Greater Johannesburg

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Map of the Greater Johannesburg area

The Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Area is the name of the area surrounding the city of Johannesburg, in South Africa. It includes Johannesburg and the areas of the East Rand and West Rand. It is often referred to as the Witwatersrand, or Rand, after a low mountain range that runs through the area. As of 2005, it consists of different local government units, including Ekurhuleni (made up of the East Rand), the West Rand District Municipality (the West Rand) and City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality (Johannesburg).

According to the 2007 Community Survey, the population of the municipal city was 3,888,180. Such a definition of Johannesburg is, however, highly problematic as the city is decentralized with suburbs like Sandton now of greater economic importance than the city centre.[1] The population of the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Area was 7,151,447,[2] and including suburban regions such as Ekurhuleni, the West Rand, Soweto and Lenasia brings the overall population to 10,267,700 (as of 2007).[3]

The municipal city's land area is very large, listed as 1,645 km2 (635 sq mi).[4] This, however, refers fairly narrowly to the contiguous urbanized area of the city, as the metropolitan area is roughly elliptical (or oblong) in shape, with more development around the core city of Johannesburg. This greater area stretches almost 100 kilometres (62 mi) east-west from Randfontein to Nigel, and some 60 kilometres (37 mi) north-south from Midrand to Orange Farm and Vosloorus, a total area almost four times that officially stated for the metropolis, and over four times that for Greater London. It is by far the largest city in Africa in terms of urban sprawl.

Greater Johannesburg's growth was largely based initially on the discovery of gold, and the urban area runs the length of the gold-bearing reef from east to west. In the past 30 years, there has been considerable growth to the north, as Johannesburg has expanded. Sandton, created as a separate municipal area north of Johannesburg in 1969, is where much of the new business growth has taken place.

In keeping with the definition of a metropolitan area, Johannesburg is multi-nodal, with several centres which are important within their own right: these include Sandton, Randburg, Midrand, Germiston, Roodepoort, Kempton Park, Boksburg, Benoni and Springs. The urban area is often described as having an inner urban core and an outer core, with the focal point being the Johannesburg CBD.

The case for including the East and West Rand in Johannesburg, as well as Soweto, is based on a number of factors:

  • The area shares the same dialling code (011), with Telkom considering a second dialing code for the area. The new code is 010.
  • The East Rand and Soweto campuses of the former Vista University are incorporated into the University of Johannesburg.
  • OR Tambo International Airport, which serves Johannesburg, is located on the East Rand (Ekurhuleni).
  • Roodepoort, always traditionally part of the West Rand, was incorporated into the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality in 2000, while Soweto, always regarded as Johannesburg's sister city or major township during Apartheid, was administered as part of the West Rand in the past.
  • Residents from both the East and West Rand often work in Johannesburg.
  • The areas are not only strongly linked economically, but existing transport axes have also created strong functional links between Johannesburg and its hinterland.
  • Eastgate Shopping Centre, the second-largest in the metro area, straddles the border between Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni.
  • Vehicles of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) and the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department (EMPD) are idenitcal in design, but JMPD's are orange and EMPD's are yellow. In addition, the JMPD and EMPD sometimes carry out joint operations.
  • Transport routes between Johannesburg, East and West Rand share the same metropolitan route numbering system.
  • The areas have been separated for administrative purposes, but it is clear that the urban agglomeration acts as a whole. Naude and Krugell note that "Johannesburg and the East Rand Metropole, although for administrative (legal) purposes two entities, form one large urban agglomeration. If one includes East Rand as part of the City of Johannesburg, then the dominance of Johannesburg as a "primate" city in South Africa becomes clear." [5]

Over the years, Johannesburg and Pretoria (the Tshwane metropolitan area) have also been growing together, and the two cities share a common border. Questions have been raised as to whether they are beginning to function as one, and if this constitutes an extension of the metropolitan area to include Pretoria. Research suggests, however, that Pretoria is a metropolitan area in its own right, and that Johannesburg and Pretoria actually form the start of a megalopolitan system, with Johannesburg as its apex. The inclusion of another major metropolitan area to the south of Johannesburg, the Vaal Triangle, also forms part of this megalopolis, as a concept first coined and defined by French geographer Jean Gottmann.

Johannesburg is listed as having a metropolitan area population of almost 8 million, about two fifths the size of Greater New York.

As yet, there is no freeway that spans the entire length of the Rand, but plans are in motion to extend the N17 freeway from central Johannesburg to Krugersdorp, so that a motorist could cross the area in less than an hour. The new stretch of freeway will be tolled.

The University of the Witwatersrand, as well as the University of Johannesburg, that serve the residents of the whole area, are located in Johannesburg.

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