Are our state authorities using the Covid-19 outbreak as an excuse to justify the forcible eviction of informal settlement residents?
During a press briefing on 24 March 2020, Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu announced that the government planned to "de-densify" 29 heavily populated informal settlements in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19. Since then, five specific settlements were identified as priority areas. According to Sisulu, de-densification is necessary to ensure that families living in densely inhabited informal settlements are able to effectively practice physical distancing.
But what does de-densification actually mean? The Social Justice Coalition (SJC)'s Axolile Notywala explained it best when he said that de-densification "is a fancier word for forced eviction".
De-densification, as conceived of by the state, means relocating people away from their existing homes to a different location - usually somewhere less well-located with fewer resources.
As Sisulu said: "We will need to urgently move some of our people for the de-densification to be realised. Land parcels to relocate and decant dense communities have been secured". She added that these relocations were necessary to relocate communities to "healthier and safer homes".
There is no doubt that communities living in informal settlements...