The town of Sasolburg was initially developed only for the accommodation and needs of the skilled white employees of Sasol Chemical Industries. More widespread urban growth in and around the town was thus not encouraged and no provision was made to attract other industries to the area, other than those with a direct bearing on the Sasol group. This history impacted on the town and meant that the Sasolburg Magisterial District currently had very limited capacity for growth.
Zamdela was established close to the industrial area of Sasolburg (south east of the plant) in order to accommodate black employees (at that time exclusively men) who migrated from rural areas in search of employment. These men were accommodated in single sex hostels. The Group Areas Act prevented blacks from settling permanently in so called "white areas" at that time and thus family members were not permitted to migrate with employees to Zamdela.
Changes in the political dispensation of South Africa in the 1990’s resulted in an influx of people from rural areas into Zamdela. Availability of housing and land became major concerns for Sasolburg’s Metsimaholo Local municipality. Although the Department of Housing and Local Government has granted funds for the upgrading of hostels into family units, the shortage of housing is still a problem. To date, there is still insufficient serviced land available for the community and informal dwellings have been set up as a way of resolving the issue of accommodation.