Johannesburg’s Central Business District has a similar fate as Hillbrow, although effort is now being put into developing the area. Most of Jozi’s office blocks and high-rise buildings are to be found in CBD. There is also a lot of abandoned houses, some of which have been blocked with masonry on the first and second floor in order to prevent people from moving in.
Other buildings have been taken over by or rented out to refugees from other African countries. Those houses in CBD can be easily identified from outside as clothes hang outside the windows.
Accompanied by two social workers who work for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) we visit a run-down art deco building which is inhabited by 1,200 refugees. We get up to the 3rd floor where we meet people whom we can interview.
We interview two people from Simbabwe (who make up the majority of refugees in South Africa) outside of their two room „apartment“. The first room of about 10 square meters serves as a kitchen and also has a bed for several people. In the second room of about 25 square meters there are several beds which are only separated with cloths. Six to eight people live in that room. No room for privacy.
The toilets which are to be found outside at the end of the hallway are in the worst condition imaginable but we get told that there are even worse buildings without any water nor electricity.
There is a pungent stench of waste and excrements. The fire escape stairs in the building are full of waste. Actually somebody is sweeping the stairs and all the waste comes flying down from the upper levels. We hear laughter from people on the floors above. At least house sweeping makes fun…