Johannesburg, one can never forget, is a mining town. There are physical reminders – great pyramids of spoil from the mines litter the landscape – but more entrenched is the psychology of the mining town. People usually come to Johannesburg because there is money to be made here and they often go as soon as they have made it. The crassness of the place is, roughly speaking, Texan – South African golfers playing the American pro circuit tend to live in Houston, another skyscraper city in the middle of nowhere. But Johannesburg is changing at a remarkable rate: more and more obviously it is becoming Africa’s capital as traders flood in from Zaire, Nigeria and all points between. The result is high-quality African masks and curios on sale in the streets, Nigerian drug barons running a whole suburb, Francophone accents everywhere and an extraordinary dynamism.
The full text of this diary is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.