Monday, August 2

Questions Answered

Nick took time to answer the plethora of questions I threw his way. I'm so impressed with the answers giving a link and telling you to go read it would not do the reply justice. Im reprinting Nicks answers, which can be found here.

Hi Richard,

I appreciate your interest and will do my best to answer your questions. Although I have spent quite some time researching these settlements, I don’t, by any means, claim to know all there is to know. I welcome any comments, corrections or additions from anyone reading this.
Before I try and answer your questions, I think I should first distinguish what I consider ‘townships’ and what I consider ‘informal settlements’. Townships are the formal residential areas established as black ‘locations’ or ‘group areas’ during aparthied (eg Langa, Nyanga, Guguletu and Khayelitsha). These consist of formal brick structures and are usually fully serviced. The definition also includes any associated informal structures (backyard shacks).

Informal settlements are stand-alone settlements consisting almost exclusively of informal structures (shacks) established during land invasion or inconspicuous growth on vacant land. Residents of these settlements have no formal tenure and have only minimal services in most cases. These settlements are often situated in and around townships, but have their own names, identities and social structures. They can also be located on vacant land quite distant from the townships (e.g Red Hill on the Cape Peninsula and Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay).

Here goes:
1. What is the tribal mix of the black townships. Is it still mostly Xhosa as is believed? Yes, the black ‘townships’ in Cape Town are almost exclusively Xhosa. In one survey, 99.4% of respondents stated Xhosa as their first language. From other studies and my own observations, there are a handful of coloured residents in these areas, but in terms of numbers they are almost insignificant.
2. How integrated are the coloured and black communities on the flats? In the older areas, not at all. There is unbelievably strong racism amongst coloured and black communities at the lowest end of the economic scale. Added to this is the fact that these areas are still very strongly spatially segregated by the physical barriers imposed by apartheid planning such as railway lines, freeways, canals and buffer strips. However, a recent study by Oldfield (2004) shows that in the new RDP housing projects in Delft South, where coloured and black households were placed amongst each other indiscriminately, a surprising amount of integration has already taken place.
3. Is there any information on the number of people living informally elsewhere in the city (that is, not in townships.)? I’m not sure what you mean here. I can get figures for the informal settlements (that is, settlements of more than 10 shacks) not in formerly black group areas, but if you are meaning street dwellers or backyard shack dwellers, I wouldn’t know. I think The Haven night shelters may have that info.
4. Is there movement of people from informal to formal housing sectors? Yes, and no. In the new ‘RDP’ housing projects, most of the residents moving in there (although not all) come from informal settlements. These houses are being delivered at a rate of 11 000 per year, so that is probably around 8 000 households being ‘decanted’ from informal settlements every year. However, there is a lot of evidence of people selling their houses (for many complex reasons) and moving back to informal settlements. These are also people who are given their houses through the housing subsidy, not people who progress up the housing ladder through increased wealth. In fact, it has been shown that there is very little movement out of informal settlements that is not related to the housing subsidy. The gap in the market between informal and formal is huge and thus very difficult to bridge. For this reason many people are trapped in informal settlements. Another phenomenon that I have observed is that even the few people who become relatively wealthy in informal settlements (spaza/shebeen owners, taxi drivers, etc) prefer to stay in the informal settlements than move to formal areas. I have no proof of this and don’t know why it happens, but I suspect it is because the informality is the very source of their livelihoods. Other reasons may include social networks, no rates, and localised power. 5. How prevalent are foreigners in the townships? Cape Town has a large population of illegal aliens. Are they accepted in the informal settlements? In the informal settlements I’ve dealt with there is strong xenophobia and foreigners are certainly not welcome. For this reason, foreign Africans prefer to rent backyard shacks from formal township residents. In this way they only have to negotiate a one-on-one deal, rather than negotiate acceptance from a community structure. Formal township residents apparently also prefer foreign tenants because they are prepared to pay higher rents. In Cape Town, apparently a lot of foreign Africans prefer to stay out of the township and rent small (often overcrowded) flats in the former white areas (e.g Nigerians and Angolans in Muizemberg, Congolese in Seapoint and Woodstock, etc). This is not the case in Joburg, however, where it has been reported that a large number of illegal Mozambiquan aliens choose to live in informal settlements where thy can remain undetected. I don’t have figures for the number of foreign Africans and illegal aliens in Cape Town – nobody does.
6. How strong are the social links to the Eastern Cape? Do many people still send money back to relatives in the countryside? There are certainly strong links, but these are not as strong as some people think. For example, in a survey done in 1994, only 31% of black African in Cape Town considered the Eastern Cape ‘home’ and wanted to retire there, while 74% considered Cape Town their home. The same study showed that in some families there was a pattern of circular migration, but mainly only individual family members (children or wives) moving temporarily to whichever area could support them best. Often the breadwinner was stuck in a cycle of poverty and could not afford to leave Cape Town. However, other families surveyed were born and bred in Cape Town and had no intention of leaving. There is a culture of sending money back to the rural areas, but I have no idea how much. This is largely a throwback from apartheid laws that prevented families from living in the city and forced breadwinners to migrate. My perception is that it is on the decrease. Money that is sent back is either to support family members, or to consolidate a rural base for retirement. This is prevalent amongst hostel residents (a whole other kettle of fish) who are typically breadwinners who move individually to the city and seek the cheapest accommodation possible while sending as much as possible back home.
7. The agricultural labour sector still seems very much to be dominated by coloured people. Are black people moving into agriculture in the Cape? Sorry, can’t help you on this one.
8. Is there any information on the prevalence of AIDS in the settlements? Are there large differences in infection between different communities? I have tried to get health data on informal settlements, but because the residents use the same health facilities as formal township residents, no distinction is made in the health stats. For an idea, the KTC clinic, which serves many of the informal settlements, recorded a TB prevalence of 1410 per 100 000 residents and a 16% HIV prevalence in 1996. I don’t have any more recent data, but one can imagine that the overcrowded, damp and unhealthy conditions in informal settlements aggravate all sorts of diseases. Yes, there do seem to be differences. Apparently, HIV is rife in certain settlements, such as Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay, but there is no evidence to support this. The Medical Research Council must have done some studies on this. If you are asking about the difference between prevalence in different race groups, there is clear evidence that shows that HIV is highest in the black population and second highest in the coloured population.
9. What is the state of the schools in the informal settlements. Do children have to go to formal neighborhoods to reach a school? There are no formal schools in any of the settlements, only crèches. Yes, the children have to go to schools in neighbouring townships.
10. Much of the settlements are in areas that are less than ideal. Ive seen some settlements bulldozed, but not widely. Do the authorities plan to just upgrade the informal settlements, or move those that are in areas that are untenable? This is true - informal settlements are generally on the worst land in the city. Bulldozing is definitely not a politically acceptable solution anymore (and something I strongly disapprove of). To answer your question I would have to give you my entire thesis, as this is recisely the question that I am looking at – you’ve hit upon what I think is the most pertinent question regarding informal settlements at present. Give me a shout in March next year and I’ll send you a copy!

In short, it is very much a political decision. Some will go, but most will stay. For example, most of the settlements on the N2, directly opposite the airport runway, are situated on an old landfill site. In any other circumstances these people would have been moved off years ago, but there is nowhere to move them to, and the people now have a powerful political voice. The city has been touting extravagant plans to upgrade these settlements, so it looks like it is going to have to be done. This is clearly a case of political will overriding technical constraints (but I fully support their intentions to upgrade these settlements. Where there’s a will (and heaps of national government money) there’s a way.


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