"they had a room in Alexandra"

Alexandra shacks in the foreground, and the business and tourism hub of Sandton behind
Public DomainAlexandra shacks in the foreground, and the business and tourism hub of Sandton behind
Alexandra (known as Alex) was established in 1904, along the banks of the Jukskei River.  It was too far from Johannesburg to be attractive to white buyers, and in 1912 the area was proclaimed a Native Township.  Established before the passing of the 1913 Land Act, it was one of the few areas (along with Sophiatown) that allowed black people to own urban land.  The area was however characterised by high levels of poverty, and there was little in the way of municipal infrastructure.  The population nonetheless grew rapidly, from about 10 000 people in 1932, to 50 000 in 1940, and almost 100 000 by 1950. 

Today, Alex is home to as many as 400 000 people.  Brick houses and tarred streets along the East bank contrast with the shacks, dirt roads and dire poverty of the West Bank.    

Upmarket Sandton, South Africa's financial centre, is just 4kms away.