Newsweek

New Bridge Reveals How Little South Africa Has Changed

Twenty years after the end of apartheid, can “The Great Walk” help ease racial tensions?
The bridge in the photograph is one of two being built that will carry bus rapid transit and pedestrians from Alexandra to Sandton. Thousands of commuters make this trip each day, on thoroughfares not designed to carry heavy pedestrian traffic. Bridges such as these, in theory, will ease access and improve the safety of commuters to Sandton.
12_30_SouthAfricaBridge_04 Source: Johnny Miller/Millefoto/Rex/Shutterstock/AP

It’s a 15-minute drive from the Ferrari-lined streets of Johannesburg’s Sandton suburb to Alexandra, one of South Africa’s poorest townships. But for 56-year-old cleaner Mooko Dikotla and thousands of others who commute by foot from Alexandra to what’s known as “the richest square mile in Africa,” the four-mile trek over bustling highways takes an hour and a half.

“Sometimes I feel like...I need a space shuttle or something,” says Dikotla, laughing and nearly out of breath while walking home after nine hours of cleaning and serving coffee at a large property investment company. “I spend my life walking back and forth between two universes.”

Dikotla’s daily commute is one part of the legacy of apartheid, when laws segregated urban areas by race and pushed nonwhites out of developed neighborhoods and into townships

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