Transforming human settlements in Gauteng

Published May 23, 2024


The landscape of human settlements in Gauteng has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past three decades, a period bookended by the end of apartheid in 1994 and present day.

The transformation has been driven by a concerted effort to address the historical injustices of the pre-1994 era, characterised by a spatial dichotomy that consigned black South Africans to the periphery of urban development.

The legacy of the era was a wasteful and unsustainable pattern of human settlements, marked by spatial fragmentation and inequitable access to resources.

Post-1994, the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) has made commendable strides in service delivery and housing provision. The province has witnessed an increase in the proportion of the population living in formal dwellings, with access to basic services improving dramatically.

The progress is evident in the significant reduction of informal dwellings from 24.1% in 1996 to 11% in 2022, and the near-doubling of households in formal housing.

The GPG’s approach to housing delivery has been innovative and multifaceted. Mega or catalytic projects, which emphasise mixed-income, high-density settlements, have been instrumental in achieving diversity and promoting spatial justice.

The projects, coupled with the redevelopment of hostels and the upgrading of informal settlements, have begun to reshape the urban fabric of Gauteng.

Since 1994, the GPG has made significant strides in housing delivery, creating more than 1.3 million housing opportunities through the provision of 347 014 serviced sites and 798 094 housing units. Additionally, the province has issued 378 920 title deeds as a guarantee to land ownership to qualifying and deserving beneficiaries.

This translates into towns and cities that rose out of the ground and would never have been there before.

Despite the achievements, the housing waiting list remains long and formalisation of townships has been slow.

The journey toward equitable and sustainable human settlements is far from complete. The province continues to grapple with the challenges of rapid urbanisation, in-migration, and the need for job creation. The pressure to meet the demands must be balanced with careful planning to avoid the pitfalls of urban sprawl and inefficient resource management.

The GPG’s focus on integrated human settlements planning is a testament to the commitment to strategic development. Yet, the absence of common baseline data and the lack of effective demand measurement tools remain obstacles to efficient service delivery.

In conclusion, the GPG’s efforts to transform human settlements in Gauteng represent a significant departure from the exclusionary practices of the past. While progress has been made in improving service delivery and housing opportunities, the province must continue to innovate and collaborate across governmental spheres to ensure that the benefits of development are equitably shared.

Only then can Gauteng overcome the legacy of apartheid and build a future where all residents have access to dignified and sustainable living conditions.

Tahir Sema Gauteng Department of Human Settlements head of communication

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