Jo'burg's African Migrants

Photographs by Jonathan Torgovnik

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African Migrants in Jo'burg

At a time when the world’s attention is directed towards the thousands of African migrants trying to make their way north, to reach the shores of Europe, little attention is given to the fact that thousands of African migrants are looking south, and arriving in Johannesburg, one of Africa’s most affluent cities. Many end up living in derelict, ‘hijacked’ buildings in Johannesburg’s inner city, a place known for its high level of crime, poverty, and unemployment. The properties have been abandoned by their owners and are run by slum lords that collect rent from the poor migrant workers. Johannesburg’s Inner city was mostly occupied by white residents and business owners and was an upmarket popular area to live in during the Apartheid regime in the 70’s and 80’s, but when the restriction on black residents was removed in the 90’s, whites slowly left the inner city. Many building owners left and criminals claimed the buildings. They collect money but don’t maintain the buildings, there is no electricity or running water, leaving the residents to live in sub-humane conditions in a disease infested environment. It is estimated that South Africa has over 2 million illegal immigrants from other African countries. This project focuses on two ‘hijacked’ building in the Inner city, the Chung Hua Mansions, and the Hercules building. Both house several hundred migrant workers and refugees form a variety of countries including Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Nigeria, to name a few. Their new home is a constant reminder of the lost dream they had when coming to Johannesburg, the ‘golden city’ for a better life.