Does Gauteng have an Alexandra township problem? Alexandra township was established in 1912. It has a land mass of approximately 2km/sq .
It was established to accommodate migrant workers who worked in the mines and the City of Joburg and meant to accommodate not more than 70,000 people.
The initial title holders were some of the first black landowners in the City of Joburg. In 2006 I was part of the defence team, in court, for evicted residents who occupied factories (yes, factories were used as homes without electricity) on land owned by a company running Pan Africa shopping centre.
We had a full tour of Alexandra and its adjacent areas. There is a huge piece of land between Buccleuch and Marlboro off-ramp along the N3 highway. This land was owned by Wits University in 2006. We also explored land surrounding the industrial area of Limbro Park, opposite Tsutsumane residential area.
In 2003, the national government under ANC allocated R3bn to build more houses to try to de-congest Alexandra. That money was never accounted for and Alexandra, the hometown of ANC heavyweights such as Paul Mashatile and Lebogang Maile, remains congested and undeveloped despite that. Ironically, Mashatile was at some point MEC for land and housing in Gauteng.
When we were busy with the case in 2006, “Mama Action” – minister of environmental affairs Nomvula Mokonyane – was the MEC for land and housing. Judge Bartellsmann of the Pretoria High Court subpoenaed her to explain why the provincial government was not assisting the vulnerable people who were exposed to eviction.
To save Mokonyane from appearing in court, the Gauteng department of land and housing and the City of Joburg made promises to prioritize poor people who were facing eviction. Certain undertakings such as building transit camps and moving people from the flood plain of the Jukskei river in the area called Setswetla were jointly made by the department and the city. Further land was identified between West Bank and Tsutsumane to build houses.
When we handled the case Alexandra had about 500,000 residents. Today there is probably about one million people in that 2km/sq township.
Neither the ANC, DA nor the EFF are doing anything to ameliorate the squalor conditions of Alexandra residents. Alex, as it’s popularly known, is the forgotten step-child of Joburg.
The attempt to de-congest Alexandra by moving some of its residents to Diepsloot amounted to “fiddling while Rome was burning”.
I was in Soweto last weekend to attend my nephew’s wedding.
Soweto is a proper suburb with paved roads and has several private hospitals such as Dr Matseke private clinic and the Clinix medical centre. It has many malls and two world-class government hospitals, a performance theatre, an Arthur Ashe tennis stadium and a state-of-the-art soccer stadium in Orlando. It also has beautiful monuments such as the Hector Pieterson and Tsietsi Mashinini.
Soweto is also home to a Nike youth development soccer centre (with more than 10 modern soccer fields) next to Maponya Mall and has a beautiful university which is part of the University of Johannesburg.
Soweto is an example of what can be done if a concerted effort is made to improve poor townships.
The question is, why are the ANC and DA not taking care of Alexandra township, yet when it’s election time they stop by to canvas for votes?
– Thabo Seneke Reporting