Covid-19: Civil society bodies warn against de-densification of informal settlements
Cape Town - A group of civil society organisations
have made an urgent submission to
the Human Settlements Department to
rethink its proposed strategy to de-densify informal settlements in response
Earlier this month Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu announced that five areas had been identified to relocate people to from high-density informal settlements in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19. In the Western Cape, Du Noon and Kosovo informal settlements were to be de-densified.
The open letter was penned by numerous organisations, including the Isandla Institute, Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa and Ndifuna Ukwazi.
In a statement the organisations said they recognised the efforts of the human settlements sector in responding to the epidemic by rolling out basic services to informal settlements at a pace and scale never witnessed before.
They also said they recognised the efforts to co-ordinate at national level a localised response to the epidemic.
They also acknowledged that in specific contexts and under specific conditions de-densification was possible and necessary, however, they said they were deeply concerned about the “second strand” of the department’s response, which was de-densification.
“High density (resulting in overcrowding) has been identified as a contributing factor to the risk of contagion.
“Our concern is to caution against making de-densification a central thrust of the human settlements response with the intention of pursuing it at scale,” they said.
The coalition said de-densification as a programmatic response to Covid-19 was inappropriate and problematic.
“Informal settlement communities we work with have expressed deep concerns about the social, political, economic and technical impact of de-densification and the disruption it is likely to cause,” the letter said.
Human Settlements MEC Tertuis Simmers said the department was currently in close consultation with national and local government, as well councillors, community leaders and relevant stakeholders regarding the proposed Rapid Informal Settlement Support and Upgrade Programme that seeks to de-densify certain areas.
Simmers said these projects were already in the pipeline for implementation, but the pandemic coupled with Sisulu’s request to re-block
the overcrowded areas has necessitated an immediate acceleration of the project.
He said the department had considered the concerns of civil organisations and would continue with engagements to respond to concerns of affected communities.