Jika Joe Informal Settlement

Jika Joe is an informal settlement that straddles both banks of the Dorpspruit River in the centre of Pietermaritzburg, the capital city of the province of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa.

Jika Joe is one of many informal settlements on the outskirts of South African Cities; its bulk is made of mud, scraps of wood and cardboard, the roofs of Jika Joe are sheet metal, bits of hardboard and tarpaulin sales blown off passing trucks on a nearby highway.

Squeezed in between these dwellings are walkways and taverns where the people of Jika Joe walk and drink together and roundabout the children play. Here there is no centralised system ordering life as in the surrounding city. Rather, Jika Joe just has many slum lords who rent out their small rooms to whoever needs a place to live that is close to their place of work in the nearby central business district of the city.

There are young people in this place who have resorted to whatever means are at hand to carve out an existence in this mix of culture and African languages. Jika Joe while having a reputation as a dirty, lawless and dangerous place, Jika Joe is also a home space and families live here too.

Dorothea Lange said that the photographer should just concentrate on what catches the eye, to do other then this is just photographing your preconceived ideas. These pictures are a series of photographs in the chronological order of ‘what was’ on the day and they portray an increasing South African urban reality.

Paraffin cookers, illegal electricity connections and overcrowding have also been at the root of many fires in the area. The City of Pietermaritzburg has replaced many of Jika Joe’s’ self-built homes with long rows of sheet metal temporary housing that lock many families into a faltering system of government low-cost housing that is far away from places of work that many of these people just can’t afford to rent.

Since the first democratic elections in 1994 more and more people have looked to informal settlements to gain a toe hold in the new South Africa. This movement from rural space to the urban is in line with global trends. The South African system of building low-cost housing has not kept up with its people demand for a place in the South African urban space.

The sight of these self-built homes on open tracts of South African land is not going to disappear anytime soon.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.


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