The rambling tin-shack community of Motsoaledi grew up in the shadows of Soweto’s only two high-rise landmarks: the imposing edifice of the Baragwanath Hospital, and the iconic twin cooling towers of the old power station.
Here, many thousands of people live in small wooden and tin huts, without any electricity or proper sanitation; potable water being only provided by the occasional on-the-street standpipe.
The inhabitants have campaigned tirelessly for years for Motsoaledi to become a permanent settlement, with decent housing and facilities, but their pleas have fallen mostly on local and national politician’s deaf ears.
With the South African government falling way short of its target to eradicate such shanty-town settlements completely by 2016 the inhabitants of Motsoaledi had become resigned and dispirited.
However, in 2015 there were some signs of hope as large concrete drainage pipes were moved onto adjacent vacant land. Some houses were built, but progress was slow, due it is said, to inefficiencies of local government and contractors.
Last year however, building work picked up, with drainage infrastructure being laid and housing construction continuing. At last, a few of Motsoaledi’s families began to move into their new-builds – even though some of the basic facilities such as mains drainage and electricity had yet to be connected.
In 2017, building has continued at a pace, with an impressive new connecting road being built. Rows of new houses are now completed, although many are not lived in, as service facilities are still to be connected; their garden plots grown over.
Of the inhabitants that have moved in, they are busily making the best of things: putting up awnings as car-ports, fitting washing lines, laying entrance paths and tilling and planting up their new garden plots with pride.