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Protesters Push for Reopening of Johannesburg City Library: City Responds with Promises and Budget Allocation



The City of Johannesburg has finally addressed the persistent calls from the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation and protesters regarding the closure of the Johannesburg City Library since 2020. This came after a significant demonstration at Beyers Naudé Square on May 18, organized by various civic entities.

Protest Highlights

The Johannesburg City Library, with its vast collection of over 1.5 million books, has been a cornerstone of the community. The library also houses several specialist sections, including the Central Reference Library, Children’s Library, Michaelis Art Library, Multimedia Library, and Music Library.

Among the protesters were the Johannesburg Crisis Alliance, Defend Our Democracy, Action For Accountability, Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, and Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa). The rally aimed to hold city authorities accountable for the prolonged closure of this vital resource.

Voices from the Protest

David Fleminger, Chairperson of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation, emphasized the need for accountability. “This is their job. Their mandate is to ensure the city’s resources are maintained and accessible. The library should not have been closed for four years. There is no valid reason for its closure,” Fleminger stated.

The foundation insists that the city must address their concerns and work towards a realistic plan to reopen the library. Independent engineers and architects have assessed that parts of the library can be reopened while necessary repairs are ongoing.


City’s Commitment to Reopen

In response to the protest and growing public demand, Lubabalo Magwentshu, MMC for Community Development, acknowledged the library’s importance. In a media statement on May 20, he announced that the city has allocated R25 million in the 2024/2025 Capex budget as part of the initial R45 million needed to comply with safety regulations.

“We understand the significance of the Joburg City Library to the community and are taking proactive steps to ensure its reopening,” Magwentshu stated. The city has initiated the procurement process to address critical fire safety concerns, with the goal of a partial reopening in the next financial year.

The Path Forward

Contractors are currently working on soldering and waterproofing external gutters. Further compliance work is scheduled to begin in July 2024. This phase aims to pave the way for the library’s partial reopening, with full operations expected to follow.

Community Impact and Historical Significance

Professor Achille Mbembe from the University of the Witwatersrand attended the protest, emphasizing the library’s role in fulfilling the promise of the Freedom Charter. “The promise was that ‘When liberation comes, the doors of learning will be open to all.’ The Johannesburg Library is a major public good and should remain open,” Mbembe declared.


The Johannesburg City Library is more than a building filled with books. It’s a symbol of learning and community. As the city takes steps to reopen this vital resource, the public remains hopeful that these promises will lead to tangible actions. The fight to keep the doors of the Johannesburg City Library open is a testament to the community’s resilience and commitment to education and heritage.


Stay tuned for updates on the library’s reopening and the ongoing efforts to preserve this invaluable civic resource.


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