SLICE: Johannesburg will break, build you

The road to responsibility is one that we are all bound to take, and it comes with its negatives and positives. For me to come back to Johannesburg, was a decision that was based on events that acted as a double-edged sword in my life. 

Reflecting only on the bad experiences and telling myself that I would not come back to Johannesburg, I did not consider any life lessons to be drawn from the experiences. However, being back in the city and being able to do almost everything I wanted to do in 2017, I can see that the past experience has equipped me to adapt way better the second time around.

Growing up in Evaton West, a township in the Vaal Triangle where opportunities for the youth are few and a place the government couldn’t care less about, led me to consider moving to Johannesburg, where I thought I could kickstart my career as a photographer.

The younger me back then did not understand how to manoeuvre in the streets of Joburg, who to interact with and who to trust. I was enrolled at an institution named iCollege.

Having to travel to the Johannesburg CBD from the Vaal, some days I would squat at my classmate’s dorm as I did not have transport money. Travelling by Metrorail was another traumatic experienceas I would be forced to ride outside when the train was full, praying the whole time that I would make it home alive.

This ended up being a waste of my money and time because after completing the qualification it turned out that the college was not accredited for the course.  

This harsh experience, plus getting mugged on my way to Park Station and getting scammed of money and a phone in a banking queue, taught me a lot about Johannesburg. It’s what I see as a double-edged sword in my life, as these experiences broke me and, at the same time, built me. 

What made these experiences more traumatic was not having family to support me. I told myself that I would be better off completing my degree in the Vaal or another city or province, far away from Johannesburg. 

The city initiated me in a year to know how the world can be a cold place and that you are responsible for your own happiness in life. What I wished the younger me to have seen is that in whatever situation life places you, there is always a lesson, even in the mayhem. However, as the tinnybuddah website says: “Be kind to past versions of yourself that didn’t know the things you know now.”

My achievements from 2018 to 2020, which include acquiring a BA in communication from North-West University Vaal Triangle Campus, were a result of the hardships I experienced the first time I came to study in Joburg. Today I see the city of gold through a different lens, as a hub for creatives in the artistic fields that I desire to be part of, as well as an opportunity to study at one of the biggest universities in Africa.

The diversity in culture, lifestyle and way of doing things as I perceive it now is more unifying of various cultures to bring a different taste of life to the city and introduce a new culture. I gained this new perspective while travelling in and around the city taking pictures, and I found that I could be part of that new culture.

The Alfonso that is here today came back because of what the younger me experienced and what the younger me gained, which has made me the person I am proud to be today. I am no longer afraid of the city and now understand that life may not go as planned, but through all that, I should keep my chin up. Now I can honestly say, I have been through the most and I am ready for what life keeps bringing to the table, instead of running back home as I did before. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Alfonso Nqunjana


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Public transport gets a shot in the arm

The Passenger Rail Agency of SA (PRASA) recently unveiled a R500-million plan in an effort to boost public transport usage in Johannesburg. This is part of the R1-billion the company will inject into major stations in a bid to improve passenger numbers, PRASA CEO Lucky Montana said. The plans involves the development of its property around Braamfontein station and link it up with the Johannesburg in an investment that will cost about. The initiative is touted to increase rail passenger numbers.
But there are serious doubts whether renovating train stations will attract passengers to trains without a feeder network of buses and taxis.
The 2006 national household travel survey, undertaken by the national department of transport, found that 52% of Johannesburg residents had no access to train services in their residential areas, compared to 5% of residents who reported that there was a no taxi service near their homes.
Itumeleng Motaung, a young HR professional who works in Braamfontein and lives on the East Rand, said she preferred to commute by taxis because trains were unreliable.
“Taxis do delay (at times), but they are better than trains. Flexibility is important if you are a punctual person,” she said.
She expressed doubt that she would use trains even if there was a connection between Park station and Braamfontein because trains were more often full and unsafe.
When President Jacob Zuma took a train on Thursday—to travel with ordinary commuters between the three metros of Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg—he found that they were overloaded with passengers. Most of them reportedly complained about the lack of reliability and punctuality of trains when they travel to work in the mornings.
The problem is not confined to Johannesburg alone.
A recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report on the integration of Gauteng as a city region found that residents who live further than places of employment were spent more time than those who lived closer to them.