Mi­gra­tion and ur­ban­i­sa­tion: A co­nun­drum

Lack of hous­ing is the plight of the poor, writes

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

WHEN a poor ru­ral per­son ar­rives in any city they have to fend for them­selves for a place of abode. They are lucky if they have rel­a­tives or friends to of­fer shel­ter, al­beit tem­pory. If they don’t have, which is a grim pos­si­bil­ity, then prospects of sur­vival be­come ex­tremely pre­car­i­ous.

Friends be­come un­friendly and rel­a­tives find it cum­ber­some to sus­tain what they see as a bur­den given their own eco­nomic chal­lenges. In con­di­tions of gen­eral eco­nomic doom as ev­i­denced by slow eco­nomic growth, re­la­tions of kin­dred spir­its be­come a ca­su­alty in the quest for sur­vival of self.

In­for­mal set­tle­ments in South Africa should no longer be deemed as a strange phe­nom­e­non, rather must be viewed as a con­stant re­al­ity faced by al­most 1.2 mil­lion house­holds in South Africa who call them home.

The “nor­mal” struc­tural view of a home with brick and mor­tar has given way to a tran­sient mean­ing of in­for­mal­ity. Over the past few years we’ve no­ticed the den­si­fi­ca­tion of ex­ist­ing in­for­mal set­tle­ments and in some ar­eas, mostly ur­ban ar­eas, such as met­ros and sec­ondary towns we have seen new in­for­mal set­tle­ments emerg­ing.

Thus, the poor re­sort to sur­vive in con­di­tions of in­for­mal­ity that are pro­vided by the vast op­tions of in­for­mal set­tle­ments. To ex­plore this op­tion of in­for­mal­ity is a des­per­ate mea­sure given its per­ilous state. Wa­ter is com­mu­nal, elec­tric­ity is er­ratic, crime is peren­nial, shacks are makeshift and lack of refuse re­moval is in­te­gral to the toxic am­biance, hence en­hanced rate of ail­ment. The dark cover of night in­vites crim­i­nals who prey on women and chil­dren. Here a sense of com­mu­nity is elu­sive.

When the poor opt to live in these in­hu­man con­di­tions of ad­ver­sity to raise their fam­i­lies, that must be seen an ex­em­pli­fi­ca­tion of the low­est lev­els to which they have sur­ren­dered their dig­nity just to live for an­other day.

This is the char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of the re­cent South African ur­ban­is­ing or mi­gra­tory ex­pe­ri­ence whose im­pact on the hous­ing de­mand and many other ser­vices is un­told.

Out of a pop­u­la­tion of 54 mil­lion peo­ple, 39 mil­lion live in cities and South Africa is ur­ban­iz­ing at the fast rate of 64%, ac­cord­ing to the World Bank and Stats SA. More of­ten, mi­gra­tion and ur­ban­i­sa­tion are used in­ter­change­ably. For ease of ref­er­ence mi­gra­tion is move­ment of a peo­ple or per­son from one sec­tion of the coun­try to an­other whereas ur­ban­i­sa­tion is move­ment of a per­son or per­sons from a ru­ral area of lower eco­nomic base to the cities of higher eco­nomic base.

Cir­cu­lar mi­gra­tion is de­fined as mi­gra­tion for pur­poses of labour or ed­u­ca­tion. The dis­cov­ery of min­er­als in the 1880s re­sulted in a large scale of cir­cu­lar mi­gra­tion that was even­tu­ated by the 1913 Land Act when the labour de­mand of the mines be­came in­sa­tiable. The Hut tax and Poll tax that led to the Bam­batha Re­bel­lion were tight­ened to stran­gu­late ru­ral ar­eas to send cheap labour to the mines and the cities.

World War II re­sulted in a huge wave of ur­ban­i­sa­tion which co­in­cided with the growth of the sec­ondary eco­nomic sec­tor spurred by the war de­mands. The Smuts’s govern­ment’s re­laxed at­ti­tude to­wards ur­ban mi­gra­tion ev­i­dently saw the mush­room­ing of in­for­mal set­tle­ments in ar­eas such as New­clare, Alexan­dra, Pimville, Marabas­tad, Ger­mis­ton and Or­lando.

Ur­ban­i­sa­tion in­creased around the early 1970s and mid 1980s af­ter the pass­ing of the Tri­cam­eral Act. With the dawn of 1994 and the abol­ish­ing of Group Ar­eas Act more and more Africans ur­banised. In­ter­nal ur­ban­i­sa­tion also fu­elled ex­ter­nal mi­gra­tion from the African sub re­gion.

The re­cent lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions brought more peo­ple to the ur­ban ar­eas who are driven by poverty and are an­i­mated by the vast op­por­tu­ni­ties that are avail­able in the ur­ban ar­eas.

As a re­sult the in­crease in in­for­mal set­tle­ments is out­pac­ing the pro­vi­sion of RDP houses.

Cur­rently there are 2 700 in­for­mal set­tle­ments that con­tinue to grow at an alarm­ing rate. Ac­cord­ing to David Morena, man­ager of a Hu­man Set­tle­ment unit re­spon­si­ble for the Up­grade of In­for­mal Set­tle­ments, the City of eThek­wini has seen an in­crease of 60 in­for­mal set­tle­ments in the past two years.

On av­er­age, mi­gra­tion which re­sults in ur­ban­i­sa­tion oc­curs when those of rel­a­tively poor cir­cum­stances head for the cities with bet­ter eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. The co­nun­drum that South Africa faces is that the ru­ral poor mi­grate to cities at a time when there is no eco­nomic growth, thus lim­it­ing chances of find­ing jobs.

The ru­ral poor also have lim­ited skills, a fact that makes their job suit­abil­ity sus­pect and al­most non-ex­is­tent.

The de­vel­op­men­tal state be­comes a wel­fare state as it be­comes the only hope of pro­vid­ing hous­ing and sus­tain­able liveli­hoods, even the em­ployed have to fend for them­selves since most com­pa­nies no longer find it ap­pro­pri­ate to pro­vide hous­ing for their work­ers. The em­ployed must go to the com­mer­cial banks for hous­ing or use govern­ment op­tions de­pend­ing on their in­come bracket.

The pro­vi­sion of hous­ing for the poor and low in­come be­comes a se­ri­ous na­tional chal­lenge. The dic­tum of the Free­dom Char­ter that, “there shall be hous­ing, se­cu­rity and com­fort” will be­come an il­lu­sion. Af­ford­able hous­ing for the lower end is an­other chal­lenge as ev­i­denced by the de­ci­sion of the City of Cape Town to sell a school in Sea Point to a Jewish day care cen­tre for R135 mil­lion rather than con­vert­ing the school to so­cial hous­ing for lower and mid­dle in­come work­ers.

The lower and mid­dle work­ers in Cape Town spend most of their money on trans­port to ac­cess work and would be

bet­ter served to stay in the city and lever­age its vast in­fra­struc­ture. The prov­ince seems to side with ratepay­ers who feel that build­ing of so­cial houses would lower their prime ar­eas and de­feat gen­tri­fi­ca­tion.

The fact that the lower end of work­ers are African fur­ther lends cre­dence to racial stereo­types. Min­is­ter Lindiwe Sisulu broke govern­ment pro­to­col to side with the NGO Nd­i­funuk­wazi Trust against an­other arm of govern­ment. The in­jus­tice from the Western Cape is nakedly glar­ing.

The poor of Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay who have re­ceived the brunt of re­cent fires rose in re­volt, de­mand­ing the re­build­ing of their homes. The op­tions avail­able to the poor are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing lim­ited and their voice is muz­zled. Vi­o­lent protests, they ar­gue, is the best avail­able av­enue.

The ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land with­out com­pen­sa­tion should no longer be an aca­demic past-time but an ur­gent im­per­a­tive. For as long as Africans do not own land our free­dom is hol­low.

A Khoisan proverb ar­gued that the colo­nial­ists’ in­sa­tiable quest and greed for land will re­sult in the them pas­tur­ing their cat­tle in the sky. Thami Dali­wonga ka Plaatjie is ad­viser to Min­is­ter Lindiwe Sisulu

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