Where is Mamelodi?
Mamelodi is situated on the north eastern outskirts of Pretoria and is a former black township with a population of about one million people. Many people live in small brick built houses but there are also huge informal settlements or squatter camps where people have built their own shacks made out of corrugated iron or plastic sheets. As more people move from the rural areas to the cities, these informal settlements are growing month by month.
The black townships were a feature of the apartheid era and were central to the Government’s policy of separate development. In 1950 the Group Areas Act required black people to live in their own townships on the outskirts of the major cities and many people were forcibly moved from their existing homes to the townships.
Housing was very poor – some families were able to rent tiny 2- or 4-room dwellings while many others simply had to find somewhere to build a temporary shelter, which eventually became permanent. The apartheid Government made no provision for fresh water or sanitation in the townships and generally took no interest in the welfare of the people who lived there. During the struggle for freedom, there was much oppression by the authorities which culminated in the Soweto riots in 1976. All of the townships in South Africa, including Mamelodi, suffered greatly during the struggle and only in recent years has the scale of oppression become widely known.
Today, Mamelodi remains a densely populated township with large areas of informal settlements. One of the first actions of the new South African Government in 1994 was to provide fresh water in the townships. The Government is also trying to provide opportunities for those living in the informal settlements to move to areas in the townships where they can build more permanent structures with some financial assistance. But the housing problem is so great that it is proving impossible to keep up with the demand. Apartheid was responsible for leaving the townships with a legacy of deficient education, extreme poverty, high unemployment and a whole range of socio-economic problems which will take many years to eradicate.
Click here to see a short video about what life is like in the informal settlements in Mamelodi. The video was made in 2010 by Adam Robertson of Film City, Derby and is used with permission.”