THE Bram Fischer Multipurpose Hall was jammed with residents of this Soweto suburb, who came to voice their concern about living conditions in informal settlements, and access to health.

The discussions, which began the Johannesburg Growth and Development Strategy’s Health and Poverty Week on 22 August, also looked at social services for migrants, the relationship between poverty and health, and the schooling system in the area.

Over the week, there will be various community listening gatherings as well as health screenings and tests.

According to Loretta Denyssen, the director of management support and development in the City’s health department, the focus would be around what the government could do to fix things in informal settlements such as Bram Fischerville, from now till 2040.

She explained that if people from the community stepped up and spoke out, the City would get an idea of the tough living conditions ahead of its long-term goals, which would help it lay out guidelines of how it would work towards these goals in the Integrated Development Plan.

At the Bram Fischerville event, discussions were held on the challenges facing vulnerable groups and how and why this area, which is one of the most deprived in the city, is worst off in terms of income, employment, education, health and living conditions.

Expert discussion

During the second session of the day, a panel was convened of City officials and other experts, among them the portfolio head of health and human development, Nonceba Molwele, and the executive director for health, Refik Bismilla.

They gave presentations to the community to help people understand what criteria a township needed before it could be formalised and receive services such as street lights and toilets, as well as give them insight into what was needed to make these areas more liveable.

The panel included Jak Koseff, the City’s director of social assistance; Gerry Adlard, a housing consultant at the African Centre for Cities; Emmanuel Sotomi, from the City’s housing department; Marie Huchzermeyer, an academic and public intellectual at the School of Architecture and Planning at Wits University; Jo Vearey on behalf of Dr Liz Thomas, a health and development researcher at Wits; and Dr Magi Matinga, who specialises in poverty, energy and health.

Sotomi began by explaining the terms formalisation and regularisation, to help residents understand the difference. He said formalisation referred in this context to legal processes whereby townships were created, with formal services through which residents could obtain formal security of possession.

Regularisation pertained to interim measures to recognise informal settlements and promote a degree of tenure security for individuals. The ultimate aim, however, was to accommodate the occupants in a formal development, he said.

Another key point was to “bring dignity to the poorest citizens of the City of Johannesburg by providing decent housing and eradicating informal settlements by 2014, in line with the national goal of a nation free of slums”, he added.


Sotomi also mentioned the challenges the City faced, such as:

  • That the provision of formal housing was contributing to the containment of informal settlement, but the rate of delivery was not sufficient to make a significant impact on the existing level of informality;
  • That the current legislative framework did allow for processes of formalisation of existing settlement, but these processes were lengthy and complex;
  • That formalisation may be concluded by 2014 but formalisation by itself was only one aspect of an upgrading process (the shacks will still be there in 2014); and
  • That informal settlements were currently effectively excluded from the City’s regulatory regime; for example, they fell outside the provisions of the National Housing Regulations and Building Code.

In Joburg, about 190 000 households lived in 180 informal settlements, he added. In addition, there are 90 000 backyard shacks, 17 000 displaced hostel dwellers and an undetermined number living in inner city “bad buildings”. In total, there may be 300 000-plus households living informally in Joburg.