South Africa should use urbanisation as a tool to push development and combat poverty by providing adequate housing opportunities and ensuring people have access to basic services, says Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
Minister Sisulu made the remarks when she was addressing delegates at the St George's Hotel in Irene, Tshwane, during a seminar organised by the department in partnership with the University of South Africa.
The seminar, which was attended by practitioners in the human settlements sector, as well as academics was held under the theme "How the Human Settlements Sector is responding to the rapid increase of urbanisation in South Africa".
The seminar, amongst others, provided a platform for sharing information between government officials, academics and various practitioners in the human settlements sector seeking solutions to current challenges such as rapid urbanisation and transformation of cities.
Minister Sisulu told delegates that the country needed proper planning and management of urbanisation and related challenges, such as migration of people seeking better opportunities.
"When not properly designed and managed, cities often pay the high price of negative externalities, such as congestion, contamination and wide inequalities often leading to social unrest and instability," said Minister Sisulu.
She also warned that inability to plan properly would increase poverty in the urban centres, and will see "the concomitant informality continue to be a growing challenge to the future sustainability of our human settlements".
"The real challenges faced by urbanisation, when its positive aspects are recognised, are sustainable in the social, economic and environmental dimensions. Sustainable urban planning and development is necessary to eliminate the causes of segregation and exclusion and support the social, spatial and economic transformation of our cities and towns."
As part of its policies, the Minister said the department places integration and sustainability of residential areas as the core of its projects.
This is also reflected in the Department's Spatial Master Plan, with which it seeks to tackle the problem of racially segregated communities created as part of segregation policies under apartheid.
Most of the key projects of the department, including the N2 Gateway in Western Cape, Cosmo City in Gauteng, Zanemvula in Eastern Cape or Cornubia in Durban are integrated communities.
The developments cater for various segments including Breaking New Ground, mortgage or bonds and social housing.
Migration contributes to shortage of accommodation
Statistician General Dr Pali Lehohla told delegates how the phenomenon of migration also contributed to the shortage of decent accommodation in the cities, prompting the rise in informal settlements.
However, Lehohla commended efforts by the department to tackle the country's shortage of housing, noting that research by StatsSA has indicated notable improvement from eight million formal housing in 2002 to 13 million in 2016.
Other prominent people who attended the seminar included MECs for Human Settlements in KwaZulu-Natal, Ravi Pillay and Mpumalanga, Speedy Mashilo, as well as Select Committee Chairperson Cathy Dlamini and Tshwane Member of Mayoral Committee, Mandla Nkomo.