Our youth talk as if they come from the South Bronx and we have enough malls in Johannesburg to supply goods to the rest of the continent. Explaining to a tourist why we are so obsessed with recycled mall air is a bit difficult.
Sure, there is the small matter of crime, and the migration away from high streets, but here in the city of gold we know that being in a mall does not guarantee safety. Excluding the retail centers that have popped up on almost every major intersection, one simply couldn’t visit all the malls in Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg in a day.
Think about it. We have East Gate, North Gate, West Gate, South Gate, Bedford Centre, Balfour Park, Golden Walk, East Rand Mall, Lakeside Mall, The Glen, The Mall of Rosebank, Killarney Mall, Hyde Park, Cresta, ClearWater Mall, Cradlestone Mall, Fourways Mall, Sandton City and Greenstone Mall.
There are probably more and Pretoria would add a significant chunk. Then there are hundreds of smaller centers such as Nicolway, Hillfox, Cedar Square and Peter Place, as well as retail parks. We are in the country of malls, led by Gauteng.
And so it follows that when tourists arrive in Johannesburg and surrounds and ask a local for advice to do something touristy, many locals are at a loss. If malls were used exclusively for shopping it would make sense, but, bizarrely, in our beautiful climate people go to malls to “hang out”.
To kill time on weekends most people choose malls over the Botanical Gardens in Krugersdorp, or Rietvlei, or the host of nature reserves on the west and east of the city, or the apartheid museum, Maropeng, going up the cable car at Hartbeespoort, Panorama in the CBD, Vilikazi street, two major zoos, private zoos and lion, rhino and cheetah sanctuaries. Sure these all cost money but going to a mall is not cheap – even the parking costs money.
There are no rules and people can obviously do what they want, but what a tragedy it is to live in a place and have no idea about the gems and treasures all around you?
Design Quarter is not Johannesburg. It is an anti-septic conglomeration of over-priced eateries. There’s nothing wrong with that if you have money to waste, but then why not do it at the Westcliff or Joburg Country Club and enjoy a view?
Montecasino has a fairly well-painted roof but it is nothing compared to the night sky in Sterkfontein or the view from atop Northcliff hill. Observatory is more than an old suburb skirting the fine line of edginess as Rockey Street extends outwards, it is named after an observatory on top of one of the highest points in the city.
Again, crime will be a reason to spend weekends inside malls, but we don’t need any reminding of the shoot out at Bedford Centre, Clearwater Mall’s parking lot or at the traffic circle outside Montecasino’s entrance last week.
Emmarentia Dam and Delta Park are outdoor gems. My wish is that the people of Gauteng are, somehow, able to claim the natural beauty and treasures as our own, so that they are not just spooky places populated with foreigners in safari suits emerging from tour busses.