Shanty towns often materialise on the outskirts of South Africa’s cities over night: a single shack quickly multiplies to 10, until the once empty landscape is transformed into a sprawling network of corrugated iron dwellings for the poor.
While many of the inhabitants are migrants from across the continent, the results of a new survey compiled by a South African NGO suggest another source for the huge numbers of people living in the shanty towns.
The NKUZI Development Association has quantified for the first time the issue of illegal eviction of farm labourers and their dependents from white-owned farms in South Africa. And, according to the NGO the practice is widespread, involves intimidation and is often carried out with the help of the authorities.
The National Eviction Survey, which took two years to complete, reveals that up to 950,000 black South Africans have been illegally evicted from white owned farms in the 10 years since the end of apartheid – 200,000 more than were evicted during the final 10 years of the former regime.
In total the National Eviction Survey estimates that 1.75 million people have been evicted since 1985, and many of these have been left with no option but to live in one of the many shanty towns that have sprung up across the country during that time.
Over a year ago George Madisha and his family were forced to join the ever increasing army of shanty town dwellers.
He claims in December 2004 his landlord threatened to kill his family if they refused to vacate the home where they had lived for 14 years. Following the alleged threat Madisha (47) and his wife Elizabeth (42) left to spend the night building a makeshift home on a patch of scrubland close to their farm dwelling in Laizonia, Gauteng.