Survival Three miles outside the prosperous Johannesburg suburb of Sandton, the 91-year-old township of Alexandra serves as a bleak reminder of South Africa's apartheid past. Sewers overflow here, electricity is sporadic, and unemployment stands at roughly a third of the working-age population. Alexandra's estimated 350,000 residents are crammed onto just 2,100 acres of land, according to the Alexandra Renewal Project. Some 20,000 shacks complete the landscape. "Alex," as the township is popularly called, has been home to Nelson Mandela and criminal gangs alike, but, so far, despite plans to turn the township into a model for sustainable development, its unofficial title of "Dark City" still holds.
Photo: Saurabh Das/AP
A Day's Work In a luxury hotel in the posh Johannesburg suburb of Sandton, a well-to-do black South African gets a shoe shine. For the first time ever, the income earned by South Africa's black majority population in 2001 exceeded that of its white minority to stand at 52 percent of the country's total, the South African Institute of Race Relations reports. Black South Africans are thought to make up a quarter of South Africa's richest residents -- itself a group that supplies half of Africa's millionaires. But the good times have not been felt by all: According to the U.S. State Department, a third of all unemployed South Africans are black and an estimated 60 percent of the black South African population lives in poverty.
Photo: Lori Waselchuk/Galbe.com
Walk for Water In South Africa's Eastern Cape Region, Nokhawulezile Ketse heads for home after a daily one-mile trek for water for her eight children. Fewer than half of the residents of Ketse's Eastern Cape Region have access to piped water. The unclean water she collects was one of the causes of a massive cholera outbreak in South Africa three years ago that affected 120,000 people and killed 260. Water is a constitutional right in South Africa, but, so far, the government's initiatives to assure water for every citizen by 2010 has made little progress. Privatization of water systems has been introduced to build capacity, but the result is that even when poor South African communities have access to clean water, they often may not be able to pay for it.
Cyber Chance South Africa may boast Africa's highest number of ISPs (Internet Service Providers) -- 150 as of 2001 -- but its digital divide is no less sharp. University graduates with degrees in computer science are three times more likely to be white than black South Africans, the South African Institute of Race Relations reports. A mere 8.4 percent of urban residents have access to the Internet, according to South African b-zine MONEYWEB, compared with rates of over 60 percent in the U.S. and Western European countries. Rates in poor provinces fall beneath five percent. Here, in a workshop on the eve of the World Sustainable Development Conference, teenagers from a Johannesburg township hone their computer skills by surfing the Web.
Photo: Mike Hutchings/Reuters
Roots Believed to be the original inhabitants of Africa's southern tip, South Africa's indigenous San people are finally reclaiming their history. Large sections of the Kalahari desert where the San roamed for thousands of years have recently been returned to tribal clans like the Khomani, shown here. But more than land is being doled out. The hoodia, a native cactus that acts as an appetite suppressant, has sparked $400 million in research investment by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and a rash of new hoodia-cultivating plantations in the region. "I'm hoping the money will bring us teachers and computers and work projects," one San woman told THE MAIL & GUARDIAN. "Things will be much better in the future."
Crime Combat The sculpture of a gun with a tied-up barrel outside a Cape Town shopping center says it all: South Africa is one of the world's most crime-ridden countries. Analysts finger poverty, racial tensions and the country's staggering 40 percent unemployment rate as among the causes. Even Thabo Mbeki's spokesperson was the victim of an armed hijacking attempt; another roadside hold-up outside Pretoria recently claimed the lives of a grandmother, mother, and daughter in a horrifically brutal attack. To secure their property -- and lives -- wealthy white residential communities turn to private security firms, which now outnumber regular police by two to one, according to Reuters. But for the rest of South Africa, the options are few.
Photo: Obed Zilwa/AP
King's Choice Even in the post-apartheid era, race permeates South Africa's social discourse. Here, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini greets the first white girls to dance in the traditional ceremony that marks his selection of a wife. Relations between Zulus and whites have not always been so friendly. Well into the 19th century, wars were waged between European colonists and the Zulus, a nation of powerful warriors who built one of southern Africa's greatest empires. That struggle continued into the modern era when the Inkatha National Cultural Liberation Movement, founded by Zulu chief Dr. Mangosuthu Buthelezi, acted as one of South Africa's chief anti-apartheid movements.
Photo: Joao Silva/AP
Apostles of Apartheid Apartheid may be dead, but South African white supremacist groups live on. Here, members of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement protest a jail sentence given to their leader, Eugene Terre Blanche for assaulting a black South African gas station attendant. Afrikaners, white South Africans of mostly Dutch origin, led the crusade for the formal introduction of apartheid in the late 1940s and waged two wars in the 19th century to stake out independent states. Today, organizations like the 30-year-old Afrikaner Resistance Movement carry on the fight with calls for a homeland for the Boer "volk" (people) and claims that the ruling African National Congress wants to destroy the economic advantages allegedly brought to South Africa by Europeans.
Photo: Juda Ngwenya/Reuters
Bright Horizon? Unemployed South African men line a road outside Cape Town to offer their services as construction or farm workers for roughly $8 per day. South Africa may boast Africa's richest economy, but with unemployment running at an estimated 40 percent (mostly affecting black South Africans), the longevity of that prosperity remains in doubt. Reducing unemployment has become the top goal of President Thabo Mbeki's reelection campaign. His solution? Lowering interest rates to stimulate growth and launching an ambitious government initiative to revitalize infrastructure, build housing, expand welfare benefits, and more.
Photo: Mike Hutchings/Reuters