Cape Town - More informal settlements could pop up around the city as the surge of the third wave continues to threaten livelihoods.
Community leaders of newly-built informal settlements argue that the rapid growth of shack-dwellers in Cape Town is a direct result of an unemployment and housing backlog crisis exacerbated by the pandemic.
According to the City of Cape Town’s human settlements office, some 54 new informal settlements had been created since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown in March last year, 70% of which are on unsuitable land, unfit for human habitation.
Community leader of Level 2 informal settlement in Khayelitsha, Mabheleni Twani predicts that many more informal settlements will appear in months to come as the surge of the third wave threatens more livelihoods.
“The situation is only going to get worse as youth unemployment continues to grow. Black youth educate themselves only to find that post-Covid there is no market for employment, and there is no support for small local (businesses). The people that are meant to enter the labour force will be forced to build a shack as they will not afford bonds or rentals and will struggle to survive,” said Twani.
Community leader of a new informal settlement in Khayelitsha, called Pandemic, Zama Timbela said the influx of people moving from houses and rentals to shacks was due to the high levels of unemployment.
“It is sad that most back people that fall under the occupational category of unskilled labour only make enough to feed themselves. A lot of people in this sector lost their jobs.
“When you lose your job you cannot pay rent, you must leave and find a place to live. You will collect materials and place a shack anywhere. It’s sad to think that the majority of the working-class can only afford to pay for shacks,” said Timbela.
In an attempt to generate an income, many unemployed people would build shacks that they would rent out to others, and this was a contributing factor to the rapid growth of these sites in the last year, said Timbela.
According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) released by StatsSA in June, unemployment rose to 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021 – the highest it has been since the start of the QLFSs in 2008, with youth unemployment at 46.3%.
Mayco member for human settlements, Malusi Booi said that the City was looking at tackling informality by making it progressively more formal through upgrading interventions and enhanced service delivery where possible.
“Between the current 2021/22 and 2023/24 financial years, the allocated capital budget for City of Town human settlements projects is approximately R3.3 billion in total. Of this, almost R2bn is foreseen to be spent on formal subsidy housing, while approximately R1.3bn is earmarked for informal housing and new accommodation types to address growing informality,” said Booi.
He added that the City continued to discourage the creation of informal settlements through unlawful occupation as it poses threats on residents – including fires, floods, illness, and dense occupation.
Booi explained that settlements that are formed on infrastructure, such as over bulk water or sewer lines problems, were impossible to fix as one cannot get to the problem because people are living on top of it.
Booi added that the development of these settlements enabled the flourishing of criminal syndicates, such as “shack-farmers”, illegal water connection and electricity theft and illegal electricity connection syndicates which end up hurting areas and communities with constant outages and damage to infrastructure.