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The horror of finding student accommodation in Jozi – A true story

Liezl Hesketh in Stories 

By Nomfundo Zondi

Finding Student Accommodation – The Struggle

I have always heard of the frustration students experienced while looking for and securing accommodation. Well, this is my story:

UJ CampusI had just been accepted to study at the University of Johannesburg. I was from KwaZulu-Natal and in the next few weeks I was due to go to Johannesburg, so it was time to secure a place to stay. I was already informed that the Student Res was full and my options were: private accommodation or communes. At that point, I had never been to Johannesburg and I did not know anyone there except my cousin who had been studying at UJ before. She was now working, but she and the internet were my only options.

My cousin had limited knowledge about student accommodation. She gave me a long list of places she got from the internet.  The amount of time and airtime I spent trying to call these numbers and get something legit was beyond tiring. The anxiety nearly killed me as I did not know what to expect from these people. Yes, they would show me pictures of the places they were offering, but you can never be sure if those were legit pictures or not.

Meeting Prince Charming

Faceless manFinally, I got hold of a guy called Vusi. Vusi told me that he had accommodation available and assured me that I could choose whichever place I felt suited me. Moreover, Vusi told me that he would provide transport for me immediately when I got off the bus from Home. I had to pay him a registration fee to follow through with his job – we agreed on R400 and I paid him immediately. I was very relieved and took his colleague’s number just in case. I would constantly call him just to make sure that he still remembered our agreement that he had to meet me when I got to Johannesburg, and he would assure me he hadn’t forgotten.

Early on a Saturday morning I got on the bus to Johannesburg.  I texted Vusi to tell him of my whereabouts. Vusi did not reply and I quickly assumed that he was in a meeting or busy with work, so I just sent him another text telling him where I was and that he must get back to me as soon as he got the text.  I continued with the journey until I was told we were probably two hours from Johannesburg.  I started calling Vusi repeatedly but he wasn’t picking up.  I panicked! I sent him text messages until he switched off his phone.

Facing Reality


I got to Park station with all my luggage.  I didn’t know what to do or whom to call.  I then decided to call his colleague who luckily picked up and when I asked her to let me talk to Vusi, she told me that she had never heard of him.  She told me she worked alone.  She instructed me to get a cab to Streatley Avenue, Melville.  From there we could choose and secure a room.  At that point, I had no other choice but to trust this lady.  I prayed that she was really what she said she was- panicking and praying non-stop because here I was in a city that I did not know, with people I did not know and I had just experienced fraud for the first time in my life.

By the time I got to Melville I just wanted a roof over my head. I secured a room and took it from there.  Later on in the year when I had made friends I asked them of a Vusi and a registration fee and they told me they also experienced the same thing and that there are lots of other people who do the same to students from far away.

I really hope someone learns from my story.  I could have been kidnapped or someone could have seen that I am stranded and took advantage of me or rape me.  Securing accommodation as students is really a tough thing.  I am glad that nothing happened to me and I can continue with my studies.

* Images via happyantipodean, University of Johannesburg,