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South Africa’s oldest township: A photo essay

Just a stone throw away from the cosmopolitan suburb of Sandton City in Johannesburg, the township of Alexandra is still home to some of the poorest families. Despite this, Alex, as it is more commonly known, has a rich history that dates back more than 100 years.

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According to the South African History Online, Alex was first built in 1912 and at the time was the only place black people in South Africa could buy property.

Today, the township is home to over 179,700 people who live in mostly informal houses or shacks.  Alex was also home to some of Africa’s legendary leaders like former President Nelson Mandela, former Mozambican President Samora Machel and jazz musician Hugh Masekela.

While the rate of crime and unemployment remain high, the streets of Alex are vibrant and colourful. This illustrates the diversity of South Africa while showing its painful past.

Here are some photos from Alex:

South African police driving through Alexandra Township in 1985. Photo: United Nations Photo/Flickr

South African police driving through Alexandra Township in 1985. Photo: United Nations Photo/Flickr

Photo: ANP/TeKa

Photo: ANP/TeKa

Council housing project built in Alex about 10 years ago. Photo: Lebogang Nkoane/Flickr

Council housing project built in Alex about 10 years ago. Photo: Lebogang Nkoane/Flickr

Highly polluted Jukskei River which runs through Alex. Photo: ANP/ Robin Utrecht Photography

Highly polluted Jukskei River which runs through Alex. Photo: ANP/ Robin Utrecht Photography

Photo: EPA/ANP/ Kim Ludbrook

Photo: EPA/ANP/ Kim Ludbrook

A woman prepares porridge, a staple food in South Africa, during the opening of the Football for Hope Festival in Alexandra township in 2010. Photo: ANP/ Reuters/ Radu Sigheti

A woman prepares porridge, a staple food in South Africa, during the opening of the Football for Hope Festival in Alexandra township in 2010. Photo: ANP/ Reuters/ Radu Sigheti

A mural of Nelson Mandela is seen outside his house in the Alexandra Township. Photo: ANP/EPA/ Kim Ludbrook

A mural of Nelson Mandela is seen outside his house in the Alexandra Township. Photo: ANP/EPA/ Kim Ludbrook

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