South Africa: Slabtown, Stellenbosch - People Live Here, but They Dream of Something Better


Often referred to by the bourgeoisie as 'bin pickers', the recyclers of Slabtown wake early every morning - earlier on rubbish days - and start their rounds, sorting through bins and rubbish bags before the trucks get there.

At the bottom of Bird Street in the historical university town of Stellenbosch in the Western Cape, there is a bridge. Few who drive over it know that a community of people has been living under this bridge for upwards of 20 years. Known colloquially as "Slabtown", this informal settlement has become home to some of Stellenbosch's most disenfranchised and hard-working people.

The stench of rancid urine and burnt plastic hits us as my colleague Vusi Mokoena and I get out of the car. A man comes running across the railway, holding a makeshift weapon. It seems to be a bamboo stick with a scissor blade tied to the top. He says he'll take us to Kop, Mokoena's cousin who lives in Slabtown. Unsure about what his need for a weapon could be and deciding it's too late to turn back, we follow.

The semi-structured shacks lined up against the...

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