As many readers already know, I am a documentary photographer. And while it was a pleasure to teach and develop courses in the Powerhouse’s skills development center, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t carve out some time to do some serious documentary work. There were many many stories I could have told, but what struck me most and seemed to be internationally important were the scores of Zimbabwean immigrants living in Mamelodi. Xenophobic attacks headlined world news around the beginning of 2008, and it seemed these foreigners (and neighbors) were being painted as the enemy. Yet as I got a chance to know many different Zimbabweans during our time in Mamelodi, I couldn’t help but be encouraged by their strong faith in the Lord to sustain and deliver them out of their dire circumstances where they struggled to survive just like their South African brothers and sisters. The photos below show just one of the many touching families and individuals we got to know. I personally learned a great deal from Vugani as a pastor and friend. You may view the photos below, or for a larger view (with full screen option) view them in the image gallery. Please note that some names have been changed in order to protect their identity.
In summary, the following relates Vugani’s struggle: Vugani managed a bakery back in Zimbabwe and made a good living. As the Zimbabwean dollar inflated rapidly and harsh political persecution set in, he left with his wife and two of his children were forced to cross the border, looking for a better life on the other side. Settling in Mamelodi, which exists in one of the wealthiest provinces of South Africa, he and his family are no longer starving, but are hardly living the good life they had imagined. With only his daughter’s income from washing dishes, Vugani and his wife Zanele must look outside their circumstances to find hope and strength.