Alexandra Township, or “Alex,” has been widely publicized as SA’s poorest area and is notoriously known as a hotbed for civil unrest and widespread violence and crime. Before 1994, the township doubled as a war zone, while its predominantly black residents rose up against a racist government. Today, a drive down London Road past the apartheid-inspired sniper towers, rubble fields and tin shanties reveals a daunting comparison to the makeshift battlefields that consumed the area in the late eighties and early nineties. Not much has improved since Alex was liberated by its peoples’ revolutionary efforts and blanketed by the hopes of a democratic change to come. In fact, the township, surrounded by sprawling upper-class residential areas, continues to descend into the depths of poverty and chaos. Some officials speculate that less than 10 percent of its residents hold a steady job and more than half of the population suffers from HIV and AIDS. By economic and health standards, Alex may just be the worst place on Earth.
I witnessed this socially anomaly firsthand yesterday when Inkatha Freedom Party deputy chairperson Nhla Msimango agreed to guide us through the bowels of Alex, while using his time with us to voice his political agenda, or lack-thereof, for the community.
(I added captions and tried to resize these images, but can’t figure out how. I’ll edit this later when I have time.)