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I have a BA HED (Higher Education Diploma), and a Tesol English 2nd Language Diploma. I have over 35 years’ teaching experience, and over 15 years’ writing experience, as a journalist in Johannesburg.

For the past 7 years I have conducted tours of Joburg.

And when I’m not teaching or writing or conducting tours, I'll be taking in the Joburg vibes and events - it may be a book launch, an art exhibition opening, a touch of jazz, a talk on intriguing stuff . . . there's always something happening in this town,

where I have lived for the past 40 years. 

Come along on the journey with me - let's have fun exploring English and the city!


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Johannesburg’s mayors

Updated: Feb 8, 2023

February 5, 2004

Johannesburg came into being on 20 September 1886 and took at least 10 years to resemble something that could be called a town. It took another year before the first mayor, a magistrate, was appointed. The city has had a host of interesting mayors - bakers, drapers, estate agents, grocers, oculists (opticians), builders and a housewife.

Its first mayor was Johan Zulch de Villiers, inaugurated on 1 October, 1897.

De Villiers was, according to A concise historical dictionary of Greater Johannesburg, by Naomi and Reuben Musiker, not a resident Joburger – he arrived in the town on the day of his appointment. He had been special landdrost (magistrate) in a number of towns: Pretoria, Barberton, Lydenburg, and in Swaziland, between 1881 and 1897.

According to GA Leyds in A History of Johannesburg, De Villiers was “extremely popular with all sections, and during his regime, due to the tact and goodwill with which he performed his duties, combining his responsibilities to the Central government with his work for the Stadsraad, there were surprisingly few instances of serious friction in the working of municipal administration”.

De Villiers was born in Paarl in 1845, writes Leyds. He had a reputation of being “a reliable, honest and tactful official”.

In Johannesburg he lived at 22 Koch Street near Joubert Park, now the site of the Joubert Park clinic. For some time a portrait of him hung in the Rissik Street entrance to the City Hall, and Leyds says he often saw De Villiers in the town, and can attest to the portrait being an “excellent likeness”. De Villiers died in 1910.

Housewife mayor

Jessie McPherson was the city’s only woman mayor, in office from 1945 to 1946. She arrived in the town as a two-year-old with her parents in 1903, and after finishing high school, she worked as a secretary. Her parents were members of the Labour Party and in 1928 she joined the party.

According to the Musikers, she was elected secretary and treasurer of the party’s Rosettenville branch, and in 1939 she won the Rosettenville seat in the city council. In 1945 she was appointed mayor.

The 1986 centenary publication, Johannesburg - One Hundred Years, suggests that she was appointed mayor to celebrate the city’s diamond jubilee (60 years).

In 1933 she became a member of the party’s national executive and in 1946 she was elected chairman.

The Musikers write: ”Under her leadership, the party adopted a progressive policy. She also played a decisive role in the South African trade union movement.”

She was very active. “She addressed meetings, participated in strikes, attended trade union conferences and sat on conciliation boards . . .”

In 1946 she was physically attacked for her “forthright views” which made her “unpopular in conservative quarters”.

She was a founder member of the Springbok Legion (an ex-servicemen’s union representing the cause of black servicemen returning from WW2, and later mobilising blacks and whites against the Nationalist government).

“She was also a determined advocate of women’s rights, maintaining that women should play a greater role in politics.”

She eventually retired to Amanzimtoti in KwaZulu-Natal, where she became a councillor and later deputy mayor from 1965 to 1968. She managed to improve wages for council employees during her term. In 1978 she left for Britain, where she died.

‘Stand’ town

As the town grew, with prospectors arriving each day, President Paul Kruger and his Volksraad (government) in Pretoria became more and more uneasy with these uitlanders or foreigners in their midst and tried to delay giving them any real power for as long as possible.

From the beginning Joburg was called a “stand” town, where residential stands could be acquired on a 99-year leasehold, according to Johannesburg - One Hundred Years.

In November 1886 a Diggers’ Committee of nine members was formed, but with no significant powers. A year later a Health Committee was created, and the two committees tried, with limited power, to develop the town.

A town engineer, W Miles, was appointed in 1889, and he formed the town’s first fire brigade. The Pretoria government gave concessions in lieu of real power: for street lighting, water supplies and sanitary services.

But the concessions were open to abuse, and tension was building between the Transvaal burghers and the foreigners, who soon outnumbered the former. Kruger constantly worried, with just reason, about the imperial ambitions of the British government, which eventually led to the South African or Anglo Boer War of 1899-1902. After the war the British annexed the Transvaal.

But the spark that finally led to the first Town Council of Johannesburg was the Jameson Raid of 1895/96. Dr Leander Starr Jameson led a group of over 500 men with the intention of taking control of the town, but was met and overpowered by the burghers in Krugersdorp, 30 kilometres north west of the town.

Still the Volksraad resisted giving Joburgers independence, waiting another two years, but finally on 1 October 1897 the first town council was appointed, and the town got its first mayor.


The town was divided into 12 wards, each ward consisting of two councillors, one of which had to be a Transvaal burgher, giving the burghers “a power base out of all proportion to their numbers”, according to Johannesburg - One Hundred Years.

But the tensions were eased by De Villiers, described as “a tactful man”, who strove to consider all views on merit. Most Johannesburg mayors had a short term of office – one year - but De Villiers was in office for three years, until 1900, testimony to his considerate approach.

Mayors of Johannesburg – 1897 to 2023

Here is a list of the city’s mayors, with a record in brackets of their occupations (as far as the mid-1950s), compiled by librarians at the Local Government Library.

1897 – 1900 Johan Zulch de Villiers (clerk, farmer, soldier, lawyer)

1901 – 02 Chairman of council W A J O’Meara (storekeeper)

1902 – 03 Chairman of council William St John Carr (director of companies)

1903 – 04 William St John Carr (director of companies)

1904 – 05 G H Goch (mine owner)

1905 – 06 J W Quinn (baker)

1906 – 07 W K Tucker (land surveyor)

1907 – 08 J Thompson (builder)

1908 – 09 C Chudleigh (draper)

1909 – 10 H Graumann (financier)

1910 – 11 H J Hofmeyr (solicitor)

1911 – 12 J D Ellis (engineer)

1912 – 13 W R Boustred (merchant)

1913 – 15 N Anstey (draper)

1915 – 17 J W O’Hara (merchant)

1917 – 19 T F Allen (estate agent)

1919 – 20 G B Steer (fitter)

1920 – 21 J Christie (retail chemist)

1921 – 22 S Hancock (baker)

1922 – 23 L Forsyth Allan (barrister)

1923 – 24 M J Harris (architect)

1924 – 25 C Walters (brickmaker)

1925 – 26 E O Leake (building contractor)

1926 – 27 Alfred Law Palmer (stationer and printer)

1927 – 28 W H Port (wholesale merchant)

1928 – 29 W Fernhead (solicitor)

1929 – 30 D Anderson (builder)

1930 – 31 Geo W Nelson (oculist)

1931 – 32 D F Corlett (building contractor, master builder)

1932 – 33 B C Vickers (chartered accountant)

1933 – 34 D Penry Roberts (draper)

1934 – 35 Maurice Freeman (leather merchant)

1935 – 36 Maldwyn Edmund (chartered accountant)

1936 – 37 Donald W Mackay (music retailer)

1937 – 38 J S Fotheringham (director of companies, baker)

1938 – 39 J J Page (estate agent)

1939 – 40 T A M Huddle (director of companies)

1940 – 41 T P Gray (grocer)

1941 – 42 A R Thorburn (buyer for Anglo-Transvaal Consolidated Investment Co)

1942 – 43 L Leveson (solicitor)

1943 – 44 A S Holland (teacher, lecturer at Normal College)

1944 – 45 A Immink (accountant)

1945 – 46 Jessie McPherson (housewife)

1946 – 47 Jas Gray (analytical chemist)

1947 – 48 G B Gordon (director of companies)

1948 – 49 S P Lee (industrialist)

1949 – 50 J Mincer (director of companies)

1950 – 51 C F Beckett (builder and contractor)

1951 – 52 I E B Attwell (director of companies)

1952 – 53 H Miller (attorney)

1953 – 54 C J H Patmore (chartered accountant, director of companies)

1954 – 55 G J Beckett (builder)

1955 – 56 Leslie Hurd (estate agent and sworn appraiser)

1956 – 57 Max Goodman

1957 – 58 T Glyn Morris

1958 – 59 I Maltz

1959 – 60 Alec Gorshel

1960 – 62 D J Marais

1962 – 63 Keith J Fleming

1963 – 64 J F Oberholzer

1964 – 65 P M Roos

1965 – 66 Aleck Joffe

1966 – 67 B D Eagar

1967 – 68 C J Ross-Spencer

1968 – 69 I Schlapobersky

1969 – 70 P R B Lewis

1970 – 71 S Moss

1971 – 72 A Widman

1972 – 73 J C Lemmer

1973 – 74 A D Bensusan

1974 – 75 Harold Frank Dennis

1975 – 76 Max Neppe

1976 – 77 Monty Sklaar

1977 – 78 Martin Powell

1978 – 79 J S Otto

1979 – 80 J D R Opperman

1980 – 81 Carel Venter

1981 – 82 Cecil Long

1982 – 83 Danie van Zyl

1983 – 84 Alan Gadd

1984 – 85 Eddy Magid

1985 – 86 Ernie Fabel

1986 – 87 Harold Rudolph

1987 – 88 O H Fenn

1988 (March-Oct) J H van Blerk

1988 – 89 D J Neppe

1989 – 90 Koos Roets

1990 – 91 W G Janse van Rensburg

1991 – 92 E Kretmer

1992 – 93 J S Burger

1993 – 94 S Dishy

1994 (March-Nov) Dan Pretorius

1995 – 00 Isaac Mogase

2000 - 10 Amos Masondo 2011 – 16 Parks Tau

2016 – 19 Herman Mashaba 2019 – 21 Geoff Makhubo 2021 Jolidee Matongo 2021 Mpho Moerane 2021 – 22 Mpho Phalatse 2022 – 22 Dada Morero 2022 – 23 Mpho Phalatse 2023 Thapelo Amad

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