Charalabos (Harry)
Koulaxizis
AGE WHEN INTERVIEWED: 43
BORN: Harare, Zimbabwe (then Salisbury, Rhodesia)
INTERVIEWED IN: Jeppestown, Johannesburg, South Africa
PHOTOGRAPHED BY: Mark Lewis

The son of Greek immigrants, Charalabos (Harry) Koulaxizis grew up around the family engineering business in Jeppestown, where he would go every day after school. In 1996, he and his father opened a catering equipment company with its warehouse headquarters in the same area, just across the road from the Wolhuter Hostel, a barrack-style, single-sex housing facility designed by the Johannesburg City Council in 1932 to house 3 500 migrant labourers, mostly Zulu men. Currently more than 6 000 men are estimated to live in the neglected and decrepit building, which has become a node of violence and illegal activities. In April 2015, his catering warehouse was ‘hit’ during the spate of xenophobic attacks which had flared up throughout the country.

     I love Jeppe; I love Jeppe, and I think there is a lot of success in Jeppe. Will be. But, end of the day, with these things always happening, it will drive people away. It’s difficult. It makes you more tired. The only thing is, the government has to come in, I'm not saying the hostel must be closed, but must be controlled.

     I won't abandon Jeppe. I will invest more in Jeppe, but I won't abandon Jeppe. I still want to grow in Jeppe, to build more buildings in Jeppe. You know, still I want to help these people, you know what I mean? It's not like I'm against them or I've got a hate or anything like this. Because of what they did to me – I mean you can't judge one person; other people in their lives are good, you know what I'm saying? So you gotta check it, and carry on with your life. Sweep the pieces and move on.