Megamalls, Generic City
fred de vries
It’s impossible not to panic when you’re about to lose your megamall virginity
to Sandton City. The multifunctional complex, which comprises shops, hotels,
ofﬁces, conference centers and squares, rises like a massive, impenetrable for-
tress of cement, steel, and glass, encircled by freeways. Miss the right off ramp,
and you’re back in the lush but aggressively walled-in northern suburbs of Jo-
hannesburg. Forget where you’ve parked your car, and you’ll search for hours.
Come with the idea of some swift shopping, and you’ll end up in tears.
To penetrate Sandton’s innards, a carefully planned attack is a prerequi-
site. A good approach is to take Sandton Drive and ignore the ﬁrst parking
signs. Then, just before you hit Rivonia Road, you turn left where it says
“roof parking.” That’s the tactic I use when I take a Dutch visitor along, in
order to introduce her to Joburg’s biggest mall.
We take that left turn and ﬁnd ourselves in a Ballardian landscape1 of con-
crete and cars, with several small pyramid-like structures signaling entrances
to the heart of the mall. A small red car with the sign crime prevention
races past us, ostensibly on its way to a danger spot, ready to act. Young black
guys with stop wash signs on their backs ask us if they can wash our car.
Security guys—also black—with walkie-talkies stand at strategic places to
make sure all our goods and belongings will still be in our cars when we
come back. In the near distance, builders are working on a giant tower that
forms part of the latest addition to the complex. Elsewhere, work is going on
on yet another extension. Sandton knows no limits.