An article in The Witness (the oldest continuously published newspaper in South Africa) began…
“I flew over Tembisa, northeast of Johannesburg, last Saturday, It was a beautiful clear morning with excellent visibility and beneath me I could see the thousands upon thousands of Tembisa homes fanning out below. Small properties with postage-stamp gardens and not a single tree, not a patch of lawn and not a shrub visible from the sky. Just thousands and thousands of bungalows surrounded by dust.”
“Minutes later, as we started to climb higher into the sky, we flew above Soweto, that amazing city that’s home to millions. Once again, we were looking down on little houses in the middle of those dusty plots. Once again, you could see the shabby playgrounds, grassless and featureless, alongside the community centres rising from the dried soil, baked hard by the African sun. Brown Africa – dry, dusty and unforgiving.”
Whilst some of what The Witness published may have some validity, it is also grossly unfair.
One has to qualify that South Africa’s townships are the direct products of apartheid, and are the epitome of urban desertification. Ill-planned, they are the victims of unjust and unfeeling bureaucracy. These areas offer the ultimate challenge in urban greening.
I’ve seen many well tended gardens and plots of edible planting in Soweto. It may be sporadic, but it’s there if you look, like small shoots springing up.