Revealed: SA’s toddler boomtowns
JEANNE VAN DER MERWE and ATHANDIWE SABA
SOUTH Africa’s exploding population has given birth to toddler boomtowns – and the most booming of them all is a South African border town.
Musina, near the Zimbabwean border, has seen the biggest rise in children aged four and under over the past 10 years, official census data shows, followed by Bitou and Kouga, both of which are on the border of the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.
The biggest increases have been seen in mining towns and those areas with substantial migration.
Musina’s population of four-and-unders grew by almost 90%, from 4 606 in 2001 to 8 739 last year.
In Bitou, the increase was almost 80%, from 2 582 in 2001 to 4 641 last year, and in Kouga 77%, from 5 860 to 10 366.
In the major cities, Johannesburg saw a 37% increase in children aged four and under rising to to 432,722. Tshwane increased 61% to 273,866.
Ethekwini’s 0-4s grew 20% to 327972 they same rate as Msunduzi’s whose tiny tot population increased 58178.
Nelson Mandela Metro’s young children rocketed nearly 43% to 110406 while Mangaung increased 34% to 75348.
But an interesting trend emerged in mining towns where there has been prodigious growth in the number of young children.
In Gamagara municipality, where mining around the town Kathu has been ramped up in recent years, the number of children aged 0 to 4 was up 73%, and in the platinum mining towns of Madibeng and Rustenburg, 0-4s were up 67% and 66% respectively.
Gaone Dixon, spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration, said Musina has seen massive economic growth in the past five years due to local and cross-border trade and the movement of migrants from Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Malawi and India.
“A lot of migrants travel with children, although IOM has not conducted scientific study to determine numbers and trends. There are many unaccompanied minors, mainly from Zimbabwe, that live in Musina in shelters and in the streets,” he said.
Northern Cape DA leader Andrew Louw ascribed the dramatic population boom in Kathu to the local mines.
“The growth in mining activities has caused many young families to move here and new children to be born. If you look at the type of people a mine attracts X young academics, engineers, doctors and the like X it is to be expected that the population of children would grow,” he said.
North West Health Department spokesman Tebogo Lekgethwane also ascribes the growth to mining activities.
“There has been influx of people who went to look for jobs in the mines. Some came from as far as Lesotho, Mozambique, Eastern Cape and other parts of the North West. Our Rustenburg health institutions like Job Shimankana Tabane Hospital are usually full to capacity. Our outpatient departments are usually full,” he said.
Unisa health studies lecturer Debbie Hadebi said reasons for the rise in births could be ascribed to, among other things, teenage pregnancies, child support grants and poverty.
“The growth is placing a lot of pressure on services in both the clinics and hospitals. There are shortages of staff and medications especially the immunisations for the 0-4 years. Some of the disadvantages of this increase, especially in the poorer areas, is the possibility of the infectious diseases due to lack of immunisations, burden on the grannies since their mothers must go back to school or look for employment and orphanages become full since some of the parents die due to incurable diseases such as HIV/AIDS.”