The quiet failure of a Chinese developer’s ‘Manhattan in Africa’

A refusal to include affordable housing led Johannesburg to reject glossy plans for high-end housing, offices, a rail station and entertainment district. It seems the city will get disconnected car-centric gated communities instead

The Gautrain rushes through the green rolling hills and grasslands of Modderfontein, the commuter rail’s gold livery recalling Johannesburg’s reason for existence as a mining town, and speeds past the platforms of the commuter station that never got finished.

Four lanes of smooth tarmac lead over the horizon. Streetlights evenly spaced and dropdowns from the kerbs make it easier for pedestrians to cross than in much of South Africa’s biggest city – except there are no pedestrians. The paint still looks fresh and the markings clear, but these roads to nowhere end in concrete and steel barriers.

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