Generations of people from across Africa, Europe and Asia have turned metal from the ground into Africa’s wealthiest, most dynamic and most diverse urban centre, a mega-city where post- apartheid South Africa is being made. Yet as newcomers and long-term residents seek a place to make their home, they find Gauteng’s promises and possibilities tinged with dangers.
Chichi is a hairdresser from Nigeria who left for South Africa after a love affair went bad. Azam arrived from Pakistan with a modest wad of cash and a dream. Estiphanos trekked the continent escaping political persecution in Ethiopia. Thinking he found safety in South Africa, within months he was beaten, his new business looted in the “xenophobic” attacks of May 2008 that left more than 60 dead, hundreds wounded and at least 100,000 displaced. They and others stay on, transforming themselves and the South African communities around them.
This book tells the stories of those communities, of South Africans striving to realise the promises of democracy.
Nombuyiselo is the mother of 14-year- old Simphiwe Mahori, shot dead in 2015 by a Somalian shopkeeper in Snake Park, sparking a further wave of anti-foreigner violence. Manyathela grew up in KwaZulu-Natal but spent much of his life at the Jeppestown hostel. A traditional healer who was once a powerful leader, he spends his days bemoaning what he has lost. Harry is the Greek South African shop owner whose warehouse sits across the road. Ntombi’s family came to Alexandra in 1920s, when much of Gauteng was still farmland. After fighting white oppression for decades, she has turned her anger toward African foreigners she says are taking South African jobs and fueling crime. Papi, a freedom fighter and activist in Katlehong, now dedicates his life to teaching kids that tolerance is the only way forward. These are some of the thirteen stories that make up this collection.
Told in their own words, this collection alternates between South Africans and foreigners’ stories, starting in Soweto and meandering to Pretoria via Pakistan; to Alexandra, Mozambique and further afield to Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Nigeria.
The narratives, collected by researchers, journalists and writers, reflect the many facets of South Africa’s post-apartheid decades. Taken together they speak of the emotions and relations emanating from the space between outrage and hope, violence and solidarity, the making of selves and the other – and of how people’s pasts and intersections are shaping South Africa. Underlying them all is a nostalgia for an imagined future that will never be realised. These are stories of forever seeking a place called home.