The Western Gauteng People

Western Gauteng (how’tang) refers to the western section of the Gauteng Province, which includes the western half of Johannesburg (Republic of South Africa’s [RSA] largest city). It also includes a number of “townships”. There are people of virtually every tribe and nation, many of whom are citizens of other countries, living in this area including the 30 people groups that are recognized in the RSA census. On this basis, we refer to the Western Gauteng 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.

For purposes of allocating IMB’s Southeastern Africa Cluster (SEAC) strategies, resources and personnel in a manageable way, the former West Rand Evangelism Team’s responsibilities have been expanded. They are now the Western Gauteng Evangelism Team (WGET) and their area of responsibility is all of the people in the magisterial districts of Krugersdorp, Oberholzer, Randfontein, Roodepoort, Soweto, Westonaria, Vanderbijlpark, and parts of Johannesburg, Randburg and Vereeniging. This encompasses approximately 40 “informal developments”, the most notable of which are in Soweto.

The 1996 RSA census indicates that 3.3 million people live in the above areas, 2.4 million of which are Black Africans (72% of the area population). Informed persons believe the real population is much higher, especially in the heavily Black African areas. The Black African population in Soweto is 99%. These people have many first languages and cultures. They have many similarities, such as their mutually understandable languages and African Traditional Religion, which help them to coexist. They also have many problems in common, the most significant of which is that the townships are hotbeds of HIV/AIDS, illiteracy, rebellion and crime. Widespread ignorance and superstition regarding matters of health and hygiene combined with abject poverty and hopelessness result in a very high incidence of HIV/AIDS.

Since most people in the townships 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 they 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.

The remainder of the population includes: Coloureds – 174,400; Indian/Asian – 96,600; White – 625,300; and, those who specify no race – 28,800.

Based on the census and other religious data, 71% of these people claim to have Christian involvement. However, based on limited surveys and experiential data garnered by missionaries, no more than 6% are “born again Christians”. Regardless, we believe that God is working with them, and our goal is to find where they are responsive to the Gospel so we can assign missionaries to lay the groundwork for “church planting movements”.

The Southeastern Africa Cluster (SEAC) is engaged in Western Gauteng through the WGET. These efforts have shown that God is working among the people throughout the region. Therefore, we are working, praying and trusting God to greatly expand this work.

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