A Paucity of Pictures Tell a Story

Thursday, 28 August 2014

By Joel Bolnick

I have only ever seen two pictures of Patrick and myself – and then only in recent weeks as Patrick’s death has triggered a deluge of eulogies and dredged up old photographs from across the globe.

The first photo was taken in 1995 in Patrick’s settlement of Piesang River, Inanda.

Patrick & Joel

The picture captures a triumphant moment for us. Long before it became politically fashionable we had combined our wits and capacities to get the Minister of Land Affairs, Derek Hanekom to spend a night in a shack – Patrick’s shack. But the strategy did not end with the spectacle of a Minister making media mileage out a night of staged inconvenience. This was all part of what became our trademark – militant negotiations with state institutions. This choreographed event translated into the formation of a joint working committee comprising shack dwellers and Ministerial officials that enabled the transfer of more than 350 hectares of urban land to South Africa’s homeless poor.

The next photo was taken 17 years later, again in Piesang River.

Patrick & Joel 2

Whereas the earlier picture hints at the emotional bond between close friends sharing a common political vision, the later picture gives an insight into our capacity to stage-manage political engagements and to combine the very serious work of economic and political redistribution with pantomime and farce. Patrick, whose life was filled with tragedy and whose heart was filled with pain, was fully aware of the fact that our work was enormously important and overwhelmingly difficult, which is precisely why he always made sure that we never took ourselves seriously.

I read a few comments about Patrick’s life and death today that are worth repeating.

One person, reading about Patrick, writes: “A hero indeed. How did I not know about him before he died? Why was I not taught about him at school or university? Why did the media not discuss his views and actions while he lived?” 

Another person responds: “Because that is how it is when a true leader rises. He stands with his people not above them. These are the stories that remain untold. At least this legacy has not left with him. Patrick was also humble …”

And then first person adds: I know. But this makes me sad. I’m sad that I never got to meet him, engage with his writings, consider whether he was right, get persuaded or not, perhaps try to help out. I feel bereft of a wisdom that is now gone. I keep thinking how often does this happen? How often do I as a young person, miss the opportunity to gain from the wisdom of others because they are not rich enough, white enough, male enough, schooled enough?”

For 23 years Patrick and I saw one another at least once a month – often once a week. We spoke at length on the telephone almost every single day. I had the wonderful privilege of knowing this special man as a friend and a brother, a co-conspirator working tirelessly, cleverly, playfully to make this world a better, more just and humane place. I cannot count the shack settlements we visited to meet with informal dwellers, to listen, to share ideas and plan ways to give voice to the voiceless, land to the landless, hope to the hopeless. In every province and every major city in South Africa. In Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Brazil, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand.

And yet there seem to be no other photograph to capture and commemorate this most extraordinary friendship. Why? Because our friendship and our comradeship was it was meant to be – a coming together of two people whose combined capacities opened opportunities infinitely greater than we ever imagined. But we never did it for fame, for the limelight, for the photo opportunity, the financial windfall or the seat in parliament. This disinterest, no this disdain, for power and self-promotion was fundamental to our vision and our practice. I search through literature and through history to find the equivalent to this friendship, and here and there I get glimpses. Sometimes he played Queeqeg to my Ishmael. At other times I played Woods to his Biko.

I am deeply moved by the words of the young man I quote above. We are all bereft of a wisdom that is now gone, but as long as I continue to breath, the lessons to be drawn from the project for transformation that Patrick and I applied every day, and his wisdom and his remarkable achievements, will not disappear.

It is left to me now to be Barney Simon to his Dugmore Boetie; to be Horatio to his Hamlet. A noble heart has cracked and it is left to me to “speak to the yet unknowing world how these things came about.”

 

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12th East African Hub Meeting

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

EA Hub Meeting

The 12th East African Hub Meeting was held from 4-6 August 2014 in Kampala, Uganda. Approximately 85 participants from Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania participated in the meeting. The purpose of the quarterly hub meetings is to bring the three countries in the East African community together to learn from each other and reflect on experiences and challenges of their respective countries to improve and grow the federation in a sustainable way throughout the region. One of the focus points of this hub meeting was the importance of understanding and monitoring the activities and progress of the federation at a regional/hub level. In order to do this, the federations first sat together and scrutinized their country indicators. Each federation was able to breakdown their data to city level to understand where their national data comes from and use this data to help monitor their progress. An interactive session was held to deepen the knowledge and understanding of how federations learn, monitor, and evaluate their progress. The federations agreed that:

Learning: Is “learning by doing,” exchanges, sharing, reflecting on past experience, and documentation

Monitoring: Is visiting, reporting, auditing, country indicators, budgeting and work plans, tracking, and communicating

Evaluating: Is “the WHY?” which includes reflecting, understanding capacity and weaknesses, reviewing challenges, adapting, and looking at the way forward

The conclusion was that this is work that the federations are already doing but there is a need to tighten lose ends to make their systems more practical. It was also noted that concrete data should always be sought for credibility of the federation work. 

Another key discussion being held across the SDI network is the critical importance of growing youth membership and building a second tier of leadership to facilitate the growth, evolution, and sustainability of the slum dweller movement. At this year’s East African Hub three Ugandan federation members, Sumaiya Nalubulwa, Basajjabaka Twaha, and Alan Mawejje became the first youth documenters in the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU). The youth documenters produced a report on the East African Hub, conducted interviews with key stakeholders, learned to upload photographs and video to social media and learned the difference between reports and blogs. We are confident the role of documenter will build their understanding and articulation of federation work and as they teach their peers this learning will spread throughout this powerful demographic.

To read the full report on the hub meeting, click here.

 

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Developing a citywide slum register: Freetown Settlement Profiling Learning Exchange

Monday, 25 August 2014

Sierra Leone

By Anni Beukes, SDI Secretariat 

A citywide register of informal settlements is a comprehensive list of all informal settlements in a city detailing population, area and access to basic services. While the value of a citywide register of slum/informal settlements may be desired and appreciated, developing such a register is no easy feat. Governments in the global South or at least their registers of these settlements can attest to this. Often government registers exclude unrecognized settlements and are compiled from incomplete data from national censuses. As a consequence their policy options and designs are often not adequate in addressing the particular planning needs for urban poor settlements. When communities of the urban poor participate in the developing these registers, they contribute more than just data to their cities to inform development.

The Sierra Leone Alliance and their fellow West African counterparts from Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Togo gathered in Freetown in June (6-13, 2014) to begin discussions around the importance and process of developing citywide slum registers.

Launched in 2011, the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDURP-SL) and their support NGO CODAHSAPA have been working towards developing a voice for the urban poor in Sierra Leone. For the federation the goals driving the development of a citywide slum settlement profile of Freetown are clear. Slum dwellers are yet to to be included as a constituency in the national census of Sierra Leone. The last census conducted in Sierra Leone was done in 2004 and currently the government is preparing a 2014 census. Members of both FEDURP and CODOHSAPA had partaken in a month long workshop with Statistics Sierra Leone (SSL), the main body responsible for statistical activities in the country, and were eager to put their skills learned around mapping and GIS into practice in the community. This will go a long way into the recognition of slum dwellers as a productive and contributing part of urban society in Sierra Leone. These same sentiments resonated with the other West African federations.

Based on their experience, the Sierra Leone federation was able to prepare a register of slum/informal settlements in the city of Freetown prior to the learning exchange. Listing the names of settlements in a single table and estimating their resident populations is something that comes easy and quickly to slum dwellers as they live and traverse these spaces on a daily basis. The federation identified and listed a total of 61 slum settlements along the coastline and hillsides of Freetown. During the learning exchange, 5 of these settlements were profiled and mapped and the data contributed to SDI’s global settlement profile data platform.

Learning by doing, means going back to basics. Drying up felt-tip markers and a failing electricity connection literally drove the participants of the learning exchange to their knees on the mud floor of the Kroo Bay community centre on the first day of the exchange. As profiling teams first started to outline their community maps of Kroo Bay, Moa Wharf, Oloshoro, Portee-Rokupr and Colbot in their A5 exercise books and then carefully with only one marker per team transferred the much discussed and debated ‘final map’ onto the presentation sheet, the resourcefulness, endurance and creativity of slum/informal settlement dwellers as it permeated through the histories of the five settlements identified to be profiled settled into this exercise and the collection and capturing of the data later. Kroo Bay, where the native Kroos mixed with the British settled ship crews from Liberia, much like the settlement profile of SDI, speaks to the coming together of diverse interests around necessity and a common objective. Portee Rokupr traces part of its history back to female wood sellers who would come to trade their wood and find water here. Moa Wharf, where rumour has it, one may still get some of the best fish in Freetown from, was and remains till today the home of fishermen who moor their long boats here after bringing their harvest from the sea. Oloshoro is the place where a drowning Nigerian fisherman found land and Colbot has a long history of reclaiming land from the sea, a ‘landlord’ as tough as many known to slum dwellers around the world.  

While these maps will eventually be digitized and available for easy dissemination via mobile technologies, the importance of the community map, how it is drawn, presented and debated, forms the spirit of a community-led citywide slum/informal settlement register. 

Mapping2_Freetown Mapping_Freetown

The standard settlement profiling tool developed by the SDI federations with its almost 300 questions focused on developing both a quantitative and qualitative picture of slum/informal settlements bears testament to the endurance of slum dwellers. The profile is a collaborative effort, borne from almost 30 years of learning by doing by federations from Asia, Africa and Latin America. What sets SDI data collection practices apart, is that the data collection process is part of a deeply social process of organizing, identifying and mobilizing around a simple dictum which may translate as: this is who we are, where we are and how we are here. The depth of knowledge our community-led profiles generate, are only possible because the process of collection is deeply community located. Profile teams must be from the local community. Mature federation leaders  “download” their knowledge, capacity and experience in data collection and mobilization to community members. Then by means of the learning-by-doing immersion within their own community space, members then practice the learning of these skills, which include ‘demystifying’ GPS data collection and understanding the link between the map and the survey questionnaire.

Developing a citywide register by means of SDIs profiling methodology goes beyond just the technical aspects of data collection. The process is deeply social and political and thus as a consequence, so are the arguments that emerge from the data collected. The data becomes the basis of, and the process opens up the dialogue around upgrading and improvement of living conditions at the community level between residents of these settlements and at the city level between residents and their officials. This resonates with one of the slogans of the Sierra Leone federation: take the slum from the people, not the people from the slum. Building on the learning gained during the profiling exchange the federations in Togo and Nigeria have started putting the skills they learned in Sierra Leone to practice.


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South African Federation Sings at Patrick's Funeral

Thursday, 21 August 2014

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Charles Hunsley Speaks at his father Patrick’s funeral

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

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