In the latter half of the 21st century the immense urban urban sprawl surrounding Johannesburg, South Africa grows unabated. An increasingly ineffective government, weighed down by regulatory capture and corrupt officials, fails to provide any oversight. The sprawl grows with no purpose, no plan, no end. Estimates near the end of the century place the population near a hundred million, though no census is conducted. Just as the population nears this landmark number global climate trends and a series of local phenomena lead to drastic water scarcity. Tens of millions are forced to flee and conditions in the city rapidly deteriorate. In a last-ditch effort to provide a semblance of government the region is consolidated under the bureaucratic umbrella of the Johannesburg Administrative District.
The District is divided into Subdistricts, and the Subdistricts into Precincts. While ostensibly governed by democratically elected officials corporations have immense sway at all levels of government. The following map details Subdistrict 7, known locally as Okavango, located west of present-day Soweto.
Okavango exemplifies the chaotic nature of the Johannesburg sprawl with a near total absence of urban planning. Roads in Okavango grew organically, buildings were constructed ad hoc by the corporations, and little thought was given to the future. Many buildings here are relatively low (often five to ten stories) when compared to the towering megastructures present in Johannesburg’s city centre.
Points of Interest
1: Siyanda Tower, A-1
Siyanda Tower was once an upscale commercial center containing a wide variety of storefronts: pharmacies, art galleries, vehicle showrooms, nightclubs, body aug clinics, consumer electronics, luxury apartments and office spaces – you name it. These days many of the storefronts sit empty. Security is inadequate and the halls are often empty. Graffiti from nearby street gangs slowly accumulates. Word is you can buy almost anything you want from the sketchy street vendors surrounding the tower – or in the plaza to the east.
2: Locus Biologics Okavango, E-2
This monolithic trio of structures houses Locus Biologics’ latest replicant manufacturing operation, which is still ramping up. The structures used to contain a massive protein farming operation and the retrofit is said to have been extraordinarily expensive. Shortly after it was finished there were reports of explosions and commotion within the plant – rumors of some sort of attack or bombing circulated. Locus, of course, denies any such trouble.
3: ARMSCOR Subdistrict 7 Headquarters, D-3
This enormous structure, a shining glass shard rising to a point high above the surrounding buildings, is the center of the subdistrict’s security apparatus. Barracks, surveillance suites, prison cells – it’s all here. No one gets in or out without ARMSCOR knowing about it.
4: Zama Park, C-4
Zama Park was once – supposedly – an actual park. Green grass, trees, flowers, benches. These days it’s a garbage dump. A massive pile of trash the subdistrict administration didn’t bother to transport to proper landfills. It’s become a magnet for the homeless in Observatory, with many setting up semi-permanent camps. There are rumors of a tunnel network throughout the trash-mountain.
5: Okavango University, D-5
Okavango University has always been a degree mill, promising students a path out of poverty as they charge an ever increasing price for an ever decreasing quality of education. Most graduates return to their previous lives poorer and even more desperate. The lucky ones get a job at some megacorp – probably Locus, these days. There are a few good instructors if you know what you’re looking for, but most left for greener pastures long ago.
6: Gupta Transpohub, C-6
The Transpohub connects most of the subdistrict’s transportation infrastructure: spinners, buses, subways. Amidst all the terminals and maintenance bays are a myriad of security checkpoints. You can get transportation anywhere in the subdistrict from here – but that trip will be recorded. The building also contains Gupta Water’s headquarters. The Transpohub is Gupta’s first attempt to diversify their holdings.
7: Gardens Complex, D-7
One of the last real enclaves of wealth in Okavango. The outer wall of midrise housing (now mostly vacant) provides a barrier between the wretched surroundings and the pristine Gardens Tower. Actual, real, green, living plants surround an immaculate glass construction rising high into the sky. Entry is by invitation only, and security is the best in the subdistrict. It’s said the complex consumes the water of a whole precinct all on it’s own – but no one really knows.
8: Bekkersdal Reservoir, B-8
Said to sit on the site of some river or lake long since dried up, Bekkersdal Reservoir provides the majority of the water for the precinct, pumped up from an aquifer beneath the city. Occasional water outages have led to rumors that the aquifer is drying up, but must attribute the outages to run-of-the-mill corporate inefficiency.
ARMSCOR – Armaments Corporation of South Africa – is primarily involved in arms trade and manufacture, personnel training, and security contracting. ARMSCOR has long since expanded it’s scope beyond South Africa and now controls immense wealth and manpower including elite private military personnel. As the Subdistrict 7 security contractor it operates all checkpoints, foot patrols, and first response units in the area.
Locus Biologics manufactures synthetic foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, and replicants. It has built massive wealth upon it’s foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals divisions and is now aggressively expanding it’s replicant manufacturing capabilities. The massive facility in Subdistrict 7 is part of this new initiative.
Gupta Water is, compared to ARMSCOR and Locus, a small corporation – a utility company controlling the water of a single subdistrict. It is, however, well connected to powers outside the subdistrict (and even outside the district) and can get help when it needs it. Gupta Water has it’s sights set on diversification, though it might find itself a pawn in some larger power’s plan to suppress the subdistrict.
The Circle is a highly decentralized network of criminals for hire. They’re difficult to contact and impossible to locate. Hackers, smugglers, counterfeiters, perjurists, seditionists, thugs. You name it, they’ve got it – for the right price.
United Laborers seeks better working conditions for citizens of the subdistrict. The price of labor has fallen dramatically in recent years, due in no small part to the influx of cheap replicant labor. United Laborers fights for better pay, shorter hours, and safer conditions. The conditions in the new Locus facility in particular are abhorrent.
Replicant Liberation Front
The Replicant Liberation Front currently lies hidden in the subdistrict. It’s structure is said to be a highly decentralized series of cells. Membership count is unknown – there’s not even an accurate census of replicants in the subdistrict, let alone radicals.
This post is part of the GLOG City Challenge. Here are some other participants: