Focus on Benoni, Gauteng, South Africa

Benoni is a city with 654,509 inhabitants on the East Rand in the South African province of Gauteng. Since 2000 it has been part of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality.

Benoni’s inauspicious beginnings were in 1881 when then surveyor-general Johan Rissik found it difficult to assign title deeds to all unclaimed state property. He named a piece of land in the area, Government Farm Benoni (son of my sorrow), after the Hebrew name given by Rachel to her son in the biblical Book of Genesis.

Benoni is very diverse, with people of every colour and denomination. There are over ten schools in Benoni and in some areas there is a concentration of up to 6000 students within a 5 km radius. There are close to ten Masjids (Mosques), about five Maktabs, a Darul Uloom in Mackezie park runned under the auspicies of Mufti Masood and Moulana Ebrahim (+27 11 422 1669) and a girls Madrassah.

Over time gold mining has decreased in importance. Today the town is focused more on industry and services, rather than mining, and is used as a service hub for other East Rand towns such as Brakpan, Nigel and Springs. Benoni is also the site of the Benoni Heliport, for the use of helicopters.

Middle Lake, BenoniVisitors to the town may visit the local museum, the many lakes, the Lakeside Shopping Mall (built in the shape of a Mississippi Steamboat on one of the lakes) or Northmead Square (known as the first shopping centre to bring cinemas back to Benoni) located in the suburbs. Near to Northmead Square is the Bunny Park which contains hundreds of rabbits and other small animals and is aimed at children. Willowmoore Park is a provincial and One Day International Cricket venue. Sibikwa, an international recognised and acclaimed communitytheatre, is situated in the east of the town since 1989

It is believed that Benoni has more horse stables per square kilometre than any other place in the Southern Hemisphere.

During the 1990s Benoni was the site for the WOMAD Festival (the World of Music, Arts and Dance), an international cultural festival held annually around the world and used to showcase various artists.

World famous Oscar winning actress Charlize Theron was born in Benoni. She then moved to become a star in Hollywood, but was seen in Benoni again promoting her movie Monster.

In December 2004, Israel Travis led a historic tour of the city on horseback while some of the tourists rode on an 1800s Victorian Spider carriage. The tourists were dressed in traditional British and Boer clothing. The tour included some of the gold mines and a parade through the main street, Prince’s Avenue.

Benoni was also the setting for the MTV-inspired, popular cult movie Crazy Monkey: Straight Outta Benoni, released internationally in 2005.

The town is currently run by the African National Congress (ANC), with the liberal- democratic Democratic Alliance being the official local opposition.

A more recent M-Net television series called The Coconuts is also based on a family in Benoni.

Information from: