Diepsloot, by Anton Harber
Anton Harber takes you inside, meeting the people, probing the bitter local political battles, and asking what and area like Diepsloot portends for the future of South Africa.
By the side of the road, a place of fear
Drive north from Johannesburg along William Nicol Highway and you pass the glittering shopping malls of Hyde Park, Sandton and Fourways, and the faux-Italian casino playground called Montecasino. As you move further out of the city, you will be struck by the number and newness of gated communities behind high walls, some with immense pseudo-Tuscan houses and others with modest, tightly-packed cluster units of relentless symmetry and ugly modernity. You leave the suburbs, the landscape opens up and the greenery is replaced by the flat, harsh brownness of the Highveld countryside, interrupted by billboards announcing plans for even more cluster developments, and high walls around empty fields where these will be built. You come across a snake park, trout farms, driving ranges, nurseries, kennels, instant lawn farms, paintball fields, wedding venues and Sunday tea havens, the kind of places you might expect in an affluent area that was until recently countryside on the edge of a growing city, and is now seeing rapid urban encroachment. The biggest and most extravagant development is Dainfern, which describes itself as 'Johannesburg's premier residential golf estate offering a secure lifestyle with exclusive recreational facilities'. It sprawls across 800 acres with controlled access, guards on 24-hour patrol and boasts of 'property prices ... in the $2-m range ... an 18-hole golf course, four tennis courts, two squash courts, two swimming pools, volleyball facilities, an oval for soccer, rugby and cricket, and a school.' A little further along, just before you cross from the outskirts of Joburg into greater Pretoria, the roadside becomes busier and you have to slow down. The sides of the highway are suddenly teeming with people. Along one side you see a solid row of densely interlocked shacks built from metal, cardboard and other scraps, scores of small-scale roadside traders under rough canvas-and-pole shelters, and taxis bouncing around in their disorderly manner on the rough roads around the settlement. An uneven row of portable toilets is lined up by the side of the road, hand-painted numbers on the side of each one, some of them standing at such angles that you wonder at the risks involved in using them. Two buildings loom above the shacks as if to frame the settlement between the imposing symbols of commerce and the state: a new mall at one end and at the other a police station, still under construction. You have come face to face with the hard reality of South African poverty: a dense forest of shacks, crowds of unemployed people milling on the streets, and attempts by some at small-scale commerce in makeshift shops. Men cluster in groups, throwing dice or playing cards. The place has the dull metal glow of aging zinc housing, the chaos of unpaved roads, the noise of a life lived in packed public areas, the smoke of smouldering braziers and the stench of sewage spilling into the streets. It is stark and bare in the unrelieved dull dryness of a Highveld winter. In summer, at least in rainy summers, it is a lot brighter, greener and softer, with pools of water everywhere. This is Diepsloot. [...]
This is an excerpt from the book: Diepsloot, by Anton Harber.
Author: Anton Harber
Publisher: Jonathan Ball
Cape Town / Johannesburg, South Africa, 2010
ISBN 9781868424214 / ISBN 978-1-86842-421-4
Softcover, 15x23cm, 231 pages
Harber, Anton im Namibiana-Buchangebot
In little more than a decade, Diepsloot has transformed from a semi-rural expanse to a dense, seething settlement of about 200 000 people.
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