Urban livelihood strategies of internal migrants and the response of the City of Johannesburg

Pepu, Mawethu
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Migration is indubitable one of the most complex and urgent phenomenon that will emerge as a robust agenda in global cities’ policy and spatial planning trajectory. Internal migrants have been recorded as constituting a relatively significant part of the population of Gauteng and Johannesburg, and any development policies for the City need to account strongly for in-migration (Peberdy, et al, 2004). The importance of migration was also strongly highlighted by the Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Amos Masondo in his 2004 State of the City address: “Johannesburg has become a magnet for people from other provinces, the African continent, and indeed, the four corners of the world”. He also referred to the challenges posed by migration; “While migrancy contributes to the rich tapestry of the cosmopolitan city, it also places a severe strain on employment levels, housing and public services”. Kok (2003) postulated that the relationship between migration and City spatial development planning will definitely influence the country’s future and that many cities cannot absorb new entrants in the labour market and this means that high population growth will constitute a major future challenge for cities. Kok et al (2004) postulated that the bulk of the research has been conducted on why migrants leave rural areas to urban areas, but little on how they organize, prepare, survive, network, and organize assets and resources, and access services in urban areas. The livelihood strategies that in-migrants depend on when they arrive in the “unknown urban territory” remain an enthralling phenomenon. The aim of the study was to investigate and provide a conceptual insight into the urban livelihood strategies of in-migrant newcomers in the City of Johannesburg, and to reflect on the City of Johannesburg municipality’s policy agenda particularly, Growth and Development Strategy (2006) and Human Development Strategy (2005) and other pertinent strategic planning frameworks-responses to internal migration. Qualitative research informed by surveys, interviews, with open-ended questions and observations in the form of fieldwork was followed. Twelve respondents were interviewed, comprising of seven females and four males coming from the Eastern Cape Province, currently based in Johannesburg, Yoeville suburb. The study unmasked that in-migrants find their foothold in income generation or employment through family, kin, partner and friend network connections predominantly derived from members coming from the same province of origin. Their livelihood strategies are negotiated and limited to background networks; beyond network connections is what the researcher view as an “incessant impediment in their lives”. Regrettably, most in-migrants encountered lacked training, skills, close-knit social networks, market intelligence and education tools necessary to climb the economic ladder in the urban terrain. Generally, those who are unemployed were not engaged in income generation activities while those employed supplemented their wages by income generation activities such as spaza shop and shebeens. A glaring reality is that respondents were not taking advantage of the booming informal market economy of Johannesburg which has a potential to sustain a livelihood. This is also compounded by the fact that none of the respondents participated in the civic society sector as way of participating in the City developmental trajectories and also a way of sustaining a livelihood. In a nutshell, a mere background network connection to the person from the area of origin, predominantly family member and friend was found to be the core livelihood strategy to access basic needs and employment opportunities for Eastern Cape internal migrants. The documented response of the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan strategic policy agenda is seen through two broader policies. Firstly, iv Growth and Development Strategy in its principle of “proactive absorption of poor”. Secondly, Human Development Strategy which focuses on interventions such as; safeguarding and supporting poor and vulnerable households in their efforts to access local and provincial social safety nets, championing rights and opportunities for those who suffer the effects of structural inequality in the City; and building prospects for social inclusion by developing partnerships between the City and its residents. Both GDS & HDS policy responses to migration are discussed at length in the report. The current study argues that the City must devise novel robust policy and planning strategies to understand the profound urbanization trends, socio-economic context of migration patterns and how these impacts on the City infrastructure planning in the long-term growth of the City. Future studies in this line of investigation must consider taking forward this kind of research to a highest level. It will be proper to extend the study by investigating livelihood strategies of migrants in Johannesburg coming from different provinces and those from the selected African countries for the purpose of comparison using the qualitative approach. It will be appreciated to include investigation of broader urbanization impacts and readiness of City infrastructure provision, planning and growth.
Thessis (M.Sc.(Development Planning))--University of the Witwatersrand, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, School of Architecture and Planning, 2006