Township Style

October 16, 2008

Today we toured our first township hosted by the Northern Cape Town director of housing development. After hearing a fascinating account of the many challenges facing urban planners in Cape Town and in cities all around South Africa, we were given the opportunity to visit the Joe Slovo Township about twenty minutes north of the Cape Town city center. The following are pictures of a barber shop housed in a shipping container which is a common material used for “commercial real estate”, and the second is two “informal settlements”. This is the term given for an illegal home erected on a piece of open land. You could read this as a squatter.

Joe Slovo was originally a black township designated as such by the apartheid government. After the fall of apartheid and the rise of the Mandela-led government, the municipalities were charged with developing appropriate housing for those living in the townships and dealing with the tens of thousands informal settlements. The result was a program in which the government built a small house on a plot of land. The unintended consequence of this was that many of the homeowners then “leased” their plot of land to 4 – 7 additional “settlements” which tapped the electric grid and water of the designated house on the same small plot of land. Thus, the density of residents increased by a factor of 4 over the services that were being provided (water, sewer, electricity, police, etc.) The majority of residents have no job and were thus hanging around when we arrived at 2 pm.

Here is a shot of the kitchen of a small corrugated metal informal settlement (not sure why there are keys/lock on the door):

As we were arriving to the township, the school was letting out and the street were teeming with young children in maroon sweaters, white dress shirts and blue pants. Of course, this lifestyle is hardest on the youngest. Here are some shy Joe Slovo kids:

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4 Responses to “Township Style”

  1. Robyn Says:

    Hey Brian and Kristin – the pictures are amazing already! I loved the pic of those adorable kids! What a stark contrast to see the beautiful scenery versus the impoverished towns. Of course, the “portly” pic of the two of you brought a smile to my face! We miss you, robyn


  2. […] estimate of 1,000,000 and an upper estimate of 2,000,000 residents. A huge number of which live in “informal settlements” or make-shift shanties. Kayaleacha is only one of dozens of townships around the city. So, as I […]


  3. […] up on the fascinating conversation that I had with the Cape Town housing office official and the resulting dinner conversation that Kristin and I had regarding the prospects of democracy […]


  4. […] is stunningly poor with informal settlements, mud and stick dwellings, chickens and children in the roads. Thembalihle clings to the side of a […]


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