That’s One Way to Use a Coal Plant


In Soweto, they’ve found a new use for an old coal plant: public art, and bungee jumping.

More than a million people live in Soweto, a sprawling township just outside of Johannesburg. For decades, black South Africans were relegated to this suburb, and it became a major hub in the movement to end apartheid. To this day, nearly all of the residents are black; they range from wealthy upper middle class (including the Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Winnie Mandela, the former wife of the political leader) to a squatter camp that still lacks electricity. Rising from the middle of it are the remnants of Orlando Power Station, a coal-fired power plant with two massive cooling towers.

The towers date back to the early 1950s, though the plant was built in the ’30s and used largely to provide power to the white areas of Johannesburg. The plant was shut down in 1998, but when it was in operation, some of those living in its shadow—and in the line of its pollution—lacked access to electricity. First National Bank funded the renovation project, which was finished in 2006. It is now home to the largest mural in South Africa: One stack celebrates Soweto’s eclectic heritage: Nelson Mandela, musicians, folks warming around a fire, and chickens grazing in a yard. The other tower shows a favorite pastime, soccer.

Arguably the best part: From a tiny platform strung between the two towers, you can now bungee jump. A jump from a coal plant will cost you about $35, but then of course you’re also buying bragging rights for the rest of your life. More on the power plant, and the extreme sporting opportunities, here.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.