The Eastern Gauteng People

Eastern Gauteng (how’tang) refers to the eastern section of Johannesburg (Republic of South Africa’a [RSA] largest city) and the adjoining districts in the eastern portion of Gauteng Province. There are people of virtually every tribe and nation living in this area, including the 30 people groups that are recognized in the RSA census. Additionally there are many citizens of other countries. On this basis, we refer to the Eastern Gauteng area as a “population segment” of Greater Johannesburg rather than a “people group”.

“Townships” is a term that refers to places where Black African’s, who have migrated from rural areas to work in cities, reside. Prior to 1994 they were not allowed to live in the “white areas” where most of them worked. They were required to have a “Pass” that allowed to enter these areas only during their working hours. They lived in huge concentrations in nearby undeveloped areas (townships).

Essentially these townships are “shanty towns” where people live in “makeshift shacks” without legal claim to the land, dwellings, or public services. The government is now building small-modest houses in some of these areas, and allowing residential ownership. However, millions of people still live in “shacks”. The makeshift sections are now referred to as “informal developments” while the improved sections are called “formal developments”. “Suburbs” is now the preferred designation rather than townships. Most of these suburbs include both formal and informal sections.

The 1996 RSA census indicates that 1.5 million Black Africans (which is 90% of the population of the area) live in Eastern Gauteng, but informed persons believe the real population is much higher. The heaviest concentrations of Black Africans in these districts (88%) are located in the following suburbs: Katlehong/Tokoza (Alberton); Wattville and the informal communities of Daveyton, Etwatwa, and Barcelona (Benoni); Tsakane (Brakpan); Tembisa/Ivory Park (Kempton Park); Duduza (Nigel); and, Kwathema (Springs).

The Black Africans have many first-languages and cultures. They also have many similarities, such as their mutually understandable languages, and African Traditional Religion, which helps them to coexist. Additionally, they have many problems in common, the most significant of which is that these communities are hotbeds of HIV/AIDS, illiteracy, rebellion and crime. Widespread ignorance and superstition regarding matters of health and hygiene, combined with poverty and hopelessness, result in a very high incidence of HIV/AIDS. Since they have migrated from the rural areas where education is often unavailable, or beyond their means, there is a continuing cycle of ignorance and illiteracy. Their children are exposed to the disproportionate socio-economic system of which they have no part, and do not relate to their “parents world”, so they rebel. Often they choose aberrant behavior to express their rejection of these circumstances. This can include drugs, promiscuity, violence, and/or crime, all of which are self-destructive.

Based on the census and other religious data, 70% of these people claim to be Christian. However, based on ongoing surveys and experiential data gathered by missionaries, no more than 6% are “born again Christians”. Many are, however, responsive to the Gospel and we believe that God is working among them.

The Southeastern Africa Cluster (SEAC) is engaged in this area through the Eastern Gauteng Evangelism Team (EGET), and the Eastern Metropolitan Evangelism Team (EMET). EGET concentrates on the magisterial districts of Alberton, Benoni, Boksburg, Brakpan, Kempton Park, Nigel and Springs, with emphasis on the very densely populated areas (former townships). EMET, which is made up of missionary personnel with full-time work responsibilities, (such as, administrators, counselors, nurses, treasurers, etc.), works with different people segments – (see Eastern Metropolitan People). These efforts have shown that God is working among many segments of this population. Therefore, we are working, praying and trusting God to greatly expand this work.

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