The City has 119 informal settlements inhabited by 164 699 households. They are characterised by lack of formal structure, insufficient public spaces and facilities, inadequate basic services and poor access-ways.
As an interim approach, the City is reconfiguring the current layout of informal settlements and re-organising them in such a way as to optimally use space - this process is formally known as re-blocking.
The increase in the City's population translates to the increased need for basic municipal services. Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for Human Settlements Cllr Lesiba Mpya, said the main purpose of the re-blocking process is to ensure that all informal settlements' communities have access to basic services.
"We are aware that many of the residents in these areas are opposing this process simply because they do not see its significance until tragedy strikes. Therefore, with re-blocking we aim to reduce the risk of fires developing and spreading quickly over large areas, and also to mitigate the negative impact of potential disasters and health hazards," MMC Mpya said.
Re-blocking, he said, is meant to create an enabling environment for informal settlements and the municipality to plan and implement community development projects together.
To date, informal settlements that have benefited from the re-blocking system since 2016 include Ekuthuleni (KwaThema), Emandleni (Apex Benoni), Nkanini (Zonkizizwe), Thusong (Katlehong), Winnie Mandela (Tembisa), Holomisa (Boksburg), Thintwa (Tokoza), Esiphetweni (Tembisa), N12 (Benoni), Langaville and Enciweni (Tembisa).
As per the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP) some of the work carried out during re-blocking includes the electrification of all structures to prevent illegal connections and over-loading on the network, and numbering of structures. Meter accounts have also been created for affected households.
In some informal settlements, several households have been identified for relocation to reduce congestion and ensure provision of access roads.
Over the next five years, the City has set a target to provide 119 informal settlements with access to electricity and basic services such as water, sanitation, waste collection and graded roads.
Furthermore, the re-blocking process stands to benefit residents in the informal settlements with services such as safer integrated public realm, emergency services vehicle access, safe and convenient paths for movement of people on foot and open spaces, where possible, for essential community facilities.
Vusumuzi Informal Settlement in Tembisa is one of the informal settlements at which re-blocking is currently being rolled in this financial year. The settlement has been divided into phases and the appointed contractor established site on 8 January 2018 to start with the first phase. This consists of 500 structures of which 200 have been realigned so far. The total number of households is 8 257 which will also be realigned through other phases. Prior to the implementation of re-blocking at Vusumuzi, thorough consultations with stakeholders and the community took place, and ongoing engagements with members of the community who still need to give inputs.
The stand sizes have been equalised to cater for all occupiers in order to prevent overflows wherein additional portions of land will be required. MMC Mpya cautions residents who use their backyards for rental, "Informal dwellers are occupiers of land; they therefore cannot legally rent out land which does not belong to them. All occupiers need to benefit from re-blocking programme."