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In his book Johannesburg Portraits, Mike Alfred asserts that in the past the city, despite the brutalities of the apartheid period, had “developed a vibrancy associated with the gift of life itself. Where else do we see squatters exuberantly papering the walls of their shacks with sheets of Sunlight Soap or Coca-Cola labels? Where else do we hear with one ear symphony music while on the other channels our own city-bred brand of jazz? We are only now becoming aware that downtown Johannesburg is a priceless showcase of 19th and 20th century architecture.”

But under the accumulated weight of a growing, multifaceted and unprecedented socioeconomic and political crisis enervating the city, things have decidedly changed. This great, richest and most powerful city in SA and on the continent is in the throes of a mortal crisis and steadily and sadly appears to be dying before our eyes...

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