Johannesburg — It took a large group of police, their dogs, and some armored cars to squelch violence last week in a black township near Cape Town after a new squatter camp was demolished.
It will take a massive expenditure of money and an abandonment of traditional South African government views to begin solving the black housing crisis that is at the root of the Cape Town disturbances, say a number of analysts here.
The housing shortage for blacks living in South Africa's urban areas is huge and growing rapidly. The problem is one of ideology and finance.
South Africa's white government has for years deliberately kept housing development at a minimum to limit the influx of blacks into the urban areas where most whites live. Today, even as they acknowledge a need for more black housing, government officials say they can no longer afford to meet the black housing need.
The latest incident in Cape Town demonstrates the pent-up black demand for improved shelter - and how explosive the housing issue has become in black communities. In a matter of days, blacks moved onto vacant land near the black township of Guguletu and turned it into a small town. Dubbed the KTC camp, the area contained some 800 shelters, mostly made of large pieces of black plastic draped over branches.
Initially a local administration board had granted permission for a smaller number of squatters to move onto the land. But as the rush for new shelter turned into a stampede, the board, backed by police, moved in to demolish the structures, setting off flashes of street violence in the nearby township.
Unlike other squatter camps that have periodically sprung up in the area, residents of this camp were legally working in the Cape Town area. Previously, most had been living as lodgers in already overcrowded homes of friends and relatives.
Still, the government has no plans to build new housing in the area, despite an official waiting list of 3,000 blacks who qualify legally for housing and a large number living in the area illegally.
The government says it is not building homes due to lack of funds. Also a factor is its policy of trying to prevent an increase in the local black population in order to preserve the Western Cape as a ''labor preference area for Coloreds (persons of mixed race descent).''
But the situation is much the same in the rest of South Africa, with a black housing shortage growing and the government moving very slowly, if at all, to meet the need.