Khayelitsha land invasions cape town

Many of the land invasions have taken place in Khayelitsha. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Lockdown: Township evacuation plan touted to ease residential congestion

The Department of Human Settlements has confirmed that plans are underway to evacuate townships to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Khayelitsha land invasions cape town

Many of the land invasions have taken place in Khayelitsha. Image via Wikimedia Commons

According to Minister of Human Settlements, McIntosh Polela, plans are well underway to implement a mass evacuation of South Africa’s biggest townships. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic infecting more people every day, the fear that a rapid spread will develop in informal settlements like the Western Cape’s Khayelitsha and Alexandra in Gauteng is prompting urgent action. 

The plan is for portions of the township populations to be relocated to other areas, with the Department of Public Works understood to be working to identify appropriate land parcels to use as temporary settlements.

Congested settlements problematic

Congested living conditions in the densely populated townships mean that the virus is likely to spread quickly should people become contaminated, with two confirmed cases in Khayelitsha and one in Alexandra already having put health authorities on high alert.

Residents in townships are unable to practice many of the social distancing measures the World Health Organisation and National Government recommend to help stem the spread of the virus as they lack clean water facilities and sanitation mechanisms. 

Polela said that the plan to evacuate people from the townships was born from the need to spread residents further apart, and he said that the initiative is at an advanced stage of planning. 

“While this is urgent, it is also an initiative that requires a sensitive approach.”

“Several communities in four provinces have been identified for the temporary relocations. The measure is aimed at mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Community consultation required

He said that residents from the communities would have to be consulted before the plan was put into action, with thousands of people likely to be reluctant to be removed from their lifelong homes. 

“Historically, our communities have resisted being moved. As such, we are careful that they are consulted and assured that they are going to be moved not far from the current place of their residence.”

“We recognise that moving people from their homes can be stressful, hence we will allow for consultations to take place before giving this information publicly,” Polela said.

He was unable to say exactly which townships would form part of the distancing initiative, and said that more details would be relayed in the coming days and weeks.