Rich-poor divide runs through S.Africa local polls

Fri May 13, 2011 11:44am GMT

By Peroshni Govender

ALEXANDRA, South Africa (Reuters) - Just beyond the sprawling mansions guarded by private security and the high rise office blocks of Sandton, Africa's richest city, the poor in neighbouring Alexandra township struggle to eke a living.

The streets of what is known locally as "Alex", a shantytown next to Sandton's wealth, teem with thousands living in poverty, many of whom share water, toilets and illegal power connections.

The two districts, which nestle cheek-by-jowl in the Johannesburg conurbation, are among 278 municipalities holding local elections on Wednesday.

In post-apartheid South Africa, areas such as Sandton and Alex are stark examples of lingering economic disparities. The gap between rich and the poor has remained among the highest in the world since decades of white minority rule ended in 1994.

Policies introduced by the democratically elected African National Congress (ANC) have meant more blacks are among the wealthy and progress has been made in tackling infrastructure deficiencies, but the backlogs are immense.

There is growing concern that the rich and politically connected are becoming richer, the poor masses have no way to escape poverty and the middle-class has been squeezed so hard that many wonder how it will make ends meet in the future.

"If they don't wake up, all hell will break lose. The government is selective in their development," Themba Gramany an unemployed, 50-year-old father of three from Alex said.

"Ten years down the line Alex is sill not developing and there is only development where there are whites."   Continued...

<p>A file photo shows a general view of Alexandra township, commonly known as Alex, a slum overlooking the Sandton sky scrappers in Johannesburg. REUTERS/old</p>
Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.