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Where have all the shanties gone?

24 December 2017

For the last couple of months, as we have made our fortnightly trip to Atteridgeville for the Hours and Readers Service, we have watched the growth of a shanty town on the hillsides just before the entrance to Atteridgeville West.

New informal settlement between Saulsville and Atteridgeville West, Tshwane. 29 Oct 2017

On another hillside, on the west side of the Atteridgeville West entrance road, there was another, official settlement. We’ve been watching that for two years, as the municipality installed infrastructure — rows of toilets on the hillside, then roads, then electricity poles. It grew slowly, very slowly.

New informal settlement near Atteridgeville, Tshwane.

Fortnight by fortnight we watched as it grew. There were fences between the shacks, which made it look organised. Unlike the official settlement, however, there was no infrastructure — no roads, no sewerage, no power lines.

For at least a kilometre along the main road, the shacks spread

Along with the informal settlements, however, there were informal rubbish dumps along the sides of the roads. They too have grown enormously in the last few months. They are on both sides of the R104 leading west.

Informal settlements and informal rubbish dumps. Atteridgeville West.

When we went there this morning, I was curious to see how many more shacks there would be, but there were none.

All the ones that had been there less than two months ago had gone, vanished as if they had never been. The hillsides were bare, as they had been a year ago.

The rubbish dumps, however, remained.

Who removed the shacks?

Space aliens? Red ants? The municipality?

Were they ever there? If I’d not taken these photos I might have wondered if I’d imagined them.

Where did the buildings go? Where did the people go? Where are they now?

I just wish that whoever removed them did as good a job at removing the rubbish.

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