Tragic South Africa Fire Breaks Out: Latest Updates Reveal Devastating Death Toll of 73 in Johannesburg Building Blaze

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Johannesburg: A City in Political Crisis

By John Eligon and Lynsey Chutel | Aug. 31, 2023

Lynsey Chutel

Aug. 31, 2023, 6:40 a.m. ET


Johannesburg was once a city of dreamers, a gold town that seduced prospectors from all over hoping to strike it rich. Lately, though, the city has been something of a political punchline, a metropolis where many residents’ spirits are as dark as the streetlights.

The Mayor’s Inauguration

In May, after days of brinkmanship and arm-twisting, the city inaugurated its sixth mayor in 22 months: Kabelo Gwamanda, a first-term city councilor from a political party that got just 1 percent of the vote in the previous municipal election.

A History of Chaos and Instability

  • Mayoral terms are measured in weeks and months
  • Inability of council members to stick with a leader has resulted in a municipal mess

The Struggles of Johannesburg Residents

  • Residents often struggle through days without electricity and water
  • Dodge cratered roads
  • Fret about dilapidated buildings

Fires and Neglect

Mr. Gwamanda blamed years of neglect for the conditions that led to the recent fire in the city. He vowed that his administration would be accountable despite being only six months old.

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