City’s urbanisation ‘time bomb’

July 20 2011 at 10:36am – Cape Times


Tanya Farber

WHILE Mayor Patricia de Lille has said the influx of migrants from the Eastern Cape is “a testament to the city’s high standard of service delivery”, analysts have warned that failure to address urbanisation issues urgently could end in disaster.

A recent report released by the South African Cities Network outlines the city’s failure to keep pace with migration.

While the percentage nationally of households living in informal dwellings has fallen in the past eight years, in Cape Town it has gone up.

It is estimated that, over eight years, the number of households in the city living in shacks rose by 100 000.

Cape Town is also the only city in the country where the percentage of households using bucket toilets or with no access to toilet facilities actually increased, as did the percentage of those with no access to mains electricity.

Said principal author of the report, Professor Ivan Turok from the Human Sciences Research Council: “We are walking up a downward escalator and the problem is getting bigger. It is not a stable or static situation.”

According to sociologist Professor Simon Bekker, approximately 50 000 people now move to Cape Town every year, translating to some 16 000 households.

In another extensive report released this month by the South African Local Government Association, it was found that if the challenges of migration and urbanisation were not met, the risks of “violence, poverty and social exclusion” could increase on an unprecedented scale.

Loren Landau, who heads the African Centre for Migration and Society based at Wits University, and who headed the research process, said: “There has been an over-emphasis on international migrants in broader discussions about human mobility, but they represent a tiny percentage of urban residents in most places. Part of this is xenophobia, but part of it is because they form a convenient scapegoat for authorities looking for excuses for poor service delivery.”

The research report found that migration is generally not considered at all in municipal planning processes and that failure to proactively address migration and other forms of human mobility will “yield undesired consequences for all, including social fragmentation, economic exclusion, poor planning and the continued possibility of violence”.

De Lille’s spokesman, Solly Malatsi, said: “The city is doing its best to provide services for all people irrespective of whether they are originally from Cape Town or not.

“But the provision of such services is often very challenging.

“This means building infrastructure such as the installations of sewerage pipes and toilet facilities, but there is insufficient municipal land on which these facilities can be built.”

The State of our Cities report, however, strongly recommended that the “upgrading of informal settlements should be taken much more seriously”.

“Additional land will have to be made available to reduce the densities of areas that are overcrowded and to accommodate people living in backyard shacks.

“The provision of well-located land is clearly a major stumbling block, impeded by the financial cost of acquiring land as well as wider objections from vested interests,” it stated.

It was also found that there was considerable scope for more intense residential development in and around the central city and inner suburbs, which would reduce the transport costs for commuters and job seekers, and increase the usage of city centre amenities.

Community leader Loyiso Mfuku, who heads the Mandela Park Backyarders group in Khayelitsha, said the city authorities were not being transparent about their plans.

“The city has told us they have a plan to meet these challenges,” he said.

“But we do not believe they are being honest as they will not disclose their plan to us nor consult with community leaders to discuss our real needs.

“We have also asked them for data on housing backlog numbers, but they refuse to give it to us.

“Their strategy is about misleading the public in the media, vilifying us and humiliating us, and then pointing to the frustration they’ve reduced us to so that they can paint us as hooligans.”

Mfuku said the Department of Human Settlements had provided a copy of budget spend since 1996 and that his organisation was studying it carefully.

“We have already picked up errors,” he said.

“And will revert to the media once we have thoroughly investigated the document.”

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