Lukanyo Mnyanda.
Lukanyo Mnyanda.
Image: Freddy Mavundla

It’s one of those middle-class problems, the sort to which people of a certain background will be embarrassed to admit. When I left Johannesburg, the intention was that my self-imposed exile would be two years, so selling up was the last thing on my mind.

That’s why I never put my Killarney flat on the market. The downside to renting it out over such a long period was that, by the time I got back, it was in a state of disrepair. Not good enough to move into, or to sell for anything resembling face value.

The dilemma was whether or not to spend money on it, which would involve either taking on debt or drawing down on some of my long-term savings. In other words, tapping into my pension.

Killarney is traditionally a nice area, and this would normally not be a difficult decision.

But it’s a bit more complicated if you are one of those who bought in the street leading up to the mall entrance.

There’s no need to get into great detail about the legacy of apartheid-era urban planning and developers’ lack of concern for the needs of mostly black people who travel from afar to work at the shops and restaurants in malls and other businesses (and homes) in traditionally white suburbs.

In the middle of this apparent lawlessness, it was rather surprising to discover that some laws are being enforced

But the consequence is a lack of public-transport infrastructure, which inevitably leads to illegal or informal taxi ranks filling in the gap. And since people are not “supposed” to be there, basic necessities like public toilets are nonexistent. A short walk from my flat to the mall means one goes past people sitting, drinking, and urinating on the pavement and against wall buildings.

There’s even talk of a trade in drugs, along with the harmless selling of snacks. Residents are forever complaining about a lack of enforcement of bylaws.

If you’ve recently taken a drive past Yeoville or Brixton’s High Street, you get a sense of how this story usually ends.

Residents’ associations are fighting the good fight and have had what have been characterised as sometimes “difficult discussions” with the company that manages the mall. But when the rot starts, can it ever be reversed? Time will tell.

In the middle of this apparent lawlessness, it was rather surprising to discover that some laws are being enforced — probably because they add to the council’s coffers. I discovered this through a rather interesting encounter with one of the taxi drivers operating in the area.

Driving into Killarney from Houghton and needing to go into the mall, I parked on the side street, prompting a warning from the taxi driver on the other side that I should turn around lest I get a fine from the alert metro police for facing the wrong way.

The area could do with some consistency in law enforcement.

Mnyanda is the editor of Business Day.

From the July edition of Wanted 2019.

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