Johannesburg - Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu says her department has identified five informal settlements whose residents will be requested to relocate as concerns grow around the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Sisulu's comments on the re-settlements come as the country has recorded 1655 cases of the coronavirus with 11 confirmed deaths.
The minister said she was concerned the virus was spreading and reaching densely populated areas. She said this would be a disaster.
Sisulu said the five informal settlements which had been identified include; two in Gauteng - Setswetla in Alexandra and Mooi Place in Pretoria, Dunoon in the Western Cape, Kennedy Road in Durban and Dunkan Village in the Eastern Cape.
The department has identified land close to the informal settlements that would be used to build temporary housing structures. Sisulu said resources were underway to make sure that the move would be swift as the spread of the virus demanded a fast response.
She said her department had been engaging social partners such as NGOs that worked closely with informal settlers to assist in gauging whether residents would be willing to move.
"We had a meeting with a number of NGOs who are active in the informal settlements. The NGOs have engaged the residents on various factors on whether they want to move and are they concerned about the virus and if moved what would their condition be.
"And we would like them to cooperate with us and we are doing this to save their lives. We are still having an ongoing conversation about how to do it. Because we do not want a backlash from informal settlements," Sisulu said on Talk Radio 702 on Monday.
She admitted that convincing residents would not be easy, but she insisted that the government had to protect lives and ensure that people are safe.
"What if we have an outbreak in informal settlements? Our job as the government is to protect and look after them. We do have 27 parcels of land identified and we have chosen areas closer to the informal settlements. We have put up a team for these resources which include the NGOs and the engineers that will build these houses and the third part is the people who will mobilise them and help them move to this new area," she said.
Sisulu stressed that this was not a new form of 'forced removal', in reference to apartheid forced removals that affected black communities, and instead, this was to assist those who were not able to social distance as required in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
"We are not talking about forced removal now, we are talking about how do we reach out to the most vulnerable of us. These are the people that live in informal settlements because they cannot social distance because it is so crowded and we cannot even get into the areas with the normal trucks that we have," she said.