Obed Bapela, city leader
Obed Bapela was a hero during the anti-apartheid movement.
Today his mission is to help rebuild the city.
"Alexandria has a number of challenges," says Bapela "and the
immediate challenges is to deal with overcrowding in our area
and also develop the houses that are as old as 50 years old
and to build new houses so that people can live in habitable
"The pride that people want is to live in a better place. The
pride of the people is to see themselves living in houses, that
they can say, 'It's ours,' they own them so that it could
be a community at peace with itself."
Thembisile Makgalemele, Alexandria resident
Thembisile Makgalemele is a successful journalist. Like most
of her neighbors, she cannot imagine living anywhere else.
"It's not something that is tangible," says Makgalemele "but
when I'm in Alex, I feel that I'm at home. I may go to other
places, but there is something that brings me back. You know,
it's a feeling of being home."
South Africa is a country dominated by the timeless rhythms of nature
and the diversity of life found in the rolling hills of endless green.
South Africa is also a tired woman selling corn by the side of the
road, an immigrant father struggling to provide for his family, tribal
celebrations in urban settlements and young children finding pleasures
in small things. South Africa is anguish; South Africa is joy despite
its pain. But above all else, South Africa is defined by the legacy
Rural village in South Africa
It meant fifty years of bloodshed and violent protests against an
official government policy of racism. For blacks who make up
75 percent of the nation's population apartheid meant
years of sorrow and the tearing apart of families. Men were forced
to live in overcrowded work camps near large urban industrial centers.
Women and children were relocated to rural settlements on environmentally
marginal land where life was hard and brutally cruel. In 1994, the
long struggle was finally won and blacks took control of a newly elected
Despite the victory of independence, little change has come to rural South Africa.
Apartheid left hundreds of villages like eSizameleni without significant commerce or job opportunities. A local lumber mill employs 52 people there hasn't been a job opening for nearly a year.
A few lucky ones find work in an open pit magnesium mine. A team of
bulldozers slowly expose the remains of a mineral-rich slag heap,
then workers move in, competing with each other to collect the largest
bits of ore. Paid by the ounce, the most agile barely earn 30 cents
an hour. The work is extremely dangerous. But what choice do these
people have? Nearly a decade after the fall of apartheid, they
remain victims of a racist policy that located heavy industries near
black townships with other few opportunities, in effect creating indentured
Workers in magnesium pit
Today, the work camps have been replaced by urban centers like Alexandria.
Less than a square mile in area, this is a vibrant city of nearly
half a million people. Not long ago blacks couldn't own shops, and
no one could enter or leave the city without written permission. But,
Alexandria has become a success story a place that makes the
most of post apartheid freedom.
But the city is not without problems its sewage and water infrastructure was designed for 40,000, not the 500,000 who now live here. Trash removal is sporadic. Very little is left of nature.
Each year tens of thousands of migrants from the impoverished countryside pour into Alexandria, ringing the city with illegal shanties. For years the local river was heavily polluted and the neighborhood was rampant with disease, particularly cholera. Recently the city decided to do something about the problem, and the shanties were torn down as part of a 180 million dollar government initiative to build new homes, schools and health facilities.
Sunday church service
Sunday mornings in the township of Alexandra, families gather together
and slowly make their way towards neighboring houses of worship. This
is a time when people join together to give thanks that their lives
are slowly improving.