South Africa will spend R10 billion upgrading townships as it faces ‘mass migration’ to cities

Over the next three years about R10 billion has been ring-fenced to accelerate the upgrading of informal settlements countrywide, says human settlements, water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

Presenting her departmental budget speech on Tuesday (18 May), Sisulu said that the rapid growth of informal settlements in all major cities and towns has necessitated a review of funding frameworks.

“The department has created a dedicated upgrading of informal settlements grant funding framework exclusively set-up to address adequately the upgrading of this challenge in our country,” she said.

Sisulu said that South Africa faces the ‘unfortunate position’ of people who had previously restricted to rural areas under the apartheid government, and are now ‘migrating in droves’ to the cities in search of work and a better future.

She added that this migration has lead growing informality in South Africa’s urban areas, with an estimated 2.2 million households living in these arrangements and the number steadily rising.

“We will overcome this problem in time, which remains a constant nightmare made worse by the fact that we continuously receive undocumented migrants from neighbouring countries seeking employment,” she said.

“We spend a great deal of our time to resolve this problem. The need for housing our own people is long and growing with 2.2 million households still living in informal settlements and when you consider migrants from neighbouring countries also seeking employment, then you can understand the nightmare we have to deal with year in and year out.”

Sisulu added that South Africa’s biggest demand for housing in the coming years will continue to be in the urban and economic centres of the country.

Breaking the cycle

While the government said it is committed to providing housing, Sisulu slammed some opportunists who are deliberately abusing the current system and pereptuating a cycle of poverty.

“We would like to think that every citizen has the best interest of the country and its people at heart,” she said.

“But in some of our informal settlements, we have people who use the space to take advantage of the disadvantaged, who try to cheat the system, try to cheat the state, who try to cheat the community.”

Sisulu pointed to some beneficiaries who have been given housing and then immediately sell it and return to informal settlements, creating a vicious cycle of poverty and informality.

She said the government was working hard to try and break this cycle.

“We have a pre-emptive clause in our legislation that bars people from selling their houses before a period of eight years and before they have proof that they can afford a different house.

“This legal requirement is very rarely adhered to. We look forward to a time when we can enforce laws that require municipalities to check and know their constituencies. We must tighten our legislation on ownership.”

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South Africa will spend R10 billion upgrading townships as it faces ‘mass migration’ to cities