A long time ago, when I was at school, we learnt about inner city decline and reform. In those days, it was safe to walk around the streets of Johannesburg and the cosmopolitan area of Hillbrow but within years of me finishing school, decline was well and truly setting in. As a property manager I managed a wide portfolio of properties and I got a unique perspective into the difficulties in maintaining buildings in rapidly declining neighbourhoods.
Throughout all of that, I knew that inner city reform was on the way. This was reinforced when a man bought one of the buildings I managed in Hillbrow. When no businessman would go near the inner city, this man had a vision to set up a franchise of bakeries while refurbishing the buildings they were in and converting old office space to low-cost, affordable residential units.
In October last year, he and I briefly chatted about the idea of an interview as I was so interested in the spirit behind this man’s decisions and the vision that he had to invest in and improve a part of the inner city. That idea ran around my head for a couple of months until it exploded in my mind, as my ideas often do.
You see, it occurred to me that many people have no idea of what life is like in South Africa and how normal South African people feel, think and act. Sure, you know me but I’m hardly representative of a whole nation of individuals. Stephanie from Little London Observationist has a fantastic feature that she runs on Saturdays called Listen to a Londoner and she inspired me to think about doing something like that too.
I had a grand idea that I’d like to interview South African business owners and individuals too to show how normal South Africans think and how they are gearing up for the World Cup. I started contacting a couple of people and finally started getting some positive responses.
So, starting this Sunday, I’ll be running a weekly feature called “A Window Into South Africa”. I think you’ll be surprised at how optimistic, hopeful and genuine South Africans are. The plan is to run it until the World Cup starts in June but who knows? Perhaps it will really take off!
(And fingers crossed – maybe the man who started it all will agree to share his thoughts with us!)