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.)Although life in M2 is meager, shanty-dwellers suffer through the same hardships that have led to a life riddled with impoverished extremes.

Mandala 2 sits atop a field of shanties and houses more than 8,000.  It is referred to as a hostel, but is comparable to a US project -- except it make Caprni Green look like the Ritz Carlton.  The interior of M2 is consumed by trash and goat-droppings.  Goats share the hostel with its residents and are slaughtered for food.Nhla Msimango\'s IFP houses a stronghold in M2.  The party is ANC\'s rival and is widely known for their abrasive leadership and ill-educated party members.  They have also been criticized for inciting xenophobic attacks in Alex. M2\'s hallways are dark and dank.  Electricity is scarce in the building.M2\'s bathrooms and showers are located on each floor and are communal and unisex. Single bedrooms are smaller than dorm rooms and often house families of four to six.


Although life in M2 is meager, shanty-dwellers suffer through the same hardships that have led to a life riddled with impoverished extremes.Some foreign families, like this Zimbabwean family, live in fear in Alex among a community littered with xenophobic hate.Other South African Alex residents, like these men, boast proudly of their roles in recent xenophobic attacks.  \