Khayelitsha – Western Cape

Khayelitsha is a partially informal township in Western Cape, South Africa, located on the Cape Flats in the City of Cape Town. The name is Xhosa for New Home. It is reputed to be the largest and fastest growing township in South Africa.

Cape Town initially opposed implementing the Group Areas Act passed in 1950 and residential areas in the city remained unsegregated until the first Group Areas were declared in the city in 1957. When Cape Town did start implementing the Group Areas Act, it did so more severely than any other major city; by the mid-1980s it became one of the most segregated cities in South Africa.

Dr Piet Koornhof (Left)

Dr Piet Koornhof (Left)

Plans to build Khayelitsha were first announced by Dr Piet Koornhof in 1983, then Minister of Co-operation and Development. By 1985 the suburb Site C had 30,000 people. Khayelitsha was one of the apartheid regime’s final attempts to enforce the Group Areas Act and was seen as the solution to two problems: the rapidly growing number of migrants from the Eastern Cape, and overcrowding in other Cape Town townships. The discrimination and black population control by the apartheid government did not prevent blacks from settling in the outskirts of Cape Town. After the scrapping of pass laws in 1987 many blacks, mainly Xhosas, moved into areas around Cape Town in search of work. By this time many blacks were already illegally settled in townships like Nyanga and Crossroads.

During 1983 and 1984 conditions in squatter camps like Crossroads and KTC worsened, exacerbated by official policing policy in which homes were destroyed and the emergence of the Witdoeke.  The Witdoeke were actively supported by the apartheid government in its fight against the ANC-aligned UDF who had actively opposed plans for people to be moved to the new township of Khayelitsha. As the black population grew, the apartheid regime sought to solve the “problem” by establishing new black neighbourhoods. Khayelitsha was established in 1985 and large numbers of people were forcefully relocated there, mostly peacefully, but occasionally accompanied with violence.

The Western Cape was a preference area for the local coloured population and a system called influx control was in place preventing Xhosas from travelling from the Transkei without the required permit. After the historic 1994 elections hundreds of thousands moved to urban areas in search of work, education, or both.

Today Khayelitsha has a population of 391,749(as of 2011) and runs for a number of kilometres along the N2. The ethnic makeup of Khayelitsha is approximately 90.5% Black African, 8.5% Coloured and 0.5% White, with Xhosa being the predominant language of the residents. Khayelitsha has a very young population with fewer than 7% of its residents being over 50 years old and over 40% of its residents being under 19 years of age. In 2011 around 62% of residents in Khayelitsha were rural to urban migrants, most coming from the Eastern Cape. In the communities of Enkanini and Endlovini over 85% of the residents were born in the Eastern Cape. About 75% of residents consider themselves Christian while about 20% follow traditional beliefs and a negligible number consider themselves Muslim.

Khayelitsha has been split into about 22 sub-sections or areas, depending on how one divides them.[citation needed] Khayelitsha is made up of old formal areas and new informal/formal areas. The old formal areas were built originally by the apartheid government and are known as A-J sections(each section with more or less than 500 formal two roomed brick houses) Bongweni, Ikwezi Park, Khulani Park, Khanya Park, Tembani, Washington Square, Graceland, Ekuphumleni and Zolani Park. These areas are mostly made up of bank bond housing and are home to middle-class / upper working class populations.

The newer areas have been built up around the older areas. They include Site B, Site C, Green Point, Litha Park, Mandela Park, Makaza and Harare.With the exception of Litha Park, these areas contain a high number of informal settlements, RDP houses, and informal backyard dwellers.

Notable informal settlements in Khayelitsha include QQ Section, TR Section, RR Section and Enkanini which have gained prominence due to their high-profile conflicts with government including protest actions such as road blockades.

Khayelitsha District Plan

Since the regime change in the country in 1994, the ruling party claims that living conditions in the township have improved markedly. There have been many developments such as new brick housing being built, new schools being built, and the creation of a central business district in the Township. However many residents strongly dispute the claim that the quality of life has improved. They claim that crime rates remain very high and that only a small portion of residents see improvements as a result of infrastructure and welfare interventions. The Khayelitsha Commission was established by the provincial government to investigate allegations of inefficient policing in Khayelitsha and a breakdown in the relationship between the police and the community (see video below).

Around 70% of residents still live in shacks and one in three people has to walk 200 meters or further to access water. Around 53% of Khayelitsha’s total working age population is employed. The five most common forms of employment are domestic work (19.4%), service work (15.2%), skilled manual labour (15.2%), unskilled manual labour (11%), and security services (10.4%). 89% of households in Khayelitsha are either moderately or severely food insecure.

The 2001 census recorded that two in three residents lived in shacks. By 2011 the number of people living in formal housing had increased to almost half due to the construction of roughly 25,000 new houses being built between 2001-2011.




Article written by Noxolo P. Mshweshwe

Director at Iisuba (PTY) Ltd UmXhosakazi Ostrongo!

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