Relocation plans no-no
Questions abound why resettling residents from informal settlement to a farm 25km away
The Eastern Cape Department of Human Settlements, with the approval of and in partnership with Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, wants to relocate around 1,313 households of Orange Grove informal settlement near the airport, to a farm called Boxwood.
This is a distance of about 25km from their present location to the Needs Camp rural settlement node on the R346 to King William’s Town.
An application for township establishment on Farm Boxwood, submitted by human settlements, was approved by BCMM council at a meeting held on May 30 last year. This application is for an urban settlement of about 4,000 sites of about 250m².
Farm Boxwood however has no bulk services such as water, sanitation and electricity and is characterised by steep slopes which will make it expensive to develop; and it is an area of scientific interest which aims to protect an endemic fish species in the Gxulu River Catchment area.
The Orange Grove informal settlement, according to the Fort Hare University’s Institute for Social and Economic Research, exists because people need to have close access to the employment and education opportunities in the city. The relocation of those from the Orange Grove informal settlement to an area 25km from where they are, far away from employment opportunities to an area that lacks services and amenities, will place them in an unsustainable poverty trap.
Travelling to and from Boxwood Farm to the city centre will cost in the order of R1,200 per month per person – which is not sustainable for poor people.
The proposal reminds us of the development of urban areas in Buffalo City over the period 1963 until 1989 which occurred in the form of disaggregated urban settlements on the periphery of East London and King William’s Town. This resulted in opulent white suburbia with commercial services and excellent municipal service standards on the one hand, and sprawling black townships such as Mdantsane and Dimbaza on the periphery of the city with poor services and ever-increasing informal houses erected by an ever-increasing number of homeless people, on the other.
The Needs Camp rural settlement zone is being implemented as a rural settlement with rural amenities. Housing in this rural node, according to present policy, should include a residential property (of between 500m² and 1,000m²), a home garden, a kraal and other residential outdoor activities.
The present villagers of Boxwood, situated on a portion of Farm Boxwood, currently living use the rest of Farm Boxwood as grazing land for their cattle, for which the land was earmarked in terms of approved policy and plans for the area.
Government, since 1994, has instituted various policies and plans to correct apartheid planning and development and to ensure more inclusive, equitable and sustainable cities. However this proposed development negates all of these:
● The SA Constitution requires that: “everyone has access to adequate housing. According to the internationally accepted definition of “adequate housing” of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights( CESCR) it is to “deliver housing on suitably located sites that are connected to urban opportunities and services”;
● According to the National Development Plan: “South Africa will no longer have poverty traps in rural areas and urban towns where workers are isolated on the periphery of cities”;
● The National Integrated Urban Development Framework requires a “sustainable growth model of compact, connected and coordinated cities”; and
● The Spatial and Land Use Act promotes “land development in locations that are sustainable and limit urban sprawl”.
The proposed development at Boxwood does not comply with the Spatial Development Framework (SDF) of the BCMM, which is a statutory document that guides the future development of the city, and which is part and parcel of the Integrated Development Plan of the city.
The principles of the SDF, as agreed on by all stakeholders who were involved in the public participation exercise and the council of the Metro, is based on the “Compact City Model”. In order to maintain this compact city model, an urban edge exists which defines the limit of the urban built-up area and the limit of where bulk services can be provided on a sustainable level.
Boxwood is situated about 20km outside of the urban edge, where no bulk services are available. Extensive public participation to amend the Spatial Development Framework as required in terms of the Municipal Systems Act, was not done.
There is no reason why this urban development should be developed where there are alternatives such as:
● The West Bank Local Structure Plan, approved by the BCM council, makes provision for future integrated human settlement on the West Bank where land is available for 30,000 housing units. This land on the West Bank falls within the urban edge, it is close to bulk services, is close to the city and work opportunities, and has good access to the city via the R72.
● Cove Ridge smallholdings, which is in close proximity to the Orange Grove community, has been identified by the National Department of Human Settlements as a mega housing project, and planning for such a project has already commenced.
What will the future hold should the Boxwood development proceed?
The answer may lie in the words of Rev David Russel about the apartheid settlement of Dimbaza, on the outskirts of King William’s Town in 1969: “the overall reality of a place like Dimbaza is its grinding poverty and the helpnessness of a great majority of its inhabitants to do anything about improving their lot. The fundamental question is work. At another level the question is “why they were removed at all?”
● Christo Theart is chairperson of newlyformed The Centre for Local Community Rights, a non-profit organisation defending the rights of the local community. The NPO represents the Orange Grove Community Committee, comprising members of the informal settlement.