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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Squatting

Endnote 49:

"More people than ever live in squatter camps, euphemistically referred to as informal housing;" (p. 484)

According to Stats SA 2005 mid-year population figures, Research Surveys (RS), estimates that of the 12.3 million households, 1.4 million are in shacks, and 1.5 million are in traditional huts. In metropolitan areas 13 percent of households are in shacks, accounting for 50 percent of shacks countrywide.

Between 1996 and 2004, the number of informal settlements increased by 30 percent and provided shelter for 5.2 million people – between 40 and 60 percent of the country's urban labor force. About 25 percent of the country's households are informal. While South Africa's population grew at 2.5 percent annually, growth averaged 4.4 percent in the country's eight largest cities. The population of Gauteng, the richest province in South Africa and the heart of its industrial and mining sectors, grew by 22 percent due to inter-provincial migration. Rapidly increasing urbanization is certainly not unique to South Africa. Globally, informal settlements are expected to double between in the next 25 years. South African Cities Network (SACN) 2004.

Compounding the problem is the growing number of refugees seeking asylum in South Africa. South Africa hosts approximately 29,000 recognised refugees and 110,000 asylum seekers whose asylum applications are not completed. They come from everywhere, including Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Tanzania. Many of the Zimbabweans were kicked out of their homes in Zimbabwe under Operation Murambatsvina, a government clean-up campaign of alleged unauthorized housing that has affected an estimated 700,000 people throughout the country. Lacking documents or permits, many simply have nowhere to go except de facto squatter camps, some outside the offices of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), awaiting their turn with an immigration officer.

Related to the problem of insufficient housing and squatter camps is the absence of adequate policies to address the needs of refugees and asylum seekers in urban areas.  According to the UN South Africa has shown its goodwill towards the institution of asylum by enacting all legislation relating to refugee protection and creating institutions and laws to guarantee the protection of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as granting access to employment. However, the country has not effectively or adequately addressed the problem of access to services such as social grants, medical facilities and treatment for HIV/ AIDS, among other things.

Squatter camps are not only homes for poor blacks. According to a 2006 study by Standard Bank, the number of whites earning less than $80 a month grew by more than 50 percent between 2000 and 2004, while the number of blacks in that bracket decreased by half. Apartheid's safety net for Afrikaners is gone, and now blacks are the preferred candidates for civil service positions and private-sector jobs.

There are many white squatter camps around Pretoria. These settlements often are hidden behind houses, with up to 100 people living on one small lot, taking turns in one small bathroom. Or, like Kwaggaspoort Reddingsdaad, they're clustered around institutional buildings. They remain out of sight, social workers say, either because Afrikaners are too proud to let their poverty show or because squatting is illegal. See Stephanie Hanes, "Backstory: A hard new world for Afrikaners," Christian Science Monitor, 20 March 2006.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.