Rustenburg is the capital of South Africa’s North West Province and has a population of approximately 550,000. The city is home to one of the world’s largest platinum mining industries, which provides jobs for around half of the local population. The city is growing as many people move here in hope of finding employment and a better life. However, many remain unemployed and end up living in informal settlements, where basic services are lacking and living conditions are very poor. Furthermore, crime rates are high, creating a very dangerous environment for children. Like in other parts of South Africa, HIV/AIDS leaves many children without parental care in Rustenburg.
Since 2006, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Rustenburg.
Due to its industry, Rustenburg has been expanding rapidly in recent years and is now South Africa’s fastest growing city. However, the steady influx of people has put increasing strain on services and infrastructure. Although the local municipality has put in place a development plan to respond to the needs of the population, it has been difficult to keep up with demand. In fact, there is need for an additional 90,000 housing units. Thousands of people live in informal settlements, on illegal land. Basic services like sanitation or electricity are often lacking. It is very difficult for people moving to Rustenburg to find formal work and they struggle to provide for their children.
The rapid population growth also led to an increase in crime, which is why Rustenburg was nicknamed the "Crime Capital of the Northwest". In addition, HIV/AIDS is a serious challenge in Rustenburg. Miners in general are an at-risk group, as there is an increased risk of spreading diseases in mining areas where large numbers of workers go in and out. As a result, there are many children who have lost, or are at risk of losing, the care of one or both parents because their parents are ill. In many cases, these children drop out of school to take care of their sick parents or to earn their own living. Taking on so much responsibility at too young an age can have serious emotional and social consequences.