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Wednesday Jul 03, 2013

Backyard shacks still on the rise

The Government is facing another human settlement crisis in the form of backyard shacks, which are mushrooming in urban centres across South Africa.

While there had been a gradual decline in the number of people living in informal settlements over the past decade, backyard shacks were on the rise, said Wits development planning and modelling professor Philip Harrison.

Speaking at a national summit on informal settlement upgrading in Khayelitsha yesterday, Harrison, who is also a member of the National Planning Commission, said the spike in the number of backyard shacks was largely due to economic migration.

According to Census 2011, Gauteng and the Western Cape experienced massive increases in their population over the past 12 years. A census of inter-provincial migration between 2006 and 2011 showed that more than 300 000 people moved to the Western Cape and more than 1 million migrated to Gauteng. On the other hand, just over 150 000 people left the North West and 100 000 moved out of the Eastern Cape.

In 1996, 16.2 percent of the country's population lived in informal settlements, Harrison said. "Between then and 2011 there was a gradual decline as this number shrunk to 13.6 percent. However, there's been an increase in people living in backyard shacks, which presents another challenge."

About 36 percent of residents of informal structures live in backyard shacks, compared to 19.6 percent in 2001.

Harrison said there was a desperate need to transform human settlement in South Africa.

"Informal settlements are going to be with us for many more decades. We are not going to see transformation over the next five years, but we will see progress by 2030."

The aim of the summit, to which some 200 community representatives and NGOs were invited, was to update stakeholders on the government's informal settlement upgrade plan.

Deputy Human Settlements Minister Zou Kota-Fredericks said about 1.2 million families lived in the country's 2 700 informal settlements.

"The highest concentrations of informal settlements lie in the metropolitan areas, particularly Gauteng and the Western Cape, which are also facing the largest migrations from poorer provinces," Kota-Fredericks said.

She called on communities to trust the government when it came to "in situ" (on site) upgrades.

"People are no longer relocated when the settlement is upgraded and basic services are installed," she said. "But we want people to be tolerant. Don't resist this. We are doing it to improve your communities and your lives."

Cape Argus


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