Township (South Africa)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Soweto settlement area in 2005
Soweto settlement area in 2004
Soweto settlement area in 2008

In demographic contexts, a township is the name given to the numerous housing estates set up for the black , colored or Indian population during the racial segregation policy in South Africa and in South West Africa administered by South Africa . Some of them have the dimensions of medium-sized and large cities. Well-known examples are Soweto ( South Western Townships ), a district of Johannesburg in the province of Gauteng , Mdantsane not far from the industrial and port city of East London or the Cato Manor district in Durban .

Origin and purpose

Spatial planning goal

All South African cities have urban structures of township formation. They were part of the so-called “ideal apartheid city”, in which all “ races ” were separated by so-called buffer zones (German: “buffer zones”) in the form of physical barriers, traffic systems, industrial facilities or undeveloped land. The “white city” has been shaped by a socio-economic quarter formation in the course of its development and its growth. In contrast, specifically designed townships were originally created in urban planning processes from the combination of formal, group-specific social models and concepts of rational urban land use. Township structures created in this way are in the original sense for their residents the result of an externally determined settlement development.

Situation from the 19th century to 1923

Before apartheid ideology became government policy, i.e. before 1948, there were settlements of different sizes in many places for the non-European population in and near the urban settlement areas. These population groups were the cheap labor for industry and commerce; as a result, they were among the low earners and so were their private living standards . Just as urban development showed progress in the 19th century, the separate residential areas for the groups with the lowest income and employment opportunities also grew when needed. One of the early attempts to influence the urban living conditions of the non-European population by means of legislative competence was the Public Health Act, No. 23 of 1897 (German about: "Law for Public Health ") in the Cape Colony at that time . The law provided provisions to regulate residents' rights and to maintain a generally beneficial basic order, cleanliness and hygiene . In addition, overpopulation in such places and the construction and use of hut accommodation that is unsafe for health should be prevented. In the other colonies, Natal , Orange River Colony and Transvaal , there were legal regulations before the formation of the South African Union (1910) that empowered the local authorities to regulate similar matters. The job seekers were given the greatest possible freedom in the design of their living space. This practice, practiced under the laisser-faire economic policy , led, particularly in the Witwatersrand region, to the speculative construction of hut settlements without taking into account basic health and sanitary standards that were already recognized at the time . This is how the slum settlements were formed in and around the growing South African cities.

In the Cape Colony, with a law passed in 1902 ( Native Reserve Location Act, No. 40 of 1902 ), the government attempted to change the parts of the city that were perceived as unacceptable in view of the general living conditions of the non-European population or to conduct demographic urban redevelopment and at the same time new ones To offer living space on the outskirts of larger cities to the families affected. These community measures were often forced relocations and, by virtue of this law, were supported by violent police operations. At that time, Cape Town was relocating from District Six and other parts of the city to the new location Uitvlugt (later called Ndabeni ). A few years later, the Ndabeni location and other parts of the city were also relocated to the newly built Langa location . Resettlement campaigns of this kind were often initiated and justified by the authorities in response to unsustainable health conditions among the affected population. A well-known case of this type is the establishment of the Ginsberg location near King William's Town when the bubonic plague was rampant in the Cape Colony and a solution had to be found for the population threatened by it. At the time of their construction, numerous such settlements offered a gain in quality of life for their residents compared to old and overcrowded locations .

With the outbreak of an influenza epidemic in October 1918, during which many deaths occurred, especially among the urban black population, the living conditions in the poor settlements came back to the fore of public interest. One response to this may be the establishment of the Native Affairs Commission under the Native Affairs Act of 1920. The report of this commission resulted in a central recommendation, the focus of which was the future promotion of better quality housing for the black population and which should also take place in separate districts of the urban settlement areas. Accompanying this regional planning goal is to control the tendency of the black population to immigrate to the cities. As a result of the Commission's recommendations, the momentous Natives (Urban Areas) Act , No. 21 of 1923 (German roughly: "Natives ( urban space ) law").

The Natives (Urban Areas) Act 1923

The law required the city authorities to designate and reserve areas for the settlement of black sections of the population in the form of separate locations ( townships ). In addition, the law defined the responsibilities of local authorities more precisely than before. However, the practical effects of this law did not adequately meet the labor needs of white companies. Therefore, government agencies suggested various investigations into the situation. The reports of the Agricultural and Industrial Requirements Commission (German: "Commission for the determination of agricultural and industrial needs") and the Social and Economic Planning Council (German: "Social and Economic Planning Council") did not provide a basis for clear directional decisions, as the The question of population distribution was assessed contrary to the previous legal instruments. Nevertheless, new steps were taken by the legislature in 1936 and 1937 ( Native Laws Amendment Act, No. 46/1937 ) to create further control and control options in the area of ​​settlement policy. This gave the city authorities new instruments to control and authorize the influx of black people into the cities. The population increase in the (economically) overpopulated reserves created a rural exodus , which made itself felt as a massive unregulated increase in population in the urban conurbations, for which there was not enough (simple) living space available. Prime Minister Smuts admitted in 1947, in view of this situation, that “it was not only necessary to have reservations; but it is also necessary to have parallel cities and villages near the gates of industries in the major population centers ”.

The first official legal basis for the targeted establishment of township settlements as an instrument of racial segregation policy in South Africa is a law from 1945. The Natives (Urban Areas) Consolidation Act ( Act No. 25/1945 ) called on the local authorities to set up separate residential areas for the " to create non-white “population. This law still spoke of the establishment of "location" or "native village" for the construction of "houses" or "huts" as a form of the further developing townships. According to this legal regulation, it became possible, through official ordinances, that the black residents of a certain area had to relocate to prescribed residential areas at a certain point in time. In this context, regulation provisions for persons by gender were also possible.

Situation after 1948

The regulatory intentions of apartheid policy went into various details. In 1954, the responsible ministry, the Department of Native Affairs , stipulated that the "locations" should always be set up at a defined minimum distance from neighboring areas that are inhabited or used by other ethnic groups or that only serve as buffer strips. The specified distance was 457 meters (500 yards ). All other external boundaries had to be observed 183 meters (200 yards). Separate regulations applied to roads. The "locations" had to be accessible via their own access roads and were not allowed to be built directly on national roads or provincial roads.

In 1954, the same ministry sent an official notification to the local administrative authorities throughout the country to ensure that new township settlements should be prepared in such a way that blacks could even be spatially segregated according to language groups in the residential areas. In the Witwatersrand region these were the language groups Nguni, Sotho and others. According to the arguments at the time, the system should serve to establish language-specific elementary schools and future self-governing organizations by the residents. The Johannesburg City Council discussed this policy approach with the existing advisory bodies in the affected urban areas. As a result, this desired procedure was judged negatively. The minister now threatened to make no funds available for the construction of houses and settlement development here if the Johannesburg city council would not accept the measures he initiated to promote ethnic grouping.

According to their character, the township settlements were only intended to be temporary accommodations for the predominantly black residents, as the apartheid doctrine that had emerged since the 1930s saw their home in the reservations. With this in mind, the Bantu Administration argued in a 1967 directive for local authorities: not to create “a bigger, better, more attractive and luxurious condition”; it must be “remembered that an urban Bantu residential area is not a homeland but part of a white area. If these conditions result in not only accustoming the Bantu to a foreign taste, but also imposing a luxury on it that its homeland cannot offer and thus alienating it from what is its own ... ”. In the 1960s the problems in the townships had increased so enormously that the government of South Africa tried to direct the flow of migrant workers into the homelands with its bantustan policy .

Reform efforts in the 1980s

In the course of the comprehensive attempts at social reform initiated by President Botha after the parliamentary elections of 1984, some legal and normative changes were made in the area of ​​regional and spatial planning. One of the significant legal provisions that emerged from this is the Town Planning and Townships Ordinance, 1986 ( No. 15 of 1986 ; German for example: "Ordinance for urban planning and city districts"). It is still in force after the amendments of 1992 and 1994 and in modern South Africa forms a central legal basis for urban planning activities and related projects. It also contains one of the rarely found legal definitions for the term “township”. According to this definition, a township is understood as

“... all properties that have been designated, subdivided or developed as residential areas, for commercial or industrial purposes or similar uses and if these locations are arranged in such a way that they are intersected by a street or connected to every street can or border on such ... "

Was the political framework and thus the basis of this ordinance that in April 1986 by the then government published White Paper on Urbanization (German as: " White Paper of urbanization "), with a reaction to the occurred social, economic and technical problems due to rapid urban growth was claimed in South Africa. The document emerged from the work of the Committee for Constitutional Affairs of the President's Council in 1985, which took developments since the early 1930s into account.

The socio-economic conditions in South African townships escalated enormously locally in the early 1990s. Unrest broke out, for example in the East Rand region and especially in the settlements of Katlehong , Vosloorus and Thokoza . As a reaction to this, President Frederik Willem de Klerk set up the Katorus Task Group on February 1, 1994 in order to be able to react promptly to the explosive conflicts. These events made it clear in a drastic way how necessary government intervention had become in favor of comprehensive improvements to the living environment in the townships and the socio-economic conditions of their residents.

Developments since 1994

Khayelitsha , Township on the N2 near Cape Town (2015)

With the Special Integrated Presidential Projects of 1994, which were set in motion on the initiative of President Mandela, a redesign process began in former township settlements, mostly based on racist political patterns, whose measures in Central Europe are summarized under the terms urban renewal , urban development measures and urban redevelopment . At the center of these activities were 13 townships, where massive investments were started, including a. in Kathorus and Cato Manor .

These selected projects were followed in 2001 by the Urban Renewal Program , with which measures against poverty and social exclusion were taken in eight selected township settlements ( Inanda , Ntuzuma , KwaMashu , Mdantsane , Motherwell , Mitchell's Plain / Khayelitsha , Galeshewe and Alexandra ), as well as the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Program .


The steadily growing population in the townships is still one of the country's greatest problems today. The population lives in large housing estates and squatter areas, simple hut districts with little infrastructure . In 1927, the Langa township was built twelve kilometers southeast of Cape Town for 850 people, but in 1989 the settlement already had 16,500 residents. It is estimated that there were over 80,000 in the 2000s. Around 74,000 black families live in squatter camps or hostels in Cape Town. At the beginning of 1997 there was a shortage of 134,000 residential units.

The population of a township is difficult to determine in terms of population statistics. These settlements are mostly on the outskirts or in the vicinity of urban centers. The individual dwellings as unscheduled dwellings, so-called "shacks" (English for barracks, shack), are mostly arranged and built in a disorderly manner. Resident residents come and go in these areas. For the same reason, it is generally difficult to make a statement about the quality of living.

The term township is often used to refer to massive dwellings made of corrugated iron huts, cardboard boxes and an extremely high population density. A high level of crime , great poverty , hunger , disease and a high propensity for violence are suspected. This description applies to some of these large settlements; for others the situation has improved considerably. Even within a single township there can be considerably different conditions.

A special feature presented the so-called " hostels " (German about: hostel ) represents, which served as a simple collective centers for men living alone and women who worked the "white" in the area. They form functional structures in terms of the policy of separate development ( separate development ). These hostels could take on considerable proportions. For example, according to official figures, around 38,000 people lived in the ten hostels in Soweto in 1977/1978. However, estimates speak of around 60,000 people. In the township of Alexandra , the small houses of the black residents were torn down and large hostels were built in the form of huge concrete blocks, including ten building complexes for men and five for women.

After the end of apartheid, conditions changed slowly, but there are gradual improvements. For example, houses built too close to one another were occasionally relocated in order to be able to build up a more efficient road network and thus also a supply network. Often today, the local supply is through informal small businesses, the " mom and pop shops " like so-called Spaza shops instead. There are still hostels, for example in Katlehong .

List of the most populous townships

The townships (officially listed as main place ) in South Africa in the last census of 2011:

Township population formerly assigned to
Soweto 1,271,628 Johannesburg
Tembisa 463.109 Kempton Park
Katlehong 407.294 Alberton
Umlazi 404.811 Durban
Soshanguve 403.162 Pretoria
Khayelitsha 391.749 Cape Town
Mamelodi 334,577 Pretoria
Mitchell's Plain 310,485 Cape Town
IBhayi 237.799 Port Elizabeth
Sebokeng 218,515 Vanderbijlpark
Mangaung 217.076 Bloemfontein
Philippi 200,603 Cape Town
Ivory Park 184,383 Midrand
Botshabelo 181.712 Bloemfontein
Alexandra 179,624 Johannesburg
Kwa-mashu 175,663 Durban
Vosloorus 163.216 Boksburg
Mdantsane 156.835 East London
About 151,866 Benoni
Tsakane 135.994 Brakpan
Thabong 135,613 Welkom
Evaton 132,851 Vanderbijlpark
KwaGuqa 130.920 Witbank
Daveyton 127.967 Benoni
Ntuzuma 125.394 Durban
Madadeni 119.497 Newcastle
Embal Hollow 118,889 Secunda
Kagiso 115,802 Krugersdorp
Mabopane 110,972 Pretoria
Thokoza 105,827 Alberton
Saulsville 105.208 Pretoria

The township Jouberton near Klerksdorp had 111,938 inhabitants, but is managed as a sub-place of Klerksdorp.

See also

Web links

Commons : Township  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e Ellen Hellmann: Urban Areas . In: Ellen Hellmann , Leah Abrahams (Ed.): Handbook on Race Relations in South Africa . Cape Town, London, New York, Oxford University Press, 1949. here pp. 229-238
  2. ^ South African History Online: Land: dispossession, resistance and restitution. Native Reserve Location Act (No: 40) 1902 . on (English)
  3. ^ South African History Online: Langa Township . on (English)
  4. ^ S. Pienaar: Ginsberg - an early history researched . on (English)
  5. a b Muriel Horrell: Laws Affecting Race Relations in South Africa . Johannesburg 1978, p. 93
  6. a b Christoph Sodemann: The laws of apartheid . Bonn 1986, pp. 50-51 ISBN 3-921614-15-5
  7. Muriel Horrell: Laws Affecting Race Relations in South Africa . Johannesburg 1978, p. 100
  8. ^ State President of South Africa: Town Planning and Townships Ordinance, 1986 (15 of 1986) . online at (English)
  9. ^ SAIRR : Race Relations Survey 1986, Part 1 . Johannesburg 1987, p. 331
  10. ^ Historical Papers, The Library, University of the Witwatersrand: Special Presidential Projects Alexandra and Katorus . Repository at (English)
  11. ^ Department of Co-operative Governance & Traditional Affairs: Township Transformation Timeline . South African Cities Network 2009, online at (English)
  12. Christoph Sodemann: The laws of apartheid . Bonn 1986, pp. 52-53 ISBN 3-921614-15-5
  13. ^ Reporting in the Rand Daily Mail of August 1, 1980, quoted in Sodemann, p. 53
  14. ^ Adrian Frith: Census 2011 , accessed on January 19, 2020