South Africa

Joburg’s forgotten people: Inside the Moth building

By Greg Nicolson 25 July 2012

The Democratic Alliance took journalists through a former Memorable Order of Tin Hats (Moth) building on De Villiers Street, Johannesburg, where residents are placed in temporary accommodation by the municipality. By GREG NICOLSON.

The Democratic Alliance took journalists through a former Memorable Order of Tin Hats (Moth) building on De Villiers Street, Johannesburg, where residents are placed in temporary accommodation by the municipality. 

The building’s 700 residents are crammed into four floors. Without private rooms, they hang sheets to demarcate their space and find privacy. 

Many residents came to the Moth building in 2009 and were told they would be moved before the World Cup. They’re still waiting. 

When the DA visited, some residents were just waking up. Others sat on the balcony in downtown Joburg doing their hair. Some get by playing games like Morabaraba. 

The Moth building houses a mix of people from Gauteng, other provinces and other African countries rent-free. Those Daily Maverick spoke to want to stay in the city for work, but stress that they need to be moved. 

DA national spokesman Mmusi Maimane said the living conditions are shocking and he will appeal to the Human Rights Commission to investigate. 

During the city’s freezing winter, the Moth building is missing windows, allowing the wind to blow through the halls. 

The building has a communal industrial-sized kitchen covered in grease. Other residents choose to cook on small stoves. 

The men’s toilets reeked of urine and the showers were lined with grime. Maimane said he was most shocked at the building’s poor levels of sanitation. 

Children ran rings around the photographers in tow of the DA members. They sung songs next to piles of rubbish and ran through the building’s filthy halls. 

In the basement of the Moth building sat cots with men waking up to start the day. “It’s bad here,” they said to journalists. To move the residents the council must first find out who is living there. 

Main photo: The DA’s visit was part of its ongoing campaign to hold the ANC government to account and in the lead up to future elections the party’s aim to win over younger voters. Maimane said the Moth building was an example of what happens when government fails. All photos by Greg Nicolson.

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