Township Transformation Timeline

The Township Transformation Timeline provides an overview of the history of the evolution of Townships since 1900 and the lessons that can be learnt for the future. The Timeline sets out to provide a better understanding of Townships and how they can be transformed and integrated into South Africa’s urban areas today.


Some forty percent of households in South Africa (4,6 million) are living in Townships. Overall half of all metropolitan households are living in Townships (2,7 million). Since South Africa’s democratic elections of 1994, conditions in urban townships have not substantially improved. Incomes of households in Townships have in real terms remained static. Moreover more households in Townships live in informal settlements and lack full access to municipal services than in 1996. It is critical that Government focuses its attention on integrating and addressing the needs of these
households within South Africa’s towns and cities. To do this, it is essential to position Townships centrally in urban policy debates and priority-setting processes.


Townships are defined as areas that were designated under apartheid legislation for exclusive occupation by people classified as Africans, Coloureds and Indians. Previously called ‘locations’ townships have a unique and distinct history, which has had a direct impact on the socioeconomic status of these areas and how people perceive and operate within them.