The shelters some people are forced to call “home.”


Jake’s ‘Sunday Post’ WordPress challenge, “Shelter,” got me thinking of all the people here in South Africa who can’t afford proper shelter and housing for their families. Almost every day when I drive around to various places within quite a small radius of my home, I see what in our country are called “Squatter camps.” We passed by this one on the way to do some shopping yesterday.

Some people prefer to call these unfortunate folk, “shack dwellers,” and the places where they have in desperation, set up home with any materials they can lay their hands on, are named by the government, “Informal settlements.” I suppose this sounds a little less shocking, but whatever you may name it, doesn’t change the fact that these families, through poverty, are living in the most appalling conditions.

These next two settlements are on the road which leads from Durban up to my sister’s house.

The inhabitants of these ramshackle structures, face a range of social problems, from a lack of clean water and electricity in their homes, to inadequate health care, and crime, not to mention very real fire risk. It’s a very sad situation, which is by no means unique to South Africa. These residential formations which are built without legal permits, house approximately a billion people worldwide, according to ‘UN Habitat.’ The make-shift shelters are constructed out of anything they can find, from corrugated iron and old wooden boxes, to plastic sheeting  Many people will be born in such places, with no hope of ever improving their lot. Others are forced into living this way, because of a declining economy which has taken away their means of supporting themselves and their family in the manner which they were previously used to.

This settlement is set on a hill, overlooking the municipal refuse dump. These shelters  are people’s homes, but I can’t help feeling that the inhabitants must feel as though they have also been cast out with the rubbish. Frown

There’s no overnight solution to this terrible state of affairs, but if all governments would act with the best interests of their populace at heart, and throw themselves into job creation and decent education for everyone, I’m sure that this problem could be eradicated quite quickly.  Sad to say, “Pigs might fly” first.

Have a great weekend everyone. Chat again soon.

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32 comments on “The shelters some people are forced to call “home.”

  1. A massive problem. I really wish there was a ready solution – it is in the interests of everyone. People with properties near these informal settlements are having a very difficult time, because of natural enough ‘scavenging’ tendencies on the part of their neighbours.

  2. It makes me feel so sad for the hopelessness these people must feel… Governments talk but never put their money where their mouths are! Nothing has actually changed in South Africa with the advent of ‘democracy’! The rich still become richer and the poor poorer…

  3. Very thought provoking entry AD!
    The problem in over populated cities like ours (in India) is the heavy influx of people into urban areas looking for opportunities that do not exist. This puts a huge strain on the already non existent infrastructure. You would think a kindergarten kid would know the solution is to provide better facilities in rural areas at a lesser cost! Politicians and policy makers obviously live on a different planet! Or there isn’t enough money to be made there.

  4. I live close to one of these informal settlements. One side of the road is the informal settlement, other side, the low cost housing project.
    Can’t imagine living like this – suppose one can get used to anything.
    And that’s what bugs so much about this government of ours.
    There’s a real need for something to be done, but they insist on squandering the money they do have access to!!

  5. It is sad,the goverment must create jobs and stop this thing of tenders,people are suffering :-(
    Enjoy your weekend

  6. Perhaps a question or two should be asked in all fairness. Where do these squatters come from? Who told them to flock to the cities? How much political encouragement is behind the urbanisation wave? Just asking. By the way the tempo of squatting outstrips the tempo at which descent housing, paid for by the tax payer, can be provided.

    • So, you think that it’s vote grabbing exercise on the part of government? It would seem very possible. I can’t think where they all come from either, but I suppose they think they’ll get work if they come to the cities.

      • Urbanisation is not only unique to South Africa – South America, the old Russia and many more. Many hope to find work yes, others are purely lured to the call of the city, but unfortunately here in South Africa there is a political party behind the encouragement as the squatters are also voters – politics is a dirty game played on two levels, the first level is the promise level and the second level is forget the promise level.

    • I’ve seen the same thing in Asia, Hawaii, Rio, and Jakarta. It’s a worldwide phenomena, but I agree that the cause here is somewhat different. Pawns in a political game. ;(

  7. It’s good to raise these issues in blogs.

    When I visited SA in 2005, I was shocked at how many more settlements there were, compared to when I left nine years earlier. The problem is clearly getting worse, not better.

  8. I agree that it’s a shame that people have to live in these conditions but I doubt we will ever solve the problem. Here in the Cape lots of new housing has been built but new shack settlements spring up all the time.

    • Yes, newsy. Maybe the politicians should be required to live for a week every year, in one of these places, just to get a taste for the challenge that lies ahead of them. ;)

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