The recent steep petrol price increases yet will hit the cities’ poorest the most – those who stay in townships and informal settlements. The consequences of the forever fuel hikes, further pushes the poverty stricken into the periphery of the cities, to the forgotten land – far away from the opportunities. Although government’s policies over the years purporting to be addressing the core triple challenges, namely, poverty, unemployment and inequality, but on the ground nothing has changed.
The post-apartheid government has failed to change the cities’ spatial planning, which ensures that the previously disadvantaged people are put away far from economic opportunities. The government’s settlement planning and land use has kept the status quo which continues to marginalize the poor. A classic case is the government’s massive RDP housing programme, which build low cost houses which are often located much further away from infrastructure, economic opportunities and social amenities.
Take for an instance the City of Johannesburg, where majority of residents are located far away from economic opportunities. The City’s own statistics show that its poorest residents live on the periphery, in the dusty townships and spend a large chunk of their income on public transport. The 2014 Gauteng Household Travel Survey indicates that, the household expenditure on public transport is on the rise. Many spend more than 10% of their income on public transport.
It takes a gruelling and exhausting 20 hours a week for Thobile Dlamini, an Admin Assistant at one of the biggest insurance companies, to travel between her home and workplace. Dlamini, 36, is a single mother of two children. She commutes daily for two hours on public transport from Orange Farm to Sandton. She spends more than R860 every month from her meagre salary of R7000. Another steep petrol price increase means she would have to dig deeper into her pocket, as this normally means an automatic increase on the bus and taxi fares.
Before dawn at 4:30am, Dlamini travels for more than 50km a single trip to work. She joins tens of thousands of her fellow labourers, students and job seekers to walk to the nearest taxi-rank. After a bumpy taxi ride to the bustling inner-city, she still has to connect to Sandton using a bus. This is a daily reality for millions of people who stay in townships.
Another study by the University of Johannesburg, which is called Johannesburg Poverty and Livelihoods, confirms that Region G in which Orange Farm falls under, is the poorest area in the City. The study concludes that, while at the dawn of democracy other areas such as Soweto received much needed improvements like housing, Orange Farm remained deprived.
The post democratic government should be advocating for integrated sustainable settlement through mixed land use, mixed-use of housing options, supported by sufficient services and infrastructure, open areas and recreational facilities, proper access to social and economic amenities. A place for employment should be integrated within housing plans.
A caring and visionary government should be building homes instead of just houses without a long term plan. The provision of decent housing should be inclusive and integrated with simultaneous provision of social and economic amenities like schools, community halls, health care facilities, parks, recreation facilities, transport facilities, places of worship, community halls, job opportunities, etc.
Unfortunately, the RDP housing programme in townships has turned them into ghettos, where millions of desperate people are far removed from the mainstream economy, on the fringes of the cities, where poverty, unemployment and inequality abounds. Service delivery protests have become a permanent feature in these communities.
Vuyolwethu Zungula is the President of the African Transformation Movement (ATM).