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Fighting Poverty Print E-mail
11 May 2007

Apartheid and the root of Johannesburg's problems

THE biggest challenge facing Johannesburg's metropolitan government is to address the divisive legacy of apartheid. During the apartheid era, the greater Johannesburg region was divided into 11 local authorities, seven white and four black. The white authorities were 90% self-sufficient, spending R600 per capita; the black authorities were only 10% self-sufficient, spending R100 per capita. Today's council has responsibility for seven times the population it had under apartheid - and around two-thirds of those people are poor.

Some 20% of Johannesburg residents live in abject poverty, in informal settlements that lack proper roads or electricity or any kind of direct municipal services. Another 40% live in inadequate housing, with insufficient municipal services. The poor are largely black (72%), earning less than R25 000 per annum.

Johannesburg is also a magnet for illegal immigrants from other African countries, in sufficient numbers to put a major strain on city and provincial services, which are allocated on the basis of legal populations.

  • 16% of households lack municipal sanitation
  • 15% do not receive municipal electricity
  • 3,6% do not have water supplies
  • Unemployment is at 30%, up from 27% three years ago
  • Some 116 827 families live in informal settlements
  • Some 108 000 families live in illegal backyard dwellings
  • There are some 4 500 homeless "street people"


What does the city council plan to do?

THE council has identified various areas where it can immediately help the poor by reducing their tax and tariff burdens. These include what are called "lifeline" services, and they are in line with a broader national policy:

Rates holiday: Any property valued at less than R20 000 - and this applies to half the properties in the city - will not be charged rates. This 100% rebate will cost the city R106-million over the year, but has been cross-subsidised by a general rates increase of 4%. The scheme has been sharply criticised by the opposition Democratic Alliance, which calls it a "100% wealth tax".

Senior citizens: Special rates rebates are provided to senior citizens earning less than R4 000 per month.

Rates cuts in declining areas: Rates have been reduced in declining areas such as the inner city and its neighbouring suburbs, to encourage a residential revival in these areas. In some cases, the reductions are up to 40%.

Water: Water tariffs have been scaled to encourage prudent consumption. Those who use less than 6 kilolitres of water will get their water supplies free, a system that will be implemented throughout the country. Experts estimate that 90% of the poor use less than 6 kilolitres per month.

Inner city: The city has identified 83 "bad buildings" in the centre of Johannesburg which are not being maintained and are being allowed to run down. In a deal with the banks and the province, the arrears have been turned into equity and a R100-million fund has been established to refurbish these buildings.

Transport: The bus system, which has been in decline for two decades and runs on a largely outdated fleet, is being overhauled, with R100-million to be spent on new buses and new routes. Six transport interchanges between taxi and under services are being built in the inner city.

Health: Some R178-million has been allocated to community health services, in particular to boost the city's HIV/Aids programme, and the mother and child and reproductive health programmes. The city's TB immunisation programme aims to reach 90% of the population (currently 80% are immunised) and to increase the TB cure rate from 69% to 85%.

Housing: The city aims to build 200 000 houses for the poor over the next 10 years. This year, the city will spend R136-million on housing projects. These include:

  • Upgrading of 15 multi-storey buildings in the inner city to provide housing
  • Release of 8 000 serviced units of land per annum for self-built homes
  • Upgrading of services to 8 775 homes per annum in informal settlements
  • Upgrading of 2 500 existing rental units over three years
  • Upgrading of seven hostels by June 2002

Another R100-million will be spent on seven capital projects to boost the inner city. All these various projects will also provide job opportunities for the unemployed.



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Last Updated on 14 May 2007