jahn.The fully glazed building facade was designed to portray a diamond laying on its side.A fitting reference since the building was formerly the headquarters of a mining company.
Below is an example of one of the re-vitalized areas in Hillbrow.  The buildings have been painted and streets are cleaned up. Hillbrow residents are taking back their community one street and building at a time. 
There is no where in the world with more renewal opportunities in an urban area than Joburg-and with a population of young entrepreneurs interested in trying to tackle this in bite size pieces.

Newly painted and refurbished buildings in Hillbrow, part of the Ekhaya neighbourhood initiative

Nelson Mandela Bridge, connecting the old with the new!
City Streets on a busy Saturday!
The Gold Reef Casino has the Springbok in the fountains, symbolizing strength and agility. This stop included the Gold Reef City and Theme Park, Apartheid Museum, (which we go to often with the missionaries as they depart) and the fancy Gold Reef Casino and Hotel.  No pictures taken here, other than the Springbok statue.

View from the top of the Carlton Building.  The Carlton Conference Center has a 500 room Carlton Hotel attached. When Apartheid ended the hotel owner was charged with tax evasion. Apparently, he closed the hotel, locked the door and walked away. No one has done one thing to purchase or renovate the hotel since that day over 20 years ago. With a new government and challenges figuring out the impact of ending Apartheid, no one would take a chance on renovation.  All the furniture is still in every room and the registration area is as it was, with papers, furniture, etc. It is in the heart of the City and one of the Tour stops.  This gives you an idea of the challenges and realities facing urban renewal projects in Joburg.

Architectural significance of the City.

Carlton Centre is a skyscraper and shopping centre located in downtown Johannesburg. At 223 metres (730 ft), it is the tallest building in Africa and about half the height of the Willis Tower (the former Sears Tower) in Chicago. It was the tallest building in the southern hemisphere when originally completed. The Carlton Centre has 50 floors, and is 223m tall, about 40m short of featuring in the world's top 100 skyscrapers.

The foundations of the two buildings in the complex are 3.5m in diameter and extend 20m down to the bedrock, 30m below street level. The building houses both offices and shops, and has over 46 per cent of the floor area below ground level. A viewing deck on the 50th floor offers views of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Braamfontein is where we got off to enjoy lunch. It is an area that has renewal and a very good vibe. We loved it here and will be back to enjoy the amazing food and atmosphere when we have a little time.

The Neighbour Goods Market was our favorite place of the day.  We got treats before our sit down lunch. Pierre bought us some billtong, (the best beef jerky you will ever eat)  I got him some homemade roasted banana ice cream and the Allred's found homemade tarts and crepes.  We will be back!

Lunch stop across the street from the Market at Velo's

The food market is full of the most innovative food entrepreneurs selling waffles, pizza's, crepes, taco's homemade ice cream, name it...they seem to have it.

Last stop was Constitutional Hill. This is a most interesting place where a prison was erected inside the city area during the Apartheid area. Criminals and political prisoners were housed here for decades.  Nelson Mandela's wife, Winnie,  spent time here as well. When Apartheid ended the doors were open to the prison and everyone was freed.

Here is the Lobby of the Constitution Building, built when Apartheid ended on the same site for a symbolic reminder. They have kept the prison as a museum and put the working Constitution Building on the same property.
The bricks of the prison were used to build the Constitutional Court Room, to serve as a reminder of the injustice from the street on the judicial proceedings to symbolize this commitment.

We took the GauTrain from RoseBank to and from Park Station to get on the train. The GauTrain is a fairly new addition to the city, coming at the time of the World's Cup, 4 years ago. It is clean, efficient and high tech in every way. It was  a fun way to begin and end our tour. Pierre insisted we go that route, because in his view it is a vital part of the tour. It runs from downtown Joburg to the airport and to major city centers outside Joburg, i.e. Sandton, Centurion and Pretoria. We will take it again, now we know more about it. It is one of the nicest rail systems I have ever seen in any big city. 

This day gave all of us a much more personal sense of the city of Joburg. The dangerous, crime ridden image is not what you should imagine when you think of Joburg. Instead, it is a vibrant, emerging city with a poignant past.

For more informatin about Joburg


  1. I think this is my favorite post so far!!! :)
    I love this recap and love seeing more about what an interesting and unique city you live in.
    Seeing you with an ice cream + big smile is all too familiar from every trip with you.
    Can't wait to do all of these things!! Fun group!


  2. I'm glad you mentioned Legacy of Lowell! I had my own version of LOL here in Ellensburg and had dinner at the food bank to get to know some of my community! Thanks for always setting such a great example for me.

  3. I loved seeing Joburg. What an interesting city and fun day.