JOHANNESBURG - A rat pauses on the puddled floor before disappearing under a bed. Somewhere in the large and crowded tent a baby, born three days ago, cries. Outside, women gather around a fire that serves as their stove and, as shadows lengthen, their warmth for the night.
"This is my home," 37-year-old Alisa Jozana says, spreading her arms and smiling ironically. Home is the narrow couch she sits on. She says she's been here since July. "No one cares about us. No one."
This collection of tents on the edge of a sports field is what the city of Johannesburg considers appropriate alternative housing while something more permanent is arranged. The tents hold more than 200 people evicted from inner-city buildings that authorities say have been "hijacked" by squatters.
Tens of thousands more people, by some estimates as many as 100 000, are living in hundreds of abandoned buildings across downtown Johannesburg, one of Africa's wealthiest cities but also one of the world's most unequal, according to the World Bank.
The mayor wants the squatters cleared out to make way for an urban revival, with proposals to expropriate buildings and turn them over to private developers.