When the question of collaboratively testing new techniques in profiling informal settlements was raised, Cape Town was proposed as the gathering place for federations from Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, India, Namibia, and South Africa. Community leaders and NGO representatives from these countries have in common the quest for improving data capture processes. The agenda has a global imperative: first, to analyse the 7,000 profiles federations have captured over two decades in more than 15 countries, and second, to look forward at improved processes for citywide settlement profiling.
SDI and SFI Partnership Background
Delegations gathered for an intense 10 day programme, which started on the 3rd of June 2013. Old friends reunited, and new contacts were made. This project is a collaboration between SDI and the Santa Fe Institute (SFI), which is supported by an 18-month, $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is anticipated that this project could yield a “science of slums” if SDI’s data and SFI’s methodology are successfully paired.
SFI’s special research focus on Cities, Scaling, and Sustainability, which is the key department working with SDI, has a “… particularly important focus [of this research area] is to develop theoretical insights about cities that can inform quantitative analyses of their long-term sustainability in terms of the interplay between innovation, resource appropriation, and consumption and the make up of their social and economic activity”. SFI Professor Luis Bettencourt, who is the SFI project leader, remarked on evolving partnership with SDI in an interview with Txchnologist. “We want to find ways to make the greatest use of the data SDI collects,” Bettencourt says. “In this way, the project will help create standards through which informal communities can collect and use data about themselves and develop economic models to sustain these efforts.“
The project has been a work in progress since January 2013, when key representatives from India, Uganda, South Africa and Kenya visited the SFI group in the USA to discuss the make-up of the project. Sheela Patel, Director of the Indian NGO SPARC and Chair of the SDI Board, reflected on the evolving partnership with SFI in a SDI blog article. “As part of its ongoing quest to bridge informal urban settlements into city planning, an important first step has been to get communities of the urban poor living in informal settlements to believe that aggregating information about their settlement and households is a valuable tool towards improving their lives."
After the 7,000 slum profiles were collected and analysed, Federations came together again in Kenya in April 2013. Read the article on the workshop here.
Cape Town Workshop
The workshop started with a meet and greet, and presentations and informal conversations on the vastly diverse experiences of profiling informal settlements followed. Luis Bettencourt from SFI presented on the work of the institute, bringing into focus the dynamics of city growth by drawing on recent research SFI has conducted through GIS modelling. This was also a touch point for how SDI data could help federations understand cities better. Federations shared different experiences of profiling informal settlements. At the grassroots level, the data helps communities understand their settlements better and build relationships with government. Even though this is a practice commonly shared, SDI affiliates have, over the years, developed different mechanisms and processes for collecting information. The challenge and advocacy agenda of SDI saw it crucially important to start a horizontal conversation on how to integrate all the different data sets.
Sheila, a community leader from the Zimbabwe Homeless People's Federation, said that the federation has been profiling informal settlements since the early 2000s. Initially they had challenges to store and analyse the data, and this also delayed the feedback to communities. The Federation decided that involving members from the local savings schemes was the most efficient way to move forward. In this way, they were much more involved, and they were also the first to pick up on errors. There were accounts of political interference, because the politicians were still denying the natural urbanisation. We have now come to a point where we can compare and integrate information to find workable solutions to upgrading.
The issue of data management seemed to be familiar in the Ugandan experience. The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda is presently comprised of 355 savings groups operating in six cities: Kampala, Arua, Jinja, Kabale, Mbale, and Mbarara. Katana Goretti elaborated that the question of local language difference was a further motivator to involve local people. For instance, people would lie about how many children they had because they thought there would be a kickback for their families. This is resolved in the verification process, "We had to update the database in response to increased evictions, since the data the government cites in justification of their actions are out of date. The large database helps us assist one another in times when other settlements are facing evictions."
The cultural and experiential exchanges were important to align the various experiences. But the main focus was on learning by doing, and the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), a South African social movement linked to the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), the South African SDI affiliate, suggested that UT Section was perfect location.
Learning by Doing in UT Section, Khayelitsha
UT Section is a dense informal settlement in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, located south of iKhusi Primary School. Founded in 1985 when people moved from other neighborhoods such as Crossroads to make a new home, UT section has seen incremental development throughout the years. At first service levels were very low, and the City government handed out buckets since toilets could not be installed. Years later, the settlement received grid electricity. Listen to Snax talk us through his settlement.
The delegations from Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, India, Namibia, and South Africa and SFI team had several meetings in UT Section between 4 – 8 June. The new profiling questionnaire was discussed and tested with various technologies, such as an Android phone application coded with the questions, GPS coordinates, and pictures pinned to certain points of interests, such as waste removal skips. Community also experimented with identifying shack usage and mapping out shack numbers by means of large printed satellite photos.
UT Section community mapping team assisted by Shekar (far left) from the Indian SDI Alliance.
Structure use identification through community mapping.
On Saturday the 8th of June, the full settlement enumeration of UT Section was launched with a kick-off party. Government officials from the City of Cape Town’s informal settlement management department and principle field officers (PFO) were invited to the celebration. At the launch, PFO Natalie Samuels remarked:
“In 2009 a partnership was formed between CORC and ISN and the City of Cape Town… and communities were able to petition the City on important needs in informal settlements. The main purpose of this exchange is the profiling of informal settlements and the value that it adds to our communities.”
The on-the-ground learning environment has been a major success. Groups have developed new skills and technologies for profiling and spatially understanding their settlements. The open and transparent learning environment will go a long way in building local capacity to generate better quality spatial and socio-economic enumeration data.
To the casual observer, a road is simply a tarmac to allow for different usages. Perhaps we can also define it as a line of communication, which is connected to a greater network through bridges, tunnels, support structures, junctions, crossings, interchanges, and so forth. Roads connect our neighborhoods and cities to one another, and give us right of passage. These road hierarchies are usually planned well, and neighborhoods and cities grow around these cadastral maps.
But in informal settlements, smaller pathways emerge as needed. In many ways, the informal city grows exactly in the opposite direction than the formal city. In the formal city, cadastral maps are carefully designed, but in the informal city, planning emerge through means of negotiating space in the process of place making. What then happens when formal regulations start to interact with informal ways of city-building?
In Langrug, an informal settlement located 3km outside the town of Franschhoek, an example has emerged where the informal processes of settlement has interacted with formal city-building planning processes. This article will not delve into the history of the settlement, which is available here. Important for contextual purposes, the community has been engaging the Stellenbosch Municipality since 2010 around the in-situ upgrading of the settlement, for which the community won the prestigious award from the South African Planning Institute in the “Community” category. The Stellenbosch Municipality applied for Upgrading of Informal Settlement Programme (UISP), or Part 3 of the National Housing Code, funding from the Western Cape Province. The UISP project has advanced to Phase 3, which includes full services.
Last week, the Municipality started paving secondary roads which has emerged organically through the years of settling on the land. The secondary roads have been well planned by the community, when they conducted an intense spatial mapping exercise in March 2011. The Alliance’s report on the spatial mapping in 2011 gives insight into the spatial knowledge the community has generated, which has made a significant contribution to the servicing of the settlement:
CORC supplied an aerial photograph of the terrain as well as some guidance on conducting spatial analysis, and in particular on what indicators to look for and how to identify an area’s constraints or opportunities for development. Then, photograph and markers in hand, the team went out into the February heat to locate all the infrastructure and facilities that they had agreed could benefit from improved maintenance or upgrading. The result was an interim map that detailed the position and conditions of all Langrug’s toilets, water taps, drains, drainage gullies, electricity boxes, street lights, and commercial activities, and thus threw light on some of the settlement’s most pressing issues.
[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/sdialliance/5734257232/][img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3033/5734257232_6194a06d76_z.jpg[/img][/url] [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/sdialliance/5734257232/]Langrug_20110324_0001 (2)[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/sdialliance/]South African SDI Alliance[/url], on Flickr
In the coming month, the Stellenbosch Municipality’s appointed contractor will start the groundworks to implement a central access road. The community’s vision for an incremental upgrading approach to developing the neighbourhood has been a powerful guide in imagining what the community could look like.
The 16 week Planning Studio with UCT’s School of Architecture Planning & Geomatics (SAPG), a department in the Engineering & the Built Environment (EBE) faculty, has generated many other proposals for a responsive spatial development framework which can guide the future upgrading of the settlement. The Alliance will continue to report on the development of Langrug informal settlement, and the partnership with the Stellenbosch Municipality.
Ben Bradlow has worked with Shack/Slum Dwellers International and the SA Alliance since 2009. Ben’s thesis considers the experience of the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) in building coalitions of the urban poor and partnerships with local government, which he calls the “Quiet Conflict”. During his time at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): International Development Group where he studied Master’s in City Planning, Ben was active in promoting critical thinking of African urbanism and co-founded the UrbanAfrica group, and a MIT student group on planning and development issues in African cities. For his active contribution to learning, Ben was rewarded with the “Harold Horwitz Research Fellowship” by MIT School of Architecture & Planning and received an ”Honourable mention for intellectual contribution”. The SA Alliance is proud to showcase Ben’s research.
The South African government’s attempts to provide land and housing for the poor have been focused primarily on interventions at the policy level and within internal state bureaucracies. But experiences of social movements for land and housing have shown that significant opportunities for formal institutional change occur through relationships of both contestation and collaboration between such movements and state institutions, especially at the local level. Such a relatively underexplored mechanism of institutional reform enables us to understand exactly how such change processes gain legitimacy and potency. This thesis draws on case studies of two recent, formalized partnerships between grassroots social movements and local authorities in the metropolitan municipality of Cape Town and the municipality of Stellenbosch. The studies examine exactly how such relationships create the space for both conflict and collaboration between communities and city government. They are based on semi-structured interviews with government officials, community, and movement leaders, and participant observations of engagements between the movements and city authorities in January and June-August 2012. The evidence suggests that theories of the state and institutional change require much greater attention to the multiple ways in which social movements interact with the state in order to realize rights of access to land and housing. The contingent endowments of these actors allow them to be more or less able to trigger institutional reform processes. When change has occurred, collaboration has been essential. But these cases also highlight the value of a credible threat of conflict based on city-wide mobilization, no matter how quietly such a threat lurks in the background. Policy interventions in the urban land and housing sector in South Africa, pitched as rational bureaucratic recipes, are unlikely to realize such rights without institutionalized engagements, especially at the city level, with organized social movements of the landless urban poor that articulate both conflictual and collaborative tendencies.
Havelock informal settlement is located 8km outside Durban central, close to the northern suburb of Greenwood Park. The first settlers – a coloured man and his wife – settled on this land in 1986. Since they were “scared of living alone” – as they put it – they invited other people to join them. In the early years, the new settlers were continually harassed, especially the women, who were vulnerable to attacks on their way to the main water sources. In subsequent years, the settlement grew to a sizable settlement of 389 residents living in more than 200 shacks. The land is privately owned; one part by the Kwa-Zulu Natal Provincial Department of Human Settlements and another part by a private owner. Havelock is built against a hill and the shack density is high. Read more about the background to the settlement in this profile.
In the following report, I endeavour to give context to the unfolding dynamics in Havelock, where to community has completed all the design, received an in-principle go-ahead from government, and started preparing the site. The re-blocking project has been approved by Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF), an alliance seed capital fund, and the eThekwini Metro has indicated a willingness to collaborate. The report tracks the activities over the weekend of 10 – 12 May. The Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY), a wicked complex layered with racial, class and land rights dynamics, have blocked the incremental upgrading of the settlement.
Thursday 9 May
Over the past few weeks, the reblocking site has been cleared which required tree felling, clearing away undergrowth, and gathering together discarded pieces of building material. A consulting Civil Engineering firm manager and his operator arrived in the morning to discuss how we should proceed with the terracing work. Points made were:
need to stay well clear of the sewer line that runs between the site and the church property above it
further cutting up of the logs from the felled trees to allow the tractor to carry them up to Havelock road for later disposal
need to remove various bottles lying around that could puncture the tractor’s tyres
the engineer’s preliminary assessment of the work was that it would take at least 4 days. We arranged for the tractor would come on site on the morning of Monday 13. In the afternoon another engineering firm, a subcontractor to the municipality’s Water and Sanitation Department tasked to install new services (following a presentation by the Havelock community on their re-blocking layout plan and dire shortage of ablution facilities), came to site to assess the need and contemplate possible locations for further ablution containers. The outcomes of the visit were:
confirmation of the position of the sewer line between the site proposed for locating the re-blocked structures and the church property
there is another sewer line across the settlement parallel to the first but about half-way down – almost where CORC architect and the community had allowed for additional ablution facilities in the layout designs
the open area on the other side of the small stream and adjoining the bottom of Sanderson Road is the best first option with the one within the settlement to be contemplated only once re-blocking has progressed to that point
community should liaise with the owner of the property adjoining the site at the bottom of Sanderson Road to identify if the manhole that is shown on the map the engineer had with him is indeed there. Poor visibility meant that surveyors could not accurately plan the line from the proposed ablution container to this existing line.
the engineer also commented on the extremely poor condition of the existing ablution containers and said he would propose that these be replaced with new ones.
Monday 13 May
Over the weekend the community had attended to the preparations required by the civil engineering firm to bring their tractor on site. Having cleared a way through the bushes down to the area to be terraced it proceeded to cut a “road” down past the ablution containers, thus creating easy access for possible removal of these and replacement with new ones, as suggested by the subcontractor. Then a line was pegged across from South to North to ensure no encroachment on or damage to the sewer line between the area to be terraced and the church property. After this, the community and supporting engineers started to work on the top terrace, cutting and leveling the soil and removing stumps.
At this time, they were approached by a group of people from the Greenwood Park neighborhood’s ratepayers association, who demanded that the work stop. Allegedly the ratepayers went as far as threatening to burn the tractor if it continued to operate. The Havelock community was obviously angered by this perceived interference in something that they felt had been well-negotiated with all parties and there was then a stand-off between the two groups.
Somebody from the formal community group had already contacted the Land Invasion Unit of the eThekwini Metro and some of their staff, including a senior officer, arrived on site. Somewhere within the ensuing discussion the issue of a High Court interdict order (Order 3329/2013) allowing the Municipality and the police the right to demolish structures and to evict people who occupy or attempt to invade certain designated pieces of Municipal land was introduced. This comes after the courts’ clampdown on alleged “land grabs”, as a front page article of the Mercury, a local Durban paper, reported.
The upshot was that the Land Invasion Unit told the Havelock settlement that in terms of this broad order granted by the High Court they could not proceed with the terracing and re-blocking. The small area that had been leveled would need to have some of the stacked soil returned to it so that there was no place where a structure could be constructed. However, this seems to be highly inconsistent: Why now, when the ratepayers called the Anti Land Invasion Unit a week prior regarding tree-felling activity – at which time the community explained about the re-blocking – they didn’t refer them to this Court Order?
Once the Land Invasion Unit had left, a group of the neighbouring residents continued to stand at the top of the site where it adjoins Havelock Road in order to see that the tractor operator adhered to the instructions of the Land Invasion Unit.
At this point I arrived and was confronted by the ratepayers with a barrage of questions and complaints, on the one hand, and an understandably irritated Havelock community on the other. The ratepayers complaints were ill-informed despite the fact that ISN had printed notices some of which were distributed in the area and others put on light poles. I then contacted the Land Invasion Unit to confirm exactly what his instructions had been. I wanted to understand whether the tractor should replace the soil.
By this stage the local DA Councillor for Ward 34, Mr Ganesh, arrived and was also vociferously greeted by the questions and complaints of the ratepayers. The Havelock community was displeased at the situation since their continuous interactions with him and the ANC PR Councillor up to date. The community felt that the councillor had failed to keep the Municipality adequately informed about what was happening. A pastor from a local church stepped into the situation and suggested a mediated meeting between grievances of the ratepayers and the community. The meeting is scheduled for the 1st of June at the nearby Greenwood Park Primary School. Representatives from CORC, ISN and the Municipality will also be present.
In order to find a way forward that might allow for the re-blocking project to continue the following actions are proposed:
Make contact Legal Resources Centre, who has recently been involved in the Madlala Village community in Lamontville. We need to come to grips with the implications of the High Court order. But the primary litigation point will be the 37 sites to which it apparently refers as well as to possibly explore any legal action the community can take.
Set up a meeting with the Land Invasion Unit to understand why the project was not stopped when the trees were felled.
Co-ordinate a meeting of CORC and ISN with the Housing Unit who is also a member of the Interim Services Committee (responsible for informal settlement upgrading) on Havelock project plans issue tabled at the many previous meetings
Attend the mediated meeting with the ratepayers to negotiate outcomes
Discussion of the Havelock issue at the next Ward Committee meeting to be held on 15/5
By Namibia Housing Acton Group (NHAG) & Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN)
The below report refers to an exchange that took place from 6 - 8 March 2013.
Purpose of the Exchange:
The exchange was initiated by the Namibia Housing Action Group (NHAG), supporting NGO for the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), in order to expose municipal officials, the federation members and the NGO itself to upgrading as a result of an enumeration process. The municipal officials and community members on the exchange are directly or indirectly involved in the Community Land Information Program (CLIP), Namibia’s version of the enumeration process. Upgrading as a result of this enumeration process has not yet taken place. Cape Town and Stellenbosch provided a great platform for the exchange delegates to learn and influence a change in mind-set and the promotion of a bottom up approach to planning procedures in their local authorities and influence national government policy in the future.
Langrug Site Visit, Stellenbosch:
The exchange started off with a site visit to Langrug informal settlement in Stellenbosch. Trevor, a community leader, explained the outcome of the survey to the delegation:
“Mapping is done in the community to identify all the issues that the settlement is faced with. Alfred from the ISN ‘two years back, enumeration showed the community that they can talk to the municipality. The leadership for the enumeration is divided into sections, with each one having a subject to focus on; from health, social issues and mapping. The lawsuit form the Rupert family brought about the presentation of the needs analysis of the community to the municipality. With the enumeration we focus on building up people so they can build communities. Through the enumeration a working team was created, 16 families were relocated within the settlement. The communities have taken the ownership of their own development and the municipality added value; the current projects in the settlements are the outcome of a needs analysis. Community members are encouraged to make small contributions to get access to development. The important outcome of the enumeration was that it helped the team get the numbers to request for development in the area; especially the grey water runaway passages build by the community. As the enumeration provided a clear view of the people in the area that are affected by different issues, support groups have been formed for health issues. The washroom facility was one of the main outcomes from the project, the community members are assisting in the construction and small contributions will have to be made by the members for the sustaining and usage of the facility. The mapping will also assist the community in the re-blocking process.”
There was also a short introductory meeting with the Stellenbosch Municipality to give an overview of the relationship that has developed between the community and the municipality.
Mshini Wam settlement, Cape Town
The community facilitators from the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) showed the delegation around, explaining the process of re-blocking and the benefits it brought and will bring in the future. Since the structures have been re-arranged there are clear pathways for the community members to easily move around the settlement. The creation of space between the clusters formed provides space for the municipality to be able to bring services in the future as you can see in the photo below. The clusters have been set up in such a way that all the households, doors and windows are facing each other, so as to provide security among the households from possible intruders. Within clusters there are small gardens.
Lessons learnt on the exchange:
Municipality’s role in the delivery of services through the use of surveys and partnership.
Projects initiated by the community through enumerations. The norm for Namibia is that communities complete the enumerations, present it to the local authorities with the hope their development needs will be made a priority in planning. Through the exchange we learned that we could push for our own programs in the community, such as the establishment of support groups and the community contribution to facilities.
There is a need to have agreements signed with the local authorities in order to have a greater understanding of the roles and responsibilities when it comes to involving the community in upgrading.
The budgeting system of the Stellenbosch municipality provided a clear picture on how to prioritize funds for communities involved in upgrading
Communities pushing the local authority for an upgrading plan to be jointly developed.
The relationships developed on the exchange are important as now the different local authorities have an in-depth understanding of the possible outcomes of enumerations. The federation members and the local authority officials interacted on the exchange thus creating an opportunity to foster an “open door approach” with local government which could lead to important meetings around enumerations and settlement upgrading.
Impacts of the exchange on projects and relationships in Namibia:
The federation members will start working on programs with the community to promote upgrading options. This will change the normal procedure of always waiting for the municipality to deliver on upgrading. Communities will start working on programs to support each other.
Planning the layout with the Gobabis municipality to re-block Freedom square (Damara block) informal settlement
Municipality of Grootfontein to find an approach to involving the community in settlement development programs and signing an agreement with the NHAG and SDFN
The Community development officer from Keetmanshoop to use the community approach to managing the new reception area in the town.
Keetmanshoop municipality to strengthen relationship with the community. Work together on finding solutions to the communities housing and service issues in informal settlements.
Strengthening of collaboration and cooperation on enumerations
Possible inclusion of the community in the Targeted Intervention Program for Employment Creation and Economic Growth (TIPEEG).
Namibian Delegation. from left; Community Development Officer Gobabis, Councilor Keetmanshoop, SDFN member Keetmanshoop , Community Development Keetmanshoop, Councilor Gobabis. Back; Municipal CEO Grootfontein
By Walter Fieuw, CORC, South Africa (on behalf of SDI Secretariat)
Community-driven settlement profiling, enumerations, and spatial mapping are practices that federations associated with SDI have developed over two decades. These become valuable tools in negotiating more equitable resource flows from the public and private sector to urban poor communities. Profiling is a “top-level scan” of the most important features of the settlement, an estimation of the number of shacks, socio-economic and demographic information and access to services. It is also often times the first point of contact of the federation to a non-affiliated settlement/slum and opens a dialogue on the networking of community structures at the city level to influence city governments. Over the past two decades federations have used this tool to categorise and map out slums in cities. Countries use different questionnaires, data capturing systems, and mapping tools to reach this goal. In order to upscale this data to give a global narration based on credible and community-driven quantitative data, SDI has engaged the Santa Fe Institute, who are supporting a process of standardisation. The goal of this process is apparent upfront: To enhance the federations’ ability to generate settlement information in a standardised format for city, regional, national and global analysis, while maintaining all the social mobilisation characteristics that have made profiling a powerful tool in the first place.
In a two-day workshop between 13 – 14 April 2013 held in Nairobi, federations from Africa and Asia came together to discuss the purposes, community structures and impact of profiling, and to chart the way forward. Jockin Arputham, president of SDI and coordinator of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India, opened the workshop by reflecting on the progress to date:
This meeting has been called to alert and request everybody to create an action programme for the profile. We all have different questionnaires, although we say we are one family. Settlement profiles need to be captured, and we need to stay consistent in the questions we require. If the country needs more information, you need to add another page. We need one SDI questionnaire, so we can use the information globally. We want to understand what the magnitude of our power is. We want to make different cases to different audiences. We want to collaborate with all the actors speaking about land, housing, infrastructure; all the people speaking about the urban.
This practice first started in India where slum dwellers were exposed to slum eradication in the 1960s and '70s. Shekar Mulyan recalled the experiences at a young age.
I was born in a Bombay slum, and composition of the settlement was that of migrant workers. My father and Jockin were the first generation leaders. I was six years old when an eviction started that changed the way we would think about organised communities.
Baba Atomic Centre owned the land where we lived. The government recognised the strategic importance of the land, and started planning a large resettlement/eviction process. Jockin was organising protests, but we were failing on all fronts. We did not have any information about of settlement, even though were engaging trade unions, government agencies, and so on. We lost the court case, and the government commanded us to move once again.
We realised that no other community had to go through what we went through. We started thinking about ways to assist communities in similar situations, and how we can best support them. We started counting all the slums in Bombay. This happened over weekends, and there were no resources to support the process. When we compared the numbers the state put forward, and that what we collected, we saw a large discrepancy: the state was always undercounting and minimising the urban crisis.
By creating a “slum dweller perspective” on city planning processes through the practice of profiling informal settlements, groups networking at the city level have better information on their position in the city. City governments often view informal settlements as being “black holes” of demands on state resources; that poor people don’t contribute to the resource base and demand more services and social allowances and grants. This false belief often diverges development capital from poor neighbourhoods towards middle and upper classes, believing that the cost of such infrastructure investments will be recovered through a larger tax base. In this way, cities become more divided, more unequal and the chance of poverty alleviation is seen as a trickle down effect from the market, which has been proven to be untrue.
Alternative views on the organisation and vibrancy challenge these (neoliberal) assumptions of city building. Poor people operate in an economic and social structure that is beyond the control of the state. Here jobs are created, livelihood networks are established, crisis committees respond to disasters, and people build cities from the bottom up. Federations associated to SDI are generating critical information that builds these counter-hegemonic views of the urban poor, rendering a rich and diverse picture of the productive life of slums and slum dweller communities.
Enkanini, Stellenbosch, South Africa Settlement Profile based on Enumeration Map
The experience of the Homeless People's Federation of Malawi speaks directly to these points as Mphatso Njunga, a federation leader, reflected at the workshop:
We are also using our profiling process to understand the budgeting processes in cities, and we are pushing the government to open up participatory spaces to influence the allocation of budgets. In Blantyre, we were never aware of special budgets to development infrastructure in informal settlements, and now we are more involved. We are also working with universities around planning for upgrading. The profiling helps us to categorise the most pressing needs, and create an action plan.
Moving beyond the influence on state resources towards building critical mass of community capacity and social capital, the experience of the Homeless People's Federation of Tanzania inspired a lot of discussion between the federations.
I am from a slum in Dar es Salaam and I have been involved in enumerations since the federations started. We started in 2005, which focused on mobilising savings schemes. The SDI team assisted us to build the template questionnaire, and they mobilised two groups. In 2006, we did another enumeration, which was spurred by eviction threats. The government played up the tenants and the occupants against one another, and wanted to evict last mentioned group. The Kenyan team helped us with numbering, measuring plots, and capturing data. (Husua, federation coordinator)
Once communities have generated sufficient “critical mass” and information about slums, alternative democratic spaces can emerge in which the federation has an influence on the flow of resource which determines whether cities become more pro-poor. Brenda from the Zambian federation recalled their working partnerships with government’s structure.
We network with the government’s ward development committee (WDC) and get introduced to the community. The WDC plays an important role in making bridges between the formal and the informal.
We have collected 139 settlement profiles on the total number of 255 slums. This spreads over three cities. Working with the NGO we collect and analyse the data, clean it and process it, and then share it from the bottom up: the community, WDC, city and national minister.
The federations closed the two day meeting on reflecting on the way going forward. Countries agree to a 2 month and 6 months action plan to prioritise profiling in cities. SDI will continue to track the progress and application of this new and emerging system for collecting slum profiles.
Each year government recognises the partnerships with all sectors involved in developing sustainable and integrated human settlements. The Govan Mbeki Human Settlements awards are a prestigious ceremonies hosted by the National Department of Human Settlements in two stages: the Provincial and the National. The award ceremony aims to showcase and demonstrate the partnerships with the department at both tiers and promotes best practices in meeting the delivery mandate of the Presidency’s Outcome 8, which is aligned with the vision of building sustainable human settlements and meeting the Millennium Development Goals. The MEC of Human Settlements at the Provincial tier nominates projects in the five specified categories which displays exceptional quality, promotes best practice, brings together stakeholders, and most importantly, improving the quality of life for the beneficiary-partners.
According to the Gauteng Province’s Department of Local Government and Housing, a thorough investigation was initiated to access the quality of the projects nominated. The Department’s website says the following of the Gauteng evaluation process:
Prior to the ceremony of the Govan Mbeki Awards, there is a preceding quality monitoring process of projects submitted by entrants throughout Gauteng. The awards ceremony, to be held on Thursday, signals the end of the Gauteng Leg of the process. The awards are named after the liberation stalwart Govan Mbeki whose life work and struggle envisioned landlessness and homelessness as some of the inhumane legacies of the apartheid system. The ceremony will celebrate those contractors in Gauteng whose work and delivery is symbolic of the quality and dignity of human settlements that Govan Mbeki strove for.
The Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) has been transforming housing policy from the bottom up for the past two decades. Premised on the notions of social and political change, savings groups linked to the Federation has built more than 12,000 since 1994, and continue to set a precedent in woman’s empowerment through self-build and collaboration with government. FEDUP’s work has been recognised at the highest levels of government, and has been showcases to international audiences such as UN Habitat, Cities Alliance, World Bank and other multilateral organisations.
On the 11th of April, FEDUP was nominated in the Gauteng Provincial Govan Mbeki awards. This event, hosted at the Emperors Palace, Kempton Park in Johannesburg and chaired by the MEC for Local Government and Housing, Ms Ntombi Mekgwe, FEDUP was awarded the award for the Duduza project. uTshani Fund acts as Account Administrator to FEDUP, and provides technical support to the Community Construction Management Team (CCMT). The contract signed with the Province allocated 150 stands in Duduza, of which 134 houses have been completed. In this year alone, 93 houses were built. On average, FEDUP builds houses with the same subsidy quantum but the differences are vast! Houses are larger than 50m2 in size compared to government build of 35 – 40m2. These houses are fully fitted with a bathroom, a kitchen with a sink as well as two spacious bedrooms. The houses are fully electrified. The finishing include plaster inside and outside, and is painted inside and outside. These are achievable through the savings and contributions of the beneficiaries from their savings.
The FEDUP alternative is continuing to reshape the policy and institutional landscape. But most importantly, it is the building of a strong woman’s federation that opens many other avenues for livelihoods and poverty alleviation.
By Nkokeli Ncambele, Informal Settlement Network, Cape Town (edited by Walter Fieuw, CORC)
Nkanini is a large section of about ten informal settlements on the far south-east region of Khayelitsha. In 2002, when the railway station Chris Hani servicing the area was completed, many people from Makhaza, Site C, Langa, Gugulethu, and other areas settled on the land. Many of the new settlers were living in overcrowded backyarder shacks, where rents and utility services were charged at a premium. Law enforcement often clashed with the new settlers, but could not prevent the inevitable. Today, Enkanini consists of more than ten informal settlements on this low lying area.
Many of these settlements are associated with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), particularly Chris Hani and lower Chris Hani, Stendini, Shuka Section, Newlands, Isigingqini, ARC Section, and Zweledinga. On Friday the 5th of April, a coordination meeting was called to bring together all these settlements and start up a conversation about the needs and aspirations in the settlements.
I, Nkokeli Ncambele, an ISN coordinator, gave the delegates from the above mentioned informal settlements a welcome brief and upfront said that the ISN has not been in contact with the area for some time, but it is time to re-connect and talk about the future upgrading of the settlements. I gave a brief background the work of the ISN over the past three years and the progress made in ensuring a partnership with the City of Cape Town. We talked about the kinds of upgrading projects that have been completed, and how these could be a reference point for some of the settlements. This includes 22 informal settlements planned to be upgraded, with different priorities. There is emerging consensus from the City to provide 1:1 toilets in re-blocked settlements, but this remains an ideal. All these intiatives are aimed at building a network across the City to create a platform for the voices of the urban poor to be united and stand in solidarity.
The question of representation of settlements were a significant point of discussion. Anton, a community leader from Newlands, asked whether each of the settlements in Enkanini would form part of these “sectional forums”. Do we need to publicly elect people in each of the areas to distribute the information. I reflected on our experience of setting up a community committee where I lived in Mfuleni. We were democratically elected at a general meeting. The community entrusted us to represent them in matters of engaging government on development and service delivery. All the people sat down together and we talked collectively about the problems and needs in the area. After that we create a plan for development and talk to the City. Services are now coming to Mfuleni because we stood together. So each area needs to have at least 4 people. But you need to tell ISN what you need. You need to take the initiative and come up with solutions.
Some of the community members suggested that a general meeting is needed to discuss in more depth the needs and aspirations of each of the settlements. Bonwisa, the representative from Standini settlement, called out that these meeting should happen at times convenient for all to attend, such as weekends or after a day’s work. I responded by saying that yes, Nwe need to have a big date to call together the whole community. We need to have an agenda for that large meeting, and then discuss with all the community. At that time, we need to discuss the completion of the enumerations, which was stalled in 2009 for a number of reasons. I told those present that as the network coordinator, we can not plan anything if you are not with us. All the leaders need to agree on the programme, and then we will have real representation. We are not coming in and tell you what to do; you need to tell us.
The settlement representatives spoke among themselves and a number of core issues were presented. For instance, in Newlands and Isiginqini, there were no post boxes and people had no proof of address. This complicated a lot of everyday life, such as applying for jobs, opening a bank account, and so forth. Chris Hani settlement said that many of the mama’s were ready to start saving towards school fees for their children, but because they did not have a bank account, they often had to travel to Zone 40 to deposit money. I mentioned to them that we can support them around setting up local savings schemes, and our partner grassroots network, the Federation of the Urban Poor, has a lot of experience in doing so.
Nkanini section is located far from the city, and accessing opportunities remains a large challenge. Despite the geographic disadvantage, Anton from Newlands said,
We live here in a beautiful area. Here in the plain we have the best view of the city. You can see Table Mountain there and Stellenbosch mountains on that side. But we do have issues regarding moving around and the busses are scarce. I am frequently on the community forums with the City. We usually talk about the lack of busses, but they usually say they can not allocate more bustime to us. 3,000 drivers need t0 service this whole area, but there are only 10 controllers in this Nkanini area. Chris Hani train station is close by, but people living on that wide [Western side - Stendini, Town 3, etc] have to go to the far [Eastern] end, which means you have to take a taxi to go there. The station was designed for Makaza people, not for us.
Another community leader reflected that there big promises of job creation with the construction of the Monwabisi Beach, which they said will become like a Waterfront. The City promised that there will be many jobs. Some people travel to Stellenbosch for seasonal work on the wine farms. But it is very dangerous, and people are frequently attacked. Others work in the light industries in Durbanville and Kraaifontein, and as far as Houtbay.
ISN will continue to host community forums in Site B, Site C, Victoria Mxenge and other surrounding areas. These forums aim to bring the communities together to talk about their daily challenges and the ways to which they respond to these. Forums are also linked to prioritising development, and starts the community process at the grassroots.
As part of their initiatives to improve the sanitation situation in the slums of Accra, Ghana, a delegation of four members of the Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor (GHAFUP) – Haruna Abu, Janet Abu, Imoro Toyibu and Naa Ayeley – participated in a learning exchange to Cape Town, South Africa to learn more about the waste management initiative underway in the settlements of Cape Town. Painting a picture of the waste and sanitation situation in the slums of Accra, Ghana, Janet Adu, a member of GHAFUP, described the discarded plastic bags and other trash littering the narrow pathways of Ghana’s slum communities, adding to the already poor sanitation situation. To begin addressing this issue, GHAFUP and People’s Dialogue Ghana began brainstorming about waste management programmes that will clean up the slums while simultaneously generating income for the Federation.
The Blue Sky Solid Waste Management Company is the business side of the waste-management facilities. The initiative operates out of the offices of Sizakuyenza, a small community based NGO that originated from the FEDUP health network’s cleaning programme. Starting as a small initiative, with volunteer slum dwellers sorting waste for a small income, the initiative has grown into a completely self-sustaining programme with about 400 volunteer community trash collectors, or waste pickers, from various informal settlements across Cape Town who sort through waste to collect recyclables.
The sorted waste is then collected through the initiative’s mobile buy-back programme in which two pickup trucks manned Blue Sky drivers pick up the collected waste from various settlements around Cape Town, paying the pickers cash upon pickup for their recyclables. After another sorting at the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management facilities, the waste is sold to buyers and recycling companies. Using the profits made from these business transactions, the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management programme pays the pickers for their trash collection, salaries for the workers that run the company while also revolving the remaining profits back into the programme to sustain it and maintain its facilities.
Over the two-day exchange, the Ghana delegates focused their attention on the business side of the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management programme: observing the market opportunities in waste collection and recycling, meeting with local pickers in the Bengali community, learning waste sorting techniques and how to build relationships with recycling companies. The days were split into two sections: 1) interactions with the buyers and learning the market and 2) interacting with the pickers and how this activity has helped slum communities around Cape Town.
Day one of the visit fell on the day Blue Sky Solid Waste Management meets with buyers to sell the recyclable material that the pickers collected throughout the week, giving the Ghanaians an opportunity to learn the values of various recyclable goods. As explained by Mr. John Mckerry, team leader at Blue Sky, certain companies are looking for certain types of waste, which is why it is so important to look at the market opportunities in your city before beginning a recycling program. This way the federation can be well informed on what types of materials companies are looking for in order to generate the most income.
Following a lively discussion inside, Mr. Mckerry and Mr. Gershwin Kohler, the project consultant for the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management programme took the group on a quick tour of the Blue Sky Solid Waste Management facilities. They described the structure of staff and participants in the programme and identified the various types of waste collected and how it is sorted and its value (per kilo).
After the tour, the Ghana delegates joined Mr. Mckerry, Mr. Kohler and two of the of the Sky Blue waste collectors. Together the group visited waste companies such as S.A.B.S., where the Blue Sky staff negotiated and sold the collected and sorted waste. Through these interactions, the delegates were able to witness the market opportunities for recyclable goods in South Africa and compare these prices to the Ghana values.
Mr. Gershwin Kohler discusses the value of glass recyclables.
Waking bright and early on a Saturday morning, the delegation met with the Bengali community where community pickers had begun the work of collecting and sorting waste. As explained by Mr. Kohler the day before, “their job is to collect garbage and they focus on what they want to collect.” Some participate in the programme once in a while to generate some extra income for themselves and their families; for others this is a full time job, picking and sorting daily in order to make as much profit as possible. Furthermore, there are some people who choose to only collect one or two types of waste (e.g. plastic bottles and newspaper), while others collect and sort whatever types of waste they know Blue Sky might be interested in. When the sun has reached its highest point the pickers’ day of work is complete, though there are some dedicated individuals who will continue through the afternoon.
Upon collection by the mobile buy-back truck, the pickers’ collections are weighed separately to determine payment - paid by the kilo for paper, crushed glass, cardboard, plastics, etc. or paid by each whole plastic or glass bottle collected. Pickers are informed of the different rates for each type of waste collected and the importance of sorting waste before collection. Each individual’s collection is recorded to maintain accurate data collection and minimize conflict between people. Pickers are then paid for their collection, no matter how little or big the amount collected.
Mr. John McKerry describes the process of collecting, sorting and selling recyclables.
Providing a job opportunity within the slums of Cape Town, the waste management programme motivates people to participate as pickers to sustain their livelihoods; however, this programme has also helped clean up the slums, creating a cleaner and healthier community environment. Simply put by Mr. Kohler, “[slum communities] become reverse supplier of raw materials.”
Throughout the exchange, the Ghana delegates brainstormed the aspects of the Blue Sky programme that would be applicable to their planned project in Ghana. This is not the first waste management programme for GHAFUP. Having started a waste project in Old Fadama, the largest slum in Accra, the Ghana federation has already begun to address the slum’s sanitation and waste issues. Thinking on a larger scale, GHAFUP began planning how to scale up the project in Old Fadama and create an income generating aspect of the programme in order to sustain the project and add to the general funds of the federation.
Using the lessons learned from the Blue Skye Solid Waste Management programme in Cape Town, the Ghana delegates took ideas from the process used in Cape Town to adapt to their situation in Accra. As stated by the team in their exchange report, “the system of waste management [in Cape Town] is different from Ghana because they buy the waste from the household/pickers.”
The Cape Town programme’s mission is to mobilise slum communities around recycling and waste collection, demonstrating the benefits of clean communities and how participating in this programme can help generate income for individuals/families.
According to the delegation, GHAFUP is planning to manage and run the solid waste management programme as a service for slum communities in Accra, where federation members act as pickers, from the picking and waste collection to building relationships and selling to recycling companies in the Accra area so as to generate income and sustain the project. The funds from this project can also help finance some of the federation’s other activities if possible.
Following Mr. Kohler’s advice to “start in your on house”, the Ghana delegates plan to begin the project amongst themselves. Collecting, sorting and recycling materials in their own households, GHAFUP will begin mobilising and educating other slum dwellers around recycling and waste management. While doing this, GHAFUP members will begin researching the recycling industry in Ghana; identifying the waste that has a market – keeping in mind that the market values will fluctuate – and beginning to build relationships with potential buyers. However, the main outcome highlighted by the Ghana team was that the exchange “encouraged [GHAFUP] to act as a community on waste management,” which is the main lesson the Ghana delegates plan to share with their fellow slum dwellers in Ghana.
In 2012 the community of Mshini Wam initiated an innovative approach to the in-situ upgrading of their dense informal settlement. Working closely with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN)—a collective network of informal settlements linking informal settlement civil society groups in five cities in South Africa—and the support NGOs Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) and iKhayalami, the community worked with City of Cape Town officials, engineers and field officers to upgrade their informal settlement.
Reblocking is a community-led in-situ re-arrangement of shacks in accordance to a community design framework which opens up safer and more dignified public spaces (called “courtyards”). The community was in charge of implementing this project and more than 50 short term job opportunities were created through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) in partnership with the City of Cape Town.
Through the “re-blocking” and community mobilisation processes, topographical, institutional and social issues have been overcome. The “re-blocking” is a priority as it will allow better access to services. To further protect against fires, the community is hoping to use fire-resistant materials when re-building their houses. The city will partner to provide sewer and water lines, as well as electrical poles and electrical boxes for each family.
Re-blocking is more than just technical solutions to improving access to services. It is about a community process that starts with the empowerment of woman through savings schemes, the cohesion and unity of community working together on a broad-based project, and the formation of partnerships with government and other stakeholders in the long term development of the Settlement.
In November 2012, the Mshini Wam community was introduced by long-term development partners Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) to Stephen Lamb and Andrew Lord of Touching the Earth Lightly (TEL). A pilot project was initiated around the building of a “green shack”, which incorporates low-tech, cost effective and sustainable design principles in the in-situ upgrading of informal settlements. By installing vertical gardens on shack walls and “liter of light” which amplifies natural light through a chemical-based dispenser installed in the roof of the shack. The pilot project drew a lot of media attention. The gardens were installed and subsequently the community started greening the courtyards created through reblocking by installing similar gardens.
The Green Shack looks at how simple, low-tech design can transform temporary spaces into “home” spaces. It is focused entirely on what we can achieve now… The next two sides of the cube represent the sun-facing walls of the shack. On these two sides The Green Shack suggests they be wrapped with a fire-proof boarding, covered by a vertical thriving organic vegetable garden. This wall garden creates food for the household. This wall is drip irrigated using a low tech, slow-release gravity fed system via a pipe made of re-cycled car tires. Rain water is also captured off the roof and stored on site. The slow-drip nature of the irrigation system ensures that the wall is constantly wet.
The term “blocking” refers to building or re-building shack according to a spatial development plan. The concept of the “Green Shack” is intended to “piggy-back” this infra-structure development and create what we call “Green Blocks”
With TEL’s low-tech, cost effective and sustainable design products, embedded in the social processes of ISN and the reblocking support from CORC, iKhayalami and ISN technical coordinators, the “green shack” and “green blocks” could inform a new way of looking at productive spaces in informal settlements. For this reason, the South African SDI Alliance partnered with TEL at this year’s Design Indaba at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. This is a opportunity for exhibiting community based planning meeting innovative design.
Be sure to visit the green shack from 1 – 3 March 2013 and have a first hand experience of “green shack” built on site.
Stephen Lamb showcasing the vertical gardens at Design Indaba 2013
The “green shack” from the inside, a 20sqm floor space
Langrug informal settlement hosted an SDI-AAPS studio this past year.
By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat
Last week's 5 Cities Seminar focused on building relationships; relationships between urban poor communities and government, between federations of the urban poor in different cities who face similar, yet unique, challenges and between the formal and informal worlds that shape rapidly urbanizing cities. Throughout the conference, urban planners from the African Association of Planning Schools (AAPS) have joined communities and officials to learn about incremental informal settlement upgrading.
Partnerships with university planning schools can produce tangible results and leverage resources for urban poor communities. Over the past year, AAPS and SDI have facilitated a number of planning studios (In Uganda, Cape Town and Malawi) with various outputs (e.g. settlement-wide upgrading strategies, circulation and infrastructure designs, and detailed maps of previously undocumented settlements). The studios have started to remove planners from the comfort of their offices and challenged antiquated norms and standards, ensuring a serious engagement with urban poor communities. These engagements need to be sustained and not once off interventions so that their value is not significantly diminished.
On the third day of the 5 Cities conference, planners from across Africa held a separate reflection session where they received a detailed brief on the Cape Town planning studio which took place in the beginning of 2012 and discussed the other studios that had taken place in Kampala and Malawi. The Cape Town studio, a partnership between the South African SDI Alliance and The University of Cape Town has taken place for the last two years. The 2012 studio was a 6-month engagement with Langrug, the informal settlement that the 5 Cities delegates visited on day 1 of the conference.
Students with backgrounds in urban planning and architecture worked with the community to produce upgrading plans for the settlement to be used by the local municipality with whom the community already has an MoU. A significant challenge is what actual impacts such long terms plans have, and if more immediate short or medium term plans would have led to more immediate results for the community, rather than grand scale long term visions.
Further discussions ranged across a number of studio related topics, including what type and level of students have worked on the studios, how studios should become sustainable permanent fixtures in the curriculum, the importance of drawing in government officials to maximize political capital and momentum and how the studio, in a dialogic engagement between community leaders and students, should set community priorities and have tangible outputs.
An important point raised by Professor Mtafu Muanda from Malawi was about working in communities that do not have a large SDI presence. He related how the planning studio in Salisbury Lines, Mzuzu had worked with a much larger community and there was a relatively insignificant SDI federation. He explained that for a studio to be effective it had to draw in the whole community and not just a select group of federation members as this fragments the community and might undermine traditional leadership structures. In the case of the Blantyre studio, the Federation used the studio to mobilize the larger community and make them aware of their activities. The traditional leadership structure, and their buy-in into the studio, also assisted greatly with making the studio a community wide process.
Images from the SDI-AAPS Studio at Salisbury Lines settlement in Mzuzu.
In addition, new studios were mooted, especially outside of South Africa, for the upcoming year. In Tanzania preparations are already underway for a collaborative studio between the SDI affiliate (CCI - Center for Community Initiatives) and Ardhi University; a Namibian studio will take place later in the year and the possibility of a studio in Zimbabwe was raised. The point was stressed that such studios need to become a part of the curriculum and not singular events.
Just as planning does not occur in a silo, separated form local contexts of informality, neither does the shaping of a city. The links between legislators, planners, implementers and communities are evident, although all too often not given enough consideration. Because of these links, it makes sense that AAPS planners form part of the 5 Cities programme and learn about informal settlement planning and upgrading, themes that are relevant to experiences and conditions of informality in South Africa and across the African continent.
Building relationships between planners and urban poor communities is an important part of SDI’s ongoing efforts to link the formal with the informal. There is certainly a space for planners within such partnerships, as long as they are positioned not as “top down” professionals but as co-learners who work with the community to produce tangible results based on community priorities and grounded reality.
Community members and government partner from Harare, Zimbabwe talk about their experiences with the 5 Cities Programme.
By Chantal Hildebrand, SDI Secretariat
Following the first two days of site visits and walkabouts in Mtshini Wam and Langrug, the final day of the 5 Cities Seminar consisted of country and municipality presentations and discussion in the City of Cape Town government building located in the heart of the city. Unlike the first days’, which focused on sharing the Cape Town partnership, projects and overall experience, the final day’s schedule was dedicated to learning from the other 5 Cities around Africa.
After brief opening remarks from Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services Shehaam Sims thanking all the delegates for the participation in this conference, the delegation from Ghana was given the floor. Through the 5 Cities Programme, the collaboration with the municipality of Ashaiman and the Ghana Homeless People’s Federation has made significant strides in terms of innovation around sanitation. Based on a common goal of providing toilets and waste management services to slums in Ashaiman, an area included in the Greater Accra region, the municipality and communities have come together address this community priority. As stated by the government official, Mr Anass Atchulo, this partnership has led to some significant changes in policy, with the creation of an informal settlement-upgrading department in the city of Accra is underway. Adding to Mr Atchulo’s words, Mrs Janet Abu, a community leader from Old Fadama settlement in Accra, mentioned the importance of community's involvement, stating that without their initiative and work none of these projects could be realised.
Following Ghana's presentation, Mr Costly Chanza from the Blantyre City Council, shared the challenges and successes experienced during the formation of a partnership between the Municipality of Blantyre and the Malawi Homeless People's Federation. Proving that all slums are decidedly unique, the slums of Malawi are rather peri-urban, with low densities and characteristics reminiscent of a rural villages. As it was explained by Mr Partick Chikoti, a member of the supporting NGO in Malawi, “We cannot plan like the communities of Langrug or Mtshini Wam because the nature of our slums are completely different [with structures made out of home-made brick and cement]… so we find our own way of planning.” This is where the City comes in, sharing their technical support and advice to help the community implement projects such as sanitation units and drains. Similar to Ghana, the outcomes of this collaborative work has led to both the communities and city planners advocating for the creation of a human settlements planning section of the municipality to further meet the needs of the slums in Blantyre.
Continuing to share other experiences, the Zimbabwean delegation highlighted crucial lessons learned through the 5 Cities programme and the realities of creating partnerships. Through the partnership between the city council of Harare and slum dweller communities, the weight of responsibilities the city is faced with in terms of providing for its people has been lifted with the help of community-run initiatives. Mr James Chiyangwa from the city council of Harare shared that the communities “provide back-up systems of services that the city has failed to provide [to slum communities].” In turn, the city provides technical assistance, equipment, and advice to the communities in terms of planning. This collaboration has led to crucial changes in policy, including incremental buildin, which have been adopted as city policy, and the creation of a finance facility for the funding of slum upgrading to which both the governments and communities contribute. Drastically changing the mind-set of the government of Harare from the pervious belief that slums did not exist in Zimbabwe to beginning to recognize the existence of these settlements and finally to creating a working relationship between these two parties, this partnership allows these previously unseen informal settlements to take an active role in improving their living conditions and participating in local governance. As Mrs Sekai Catherine Chiremba, a federation member from Zimbabwe, summed it up, “we are planning with them, not them planning for us.”
The Uganda delegation finished the round of presentations adding their striking work in sanitation, water and waste management in multiple settlements in Kampala and across Uganda. With projects focusing on these central issues facing slum communities (along with the collaborative work between the community and the city), the KCC (Kampala City Council) has asked the National Slum Dwellers Federation in Uganda to submit a proposal of how the city can scale up current community-run sanitation and solid waste programmes. This achievement, along with the joint-work teams made up of the community members and city planners, has graduated the federation of Uganda to “a key ally [of the KCC] in terms of the processes geared towards improving the living conditions of slum communities,” (Mrs Sara Nandudu, federation member). This status has also been replicated in other municipalities where the federation and communities have begun partnerships with local governments.
Sara Nandudu of the National Slum Dweller Federation of Uganda.
Although there are notable achievements that have been realised through these partnerships, it would be unrealistic to omit the challenges. All the delegations (including those from Cape Town and other South African cities) mentioned similar challenges, including:
Slow results – as mentioned by multiple delegates from Uganda, Malawi, Cape Town, Ghana and Zimbabwe the processes are slow and the work takes time which can lead to community and municipal frustration and tensions;
The struggle faced by many politicians and technocrats to learn how to do planning the way it is done by slum communities – as explained by many city representatives, planners do not learn how to work with or like the community, so the way communities plan does not follow the guidelines and procedures that the planners are taught. This can cause clashes between the two and can obstruct the progress of projects;
Federation creating strong relationships with some departments in municipality while other departments are reluctant to participate in the partnership;
Confusion of roles and responsibilities within municipal departments;
Disagreements between federation members and municipality of how to proceed with the work;
Strains due to lack of funds.
As Mrs Melanie Manuel summarised it − using a metaphor coined by Ms Rose Molokoane comparing these partnerships to marriages, “husbands and wives always fight…like we do in our partnerships… [Now we must think of] how do we enhance our partnership? How can we make this marriage work?”
It was agreed that the best way to answer these questions is through trust. Borrowing the phrase of Mr Chinyangwa of Zimbabwe, “without trust you cannot move forward.” Both municipalities and communities must learn to trust each other through these relationships. However, for this to be successful it is essential that these partnerships be inclusive, where slum dwellers are involved from the planning stages through implementation and finally into evaluation. Without community participation throughout the process the work is not sustainable. As Patrick Magebhula said, it is essential to have “community involvement, not just leadership…this is what is needed in order for projects to succeed.”
Following the presentations of the visiting countries, the podium was opened for the representatives of municipalities outside of Cape Town, including the city of Johannesburg, Buffallo City and Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.
These presentations included little mention of current or future community participation or partnerships. Programmes already in place in many of these cities demonstrated a separation between communities and their governments, treating the slum dwellers as solely beneficiaries rather than key partners in upgrading initiatives. When questioned about this fragmentation, some of the municipalities mentioned their perception that the informal communities are disorganised, making it hard to work with them and appealed to ISN and CORC to help these communities mobilise.
Lutwamma Muhammed of the Ugandan support NGO.
In concluding the conference, Ms Rose Molokoane posed a final question to the municipalities: “What are the critical issues that we would like to do with communities?” This brought up the topic of sharing between municipalities. Mr Lutwama Muhammed, from the support NGO in Uganda, shared that the municipalities’ presentations talked “more about what they are doing in terms of projects rather than describing how they learn from one another.” The invitation to these South African cities was extended in order to encourage learning and spark future plans for exchange visits and learning workshops. Ms Molokoane extended this invitation further by sharing a vision of these five cities (Buffallo City, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, Cape Town and Stellenbosch) becoming the examples of a national level 5 Cities programme for South Africa.
The ending reflection brought up key points to address upon delegates’ return to their own cities and to discuss in future 5 Cities seminars. These subjects included:
Discussions of how the pioneers who work with SDI can help share the core practices and support other cities who show interest in creating inclusive processes;
Need to capacitate communities to create their own partnerships or, as Trevor Masiy eloquently stated, “communities need to learn to speak for themselves.”
Begin looking at the structural issues of why we have slums and the root causes of their existence;
Considerations of other forums for these discussions and exchanges (such as the South African City Network);
How to ensure that agreements made in these forums and conferences will be realised on the ground;
And finally, the importance of scaling up and bringing these discussions and initiatives to city-wide and nation-wide levels.
Ms Molokoane tied off the three-day 5 Cities Seminar with these final words, “Let’s not only look at building projects, but building ourselves, taking care of ourselves, and making our lives better.”
Community members showcase model homes in Mtshini Wam.
By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
The second day of the 5 Cities Seminar kicked off in Mtshini Wam, a settlement of roughly 200 households located in the greater Joe Slovo Park area of Milnerton, Cape Town. The day focused a lot of attention on the change that is possible through re-blocking, or blocking out, a community-led upgrading methodology that reconfigures a community’s layout to transform tiny passageways, dangerous and impassable, into wide walkways with courtyards where children can play and women can hang washing to dry. Shacks upgraded with fire-retardant material face each other, providing added safety for families who can now find shelter from the Cape’s sometimes harsh conditions.
A wide walkway and upgraded shacks in re-blocked Mtshini Wam.
Mtshini Wam was founded in 2006 when settlers occupied open spaces of a government-funded housing settlement in Joe Slovo Park. Though the Western Cape Anti-Land Invasion Unit responded with threats of demolitions, The South African National Civic Organization (SANCO) and Informal Settlement Unit (City of Cape Town) were able to prevent evictions.
Mtshini Wam settlement expanded and continued to grow. Households in Mtshini Wam depended on water and services from the formal RDP houses, paying up to R50 (USD $6) a month for water. When Mtshini Wam asked the City to provide them with service delivery, they were told this could not be done because the settlement’s density was too high and there were no access roads. Greg Exford, Informal Settlements Manager for the City of Cape Town, said during his welcoming remarks on Wednesday that, “This area was, per capita, so dense that under normal conditions the City would never have been able to make it work.”
In 2009, responding to a lack of services and the challenges they had faced in trying to work with City, community leadership from Mtshini Wam approached the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) for support. “Prior to re-blocking, the settlement was very dense,” said community leader Nokwezi Klaas, “There were no passageways and when there were fires it was virtually impossible to get into the settlement. All the toilets were on the outskirts and there were only three water taps for over 200 households in the settlement.”
Local community leader Nokwezi Klaas describes her work in Mtshini Wam.
2009 was the starting point of a partnership between the Mtshini Wam community, CORC and ISN and the City of Cape Town. To date, this partnership has allowed the community to carry out a settlement-wide enumeration and re-blocking process, install chemical toilets and water taps, and upgrade their shacks using durable, fire-resistant material. Both the City and the community agree that this would never have been possible without a strong, dialogic partnership.
Representatives from ISN, including Western Cape coordinator Mzwanele Zulu (pictured on far left) and the City of Cape Town, including Greg Exford, Informal Settlements Manager for the City of Cape Town, were present at the gathering in Mtshini Wam on Wednesday.
“This project will go down in the history books of human settlements,” said Mr. Exford, “It shows what can be done when the community works together with partners in government… In order to make government work for informal settlements, we have to fuse the conventional with the unconventional, otherwise it’s not going to work.”
Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg, the Mayoral Committee Member for Utilities Services, echoed this point, stating that, “Unless you physically take the community with you and ask them how we are going to achieve change together, you are going to get nowhere. In this way, you can find the synergy between what is demanded and what is feasible.”
Luthando Klaas, another community leader and supervisor for the Mtshini Wam technical team, described some of the more technical aspects of the upgrading process in Mtshini Wam. There are seven teams, made up solely of community members, responsible for different aspects of upgrading. These include a technical team, gardening team, carpentry team, cleaning team, compacting team, demolition team and a building team.
Mr. Klaas describes the various aspects that influenced the design process for the layout planning of the settlement. “When they started the design process,” he says, “one of the important things was to see how to improve services and improve safety and security so that police and emergency vehicles can come into the community and the community can feel safe in their space.”
In addition to this, he describes the sometimes-challenging process of negotiating with the community about the size of structures. During the enumeration, it became apparent that the size of structures varied considerably from one household to the next. In order to make adequate space for each household, community members agreed that no structure would exceed 20 sq. meters in size, allowing those households occupying the smallest shacks (some under 5 sq. meters in size) to live in more comfortable, livable spaces. This willingness to sacrifice individual gain for the benefit of the whole community is something that is quite understandably nearly impossible without a community-led process.
Mr. Klaas spoke confidently about the community’s plans for the future, stating “we don’t want to be in shacks forever.” Members of the technical team showcased housing models that illustrate the community’s hopes for permanent, brick houses and their determination to continue upgrading their settlement. Klaas emphasized that, “it does not end with iKhayalami [upgraded] shacks. The community was able to move from wooden shacks to safer structures, and now they want to continue to move up to more livable structures for themselves – brick houses.”
Following these presentations by the community, the group of roughly 100 participants had a chance to walk around the settlement and witness the change made through the processes of re-blocking and upgrading. Wide walkways give way to courtyards where clothes hang to dry and kids play under their mothers’ feet. Each cluster contains between 10-15 shacks and is built around a courtyard, sharing a communal vegetable garden that grows everything from spinach to dill to tomatoes. Shacks without adequate exposure to sunlight are lit with low-cost solar lights made from a plastic soda bottle filled with water and bleach. A community member welcomes a few others and me into his home so that we can see just how much light one of these bottle-lights can provide.
A community member from Mtshini Wam describes his solar-powered light to another community member from Zimbabwe.
Community leader Nokwezi Klaas shows a community garden to a community member from Ghana.
All in all, the most striking thing about Mtshini Wam is the spirit of the community. They have transformed their impassable settlement into a neighborhood. There is a sense of pride and enthusiasm that is contagious, a reality which is evident in the inspired words of the city officials present at the gathering.
After a morning in Mtshini Wam, the afternoon was spent in the chambers of the City of Cape Town government building. Participants were given the opportunity to discuss and reflect on their experiences in Langrug and Mtshini Wam. The afternoon session began with introductions by Vuyani Mnyango, a local ISN leader, and Mkhabela Estavao, a FEDUP leader from KwaZulu-Natal province. Mr. Mnyango began by describing the formation of the ISN in Cape Town and the steps that were taken to build a partnership with the City.
“In 2011,” Mnyango says, “it was decided that the partnership needed to take action on the ground.” Today, CORC, ISN and the City of Cape Town are engaged in re-blocking processes in the settlements of Mtshini Wam, BBT Section of Khayelitsha, Vygieskraal and Masilunge.
Mkhabela Estavao describes South Africa’s Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), a national network of women’s centered savings groups that, in partnership with CORC and ISN, mobilizes poor people to improve their lives. FEDUP was started in 1991 and is one of the oldest federations in the SDI network, having given birth to a number of other affiliates across the African continent. Membership currently sits at roughly 20,000, but Ms. Estavao emphasizes that this number does not even begin to capture the number of families that have been impacted by the work of FEDUP. For example, she states that over 80,000 families have received housing through the Federation’s processes. When FEDUP realized that they could have even greater impact by involving men more actively, ISN was formed.
Leon Poleman, Project Manager with the City of Cape Town, was next to speak. He spoke of his experience working with CORC and ISN on upgrading and re-blocking, of his inexperience planning for informal settlements and his initial skepticism at the somewhat unconventional methods already being implemented by ISN in Mtshini Wam when he arrived on the scene.
“I come from a formal engineering background,” he said, “When you go to university and technikon, no one speaks of the design of informal settlements, or at least not in my time. So it was quite simple: In my day there were no informal settlements, and this re-blocking thing, we don’t know anything about it, so off you go! And back into our meetings we went to keep discussing how we go about this.”
But what Mr. Poleman quickly realized was that these unconventional methods were the perfect compliment to his formal engineering background, and that through working hand in hand with the community, they were able to find solutions that would have been impossible had the community not been involved. He concluded with a reminder to the other professionals in the room: “We have to understand that this is informal by its nature,” and that therefore, the solutions we find must speak to this informality.
Shortly after this, the discussion was opened up to comments and questions from the floor. Councillor James Slabbert, Portfolio Head for Human Settlements for the City of Cape Town, expressed a keen interest in learning more about the work being done in Langrug, and welcomed CORC and ISN’s input in utilizing their experience with re-blocking to provide input to the drafting of policy around informal settlement upgrading for the City. Mzwanele Zulu, ISN Coordinator for the Western Cape, was pleased to hear the City’s willingness to make re-blocking part of informal settlement upgrading policy, and urged the City to stick to its word on this point. Following the meeting, arrangements were made by CORC staff and ISN leaders to meet with Mr. Slabbert at a later date to continue these discussions.
Another issue that came to the fore during this session was the question of secure tenure for residents of settlements like Langrug and Mtshini Wam, questioning whether upgrading and re-blocking do enough towards this aim. Patrick Magebhula, national coordinator for ISN, confirmed that “the reasons for upgrading is to allow people to live where they are now, so re-blocking is just another way to give people land tenure where they live.”
Greg Exford echoed this point, stating, “If we do upgrading [in our informal settlements], people are given security of tenure. If we do enumerations, as soon as we have that person on [the City’s] database, they have security of tenure.”
The meeting closed on a positive note, with a colleague from Zambia commending CORC, ISN and the City of Cape Town. “What you have achieved in Mtshini Wam is a huge achievement. This is a wonderful first step. Now how do we get other communities on board so that we can spread upgrading to more communities?”
This is the key question for the 5 Cities Programme. Earlier in the day, Mzwanele Zulu had expressed his eagerness to scale up the activities in Mtshini Wam to settlements across Cape Town. In Cape Town, thanks to a growing partnership with the City, this becoming more of a reality. Despite challenges and setbacks, experiences like that of Mtshini Wam is evidence of the promise these partnerships can bring when the community takes the lead.
By Chantal Hildebrand & Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat
Today marked the first day of the third 5 Cities Seminar, being held in Cape Town, South Africa from 5 – 7 February. Delegations made up of slum dwellers, government officials, support staff, and academic partners from across South Africa, and from the cities of Accra in Ghana, Kampala in Uganda, Blantyre in Malawi and Harare in Zimbabwe have come to share in the learning over the course of these three days.
The 5 Cities Programme is an initiative started in the aforementioned cities in Malawi, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ghana and South Africa to support slum communities and local governments to work together with the goal of taking incremental slum upgrading to the citywide scale. Through collaboration on precedent-setting projects, slum communities and their municipalities begin a dialogue where the experiences and knowledge of the slum dwellers plays a crucial role in the development of their cities. These discussions have led to innovative and scalable slum upgrading projects, which demonstrate the strength of truly inclusive partnerships between the formal and informal in changing the face of their communities.
Rose Molokoane, a member of the SDI board and national coordinator of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), opened the day’s programme with an enthusiastic speech, addressing both the slum dwellers and government officials present at Franschoek Town Hall. She made it clear that SDI’s objective is to “connect the world from the bottom to the top, putting the people in front.” She stressed the importance of building partnerships in order to do this, comparing the relationships being built between slum communities and their local governments to the building of a marriage. Ms. Molokoane expressed that, although these relationships have their ups and downs, in the end we hope to be able to look at each other as equals. With this mindset, and the implementation of collaborative work between municipalities and slum dwellers, projects in these five cities will set a precedent of slum upgrading at scale, and will be able to serve as a model for other cities around the world. Ms. Molokoane ended her speech with the promise that, “When we go together as 5 Cities, we come together as a collective and leave as one!”
Following Ms. Molokoane’s address, the Mayor of Stellenbosch, Mr. Conrad Sidego, spoke about the municipality’s experience working with the community of Langrug, an informal settlement on the slopes of a mountain in the beautiful Franschoek valley. With a historical past, Stellenbosch has experienced many challenges and setbacks in terms of slum upgrading. Using the words of the Mayor, “We can’t change our past, but with time we can change the course of history…which is what we are trying to do today.”
Following these welcoming remarks, roughly 104 delegates joined the Langrug community for a site visit to the Langrug settlement. As “a settlement in transition” (borrowed term from a slum dweller from Johannesburg), Langrug, like many of the settlements in the other five cities present at the seminar, is currently working on a number of projects in collaboration with the Stellenbosch municipality around housing, water and sanitation, and general upgrading.
The delegation broke into four groups with community members as the group leaders. The groups spent an hour visiting four different sites: re-blocking, sanitation, relocation and a WASH facility (water, sanitation, hygiene). At each site, community members, government officials and support staff explained the details of the projects, and visiting delegates were given time to ask questions and experience the work taking place in Langrug..
At the reblocking site, the Langrug community presented maps and plans for the reblocking project taking place in F block, the largest section of the community. The presenters explained that the process of reblocking begins with community-led profiling and enumeration of the settlement. After this process, community members are trained in GIS mapping and planning, where they use these skills to create their own maps of their community. Together, the community plans how they will rebuild each section to best fit the wants and needs of the community members living there.
Based on the results of the profiles and enumerations, the main priorities of F block were identified as: security, building community through communal space, and drainage. Using this information, the community planned to reblock the section with the doors and windows facing inwards, towards a communal space which facilitates dialogue between community members, a safe area where their children can play and a space where the women can hang up the washing. The community designers explained that “the most important part of the planning was listening to what the people in F block wanted and making sure to plan blocks that people want to live in.” This plan has already been approved and now plans are being made to begin the re-blocking process.
Alfred Ratana, a local community leader, describes the relocation process.
Following the re-blocking site was the relocation site. Coming upon an open area, paved with ball courts and equipped with a jungle gym, the group faced four community toilets delicately painted with pictures to appeal to the children of the communty, a water tap, community built drain pipes and an open space before a perfectly lined set of houses which demonstrate the improvement that can be made to a settlement through relocation when it involves community-led initatives such as reblocking. Aditya Kumar, a member of CORC staff who actively supports the work in Langrug, and Alfred Ratana, a community leader from Langrug, explained the process of relocation that took place here. In November 2010, a neighboring farm owner obtained a court interdict against the Municipality for the settlement’s greywater runoff into their irrigation dam. The municipality was forced to start negotiating with the settlement, because 14 families were to be relocated in the reserve earmarked for an access road construction. Cape Town's Informal Settlement Network (ISN) was introduced to the settlement after the municipality engaged the network, opening a year-long relationship-building window. Ever since, a full scale in-situ upgrade project has been launched; providing better service with minimal disruption to residents’ lives.
In addition to the relocation, Mr. Ratana directed the delegates’ attention to toilets and a water tap, also constructed as part of the relocation project, and addressing some of the settlement’s sewerage issues. In addition, the community used rocks from the mountain to construct four drainage pipes, which catch the grey water and help with the overall sanitation of the community, providing a solution to the issue of grey water run-off.
Another impressive site was the WASH facility. With collaboration and funding from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in the USA, the Langrug community was able to construct their first multi-purpose WASH centre. According to Trevor Masiy, another community leader from Langrug, this WASH centre will house toilets and showers for men, women and children, a toilet that is handicap accessible, a salon for income generation, a reading centre for children and youth and sinks with seats where women will be able to do washing. Run and managed by the community, Mr. Masiy was clear that “this centre is not free, community members will have to pay to use showers and toilets…then the funds generated from the centre will be added to our UPF [urban poor fund] for other projects.”
Trevor Masiy describes the WASH facility.
At the fourth site, David Carolissen, Deputy Director for Stellenbosch Municipality, and Langrug community members presented an impressive sanitation facility, complete with roughly ten toilets and eight water taps. This sanitation unit was constructed following an enumeration which found that households in this part of the settlement had no access to sanitation. Mr. Carolissen then shared his perspective saying, “[in Langrug] we mobilise around community commonalities.” By bringing the community together around a problem that affects everyone, such as sanitation, they are more likely to work together to find a solution.
Although questions were posed throughout the site visit, it was not until the final discussion session after lunch that a panel from the Stellenbosch municipality and the Langrug community addressed comments and questions about the settlement. The visiting professionals seemed very skeptical of the sustainability and worth of the projects they witnessed at Langrug. Many questions from their side surrounded the funding mechanisms, the permanency of the shacks currently being built and the plans for permanent, formal housing in the long term. These concerns were addressed by Mr. Carolissen, who pointed out that planning for Langrug is based on the idea of a “rising platform of services.” In most informal settlements, this means starting with no services, moving then to communal services, to bulk service infrastructure, and ultimately to an formal house with on-site services for each household.
On the other hand, the community’s questions and interests were focused on the community initiatives and the future of the partnership between the community and Stellenbosch Municipality. Some of the question posed included:
How long has it taken to get the partnership to the current level (between Stellenbosch municipality and Langrug)?
How are the R2 million managed for Langrug?
Which policy is being used when looking at levels for electrification? Much of the settlement was electrified, how was this achieved?
What motivates the municipality to engage or work in these areas?
The day’s final discussion demonstrated the continuous tug of war between the formal and the informal, as some still struggle to see the value of community-run, incremental initiatives for fear that it will not fit into the expectation of a permanent, formal settlement. Hopefully the next two days will continue to demonstrate the value of these types of incremental improvements, for while an improved shack is still a shack, a working toilet, access to clean water, and space for your children to play, combined with a structure that can withstand the realities of fire and rain, are surely steps towards a more dignified life, particularly when achieved through a process of co-production, hand-in-hand with key stakeholders who were previously out of reach.
For more information on the upgrading work taking place in Langrug, click here.
On the 1st January 2013, Tuesday in the early hours of the morning a man in the furthest eastern part of BM Section informal settlement in Khayelitsha fell asleep while he was cooking food on a hotplate stove. A fire started at 4am. With gale-force winds blowing the fire quickly swept out of control. With the strong southeaster and being hampered by lack of access the middle of the settlement the fire department failed to contain the blaze, finally ‘putting out’ the fire at 10.30am when it had virtually run its course – blazing a trail of destruction right through the settlement leaving approximately 5000 people homeless, 1 000 shacks guttered, 3 confirmed deaths and one person in a critical condition. On January the 2nd of January a fourth body was found in the debris and on the 4thof January the man who had 80% burns passed away in hospital.
On the 2nd of January, Wednesday Phumezo Sibanda who resides in Khayelitsha and is a leader of the ISN called Andy Bolnick from Ikhayalami to talk to her about the disaster and start thinking through what kind of support could offered. It was agreed that Phumezo would go to site to assess things and meet with the BM leaders.
Shortly after Phumezo’s call one of Ikhayalami’s main funder for disaster relief/re-blocking efforts (for the past 6 years), Mr. Gerald Fox from the Percy Fox Foundation, called. He had heard about the devastating fire and offered immediate resources so that Ikhayalmi could respond with a sizeable number of shelters in order to potentially attract more resources to a response effort and to do a re- blocking. Bolnick then sent a letter to senior Corc and SDI staff and ISN leaders (who have access to email) in an attempt to bring everyone on board and develop a coordinated response.
In the meantime Phumezo who rallied support from two other ISN leaders in the Khayeltisha area - Thozama and Nombini Mafikhana - attended the tail end of a Disaster Management meeting at the OR Tambo hall, which has since become the nerve center of relief efforts. Following the meeting they engaged with some of the BM leadership.
Phumezo then asked Bolnick to come to site to meet with some of the leadership who informed us that they ‘want the city to level the area and open up roads’. They said that this is what they discussed in the meeting with the city that morning.
Bolnick enquired about whether the leadership had a list of all the residents of BM. The leadership said that there is a list that the city has. Bolnick suggested that they get hold of this list, verify it and if need be start compiling their own list. Phumezo and Bolnick also spoke about the potential of spatial reconfiguration in addition to merely demarcating roads. Mention was made to the potential of the availability of between 150 – 200 shelters from Ikhayalami (20 immediately and the remainder after the 15th) to assist with a spatial reconfiguration/re-blocking if the community decided to go this route. There was also some discussion about the potential of arranging an exchange visit to Sheffield rd and Mthisni Wam for BM leaders.
While on site the leaders were informed that a fourth body had been found in the debris. We left the leaders to attend to the pressing issues at hand.
The site is so vast – standing in the middle of the site – on the one side people were still collecting rubble and clearing the site, on the other side the site was almost cleared.
3rd of January, Thursday community leaders and NGO support staff attended a joint meeting of stakeholders. Those present were members of a crisis committee that was formed the day before comprising of a few leaders from BM section, delegates from the city (Disaster Management dept), Social Dev Services, SASSA, Home Affairs, Law Enforcement, KDF, SANCO, VPUU, Amaxesibe Traditional Council, an ANC delegation, a church group and other people from the community and our delegation. Important points were raised but no one was listening to each other. As soon as an important point was made another person would talk about something inconsequential or petty and the vital point would be lost. There was also information that a separate disaster response committee comprising of provincial government members was meeting separately in Belville. This created further frustration. Party political issues were being raised that included laying blame and arguing. The BM leadership were getting angry and wanted action.
Issues that were raised pertained to insufficient food, the need for more mattresses, frustration that the city had not started leveling. The city called for all the debris to be removed by the community, talk also revolved around how to take care of people’s debris who were still in the Eastern Cape on holiday – where could it be stored and how the city would take care of the debris so that when construction began people could get their burnt material back to use for reconstruction. It was agreed that all the debris would be removed from site by 2pm the following day. There was also an urgent plea to get the ‘list’ verified. This task was given to the Principle Field Officer (PFO) and VPUU.
Bolnick suggested that it would be imperative that the BM leadership be involved in this process. On behalf of the SDI alliance delegation attending the meeting she offered support to the city and VPUU to work with the leadership on getting the list of victims sorted. This being a key SDI tool it was felt that it could act as an entry point for ISN to start mobilizing the community and give them the power with regards to information (the list) and start building a working relationship with VPUU.
Bolnick also mentioned that should the BM leadership and the people of BM (as well as the city) agree to do a blocking out Ikhayalami had raised funds for the provision of 200 shelters and would support this process together with our alliance partners.
With regard to the ISN supporting the City, VPUU and the leadership in compiling a verified list the first time Bolnick mentioned this, the point was lost. The second time she managed to get the offer accepted by City’s the Principle Field Officer.
After the meeting the ISN members as well as NGO support staff met with four of the BM leadership to discuss a way forward. It was agreed that at 4pm that afternoon an exchange would go from BM section to Sheffield Rd and Mshini Wam. Vuyani and Nkokeli felt that ISN should not be involved with supporting the leaders, VPUU and the city in sorting out the list of victims. Their rationale was that the leadership knows their own communities. Corc staff felt that they could not support the BM leadership if ISN had decided not to assist with the compilation of a verified list. At 2pm we all left the OR Tambo Hall.
Vuyani and Nkokeli went to Du Noon to offer support and assess the situation following a fire that occurred there on the 31st of December where 125 shacks had burnt down. A meeting was arranged for the following morning at the Corc offices for ISN and staff to regroup especially if we needed to make a decision concerning supporting Du Noon and or BM section.
At 4pm Melvyn from Ikhayalami and arrived at the OR Tambo Hall to fetch members of the BM community who had been elected to visit Sheffield Rd and Mshini Wam. The exchange was positive. The leaders from BM who attended the exchange were able to get a better grasp of what was meant by blocking-out.
4th of January, Friday – the regroup meeting scheduled for 8.30am was called off. Nkokeli reported that people in Du Noon had already rebuilt their shacks and that ‘we should focus our attention on BM’. It was agreed to meet at OR Tambo Hall to attend the crisis committee meeting. The Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia De Lille, Councilor Sonnenberg, E.D Mr. Seth Maqetuka and Head of Informal Settlements Department Mr. Zwandile Sokupa as well as other officials from the various departments’ attended this meeting.
The Mayor would hear non-of-this and became angry that people were meddling in politics while there was a crisis at hand. She also confirmed all the support that the city had provided up to that stage. Fortuitously Naledi Pandor the Minister of Home Affairs walked into the meeting. She too said that it was not a time for politics and that the focus should be on aiding the people and moving forward. Minister Pandor made a number of practical recommendations with regard to processing ID’s and the immediate provision of portable toilets.
A site-specific report was given. Mr. Maqetuka reported that ‘the City is working on a short-term plan and is also developing a short to medium term plan’. The Mayor asked that the meeting focus on the immediate disaster response. The city engineer reported that ‘there was an agreement for Solid Waste to clear the material and that they were on site and machinery will come on site this afternoon to do leveling’.
Councilor Sonnenberg stressed the importance of a verified beneficiary list. Mr. Sokupa and Mr. Maqetuka acknowledged Ikhayalmi’s offer to support the process with the provision of 200 shelters should there be a need for a re-blocking.
The Mayor agreed to be part of the crisis committee and said that all her engagements will be done through the Ward Councilor in line with protocol.
After the meeting Mr. Maqetuka and Mr. Soup met with the SA SDI Alliance delegates briefly. Bolnick requested access to the site layout for fire-breaks/roads. They informed us that the City was not yet sure in which direction the relief effort would go as they were in consultation with the Province and there was a likelihood that they would embark on a UISP project, so as of yet there were no concrete plans. They asked us to be a patient and said they would draw us in when needed. Thereafter most of the officials and political leaders went on a site visit. The alliance delegates stayed in the vicinity of the hall and managed to meet a city engineer who said that there was layout for the roads but that he did not have it with him.
On 5th of January, Saturday Phumezo, Thozama, Nombini and Bolnick went to the OR Tambo Hall to meet with the engineer and attend the crisis committee meeting. Disaster Management chaired the crisis committee meeting. The Mayor and officials who had been in the meeting the previous day were not present. Disaster management reported on progress with regards to the delivery of more mattresses, medi-packs and nappies. The responsibility of distribution had been given to the BM leadership. The confirmed number of people registered and staying in the OR Tambo hall was 1660 made up of almost an equal number of males, females and children and 55 babies. The confirmed list of fatalities were given – 3 deaths reported on the 1st, one found on the 2nd of January in the rubble and the fifth person who passed away in hospital from 80% burns on the 4th of January.
It was also confirmed that disaster management and social services would remain on site until further notice. Discussion arose around WB Section where there had also been a fire on the 31st Dec affecting 54 households. People complained that WB Section was not getting the same kind of support that BM was getting. It was reported that people in WB had already received the city’s starter packs and that most people had rebuilt their homes. The crisis committee agreed to find ways of supporting victims in WB section.
With regard to work on the site it was reported that two front loaders and one digger loader where on site clearing and leveling the land and that a land surveyor was on site assessing where the firebreaks should go. Another plea, this time from SASSA was made for the urgent need for a verified beneficiary list. The meeting was then adjourned.
Phumezo, Nombini and Bolnick decided to go to site with two BM leaders. En route they checked the measurement of an existing road to get a sense of scale in anticipation of finding out the width that the city was planning to use.
The main reason why they decided to go to site (apart from viewing the leveling) was to find a land surveyor, engineer or even a truck driver, in fact anyone who could give them some information about the proposed fire breaks as these would be key starting points in thinking through a new layout and at the very least to consider if the proposed roads make sense to the community.
While on site they found a city official who was able to disclose the type of information they had been seeking. Firstly he told them that the width of the roads would be 5m. Secondly the City is planning on putting in two roads through the settlement and one ring road around the area that was burnt (there was previously a road at the bottom of the settlement) and thirdly the city was going to arrange for a plane to fly overhead and take high-resolution aerial photographs. From these photographs the proposed roads would be confirmed. As things progress it is clear that these images will be vital for planning purposes and are images that the alliance should try to access as soon as possible.
After this engagement the group walked to the middle of the site to assess things and think things through from a spatial perspective.
Looking at the site it did not make sense to put a ring road around the burnt area (the sides and bottom were virtually from one section of the settlement to the other so this could make sense but the top section still has shacks that did not burn and is about 17m to the main road). The width of the burnt out area looked around 35m wide with a length of approximately 100m. The top part of the ring road was the road that did not make sense as in essence if they are to go ahead with this it would mean that 500sqm would be taken up (over and above the other justifiable roads) for purpose of a road as apposed to land for those affected. It would make more sense to extend the two roads in the middle of the settlement to meet Landsdowne Rd. From the edge of where shacks still remained to Landsdown rd it is approximately 17m. This would mean that 17m x 5m x 2 roads = 170sqm would be used for roads as apposed to 500sqm. It is reasons like these that it is important that community leaders get drawn into the design processes so that they can make recommendations that make sense and work better for the broader community.
On the 6th of January, Sunday at 9.30am Mr. Sokupa phoned Bolnick to confirm the number of shelters that Ikhayalami could provide, how soon and how many per day. Bolnick confirmed that should a plan be reached and all parties including the BM leadership and ISN agree then Ikhayalami could make 20 shelters available immediately and from the 17th of January when factories re-opened could supply 20 per day.
Thozama, Nombini and Phumezo went to the OR Tambo Hall to attend the crisis committee meeting where the Mayor was scheduled to attend. The Mayor and the Premier arrived at the confirmed time, that being 2pm. They insisted that the crisis committee and other people in the boardroom vacate so that they could hold a meeting with the Ward Councilor. People who were in the boardroom (where meetings had been held every day since the disaster) were outraged. After some commotion two separate meetings took place –one with the Premier, Mayor and Ward Councilor and one with the crisis committee. The Ward Councilor came to the crisis committee meeting and said that he would represent the crisis committee in the meeting with the Mayor and Premier. At times he came out of the meeting to consult with members of the crisis committee.
The Premier and Mayor stated that only 250 families will return to the site, the rest will be relocated to the area next to the OR Tambo hall and others next to Busasa on SANDF land. The BM leadership informed the Ward Councilor that the Premier should not put a set number to how many households will return to the site ‘as the community intends to work on their own layout that would accommodate many more than the 250 households
On Monday the 7th of January it was time for the SA SDI alliance to regroup. A meeting was convened to reflect and strategise going forward. Vuyani, Nkokeli, Bunita, Olwetu, Zipho and Andy formed part of this meeting. A report on the past 5 days was given comprising the above.
In the reflection meeting it was agreed that the situation in BM is a complex and that the community is ‘about to go to a big war without any tools’ (Vuyani). As such it is imperative that the ISN work with the BM leaders with whom there is now a connection and go deeper so as to reach the street committee leadership and the community at large. The idea is that three Khayelitsha ISN leaders who have been involved in meetings on site since the 2nd of January will work with Vuyani and Nkokeli to develop a strategy on how to deepen ISN’s presence within the broader community. It is also vital that FEDUP get drawn in into this process so that woman can start supporting one another in this difficult time.
It also became clear that Vuyani and Nkokeli’s reluctance to get involved had to do with fact that they are not from the Khayelitsha area, that they view the situation in BM as highly political and that previously in 2010 as leaders of the ISN they did not succeed (through no fault of theirs) in doing what the BM leadership had asked of them and were worried this would come back to haunt them. It was agreed that in spite of all the difficulties and complexities it is vital that the ISN support the BM community in their time of need.
On Tuesday the 8th of January Phumezo, Nkokeli, Thozama, Vuyani and Nombini met at the OR Tambo hall. They agreed that they should call a meeting with the BM leadership that includes the street committees. Unfortunately this meeting did not materialize and ISN are planning to do it as soon as possible. That evening a leader from BM called Phumezo and Bolnick saying that the crisis committee (of which Ikhayalami had previously been invited to participate by the broader committee) would be meeting with the Mayor on the 9th of January.
Wednesday morning the 9th of January at 9am Ikhayalami’s support at the meeting at the Civic Centre was confirmed by the BM leadership.
In the coming days things will unfold and we will constantly assess what type of support we can offer. Politics is firing and misfiring everywhere from petty politics to political mud slinging to high level politics. The petty politics and mud slinging politics are bedfellows. Every community forum/organisation in Khayelitsha has been jostling to be ‘powerful’. Disaster Management and other government relief effort departments are trying to complete their tasks and get the hell out of there. The high level politics are invisible to most, taking place behind closed doors and off site.
In an attempt to offer support and respond to the disaster Ikhayalami’s involvement has been to 1) to support the BM leaders/community to see through and make sense of the murky waters so as to be in a better position to plot an equitable as possible way forward, and 2) to assist them in starting to think one step ahead and to open doors for the ISN and FEDUP.
The alliances role going forward should include the following agenda – to support the BM leadership to negotiate with the state, to act as a bridge between community and the state, to support our city partners in this huge task in a way that gives voice to the BM community, to gain access to the plans and aerial images and draw the community into the planning and to set up women savings groups.
An old South African song of the anti-Apartheid struggle is called “Meadowlands”. It commemorates a forced removal of many black and coloured people from the bustling, multi-cultural neighbourhood of Sophiatown in Johannesburg to the suburban township of Soweto in the late 1950s. The creolised tsotsitaal lyrics echo through the African continent’s historic urban transformation, which is well underway today: Ons daak nie, ons pola hie. “We are not leaving, we are staying right here.”
Inclusion. A place to call home. Such are the essential challenges that urbanisation has evoked for ordinary people and communities throughout the continent. The lessons emerging from both the successes and challenges of city growth in Africa suggest that developmentally sound approaches hinge on the extent to which ordinary people are incorporated into the financial flows, planning institutions and political processes by which it takes place.
Yet these lessons are not part of the dominant understanding of processes of urbanisation and development in Africa. This is true whether we look at the worlds of academia and theory, or the worlds of policy and politics. The urban population in Africa has almost tripled in fifty years, and this has been accompanied by a proliferation of informal settlements that lack access to basic services such as water and toilets, land tenure, housing and formal employment. These inequities are the overwhelming experience of the continent’s young, urban population. Over one-fifth of Africa’s population is between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four, and in eastern and southern Africa, this proportion rises to one-third.
Building a Strategy
Economic inequalities track closely with political exclusion. In truth, approaches such as “participation”, while common to the sustainability agenda, carry little weight in the big decision-making flows that actually impact on African urbanisation. Instead, they have been watered down to mean either a) consultation with ordinary people and communities on projects and programs that have already been conceived by large actors in government and the private sector, or b) the ability of communities to hold such actors accountable for promises after they make them.
“Political sustainability”—a broad notion of social and economic inclusion—coupled with environmental sustainability, is quite simply not the dominant paradigm of development and urbanisation in Africa. If we can generalise at all about African cities—a questionable task in and of itself—then the image of fancy skyscrapers rising next to sprawling informal settlements perhaps best represents this process. Economic and political inequality, environmental degradation and social insecurity are all too common as part of the urbanisation process in Africa.
So the task is twofold: first, to understand what we mean by “sustainability” in the first place; second, to strategise for embedding “sustainability” in the influential agendas that drive African urbanisation in the present and for the future. Such an approach has to link housing, land and employment in order to build inclusion into the urbanisation process. It also has to identify where the kinds of citizen groupings and organisations are emerging that allow for more responsive approaches to this triangle of needs.
Finance, Planning, Politics
The exclusion of the urban poor from planning for growth implicates three major trends.
First, the financial arrangements that determine urban development are exacerbating divides of inequality in terms of access to services, land and employment opportunities. Little finance is allocated in either national or international aid budgets for the upgrading of informal settlements. Local governments struggle to collect property and land taxes, and have little financial discretion to direct resources to the upgrading of informal settlements. Urban development is still an unpopular policy orientation, and the money that is directed at poverty alleviation continues to exhibit “rural bias”. Meanwhile, the finance available to industrial and real estate development in urban areas has a sharp [G1] tendency to not benefit the people and interests that fall outside of the formal sector.
Take two examples of spatial disparities in East Africa, which demonstrate the stark inequalities of financial flows to African cities. In Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, over 70 percent of households are on land whose ownership rights the law does not recognise. In other words, the vast majority of the city is “informal”. Even starker is the situation in Nairobi, where recreational space occupies more total land than do slums. Sixty percent of the city’s population lives in slums. While the formal world is accessing finance and the power it accompanies, the populations that are growing most quickly in African cities experience deeper exclusion.
Second, the institutional arrangements and planning processes that impact on urbanisation build and reinforce inequalities. Planning standards condemn informality in contexts where governments need to embrace and integrate informal populations. Participation is all too often a byword for using the poor as a means of an ex post facto rubber stamp of consent after key decisions around project conception and even implementation have been made by governments, private investors, and external aid agencies.
The challenge is not only a question of whether there is a moral need to include the poor, but even more, a question of how responsive existing institutions are to changes on the ground. The financial flows of urbanisation in Africa currently override the shaping capacity of institutions, especially in both local and national governments. The imperatives of private developers and corporations override the potential for the state to intervene effectively to mitigate the negative effects of the market.
In a sense, this is another version of how economist Joseph Stiglitz described what has happened to Western financial institutions in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse, in which processes of economic growth have been “privatizing gains but socializing losses”. Charles Sabel and Sanjay Reddy have identified the key institutional problem as an inability to “learn”. Hence they propose steps for “learning to learn”, a method for examining the constraints of both supply and demand that policy-makers and institution-shapers must address. This means identifying new problems for policy, and opening up decision-making to be more accountable and, in fact, empirical.
Yet this can come off as pie-in-the-sky dreaming. Cities in Africa are a crucible for both the new global order of nations and new institutions that make the decisions that impact on economic growth patterns. In such areas, as Mark Swilling, director of the Sustainability Institute in South Africa, recently noted, institutions and ordinary people alike require “the ability to learn and unlearn very quickly in the blink of an eye as context shifts”. How can Sabel and Reddy’s “learning to learn” framework possibly address this reality?
The third and related cause of exclusion, and the necessary impact of inclusion on the sustainability agenda[G2] , concerns the political processes of urbanisation in Africa. In essence, the current exclusion of the poor from decision-making, project conceptions and fundamental re-imaginings of city development fundamentally impedes a more responsive set of institutions along the lines of “learning to learn”. When the urban poor are considered objects of developmental decisions of others—when ordinary people are a nuisance to be ignored or evicted—informality continues to hinder economic growth and the development of social fabric in cities.
Most poverty alleviation approaches are focused on supporting individuals and households to achieve basic human needs. But from the sustainability perspective—understood broadly—this actually undercuts the need for political inclusion. Given the constraints on political agency and economic opportunity that exist among many communities of the poorest of the poor, representative organisations of the poor are of particular significance.
It is therefore time to pay more attention to the kinds of popular institutions of the poor that can be effective at influencing formal institutional structures. These exist in many parts of the world currently undergoing rapid urbanisation. Even those cities that are not in Africa offer significant learning opportunities for alternative political approaches. A few different types include a) city-wide community networks of informal settlement dwellers in Thailand that work with a government program for slum upgrading called Baan Mankong; b) street committees in places like Karachi, Pakistan, that work with local government through the Orangi Pilot Project; and c) national and city-wide slum dweller “federations” in many countries in Africa and Asia, that are part of a global network called Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI). In all of these cases, the most important lesson concerns the ability of government, especially at the local level, to reform existing institutions or create new ones that allow communities and officials to speak with each other as equals and to make decisions jointly.
Investing in Community Organisations and Networks
With this triangular framework for understanding the challenge of the sustainability agenda as it pertains to urbanisation in Africa—finance, planning, and politics—we need to begin understanding the strategy for actualising such an approach. We need to get deep into the real-world practices that, over time, cohere to create this kind of impact-driven approach to sustainable urbanisation. The notion of “learning”, as Sabel and Reddy, amongst others, have put it, is useful for describing how small changes in institutional practice can be geared towards exactly this kind of high impact.
In particular, we need to consider the lessons of communities that are actually involved in a learning process with elements of local bureaucracies. These relationships help to develop alternative mechanisms for delivery and to construct deeper bonds of citizenship through the links of community associations with state bureaucracies.
An instructive case is a set of interactions between community associations and low-level bureaucrats in the Informal Settlements Unit of the Department of Housing in the municipality of Stellenbosch in South Africa.
The informal settlement of Langrug is home to about eighteen hundred households, according to a community-led household survey in 2011. The settlement had gone with approximately forty toilets for all eighteen hundred families for many years. In 2010, a rich landowner nearby threatened to sue the municipality for the polluted runoff coming from the settlement on to his property.
The rich were making the claim in this case. But it is the poor who have gained attention from the claim. The municipality had long tried to provide services to Langrug through ad hoc, top-down methods. These previous attempts had been met by vandalism and destruction, as the community felt that there was no consultation about the needs or priorities of the settlement.
Over 2011 and 2012, both the community and low-level bureaucrats have changed. The bureaucrats visit the community much more often and sit in joint meetings with community leaders to plan improvements for the settlement. The city has also begun employing community members, who work on upgrading projects through short-term public works programs. In just a year, the community has achieved more toilets and water points, reorganised shacks near small flood plains in the settlement, and cleaned drains. The community and city government have begun working together to formalise the settlement and provide land tenure to residents. The community has also begun to alter and deepen its governing structures in the wake of its new experience in working with local government. Leaders have created smaller block committees, as well as issue-based committees (e.g., to plan for a new community hall that will serve a number of businesses and social organisations, and a health committee).
These lessons echo throughout the country and throughout the world. Langrug is linked to the Informal Settlement Network, a social movement that is part of the global SDI network. SDI has therefore used its international reach to bring communities and city officials from elsewhere in South Africa, and from other countries in Africa and Asia, to learn from the approach that the Langrug community and the Stellenbosch authorities have been exploring.
Merging the “Top” and the “Bottom”
From the perspective of actors working at the “bottom” of urban politics—community organisations, professional NGOs, legal advocates—“sustainability” too often turns into small projects that appear sustainable, but that do not make any impact at the large scales of financial flows, planning institutions and political processes. Without an articulation of precisely this sort of impact—a broad theory of change to achieve sustainable urbanisation in Africa—we cannot expect to see sustainable cities emerge from the urbanisation process well underway. Often this means that the “bottom” needs to be prepared to find new modes of working with large “formal” actors, especially the state.
From the “top”, the sustainability agenda demands the inverse of such a critical perspective. National and local governments in Africa have struggled to build in the adaptive responsiveness required to deal with rapid change in populations, built environment and economies. Those that have are learning to develop and invest in partnerships with community-based groups and organisations, especially those that constitute themselves at the city-wide level. This is not the simple decentralised model of private-public partnerships, but an approach to partnership that leverages the strategic strength of the grassroots to strengthen public institutions in their ability to perceive and adapt to the rapid changes of urbanisation.
“Path-dependent” views of development have long suggested that historical and especially colonial legacies condemn people in Africa to overwhelming poverty and suffering. Consequently, intervention by aid agencies, multilateral institutions, private actors and national governments has too often manifested in a context that either ignores these legacies and “path dependence” altogether, or assumes that their outcomes make the urbanisation of poverty a historical fait accompli. This mix of hubris and fatalism has led to flows of funds, institutional designs and political power that not only ignore, but actively exclude the poor. Ordinary people continue to persist as objects of interventions by those who are much more powerful, and therefore have little voice.
So we return to the old South African song, “Meadowlands”. Such a collective plea for belonging needs to underpin the sustainability agenda if it will be able to impact on an alternative view of urbanisation in African cities. This means investing in the capacities of communities, just as much as it means investing in the projects and programs that are geared towards achieving the physical “outputs” of inclusionary development: basic services, land, housing, employment.
This also means investing in community organisations, and the networking of these organisations—especially at the city-wide scale—in order to build the political processes at the city and national level that can achieve such physical outcomes. An integrated approach to sustainability will embed the human need for belonging to place, to land, and to community, within the broader processes of urbanisation. This may be our only path to upending a phenomenon that, in Africa, has thus far exhibited all-too-prevalent tendencies of exclusion.
 “Meadowlands,” performed by Nancy Jacobs and Sisters. Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony (ATO Records, 2003).
 John Vidal, “Africa warned of 'slum' cities danger as its population passes 1bn”. The Guardian Global Development Blog. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/24/africa-billion-population-un-report
 United Nations Population Fund, “Africa: Why Investing in Africa's Youthful Population Can No Longer Wait”. http://allafrica.com/stories/201210020326.html
 UN-Habitat, State of the African Cities 2010, 3.
 “Upgrading of Low Income Settlements: Country Assessment Report—Tanzania.” World Bank Institute, Africa Technical Unit. http://web.mit.edu/urbanupgrading/upgrading/case-examples/overview-africa/country-assessments/reports/Tanzania-report.html
 Florence Dafe, “No Business like Slum Business? The Political Economy of the Continued Existence of Slums: A Case Study of Nairobi”. Development Studies Institute, London School of Economics Working Paper, 12.
Joseph Stiglitz, “The Current Economic Crisis and Lessons for Economic Theory.” Eastern Economic Journal, forthcoming (President’s address at the 2009 Eastern Economic Association Conference, New York, February 2009).
 Charles Sabel and Sanjay Reddy, “Learning to Learn: Undoing the Gordian Knot of Development Today”. Challenge, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 50(5), October 2007, 73–4.
 Mark Swilling, “The Power of Quiet Encroachment”. Lecture delivered at TedXStellenbosch, 29 July 2011. http://youtube/GBnN62-Lp7U
By Sandra van Rensburg (on behalf of CORC and ISN)
After more than four months of legal proceedings, the Constitutional Court delivered a ruling in favor of the displaced Marlboro families following evictions in Marlboro South, an industrial area in Sandton, Johannesburg. This ruling rendered the action of the City of Joburg as unlawful and the court called on the parties to “engage meaningfully to reach agreement on the supply of materials for building, the type of shelters allowed to be built and the final date for completion”, according to the Lawyers for Human Rights.
The following resolutions were delivered:
COJ must provide the 141 families with sites in Marlboro.
COJ must provide material for the construction of temporay shelters.
COJ has 4 months to more land if needed to accomodate the 141 families.
COJ must start a meaningful engagement regarding the balance of families evicted later during the month of August.
COJ must pay all legal costs.
Louise du Plessis, attorney for LHR’s Land and Housing Unit, was cited in the Lawyers for Human Rights press release,
This is a significant settlement in getting the City to provide the building materials but the onus is now on the City to deliver on its responsibilities to the community and to engage with everyone involved. We are happy that our clients will be able to get their own shelter and hope that this is the last time that a municipality will use excuses like sinkholes, dilapidated buildings and bylaws to act unlawfully and evict occupiers without following due process
The Marlboro settlement, and more specifically the Warehouse Crises Committee, is a networked structure under the Informal Settlement Network. In September, the ISN organised a provincial wide solidarity march to raise the plight of the poor struggling against evictions and lack of meaningful engagement with the cities of Joburg, Ekurhuleni, Tswane, Mogale City, and Midvaal municipality. Subsequent meetings with the office of the Gauteng premier has been around the formation of memorandums of understanding between affected informal settlement communities and city governments, with clearly defined schedules of activities attached. While these informal settlements wait for government to get its house in order, communities have been implementing small scale improvement projects through the Community Upgrading Finance Facility.
By Jhono Bennett and Walter Fieuw, CORC South Africa
Post-apartheid urban and housing policies have underscored the necessity of progressively integrating the poor as a means of restructuring spatially fragmented cities and eradicating asset-based poverty. Post-apartheid urban policies had to redress apartheid fragmentation and segregation and the subject of transformation in democratic South Africa has been the historically constructed uneven development of ‘islands of spatial affluence’ in a ‘sea of geographic misery’.
With the relaxing of influx controls during the late 1980s, South African cities have been subject to rapid urbanization and resultant growth of informal settlements in inner-city and peripheral areas. The growth of informal settlements in the past two decades have by far exceeded government’s efforts to deliver better services, provide adequate housing and mitigate against disasters and vulnerability. Despite the government’s efforts to deliver more than 2.5 million housing units since 1994, the housing backlog have remained at 15-17% of the urban population (2.1 million units outstanding). Today there are more than 2,600 informal settlements, and continue to grow between 5-7% across different regions. This is a stark increase from 300 informal settlements in 1994. Urban vulnerability has increased, juxtaposed with worsening human development indices, service delivery constraints, insecure tenure, and safety and security concerns.
Since 2004, with the introduction of Breaking New Ground, and through consecutive National Housing Codes (2004, 2007, 2009), the Department of Human Settlements have introduced the concept of “upgrading informal settlements”, which aims to progressively integrate informal settlement into the broader urban fabric, deliver better services, and incrementally secure tenure. To this effect, a performance agreement was signed between the Presidency and National Minister of Human Settlements, Mr. Tokyo Sexwale. Output 1 of the Presidency’s Outcome 8 (Sustainable Human Settlements and improved quality of household life) aims to upgrade 400,000 households in-situ by 2014. Moreover, such interventions are also spotlighted by Chapter 8 of the National Development Plan (also called “Vision 2030”) which calls for the integration of informal settlement into the urban fabric through upgrading, incremental security of tenure, and better service delivery.
Community organisations of the poor have been systematically sidelined through the governments supply-sided approach to urban restructuring and housing delivery. The rally call of social movements in South Africa has been that of greater inclusion in decision making processes and meaningful engagement around settlement improvement. The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) has emerged as an alternative social movement that prioritises pragmatic engagement with government around collaborative approaches to upgrading of informal settlements. However, in Gauteng, communities have been systematically disregarded, which lead to the mobilization of thousands of informal settlement dwellers to march on the office of the premier.
In the wake of the Asihambe solidarity march on the 11th September, and in response to the growing demand from communities to start small scale and autonomous improvement projects, the Johannesburg CORC office has begun a renewed effort through the CUFF project process of engaging and supporting the informal settlement communities in Gauteng around a range of projects.
The Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) is an initiative of the South African Alliance. The fund is capitalized by CORC, uTshani Fund and contributions from SDI. The Fund’s board—made up of 60% shack dwellers and 40% support NGO professionals—receives proposals for upgrading projects, but the community is ultimately responsible for writing up the project description, get quotes from suppliers, and implement the project (with support from ISN, CORC and uTshani Fund).
The CUFF projects are one of several tools CORC uses to support the ISN/FEDUP in mobilising organised communities towards development. The CUFF projects work synergistically with the Savings,Enumeration, and Community based planning methodologies alongside partnership formalisation with local government, and call for the identification of a key developmental item needed by a community. The leadership and community members then work with ISN/FEDUP and CORC technical members to design, quantify and cost the project. In order to proceed, the community members are required to collect and save a fraction of the project cost towards the contribution of the overall costs that, once approved by the CUFF community/NGO board, will be implemented in the community. The objectives of the CUFF projects are to set precedents for Govenment and Community partnerships in informal settlement upgrading by providing technical assistance and seed capital for pilot projects. This process should ideally create systems, procedures and structures that enable communities to work in collaboration with government institutions.
In order to meet these growing demands, the Johannesburg CORC office has employed the help of several new interns from the 1:1 Student League Network, having gained experience in this network through the University design/build projects, they are open minded and ready to engage with the difficulties involved in the socio-technical support of community driven development processes. These interns are working under the supervision and guidance of the ISN/FEDUP’s technical community groups and the various leadership structures in the settlements.
New intern Sumaya described her experience in working directly with the community
We met with leadership at the community hall to initiate community mapping process where we mapped out key areas and “problem” areas, as described by the Magandaganda community. Members expressed a desire to have their own yards as they are experiencing disputes regarding unclear tenure. A few members of the leadership also showed some hostility and hesitation as they felt that their concerns are not being taken further fast enough. They also expressed concern regarding the risk of crossing the rail-line that borders the settlement.
The CUFF teams are working on several projects in the City of Johannesburg and Ekurheleni such as Marathon, Delport, Peter Mokaba, Innesfree and Magandaganda. These projects vary from the installation of communal taps to the allocation of plots in denser settlements.
Mohau Melani, regional ISN coordinator, explained the process of engaging the communities as follows,
The enumeration will provide the settlement committee with total knowledge of everybody who is the settlement. This will also assist the community in dealing with and control of allocation into sites once their measured into a layout … The community has promised to provide us with the background history of the settlement when the community meets with ISN and CORC technical teams. ISN delegates assist the community with the measurement and costing of the pipes in order to increase a number of taps in the settlement.
The collaboration between community organisations and committees that drive local development agendas, networking at the regional level via ISN, and receive technical support from CORC and ISN is proving to be an indispensable model for community driven development.
Simultaneously the CUFF project teams are profiling and collecting critical data to prepare identified settlements for larger development processes through the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP).
http://www.info.gov.za/issues/outcomes/index.html. Other outputs of Outcome 8 is to improve the access to basic services (Output 2 includes the following improvements: Water – from 92% to 100%; Sanitation – from 69% to 100%; Refuse removal – from 64% to 75%; Electricity – from 81% to 92%), facilitate the provision of 600,000 accommodation units in the gap market (earning between R3,500 and R12,800), and mobilisation of well located public land for low income and affordable housing.
SDI is happy to annouce our 2011/12 Annual Report, a reflection of where SDI has grown to over the past 25 years. This includes a discussion of SDI's practices for change, a report on the SDI Secretariat, the building of internal reporting and documentation systems, and SDI's international advocacy and increasing presence on the global stage. The report concludes with a discussion of SDI's approach to key urban issues affecting the lives of the urban poor across the developing south, including water and sanitation, climate change, natural disasters, incremental habitat, enumerations and mapping of slum settlements, and financing slum upgrading.
Watch this documentary film by the Pretoria Picture Company Inc. on the changing dynamics and identities of Slovo Park settlement south of Soweto. Slovo Park is also aligned to the Informal Settlement Network, and in collaboration with universities and other stakeholders, design solutions have been tabled in partnership meetings. The documentary surfaces some of the finely granulated nuances in building sustainable human settlements. According to the film makers,
Slovo Park is situated in a politically and socially sensitive stretch of land south of Soweto. The community has been known by national government as Nancefield, by local council as Olifantsvlei and in the last five years as Slovo Park – named in honour of South Africa’s first minister of housing and former Umkhonto we Sizwe General, Joe Slovo.
This forced changing of identity reflects an on-going struggle faced by the leadership of Slovo Park to gain recognition as a legitimate settlement to access governmental support. This battle has been fought through constant shifts in governmental policy, power and promises for the community of Slovo Park. Amidst the struggle, stories of sinister land dealings have emerged, outlining a possible truth that the ground beneath Slovo Park could have been sold from under the community’s feet. These allegations surface as the leadership of Slovo Park prepares itself to take action.
This video illustrates how incremental upgrading releases the imagination of communities in engaging local governments. The communities intimate understanding of infrastructure grinds and networks makes service delivery, development and ultimately sustainable human settlements possible. Buck’s, one of the community leaders, deliberations on the nature of service delivery is particularly insightful:
Because already we have got sewerage pipes that are running as far as Soweto. The one alongside the boundary road is running from as far as Leratong, and imagine we don’t have sewerage here but we can transport other people’s stuff from as “Die Kloof”. We have the dams adjacent to us; it is not even 100m to walk to the dam, and still we cant get pipes to there. But still the engineers are saying that it is impossible to have sewerage in the area. But already there are pipes running in the area and so you ask yourself, “Why is it so diffent and difficult if we must get, but the previous engineers, the previous government, installed the sewerage pipes that are running through the informal settlement that we are in”. So you ask yourself, “is it different from this year’s engineers to yesteryear’s engineers”. I don’t know how to call it, but that is what they say!
If government can’t come to us, let us do it for ourselves. We have started with a hall, which we want to expand into a multi-purpose centre for the community. We don’t have playggrounds, we don’t have parks, we don’t have a hall, which makes it difficult for kids to concentrate on their lives. So the multipurpose will help to bring them together and giving them something to do. At the same time, as the community, we will have a space to have our meetings for our offices (because we have many forums in the community, such as the business forum). My wish is to have a proper toilet, just like everyone else. Just like the premier Nomvula Mokonyane, just like our president Jacob Zuma’s toilet, that’s my wish. That has been my wish since I was a kid, and I am already 44 years old. My family has accepted this is how we will live in the meantime.
In early September a large delegation from SDI attended the World Urban Forum in Naples, Italy. The weeklong event was attended by virtually all major players in the urban development field and was host to a wide variety of sessions focusing on everything from water and sanitation to evictions to optimized public transit and green spaces.
SDI’s presence at WUF6, whose overall theme was “The Urban Future”, was marked by a sharp realization during the planning phase that the future WUF6 proposed seemed remarkably devoid of the issues facing the millions of urban poor across the developing world, not to mention their participation in the construction of said future.
In response, SDI leadership decided to host a series of panels at the SDI exhibition stand in addition to participation in official WUF6 events, launching the first annual World Urban Poor Forum (WUPF).
During the WUPF launch in which slum dwellers from across Africa and Asia raised their voices in song across the exhibition area, Jockin Arputham, a slum dweller from Mumbai, India and president of SDI, spoke of the importance of bringing the voice of the urban poor to global events like WUF, and the reason for organizing a WUPF alongside the official WUF: “This is the World Urban Forum of the Poor, not the rich. This is the forum for the people who have nothing!” and, “We have to believe that change will come from the poor.”
The three WUPF events focused on themes central to SDI’s core methodologies, and to the lives of slum dwellers across the global south: community-driven sanitation, the importance of partnerships with government, and participatory slum upgrading. Experiences from Uganda, South Africa and India were the focus, with slum dweller leaders and government officials speaking on their joint efforts towards people-driven processes in these three countries. The WUPF events were well attended by slum dwellers, government officials, donor partners, academics and civil society alike.
In addition to these WUPF events, SDI participated in a number of official networking events, and organized a session on another critical issue for the urban future: developing alternatives to evictions. The session, held on the first day of WUF6, was incredibly well attended, with standing room only and people packed into the back of the room and spilling out the doorways. Slum dweller leaders and government officials from Cape Town, South Africa, Harare, Zimbabwe and Iloilo City, Philippines shared their experiences working together to develop locally appropriate alternatives to evictions.
Sonia Fadrigo, a slum dweller leader from the Philippines, spoke about evictions she experienced before the Philippines Homeless People’s Federation developed their relationship with local government, “The demolition team came. I had two kids, ages 10 and 12, they were trembling because they were scared of the bulldozer.”
It was only through developing a relationship with the local government, a relationship that the Mayor of Iloilo City, Mr. Jed Patrick Mabilog, described as being characterized by the policy of “No evictions without decent, affordable housing,” that Sonia and her community were able to rest their fears of evictions. As Sonia said, this was achieved through going to government offices – through demanding alternatives.
Similarly, the Mayor of Harare, Mr. Muchadei Masunda, emphasized his commitment to working with the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation to prevent evictions in Harare. Davious Muvindi, leader of the Federation in Zimbabwe, confirmed this, beginning his commentary saying that the Federation and government in Zimbabwe had moved from “fights to engagement.”
Lastly, the South African SDI Alliance was joined by Ernest Sonnenberg from the local government of Cape Town to speak about their experiences in developing alternatives to evictions. This presentation was particularly poignant as Alina Mofokeng and Rose Molokoane, two slum dweller leaders from Gauteng province, spoke about the recent evictions in Johannesburg’s Marlboro Industrial Area. Since early August, over 300 families have been forcibly evicted, often in the middle of the night, from vacant factory buildings, which were then razed to the ground. Alina and Rose were able to utilize this space on the global stage to highlight their local struggles in the hopes that their government officials, seated in the audience, would feel responsible to rise to the occasion.
Whether or not these global events impact local processes is an important question, for if they don’t – if they serve only as a platform for more empty promises – then what is their use? In the past, SDI has used spaces such as WUF to lay the foundation for successful and productive relationships with donor partners and governments. This year, meetings took place between numerous slum dweller federations and their government officials (i.e. Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Namibia). Depending on what happens in the coming months, affiliates will be able to determine whether these meetings will bear meaningful fruit on the ground.
One of the key themes that emerged throughout the week was the lack of representation of the urban poor in the majority of WUF events. Indeed, SDI President Jockin Arputham was the only urban poor representative to participate in any of the official WUF Dialogue Events, where he challenged his fellow panelists saying that “Since 1975 when this discussion began…What have we all done since then to make what we discuss actualized in practice? We keep coming to these events, and we ask each other these questions, and then we go away only to ask the same questions again.”
Jockin’s frustration with too much talk and not enough walk was felt by a number of people involved in fighting urban poverty. As David Satterthwaite wrote in his recent reflection on WUF6: “Why weren’t representatives of urban poor organizations, federations and network on the committees organizing this and previous World Urban Forums? Why are the powerful global institutions so reluctant to engage the urban poor directly?” Until these questions are answered through concrete actions towards the contrary (i.e. involving the urban poor directly), it seems these events will continue to do little to make louder the voice of the urban poor, without the unfortunate reality of developing a separate event for that voice. The reality is that, in our pursuit of “inclusive cities” – a phrase heard time and again both at WUF and in urban development circles – we should not be furthering the divide between the urban poor, the informal, and the formal urban development world. Instead, the issues, agenda, and voice of the urban poor should be prioritized at these events, as it is the voice of those whose urban future stands on the most uncertain ground.
On Tuesday the 11th September, thousands of shack dwellers from Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni (the mining belt), Tswane (Pretoria) and smaller towns and cities such as Mogale City, Midvaal, and Sedibeng gathered on Mary Fitzgerald square in Newtown, Johannesburg. The agenda was a simple but powerful one: mobilising those affected by poor service delivery, insecure tenure, and evictions.
The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) coordinated this march of solidarity, bringing together a constituency of organised communities that have been engaging in vain with local and metropolitan governments in the Gauteng Province. After more than a month’s intensive mobilisation, mass general meetings, and administrative and logistical preparation, residents arrived in their masses on taxis and busses. More than 100 settlements were represented.
ISN handed out t-shirts with large slogans reading “no upgrading without us”. The sea of orange, green, yellow, red, black and white rallied around the procession leaders from ISN. At 11am, the march started and continued on Bree Street. The City was brought to a stand still as shack dwellers marched peacefully in solidarity of the campaign against poor service delivery, land and tenure, evictions and disenfranchisement from decision making processes. The tall buildings of Joburg’s Central Business District enhanced the procession music.
The march was a roaring success and the ISN proved their proved their point: the voices of the poor are to be respected and acted upon. People in informal settlements are organising to promoted people-centred, pro-poor and inclusive city building. Only when the poor are central partners in development can cities be socially sustainable.
On Tuesday the 11th September, thousands of shack dwellers from Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni (the mining belt), Tswane (Pretoria) and smaller towns and cities such as Mogale City, Midvaal, and Sedibeng gathered on Mary Fitzgerald square in Newtown, Johannesburg. The agenda was a simple but powerful one: mobilising those affected by poor service delivery, insecure tenure, and evictions.
The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) coordinated this march of solidarity, bringing together a constituency of organised communities that have been engaging in vain with local and metropolitan governments in the Gauteng Province. After more than a month’s intensive mobilisation, mass general meetings, and administrative and logistical preparation, residents arrived in their masses on taxis and busses. More than 100 settlements were represented.
The march was significantly spurred by the recent draconian evictions of informal dwellers living in the industrial zone of Marlboro South. See previous blog posts (“Spatial narratives”, “The demolition of Chico’s Ice Cream Factory”) and the press release on the emergency situation of evicted families living in interim tents in record cold weather. CORC, in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg’s architecture department, launched a design studio with the community of Marlboro to find technical, social and spatial solutions for the long term upgrading and development of Marlboro. The studio is now regrouping to present locally responsive solutions for the resettlement of Marlboro, although the circumstance have changed fundamentally. The Marlboro community lodged an immediate interdict against the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) and was represented in court by Lawyers for Human Rights. This case, which is a microcosm of the daily lived experience of many informal settlements, informed a more direct agenda for holding government to account.
Communities in Gauteng have been engaging local and metropolitan governments for more than three years. Government has not committed to any of the initiatives the ISN launched in e.g. Johannesburg with the upgrading of Ruimsig settlement. A general consensus was reached that more direct measures was imminent, and preparations for the solidarity started. Both the City of Joburg and Gauteng Province alleged in an article by The Sowetan (“Squatter to march against evictions” by Vusi Xaba, 10 September, page 8) that they were not aware of the march.
"City of Johannesburg spokesperson Gabu Tugwana said he was not aware of the march. Mokonyane’s spokesperson, Thebe Mohatle, said the office of the premier had not received any letter from the metro police, informing them of the intended march"
Mary Fitzgerald square filled up by 11am on Tuesday. Read this eyewitness account by communities and reporters leaving their settlements and preparing to join other settlements in central Johannesburg. Many grassroots organisations were represented. Said Thandi Sangweni of the Gauteng Concerned Community (GCC), “The GCC is a movement very much concerned about the needs of people like service delivery and the problems of our communities. Of course, we are supporting this march in solidarity with forums and organisations in South Africa and outside”. Leading the smaller processions on the square, Eunice Matsini from the Voices of the Poor and Concerned Residents. Eunice said of the march, “We are here to support the people who have no houses. We don’t want people to be sleeping on the road. We demand housing for all”. Rights-based groups were also present, and a coordinator from Protea South for the Landless People’s Movement said that
"… our struggles are based on the issues of land that government is supposed to implement, restitution, and tenure. But due to the system, we are seeing that government has failed us. This is when we established the movement. In this march today, we have solidarity and network with other social movements. But this initiative to us is about showing our own government that we as the poor will not stay silent"
ISN handed out t-shirts with large slogans reading “no upgrading without us”. The sea of orange, green, yellow, red, black and white rallied around the procession leaders from ISN. At 11am, the march started and continued on Bree Street. The City was brought to a stand still as shack dwellers marched peacefully in solidarity of the campaign against poor service delivery, land and tenure, evictions and disenfranchisement from decision making processes. The tall buildings of Joburg’s Central Business District enhanced the procession music.
At noon, the march came to a standstill in Simmons Street where communities rallied around the premier’s office. Rose Molokoane, national coordinator of the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) shushed the crowd as she prepared to read the memorandum to be handed over to the Premier. Provincial Human Settlements department spokesperson Aviva Manga met Rose on the back of the bakkie. As Rose read the memo (read the memo here), the banners of the residents flew in unison.
Upgrade informal settlements NOW!
Partnerships not evictions!
The doors of development is closed. Left in limbo.
5 families in one house means no sex
Patrick Magebula, chair of the ISN, and Aviva Manga signed the memorandum. The ISN called for a response from the Province by the 10th of October, but Mr. Manga declared that the Province would reply by the end of September.
The march was a roaring success and the ISN proved their point: the voices of the poor are to be respected and acted upon. People in informal settlements are organising to promoted people-centred, pro-poor and inclusive city building. Only when the poor are central partners in development can cities be socially sustainable.
As had been agreed upon in last night's mass meeting, in Marlboro Industrial Area, Johannesburg, the Marlboro residents began to mobilize one another and demonstration began as early as 3am on Wednesday. Throughout the protest, no arrests took place. Only roads leading into the community were barricaded. Teargas was only fired once when the residents attempted to barricade the old Pretoria road opposite the Total Garage. The demonstration and barricading of roads was done by the residents to protect themselves and shelters from further destruction by the JMPD as well as drawing the attention of the officials that include the councillor and the Mayor. The protest ended at about 11am. The leadershisp then decided to go and meet with the station commander of Bramley Police Station (SAPS).
The leadership, with support from four ISN members and CORC, met with the Station commander and five other officers who were present during the demonstration. The purpose of the meeting was to request the SAPS to play a mediating role in the conflict between the concerned residents and the JMPD. The Marlboro residents expressed their disappointment in the lawlessness being demonstrated by the JMPD in spite of the community's efforts to engage in formal legal procedures. In addition to the above, a background of the eviction was given and this was outlined up to the current desicion made by the High Court. The station commander had a full understating of the community's position and his response was that it is in his best of interest to protect the community, however in so doing he does not want the SAPS to be caught up in legal issues without proper knowledge of the current court ruling.
Before the arrival at the police station, the SAPS had already been given a letter by the City's legal representatives that states that the Judge's ruling only allowed the residents to occupy the open space ERF 799 and 1008, but hindered them from erecting any form of shelter. In so doing the City's lawyers did not provide the court interdict to the SAPS. The provision of the original interdict copy by the residents and the explanation that if the CITY/JMPD disputed the court's ruling or could not comprehend enhanced the understanding of the SAPS in the sense that the JMPD/CITY was supposed to make an urgent court application for further clarity from the High Court. While the meeting progressed, the station commander immediately contacted one of the JMPD head of officers and immediately arranged a meeting that will be facilitated by the SAPS. By the time the meeting ended, attempts where still being made to contact the City Officials so that they can also be part of the meeting. The JMPD agreed to avail themselves and it was agreed that the meeting shall be held at the Bramley Police Station on 23 August 2012 at 9am. The community leaders shall take part in the meeting with support from ISN and CORC.
During the day, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) arrived on site to assess the situation on the ground. Their site visit was mainly triggered by the letter they received yesterday from the city's legal representatives who deny knowledge of yesterday's destruction of shelters erected on ERF 799 and 1008 after the court had authorised the temporal return of the former residents of the aforemetioned sites until the 29th of August when the matter is finalised. Before the end of day yesterday, LHR had already made an urgent interim interdict application to the high court. Tomorrow at 10am the matter shall be heard in court. The leaders of Marlboro have already deployed members to attend the SAPS/JMPD meeting at 9am as well as the High Court matter at 10am.
Yesterday we reported to you about evictions taking place in Marlboro Industrial Area of Johannesburg. Today we have a full write up from the South African SDI Alliance on the evictions, and the ways in which FEDUP, ISN and CORC have been fighting against this brutality.
On the 13th of August, heavy machinery rolled in on the tattered and teared Marlboro Industrial area. Charles and Tapelo, community leaders in Marlboro, had to look on as the bulldozers started tearing into Chico’s Ice Cream Factory, which was home to 109 families, or 282 people. Chico’s Ice Cream Factory is but one of 53 derelict buildings that the Marboro community, in partnership with ISN and CORC, enumerated between September and October 2011. Community members were trained to administer the questionnaire and worked closely with the CORC Johannesburg office in capturing the data into databases.
Early in August, the Alliance reported on the evictions that started on August 2nd when Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) cracked down on the settlement with no eviction order. In the early morning hours, when residents were leaving for work, the JMPD moved in on 3 occupied sites and demolished 300 dwellings. They refused to talk to the community leadership and presented no formal interdiction from the court, only offering NGO representatives a hand written statement in a note book as paperwork for such eviction. They claimed that notice was given with no supporting documentation, then went on to say they don’t need to give notice because the of the 72 hour trespassing by-law which according to legal representatives requires even more paperwork than a general eviction order. The JMPD has not communicated its mandate with the housing department and now as result over 400 residents of Marlboro are now out on the street with no alternative housing options.
Evictions have been ravaging the area since the 2nd of August, leaving many people homeless. The Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), and more specifically, the by-laws management department, have been carrying out these illegal evictions. These are illegal, because according the laws protecting poor people from the onslaughts of local governments and/or land owners, the evicting party needs to formally obtain an eviction order, which is granted by regional courts. In these hearings, the judges consider all the aspects of the evicting party’s request, which includes whether alternatives to upgrading has been considered (such as upgrading the informal area), what the impact on vulnerable people would be (woman, children and the elderly), and what the relocation options are (such as consolidation with other informal areas, housing developments, etc). Constitutional Court cases have resulted in a number of processes that needs to be adhered too. The JMPD did not follow any of these legal routes, and have been on a rouge mission to clear the Marlboro area of all informal settlers.
Chico’s is one such a factory that is now being destroyed, and all 282 inhabitants have been displaced. Although the Alliance, through the Community Upgrading Financing Facility, have been able to secure three army-style tents to the value of R30,000, this merely serves 40 families. More tents are now forthcoming as relief donations are trickling into Marlboro area. There does not seem to be any hope that the residents of Chico’s will be sleeping in even the most elementary accommodation for the next while.
The factory used to have a very peculiar housing typology. To make more space available, the community built a sturdy 2nd level of shack above the first. These pictures illustrate the nature of settlement in one of these factories.
With the decline in industrial activity in the late 1980s, the factory owners rented out these buildings to poor families living in overcrowded conditions in neighboring townships such as Alexandra. Charles, a community leader in the area, mentioned that
the history here is actually that people started staying in these factories. They were renting because some owners advertised for rentals. So the people came in their numbers. But later on, the City actually gave some court orders that people had to vacate. We boycotted that and went back to the owners and they ran away and stayed with the City. We had a media statement that says we can not be moved from these areas unless they have an alternative. So that is how they started staying in these buildings.
Chico’s used to be an Ice Cream factory located on 4th street, where not even the brave footsoldiers of Google Streetview dared to venture (when dragging the Google Streetview icon over Marlboro area, on 5th Street is covered). But the enumeration of Chico’s, as with all other 53 factories in the Marlboro area, goes much deeper than technology can reach. The enumeration has captured a socio-economic and demographic profile of all the residents that used to live here. Although the residents have faced fires in the past, such as the 18 June 2010 fire that destroyed a large number of shacks, as reported by Africa Media Online, the community has been able to regroup and assist those who lost it all. These social ties are more than moral solidarity but display the resilience of communities to adapt and recover.
Chico’s factory is also called Building 77. These building were referenced by these numbers before the enumeration started. The enumeration data therefore has two levels: by building, and by shack number (which was numbered in the enumeration exercise). By referencing both building data and shack data, a common dataset is developed that serves as the basis for spatially tagging enumeration data. In this way, the data becomes alive. The data tells the stories of what used to be left of Chico’s Ice Cream factory.
In October 2011, CORC produced a short video documenting the impressions of Marlboro community leaders on the enumeration process. At 2:18 in the video, an interview with a young man living in Chico’s is captured. He said,
I live here in Chico’s. I have been living here for 11 years. I stay with my mother. Here in Chico’s we are very poor, if I can put it like that.
In another interview, a young man living with his girlfriend said the following when asked by Charles what his expectations are for development in the area:
Up to date, I have been living in this area. Now the problem that I am having is unavailability of jobs and better accommodation. From the information I am receiving from different people, there are promises to improve the area, but I don’t know how long it is going to take.
CORC has drafted a preliminary enumeration report on the findings. The enumeration breaks down the enumeration data of all 53 factories and categorises the findings by population statistics, migration, education levels, social grant recipients, occupation and income levels, and finally, tracks the communities’ development aspirations. On the enumeration process, Charles said
The ISN and FEDUP have introduced a programme of enumeration. So with the enumeration, we are trying to arm ourselves and say to the City, “We are the people of Marlboro. How many are we? We stay in a space of this size”. And so we will be able to talk how then the development will be. So we hope with the programme of the FEDUP and ISN we believe that something will come up. We are saving, and saying to the government, “This is what we are doing, then can you come in and join us in making the area we are living in better”.
Charle’s wishes will not realise. Chico’s have been destroyed. But the sword cuts both ways. While the positive side of community based knowledge generation through enumeration, as experience by millions of people making up the federations aligned to Shack / Slum Dwellers International (see this series of research papers), materialises citizenship when this grassroots knowledge drives development agendas, the data will now be used as a protections mechanism in the court of law. The community possess the most detailed data on the individuals and families affected in the evictions. The sword of knowledge will now be deployed to fight back on the inhumane and draconian actions of the City of Joburg.
Marlboro community is working alongside Lawyers for Human Rights and instructed them instructed to demand an end to the evictions and failing that, to proceed on an urgent basis to the High Court for relief. Said Louise du Plessis, senior attorney in LHR’s Land and Housing Unit,
This situation is shocking. The law is clear. There are countless court orders requiring a court order before an eviction can take place. This blatant disregard for what the courts have repeatedly said is especially worrying considering JMPD is tasked with upholding the law.
Who are giving these orders? Are the factory owners involved in the eviction process, or is this a rouge mission by the JMPD? These are the questions that the community with support by CORC and Lawyers for Human Rights will be uncovering.
According to eyewitness accounts, and the latest from Marlboro area in Johannesburg, the JMPD is still razing through the area and even demolishing some of the factories now. One site was completely razed to the ground today, leaving more than 300 families homeless
By Andy Bolnick (CORC/iKhayalami) and Benjamin Bradlow
The roller coasters and carnival games at Ratanga Junction Park in the Milnerton area of Cape Town may appear as a middle class child’s idyll, even amidst the winter cold and rain. But only a kilometer away, shack dwelling mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, in an informal settlement called Mshini Wam in Joe Slovo Park are coming together to build a better life for their children. Collectively, they are influencing city government in a way that is, step-by-step, producing lessons for a future in which all children grow up in safe, vibrant, and nurturing neighborhoods.
The settlement of 250 families, is becoming a learning center for improving informal settlements throughout Cape Town. Yesterday, the community, which links with informal settlement leadership throughout the city through the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), invited city officials from the Informal Settlements Management Unit, Extended Public Works Programme, and city council, to celebrate what they have achieved. In less than one week, residents of Mshini Wam have begun transforming the physical layout of their neighborhood, through a partnership with the city government, ISN, and a supporting NGO called the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC). The ceremony celebrated the community’s work in “re-blocking” the dense, flood and fire-prone settlement, into organized clusters of 8-10 shacks.
The first cluster was completed on 23 February to demonstrate blocking-out to the community and to the Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Ms Zou Kota Federicks who had come to Mshini Wam to attend the community led enumeration (household socio-economic survey and neighborhood map) launch. With three clusters done, the project is due to be completed in the next 3 months. In addition to the re-blocking, many of the shacks were improved with fire-proof, environmentally friendly materials.
The residents of Mshini Wam have, from the outset, claimed and owned this project. A community design team led the cluster-based redesign, with technical assistance from an architect at CORC. Luthando Klaas, when introduced to a reporter from the local Cape Times as a community leader, interrupted the reporter’s question. “No, no, no. I’m a community designer.”
This kind of assurance was behind the words of Nokhwezi Klaas when she spoke at a short ceremony with the invited parties. As she stood fighting back a mild cough, she spoke of the effect of the project on the community that she leads, and her own personal life: “As you can see, I am sick all the time because my shack is constantly damp from flooding.”
She then pointed to the “re-blocked” shacks and described how they were organized in a way that not only protected residents from flooding, but also created the space for the city to pave emergency access roads, and install electricity, and water and sanitation piping. Further, the community has been able to open up savings schemes that breed financial accountability and management skills amongst residents, who have then been able to contribute to voluntary shack improvements, in addition to the re-blocking effort. Community savings currently total R29,200.
As ISN leader Vuyani Mnyango noted, the upgrading effort is of dire importance in a settlement that not only suffers from frequent flooding, but has only 16 chemical toilets and 3 water taps for 250 households.
At the end of last year, the city authorities, ISN, and CORC agreed that, in order to do the required infrastructural improvements in Mshini Wam, it would be necessary to relocate between 20 to 50 households to an area nearby. The plan was for the city to come in and do the necessary earthworks and service provision and then the families were to move back. However, it became very difficult for the city to approve land that the community had identified for this purpose. No progress was made from March until last week.
The community wanted to begin and were getting very frustrated at the delays. The community leadership and ISN realized together that the best way to harness the community’s energy was to start blocking-out in an entirely in situ manner with no temporary relocations. Early last week, the city came on board in terms of supplying resources such as materials for the roofs of households (part of emergency starter kits), sand filling, crusher stone and compacting machinery.
The level of activity and community participation is palpable. Women are particularly active — clearing the site, collecting debris, loading wheelbarrows, carrying wheelbarrows, learning how to make the upgraded panels and then making them.
Yesterday, Mshini Wam’s Nokhwezi Klaas, along with ISN leaders, urged a representative from the city’s Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) to join in this partnership. This would ensure that community members who work on such upgrading work are not only compensated, but also gain recognition for the skills development that occurs in a project like the re-blocking of Mshini Wam.
But this is not a project that is just affecting one community. Most significantly, Mshini Wam is a proving ground for a city-wide partnership for informal settlement upgrading between networked communities across the cities and the Cape Town municipal authorities. This alliance was consecrated in a memorandum of understanding signed with Mayor Patricia de Lille earlier this year. The re-blocking strategy, which re-arranges shacks in densely-packed settlements to open up common public space, access roads, and basic service infrastructure installation, is currently being rolled out in four settlements throughout the city this year, which is then set to expand to at least 18 more settlements. Through partnership between ISN, CORC, and Cape Town local authorities, the city is also able to explore other appropriate informal settlement upgrading strategies in a deliberate and collective manner. Overall, the city has committed R6 million for infrastructure, and is supporting community-led enumerations in all the identified settlements.
While policy-makers, academics and professional organizations struggle to gain even the smallest bit of traction on the ground to begin improving the lives of shack dwellers throughout the country, an alternative paradigm is emerging into focus. Little of this appears in the textbooks and policy codes. Rather, it is through practice that we can make out this new approach. When shack dwelling communities come together, and pool their own knowledge and resources, they are able to partner with local authorities and catalyze city-wide processes. As informal settlement-based learning centres spring up throughout Cape Town, communities are gaining influence, access to resources, and improved settlements and lives.
When I arrived at P in 1982 I found myself amongst some of the very poor in our communities. I was lying on my back on a mattress covered with a plastic material so as to protect the mattress from the blood from bruises and wounds inflicted on me by my attackers in Newlands East in Durban. I was in pain, hurt, bruised, scared, and confused. I did not know this part of the city.
I had lived in the bush at a younger age and then I was frightened by snakes, wild animals and hunger. Here I was in one of the most notorious settlements in Inanda in Durban. I was scared of (izigebhengu) crooks, thieves, warlords, shack bosses and hunger.
I was put in a shack in a sector of the community now known as E. My neighbors never saw me arrive. They were busy drinking and dancing the night away. The person who organized me this shack was the mother of my eldest child who had come to my rescue that night when I was together with my friends being attacked. At the time our relationship was not serious and we had not yet had a child.
She had organized this shack for me and hid me there. Because she was the only person who knew where I lived in Inanda she would bring me groceries and cigarettes, which she collected from my aunt. At least once a week she made her way by taxi to Newlands and exploited my aunty’s generous nature for my benefit.
In those first three weeks I lived like an animal that sleeps during the day and hunts at night. I used to piss in a bucket and go out to shit at night. Eventually I got to know some people, which was just as well since my stocks from my aunt were no more coming. So I had to make friends. Because of the survival experiences I had picked up at boarding school and reformatory, it was easy for me to adapt to this jungle.
Oh there were many types of human animals here. The conmen, thieves, murderers, shebeen kings and queens, self-appointed head men, self-imposed “councilors” – those con political leaders of that time. And we thought we got rid of them forever when we chased them out of the townships in the 1980’s!
This place was a challenge to my young mind. In my life I had only known gang bosses, headmen and indunas, prefects and bullies. Here it was just the same – probably worse. And I had to survive. I started by trying to know the who’s who of the area.
I soon found out that the different residents of this area called P were actually normal people who were all trying to make a living. There were shebeens, brothels, gambling dens, and stokvels in a manner of speaking — not the one where money is saved and shared but ones where the trade was in people’s emotions and passions: people used to out-buy, out-dance, out-drink, take one another’s wife or husband. Out-eat, out-drink, out-dance, out-play the whole weekend. The place was a hive of activity.
I quickly became known because I was someone who could talk almost every subject and besides I could be very convincing because I was an honest liar. I always wanted to find a peaceful outcome, to help people with my jokes and my stories to find agreement with their friends who have betrayed them, with their enemies, their victims or their tormentors. This is a cruel world and one has to have cunning. My cunning was to make everybody laugh and even for a moment forget their anger or their jealousy, their sadness and even their pride. The ground is uneven and life will always be uneven and unequal. Sometimes the one who feels too deeply hides his anger, his hurt, his fear, in the costume of the clown.
I was in demand all over the settlement. Whether it was a party or feast or a simple indaba, the elders and people of the settlement always wanted me there. I also was a very respecting person. I could listen very attentively without blinking an eye … often because I was bored fast asleep.
I lived like this for some time until one day S, my girlfriend, told me she was pregnant. That was when I saw my life change.
She also changed. She became moody, stingy, jealous, curious, and suspicious all the time. I don’t know how many times I slept outside. Sleeping outside in a Durban Mjondolo in the mid 1980s was not a very safe thing to do. I don’t know how many times I got attacked by self-imposed community law enforcers. It could have been a lot worse.
It was at this time I started thinking about doing something else. You see by this time my relatives had forgotten about me. I had broken contact with them because my lady used to provide everything for me. Clothes to wear, from underpants to socks, cigarettes, alcohol, sex and false dreams. When she got pregnant she suddenly realized that I was not what I think she wanted. Every time we had an argument or disagreement she would publicly embarrass me by telling the community that even the smile on my face she had purchased from the local supermarket.
When the child was born she embarrassed me by telling people the truth: that I could not even buy napkins and baby food. She would sometimes even leave the child with me for days so that I would have to scrounge around for something.
One day I asked one of my neighbours to look after my son so I could try and get him some food. When I came back in the afternoon to my shock and horror, my child was in King Edward Hospital because the granny who had cared for him during the day ran out of milk and fed him moonshine. The child almost died. He survived and today does chemical engineering. Maybe it has something to do with the moonshine.
Of course going to the police at that time in history was like a sin. I almost killed her. That’s the justice of the slums. But my days in a Catholic Boarding school had the desired effect. Like I always do in tough times I decided to pray first and ask God to give me the strength to kill her. But God is unpredictable and instead of giving me power he asked me to forgive her. She can thank her lucky stars I listened.
Then one day a friend of mine, by the name of F gave me a ten rand because he heard that he and I were from the same rural area in Zululand. He told me to buy something to eat. Instead I bought a box of apples and a packet of oranges and began selling fruit. After a week of this I began seeing money. By the end of the month I had a full mini-market with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and all the different fruit you can think of.
After about six months people were calling me “boetie” and “baas” because I could now lend people money, I could give people food to put on the table, I could now afford to take care of my son. I could now buy any shoes and socks I wanted. But still S decided to take the child and I did not see him again for almost ten years.
In the meantime I was making progress. I could now take decisions. I could now make suggestions. You know what I mean?
Chapter 2: The Beginning of Life, KwaZulu Natal
The portion of land I once called home still exists on a farm in the hills of Melmoth in the heart of Kwazulu. The three graves in the middle of the land are the little evidence that my family once lived here.
My great grandfather, I am told, was given this piece of land as compensation for his work in the British army, deployed to South Africa to fight the Boers in the Anglo-Boer War. He was an army officer by the surname of H. He settled on this land and married an African woman, never an uncommon event in South Africa history except for the years of National Party rule from 1948 to 1994, when these natural attractions were declared against the law. The Zulu woman who married my English great grandfather gave birth to a son, my grandfather, who in turn also married an African woman. These women, I believe, were all traditional healers from different clans in Kwazulu.
My father C H was the eldest son of H H who was also the eldest of his father’s sons and I am also the eldest of my siblings. If the men in my family were a mix of racial genes, the women in my family were “100 percent Zulu girls.”
If you follow the trend of intermarriage between white and African, and coloured and African in my family, you may be tempted to believe that by the time I was born in 1958, I was already diluted so much that I barely resembled my grandmother and my mother uMariam Khumalo who was born in Enkhandla in the 1940s.
I grew up there on this farm and we all lived there together and like all rural African children the houses of almost all my uncles and aunts became my home, not just my parental home.
My mother’s family KwaKhumalo believed I was theirs and they named me Jabulani Khumalo. My father’s family named me P. Also, my father had not paid or completed his “lobola” responsibilities. Therefore, I became a contested being.
I want to believe that they named me Jabulani because they were happy that a son was born. But even though this was the time of high apartheid there were still reasons to be happy, especially for a happy-go-lucky kid like me. But one thing we were not too happy about was the fact that the head of the household, my grandfather was a sickly man and my father soon became responsible for the entire family. This meant that he took care of his brothers, my uncles, and his sisters, my aunts. He had to, at the same time, take care of his wife uMaKhumalo and his children who were: myself P, my brothers, N and B and my sisters Z and S.
He had to put food on the table, make sure that the fields were ploughed and harvested, and make sure that the cows were safe. I became one of the herdboys, but not for long. When I turned seven I began to attend school.
This is the time also when my mother became the mother, the domestic worker, and the slave of the family. My grandmother passed away and so her life become one long sentence of hard labour. She washed, she cooked, she became the nanny for my aunt’s children and she even had to care for my father’s younger brother and sister who were but children themselves.
I am not one of those children who has memories of a mother’s tender love and nurturing. I have not even one photo of my mother breast feeding or even holding or touching her own children. Nor do I have any pictures – I am talking about pictures in my mind and my heart in the form of treasured memories.
I only remember her bent over a big bath washing, or standing over a huge table in the kitchen cutting up potatoes or pumpkins, or pounding and making home-made bread from maize.
She never ever had time for us. She really had a very painful life and her pain has long outlived her. It is the backdrop to my life. My heart still aches for her, and I think this is why I subconsciously chose the type of community work that I do.
My father was a very strict, even aggressive man. He did sometimes beat up his younger brothers and sisters to make a point. He also beat up my mother. He was a jealous man because she was one of the most beautiful human beings you could ever meet. These are the sad and ugly ways of some men, too many men.
C. or uJuly, as my father was known, was also very protective of his family. His role as patriarch and his protective nature made the youngsters believe he could sometimes anticipate danger. I remember how one hot morning as we played in the long grass at the edge of the yard he quietly walked up to us. He stood about 2 meters from an old drum that was standing there. My aunt, his younger sister Judy, was jumping in and out of the drum.
My father gestured to me to fetch his knobkerrie and shouted at my aunt to move away from the drum. He then hit that drum as if it had done something very bad to him. After a few minutes of shouting and swearing and hitting this drum, a fierce one a half meter long green mamba came out hissing and striking and trying to fight back.
Of course C. killed it with a series of quick blows with his knobkierrie. Then he turned to us and said, “I am telling you and I am always right when I tell you to be careful. It is not because I want to harass you but it is the danger I see.”
But I will also never forget how he once killed a cat just for meowing and crying for meat while my mother was cooking.
I remember how he gave his cattle the most unusual names, named after politicians of that time; names like Verwoerd, Schoeman, Hitler. This was his way of showing contempt. This still happens today where people name their dogs and animals by the names of people they hate.
My grandfather died of TB and my father followed a few years later, maybe three to be exact. This is where — I think — all the poverty started.
Chapter 3: Leaving Childhood Behind
I want it to be understood that we were not a poor family and our neighbours were also not poor. Abakwamajozi, Madela, Dhladla, Ntombela and many more families had cattle to milk for milk, had maize to eat, and many other vegetables that are organic and just grow without being planted. For example, natural herbs, pumpkin leaf herbs.
It is a myth that all rural Africans during the apartheid years were desperately poor. The vast majority suffered incredible hardships, but even during those hard times there were those who were good farmers who were able, at the very least, to make ends meet.
There was always something to eat. This was besides the odd chicken that we would have to chase almost the whole day and once it was caught only my father and few adults will get a taste. I suppose my mother, who would cook the chicken, would get the feet. Us children would have to fight for the head. At that time this was very exciting and we looked forward to these chicken chases.
There was also a type of delicious wild berry that grew on these hills, slopes and valleys that we ate whenever we felt like it. It was crushed to make jam and juice. As young boys, we would roast sweet potatoes and cane rats and we never ever slept hungry. Sheep and cattle were slaughtered twice or thrice a year. We lived off the fat of the land – and in Melmoth the land was still fat. This did not only happen at our family but also in the other nearby homesteads. This encouraged a sort of community relationship where people visited one another because one family would never be able to eat a cow alone. This was almost a weekly activity.
There were times when my uncle would wake me up at night and we would go to nearby farms to steal sheep. We never stole goats. Goats are very noisy. Sheep were easier to steal and quieter than other animals. They remind me of passive communities who get led to more poverty by politicians and corrupt city officials and councilors.
We would slaughter these sheep and bury them along river beds so that they remained fresh for a long time. This would provide us meat for the duration of the holidays. There were times when we would use traps to trap wild buck and sometimes animals like jackals and monkeys would get trapped. It was very painful and cruel to these animals.
When my father passed away this all came to an end. His family, my uncles, aunts, and my other grandfathers got involved in such a terrible power struggle for control of the family and resources that this killed every thing. The results of this power struggle are still felt today.
The family was scattered and many relatives went away and never came back. The cattle were sold while we were left to mourn my father’s death. I was ten years old and my youngest sister S. was eight months old. Family history, documents and even secrets disappeared.
One of my great uncles, G, started a moonshine distillery on the property and we became the young labourers of that distillery. I remember how we used to run about a kilometer to fetch water with enamel heavy buckets to keep the water cool so that this moonshine could be made.
We were saved by being sent to boarding school but would come back during holidays and continue with work for which we got beatings for payment. We were brought to our knees by my father’s death.
My uncle F, whom we thought would hold the fort and hold the family together, was a proper upside down corrupt and sly crook who helped in destroying the family’s resources.
Apparently while we were at boarding school there was a family discussion and the outcome of the discussion resulted in my whole life being affected. My mother was evicted from the farm. The reason given was that the person who had brought her to this family was dead. Her children had to leave as well. She was not even allowed to wait for the holidays to gather us together before she left. She was chased off like a dog. When we got back from school she was gone and no one could tell us where we could find her.
The months — even years — that followed were the most painful in my life. I remember how I used to cry at night under my blankets in the hostel dormitory because I was afraid the other students would hear me, see me, and laugh at me. I used to listen to them share stories about their experiences with their parents. I listened with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. With dread and terror I counted the weeks, the days, the hours, the minutes, and the seconds before it was time to leave school for the holidays. As the day approached I felt sick to my stomach as my school friends spoke of their mothers waiting for them at bus stops and how they would be coming to fetch them.
This pain never went away. Until this very day I carry it around with me. But the first term, shortly after my father died and my mother disappeared was living hell. My brothers and sisters who were much younger than me believed that things had returned to normal and they would look forward with growing excitement and expectation to their reunion with their father and mother. What choice did I have, while I was dying from my own grief and fear, but to give them hope and encouragement, but also at the same time I would try to send signals that their dreams would never happen. I would reassure them with tears in my eyes and a smile. I wanted to rip my heart out my chest, and hold it in my hand so that they could see it was broken but still beating.
The day eventually arrived when school was closing for the holidays. We caught the bus with the other children going in the direction of our village. At every stop along the way we watched how the other children were greeted kissed and hugged by their parents and relatives. There was no greeting for us when we arrived in Melmoth.
We were alone. We were really alone. We walked slowly and silently from the bus stop. I led my little brothers and sisters to a tiny shack my father had built in the bush years before. It had no furniture, beds, or stove and of course no food. We had to try and get something to eat. I went looking for some of the neighbours and bumped into one of my uncles, and he gave me some tea and bread. My brothers and sisters greeted me with excitement and after their miserable meal they indulged in the serious business of playing, just like any other children play.
I would think and think and think and pray just like any other ten year old would have done in this situation. It is out of these moments that I remembered my father and especially my mother who was alive somewhere and who had also suffered this terrible loss of husband, home and us, her children. There were times when we did not have a meal for a whole week. I remember just eating orange peels from the ground.
The dystopia of the urbanisation of poverty is a confounding reality, to say the least. People eek out a living in the harshest environment, are subject to environmental torture, and have little prospect of escaping the vices of modern life. Under imperial and apartheid South Africa, the right of non-Europeans/ non-whites to urban life was continuously supressed, if not denied fully. In fact, the very existence of the racist regime was premised on segregated urban spaces. This is why, argues philosopher Achile Mbembe of Stellenbosch University, “most social struggle of the postapartheid era can be read as attempts to re-conquer the right to be urban.”
This confounding reality is often worsened and aggravated by government policies that do not recognize the urban crisis. For many years, governments have shied away from devising comprehensive policies that tackle the challenges of urban poverty, and that harness the potentials for innovative development, which have historically been associated with urbanization. In the global South, the import of modernist planning norms and standards from the global North has perpetuated the existence and recurrence of peripheral urban slums by creating sanitized spaces for the elite.
What are the real prospects for social and political change in this new democratic dispensation? The high waves of market forces, income inequality, and worsening human development indices rock the tattered and bruised vessels of the urban poor. For some miracle of resilience and agency, the poor continue to press forward. In many cases, the hope of a more equal and fair society has found expression in the agency of the underclass, of the excluded, of the marginalized. These societies have depended on a forgotten art: the art of ark building.
Despite the introduction of potentially more progressive, transformative and situational responsive policies contained in the “second generation” of human settlement legislative frameworks (the first ten years being a dismal failure), local governments have struggled to come to grips with the extensive community engagement and difficult engineering and geotechnical interventions implicit in the upgrading of informal settlements. Organised communities are filling the voids created by lack of political will, social facilitation, and technical expertise by generating a resource base they own: knowledge about their settlement.
For this reason, Premier of the Western Cape, Ms. Helen Zille, paid a visit to Franschhoek on the 8th of May. She wanted to witness the progress made by the Langrug community in partnership with the Stellenbosch Municipality. Langrug is a large informal settlement on the slopes of Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Franschhoek. Seasonal laborers working on the wine farms and a large dam construction project established the settlement in the early 1990s. This settlement construed a forgotten people for many years, until the municipality was forced to action when the neighboring farm owner obtained a court interdict against the Municipality for the settlement’s greywater runoff into his irrigation dam. The municipality was forced to start negotiating with the settlement, because 14 families were to be relocated in the reserve earmarked for an access road construction. Cape Town's Informal Settlement Network (ISN) was introduced to the settlement after the municipality engaged the network, opening a year-long relationship-building window. Ever since, a full scale in-situ upgrade project has been launched; providing better service with minimal disruption to residents’ lives.
Premier Zille opened her address by saying that there is no more difficult policy environment than housing. The question of the spread of resources – either a serviced house for a few or better services and incremental tenure security for many – has continually shaped the South African housing policy debate. During the visit, Zille commented, “the important point about this informal settlement is that it is one of the first where we have a viable partnership with the community. And now, working with the community, we are installing stormwater, greywater systems, toilets, washing facilities, road and upgrading the place generally … but the existing thing about this project is that we are upgrading shacks where they are instead of moving people out and starting from the beginning”. Western Cape MEC for Housing Bonginkosi Madikizela said: “It is a fantastic model. The message to the rest of the country is that any development is a partnership between government and communities. They become partners rather than passive recipients”.
Much attention was called to the “model” of community participation espoused by Informal Settlement Network (ISN). Zille argued that this new “model” could be better articulated by having a single window policy approach to refining the government’s ability to navigate complex (and fragmented) policy frameworks. Although such an approach could be instructive, a model without agency has no value. Organised communities have an agency to transform urban landscapes by transforming their settlements. One of the failures of the government-driven and top-down implementation of housing developments in post-apartheid era was exactly this: the entrenchment of the forgotten apartheid ghettos. But informal residents are taking the lead in integrating their development with the greater evolution of their surrounding urban spaces. The ark communities are building is an inclusive one; one that has the capacity to deliver social and political change. This ark does not look or function like any of the government’s planning apparatuses, which are often founded on principles that entrench existing spatial inequalities. No, this ark is different. It is different because the ones designing the ark are different. Communities and government can only revive the lost art of ark building when they partner around deliverables such as improved living conditions. In this way, power is shared, and solutions are co-produced.
We talk a lot about exclusion and inclusion. The urban poor are excluded from the city. Therefore, we are trying to build inclusive cities - cities where the urban poor are at the center of their own development process, and that of the city as a whole. In South Africa, the Informal Settlement Network is spearheading a "Right to the City" campaign, bringing a new approach to improving the ties betweeen socio-spatial justice and citizenship on the one hand, and improved living conditions on the other. They are doing this by advancing the people-centred, community-driven approach known so well across the SDI network, and by taking that to scale through concrete, continued engagements with city government.
We talk about these things a lot. We write a lot about them. I have read and written about urban poverty, informality and exculsion for years. But that is not what made me decide to study urban planning or to relocate from my home in New York City back to Cape Town. And that is not what keeps me coming back to my desk every day, to read and write more about these issues. In fact, I had never really thought about these issues until I saw them. Perhaps this is why learning exchanges, where a group of slum dwellers and city officials leaves their hometown to meet their counterparts on the other side of the province, country or planet, are some of the most significant of SDI's social technologies. It is not until we humans see and speak to each other that we begin to make real these abstract theories and ideas. It is only then that we begin to feel the gravity of the situation, and of working towards a solution.
We talk a lot about slums, about urban poverty and exclusion, about living in a one-room shack with your entire extended family without clean water or electricity or a toilet. We talk about these things. But do we ever see them?
Childhood, Freetown, Sierra Leone
Collecting water, and paying a price, Free Town, Sierra Leone
Finding a place to call home, Old Fadama, Accra, Ghana
"If they demolish my house, I have no where to go." | Old Fadama, Accra, Ghana
Walking home with water, Nairobi, Kenya
The pavement dwellers of Byculla, with modern high-rises in the background, Mumbai, India
The South African SDI alliance made up of CORC, FEDUP and ISN have embarked on a challenging programme to work with government in assessing the most critical needs of residents in specific informal settlements in the City of Cape Town municipality. This assessment forms part of a larger plan to look at ways to upgrade informal settlements and provide sufficient basic services for the residents.
The City of Cape Town municipality has been involved in collecting information in informal settlements but has not been able to get a genuine depth of information. This is where the SDI ritual of community enumeration comes to the fore and demonstrates just what an advantage there is to be gained by involving as many community members as possible in the planning and development of their own settlements as well as needs identification. As a mobilizing tool a community enumeration is unparalleled in garnering support, building enthusiasm and excitement for the residents in the settlement preparing for this process. Like wild fire the news of activity spreads as enumerators start moving door to door and word gets out that a real attempt will be made to try and improve living conditions.
What the enumeration does however for the community is bring it face to face with some of the truths that exist but are not necessarily known to the planners, officials and even NGOs who work with them. Over the course of the past 3 weeks I have been exposed to this reality in different settlements in Cape Town, South Africa all engaged in the process of enumeration and all looking to get organized in preparation for future upgrading projects. The challenges around inadequate services, housing and insecurity of tenure already provide numerous hurdles to overcome but the additional complexities in these informal settlements demand a nuanced approach to upgrading initiatives.
In each of the settlements a discussion session was held with the settlement committee concerning their expectations of the enumeration. The discussion also served as an opportunity for community members to give input into what the enumeration questionnaire needed to cover. These discussions served as a very interesting peek into some of the dynamics at play in the community that would normally go unnoticed to outsiders looking to make interventions. In an informal settlement in Athlone, community members were most concerned about structure owner versus tenant relationships. The official policy is that shacks should not be rented out but this does not prevent this practice from occurring. In this settlement the renting of shacks was widespread and with news that an upgrading project was in the pipeline, structure owners were returning to their shacks and effectively evicting their tenants. The community committee was most concerned about identifying who had been living in the settlement for an extended period of time as well as whether or not these residents were renting.
In another settlement located in Strand the community committee estimated that there were approximately 450 shacks. These shacks were being serviced by 5 flush toilets and 6 chemical toilets. After a more in depth discussion it became apparent that in reality only 2 of the flush toilets were working. The chemical toilets were all full and were not being emptied thus rendering them useless. Officials in this particular ward would have us believe that the bucket system was not in operation in this settlement. In conducting further workshops with this community it became clear that often people had no choice but to resort to the bucket system.
Community members discussing an enumeration questionnaire in Cape Town
In another informal settlement in Milnerton hundreds of shacks were being serviced by a few chemical flush toilets. In a discussion about this particular community’s needs toilets were obviously high on the agenda but as important to the residents was the problems they had with crime. For them it was just as important to get a stronger police presence in their settlement, as it was to gain access to better toilet facilities.
These were the first opportunities I had to engage communities in Cape Town around the rather technical side of enumeration. But amidst the methodological discussions on what constitutes good questions for enumeration and what could be done through settlement profiling, communities were always willing to take the discussion to a deeper level. In doing so they revealed the many layers of complexity that also need to be considered when dealing with informal settlements. It is not always about how many toilets or taps you can throw at the problem, but also about achieving a holistic overview of the settlement through the eyes of the people who live there. In the weeks ahead I will be interacting with these communities around ever more technical topics but there will always be the space for a good long discussion about their many needs. Often as development practitioners we enter settlements with preconceived ideas about what the focus should be but these experiences have once again reminded me that nothing teaches you more about a community and their settlement than an open discussion with its members. Community ownership of the upgrading process does not lie only in their participation in installing the infrastructure or services but also in the knowledge production of information about their settlement. Here in lies the real power of the enumeration exercise, it opens up the space for discussion and a two-way knowledge exchange between the formal and the informal.
A forum of African city governments with the support of SDI will organize the third SDI dialogue on citywide slum upgrading later in 2012. This key agreement was arrived at the second dialogue held at the end of March in Harare, Zimbabwe. The agreement represents a deepening of relationships, not only between national SDI federations and the their local authorities, but also the linkages between cities around shared approaches to slum upgrading. The need for connectivity and continuation between the Dialogues was accentuated in the event’s concluding remarks by dialogue moderator, Beth Chitekwe-Biti.
While the first dialogue, held in September 2011 in Uganda, invited the participation of local authorities, the Zimbabwe Dialogue was hosted by the city of Harare and presided over by the Mayor, His Worship Muchadeyi Masunda. In his opening address, Masunda emphasized the importance of synergies between cities, slum dwellers federations with the support of donor agencies. He cited the USD 5 million support to Harare by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that has enabled the city to have productive engagement with the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation. This, he said, has provided a basis for interaction and learning between the city council of Harare and other city councils both in Zimbabwe and around Africa.
The Harare Dialogue drew in city authorities from the southern African cities of Harare, Windhoek, Lilongwe, and Lusaka as well as the Zimbabwean towns of Bulawayo, Chinhoyi, and Kariba. Speaking at the Dialogue, the Town Clerk of Lusaka in Zambia, Mr. Andrew Mwanakulange further underscored the need for a regional city fora, around which the next dialogue would be organized. “It is effective if we reach out to our counterparts in Luanda, Nairobi and so on, to be part of this effort”, he said.
Accompanying the city officials to the dialogues were representatives of the slum dweller federations and planning school professors from each of the cities. The participation of universities marked a second stream of partnerships that the Dialogue sought to animate. Prof Peter Ngau, from the University of Nairobi, said, “one of our key purposes of being here is because we have been discussing change of the teaching curriculum to reflect the realities that our cities are trying to address”. In 2009 SDI signed a memorandum of understanding with the Association of African Planning Schools that aims to lend advocacy and technical support capacities to the citywide slum upgrading approaches being applied by the slum dweller federations.
Each of the city-federation-university delegations made presentations on progress on their joint work. A key concern was the lack of a monitoring framework that could be used to assess progress achieved between Dialogue sessions and indeed the impact that the partnerships have in their respective cities. A call was made to SDI to facilitate the development of the monitoring framework.
The Harare Dialogue, and the Kampala Dialogue before it are part of SDI’s Seven Cities project series. These projects aim at building new strategies for community driven citywide slum upgrading. The projects aim at inclusive, pro-poor interventions in large informal settlements that will serve as centers for learning. The cities identified for SDI’s seven-city strategy are: Kampala, Blantyre, Accra, Harare, Windhoek and Nairobi in Africa and Mandaue in Philippines
The Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) and the uTshani Fund are two organisations working in alliance to bring the urban poor in South Africa together and bring their huge collective resourcefulness, creativity, energy and social force to the task of delivering secure, affordable housing to everyone. The FEDUP / uTshani Fund alliance has initiated housing projects in urban and peri-urban communities across all nine provinces, improving the lives of some 17,000 households so far.
FEDUP’s primary vision has been to ensure that the urban poor – and particularly poor women – gain full citizenship rights and become key actors in determining the development priorities and policies of cities. The Federation has worked to move both urban policy and poor communities away from crisis-led reactive interventions to gendered long-term partnerships in which the urban poor themselves play a key role as visionaries and partners in generating “win-win” solutions that create revised models of development.
At a mass gathering on March 1st, attended by local, national and international shack dwellers, city officials and NGO staff, FEDUP reasserted its vision to build inclusive and pro-poor cities by positioning the poor as central actors in urban development. They were gathered at Stretford Park in Extension 6 of Orange Farm, where joyous singing and chanting resounded throughout the park, overlaid with the DJ’s big dubstep beats.
While the gathering buzzed and hummed, the deputy minister of Human Settlements Ms. Zoe Kota-Fredericks, and Gauteng Members of Executive Council met in a private meeting to discuss the unlocking of People’s Housing Processes in the province. Patrick Magebula, national FEDUP leader and advisor to the minister of Human Settlements Mr. Tokyo Sexwale, mentioned that the processes in Orange Farm are unfolding across the country, and poor people’s groups across the country are actively contributing to changing the way government engages poor residents. Since March 1992, when women across the country mobilised around savings collectives, the Federation has engaged with formal banking institutions and all three tiers of government, helped setup Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI) by participating in and leading international exchanges, and most importantly, ensured the material improvement and tenure security in the lives of thousands of poor people. The FEDUP has shared their successes (and failures) and supported new savings initiatives in encouraged and supported savings groups in Angola, Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Uganda, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
On Ms. Kota-Fredericks’ arrival, she addressed the crowd and said, “We are encouraged that people take their own initiatives rather than waiting for the government to come to them. Through your savings you were able to build yourselves better houses, much better than the RDP houses that the government provides. The government needs this kind of commitment from the community so that we can be able to provide services faster and more efficiently”.
Houses built by the Federation through the People’s Housing Process have been of significantly higher quality than those built through privately contracted government delivered starter houses. The current houses being completed with the subsidy pledge are all larger than 50 m2 in size with a fully fitted bathroom, a kitchen with a sink as well as three to four spacious bedrooms. The houses are fully electrified. The finishing includes plaster inside and outside, and is also painted inside and outside. These are achievable through the savings and contributions of the beneficiaries.
The beneficiaries on the projects are mainly elderly women. Young men and women help the beneficiary to construct the houses. Subsidy forms are completed among the members and submitted to the provincial housing Department for approval before building can commence for any beneficiary.
Said Mrs. Manthoka and Mr. Mangena of Orange Farm about a poor people’s movement, “It was a good experience to work with the Federation. It brought us happiness! It was so unfortunate that the whole thing came to a standstill now… There was a problem with the interpretation of the subsidies. People thought that government would be paying the subsidies upfront”.
Poor people have always been in charge of their own developments, building very innovative, very large, and very effective shelters that meet their needs. These creative, colorful, and appropriate homes tend to constitute the vast majority of the architecture of the Global South. It is thus imperative that shack dwellers themselves be involved in the struggle to house the urban poor. They have the appropriate skills and vision to develop their own, comfortable settlements, with a small amount of professional and financial support from the experts and politicians.
Ms. Kota-Fredericks mentioned the long standing relationship between the FEDUP and the national department of Human Settlements. It started with the pledge from Minister Joe Slovo in 1994, which was followed up by Sankie Mthembu-Mahanyelele. Minister Sisulu also pledged subsidies to FEDUP and uTshani Funds in 2004, but provinces have been slow to release these funds for a number of reasons. Rose Molokoane, national coordinator of the FEDUP, commented that a lot of work still remains, as many people still live in harsh conditions. Said Molokoane, “The majority of our people are still poor and can’t afford proper houses. They are living in appalling conditions in informal settlements. But we are confident that our partnership with the government will grow stronger and will achieve more. When we started banks could not loan us money as we were regarded as high risk customers. But we have never lost hope, we decided to do it on our own and it worked”.
Some quotations borrowed from the following online articles:
On Thursday 23 February 2012, while South Africa were debating the implications of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget speech, another group was preparing to put action to words. Community leaders from across the country and associated with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) were gathering in a community hall in Joe Slovo Park, Milnerton, Cape Town. This group attended a workshop during the week on enumerations, mapping and blocking out of their settlements. The energy was bouncing off the walls, and detonated into a joyous singing-dancing affair along Freedom Way.
The group danced and sang their way to the next stop: an open field in Mshini Wam settlement where a gazebo was set up to receive the Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Ms. Zou Kota-Fredericks. The group sang affectionate songs to the on-lookers, urging them to unite and prepare their communities for improving their living conditions.
Ndikunile isandla [I give my hand]
Ndakunika ingalo [I give my arm]
Ndakunika amabele [I give you my chest / breasts]
Andiyazi byifunayo [I don’t know what else you want]
Yona soze uyifumane [and you wont get it!]
Blocking-out is a term the South African SDI Alliance uses to refer to the community based planning and design processes that lead to the re-organisation of shacks to utilise space much better. The need for blocking out could be anything from opening space to ensure better penetration of emergency services, finding solutions to flooding and fire, security and safety of children in court yards under neighborhood supervision, or better located water and sanitation services. In the case of Mshini Wam – a settlement that has been plagued with fires that not only destroy their belongings, but also have claimed residents’ lives – the community intends to open space to develop roads for emergency services, amongst others. Ms. Kota-Fredericks was led through a narrow alley way littered with the debris of shacks pulled down. However, in the place of the old: the new! Ngcambo, a leader from Mshini Wam, introduced the community designs to the minister in a practical way. He presented the previous layout of shacks with cardboard cut-outs, and rearranged them to show her what the new layout will look like. The iKhayalami team was supporting the affected households on that very same stage, and the minister could see the new synergy of professional builders working alongside unskilled communities. The skills transfer that occurs in this space is notable.
The delegation moved on to another aspect of the enumeration process that is linked to securing people’s tenure and creates a sense of belonging. This time, the minister handed over identity cards to Mshini Wam residents. The identity card contains the following household information:
Name and national ID number of household head, with a picture of him / her next to his / her numbered shack
Names and identity numbers of household dependents
Shack and block / cluster number
Number of years lived in the shack
This small gesture goes a long way. When the City’s anti-land invasion unit peruses settlements, and allegedly threatens with eviction, residents in enumerated settlements can easily produce tangible evidence to the contrary.
The party then moved on the next venue: Siyahlala settlement across the road from Mshini Wam. “It’s an honor to again have you here amongst the shacks, Minister” said Patrick Magebhula, chair of ISN and advisor to Tokyo Sexwale. “This is where it really matters”. Turning to the buzzing crowd he said, “You need to be a leader with a purpose. A leader that represents solutions to real problems. A leader of the elderly, of the unemployed, of the disabled, of the children. And you will only know your people and your settlement if you have enumerated and discussed the data”. Magebhula also ensured the Minister and officials from the City of Cape Town that ISN, with support of CORC, are preparing a master database of data collected in settlements over the past years.
Member of Mayoral Committee for Human Settlements, Councilor Sonnenberg, also affirmed the City of Cape Town’s commitment to working alongside communities associated with the Informal Settlement Network – in particular the communities of Mshini Wam, BT Section, Burundi, and Vygieskraal. Six objectives in the partnership between the ISN and City of Cape Town were also presented:
Create a shared community vision of the future, especially with regard to informal settlements upgrading and backyard rehabilitation;
Identify and prioritise key issues, thereby facilitating immediate measures to alleviate urgent problems;
Support community-based analysis of local issues, including the comprehensive review of long-term, systemic problems that confront particular service systems and the need to integrate different service strategies so that they are mutually supportive;
Develop action plans for addressing key issues, drawing from the experiences and innovations of diverse local groups;
Mobilise community-wide resources to meet service needs, including the joint implementation of sustainable development projects; and
Increase public support for municipal activities and local understanding of municipal development needs and constraints.
Minister Kota-Fredericks reminded the delegation of minister, councillors and officials that these are the people we serve. She further remarked that the Department is in the process of finalising its budget and at the budget speech, she will report back on the collaborative upgrading initiatives she witnessed in Cape Town.
In closing, minister Kota-Fredericks talked about the “multiplier effect” that small City-wide projects have on national policy deliberations. This starts through organised communities taking the initiative to build horizontal networks of accountability and transparency. Only by building partnerships with all tiers of government, starting at the local level, meaningful engagement will be achieved. The minister walked the talk, and conducted a household level enumeration by completing the CORC questionnaire with a local resident. And in doing so, she also launched the enumeration of Siyahlala settlement.
Kholeka Xuza, a community leader from Langrug settlement outside Stellenbosch, and myself, a young professional from Cape Town, South Africa, met at Cape Town International Airport late in the evening on 22 January 2012 prior to boarding our first flight north to Norway. We both checked in with no challenges, except Kholeka was not happy when she lost her body lotion and face wash that was in her hand luggage, over 100 ml and not allowed to through security gates. During the wait we were both excited, realizing that there was no turning back now: the next stop is Amsterdam.
We arrived Amsterdam early on the morning of the 23rd. As we arrived at the airport, we could tell we were very far from home due to the cold weather (around 7 degrees). We were shocked at how big the airport was, as we were running through the airport trying to make sure we didn’t miss our next flight to Oslo, Norway. After finding the boarding gate for our flight and looking at the hours we had before our next flight we toured around the airport, amazed by how cheap electronics looked in Euros. Finally around 4pm we made it to Oslo airport in Norway, and for the first time in my life I was in the snow. At this point we were very grateful for the jackets, hats and glovers that SDI brought for us. We geared up as we waiting for the 5pm bus to Ski (Shee as announced by the locals) and took some photos excited and afraid of seeing cold weather.
Day 1: 24 January 2012
Opening address and Welcoming speeches.
After the introduction, the Chair of GLTN Clarissa Augustinus did the opening and welcoming speech, expressing how grateful she was that everyone made it through the GLTN Expert Global Meeting. She introduced the topic “Exploring the Youth Dimensions of the Global Land Agenda” and why it is important that we start thinking about youth involvement in land issues, as they are a marginalized group when it comes to land rights.
After Mrs. Augustinus, Mr. Erik Berg from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed us all to their cold beautiful country. In his welcoming speech, Mr. Berg talked about the importance of human rights education for today's youth, so that the youth can define and defend their rights, knowing exactly what responsibilities they have to their rights as the future leaders of the world.
Mr. Anantha Krishnan from UN-Habitat gave some general information about youth, including the age group that is defined as youth by UN (15-24 years old), and statistics about youth around the world such as :
87 % of youth lives in developing countries.
62 % of the world youth lives in Asia and
17 % in Africa.
He also shared some information about land issues around the world, that 2.7 Billion worth of land is sold in developing countries and that youth represents a marginalized group in land issues.
Asa Jonhsson from GLTN, Un-habitat, officially welcomed all the participants in the Network and stated the vision of GLTN, which is to provide Land Tools at global scale, to give mechanisms that will assist the poor to influence policy making.
Why Focus on Youth and Land?
Siraj Sait from the University of East London presented the GLTN scoping study findings about Youth and Land issues. There is a lot of information that was reflected by the study such as:
There is no clear definition of what age group is considered to be 'youth.' The UN says age group 15-24 years old, African Youth Charter says its everyone up to the age of 35 and UN-habitat fund says up to 32 years old, and those whom are “young at heart”. While in other areas, age is not sole determinant of youth, it depends on race, culture and traditions.
For GLTN the importance of doing research with the youth and using a human rights approach.
A set of hard questions were asked, like can youth work as technical partners in tool developments?
Do youth want land, and can they commit to the process of developing the agenda, and do they have capacity?
On literature review: it was shown that there is little to no literature written about youth in land issues. In the 2007 World Bank Youth Report, there is nothing about youth and land.
The major question that the scoping study asked for me is on the Youth to Youth questions: Why or How is land important to the youth? Some of the participants also asked this question, with no clear answer being given.
During the discussion about the GLTN scoping study, facilitated by Williem van Vliet from University of Colorado, three important questions were asked:
How are youth currently responding to land issues?
What models do youth use to combat their constraints?
How are youth resisting the marginalization on land?
A lot was said in addressing these questions and the outcome was that the struggle for Youth and land needs to be addressed or looked at in the same way that the struggle for woman empowerment was tackled.
Panel: Examples of Projects with a Youth and Land Dimension.
During this panel, four selected projects that work with young people in land issues were selected to present the work they do in their respective countries, which are Kenya (Map Kibera), Brazil (OASIS), South Africa (SDI) and Mexico (World Bank).
Ms. Jamie Lundine from Map Kibera project in Kenya talked about Youth engagement in mapping of informal settlements, and how they use GIS systems and technology to empower young people through training and practice of use the GIS technology to produce a map of their community Kibera, and capture stories of their community so they can influence the development of the community. Please visit www.mapkibera.org for more information on the project.
Mr. Joao Scarpelini from Brazil presented on Empowering communities to achieve their right to the city by playing the OASIS game in the Brazilians favelas in a period of 7 days, where young people and the older generation of a community is brought together to play a game by building a model of they would like to see their community, and take one project and construct it while discussing issues that affect them as a community and what are the possible solutions.
INTRODUCTION: The challenges of informal settlements.
SDI INTERVENTION:- this explored the organogram that SDI works with in different areas and their role working with communities.
LANGRUG CASE STUDY:- This slide introduced the work done in Langrug talking about the background of the project from enumeration and mapping. At this point Kholeka took over the presentation and presentated information about her own community.
A WALK AROUND LANGRUG: - This presented the Langrug enumeration data and the needs of the community, while background pictures provided visuals of community.
LEARNING BY DOING: - this slide explores and explains some of the projects done by the co-reaserchers and the community of Langrug.
CONCLUSION: - Briefly explains the impact that the work done by young people of langrug has in them and their community.
The meeting attendees’ seemed very impressed by the presentation and they were happy about Kholeka being there representing the views of communities as a community member not a professional.
Facilitating Land access to young farmers in Mexico, is a project presented by Mr. Fernard Galeana from the World Bank, shared information about a project that invested in young farmers, by selecting a group of young people that have interest in farming and trained them and gave them a loan of about 30,000 US dollars to start their farming business, but the project failed because there was no clear follow up and the was no community participation through the whole process.
After the presentations Mr. Mabala chaired a discussion were everyone had the opportunity to ask the presenters questions and comment about the different projects, Mr Mabala comment is that all the projects illustrated that all young people have a place in Land issues, and what role they’ll play will be determined by purpose or goal in their different communities.
At this point, all the participants were separated into 4 groups. The groups discussed these following questions:
1. What are the most pressing youth and land concerns globally?
Foreign acquisitions of land in developing countries – pressure on land/resource constraints
Lack of youth participation in policy processes, youth friendly policies
Recognition of rights of young people
Civic education and public participation – realizing your rights and mechanisms to access them
Access to urban land – rental and ownership – landlords vs renters
Unemployment and underemployment (and education) as it relates to ability to secure housing or land
2. Are the any regions/countries and particular issues that stand-out as needing particular attention?
Marginalization (age, certain indigenous groups, girls, women, people with disabilities, etc.)
Inheritance for females in Africa
Europe – collapse of housing market, defaulting on loans and mortgages
The recognition of informality
3. How can youth perspectives best be integrated into Land Projects?
Structural integration and participation in decision making, including inter-generational integration)
Supporting youth structures at all levels
Integration of technology (meeting youth where they are)
Awareness of benefits of youth participation
Day 2: Wednesday, 25 January 2012.
Panel: Programme Responses To Youth and Land Challenges.
1. During this section Mr. Stein Holden presented the Norwegian Government Strategy for Youth and development. The strategy is called 3000 reasons for youth development and looks at how youth can be involved in development issues, and has suggestions on how this can be done and depicts all the role players that must get involved when to assist youth into a position of understanding development. The challenges with this strategy are that:-
There is no clear follow up on the strategy because of the assumption that when a strategy is released the problem is solved.
Little follow up has been done through UN-Habitat.
Is it in line with the MDG?
It doesn’t address a holistic approach to development.
And there is no checklist to measure things achieved through this strategy.
2. Mr. Willem van Vliet presented about Youth Friendly cities. In his presentation, he showed measures that can used to create a youth friendly city, some of his strategic points were :-
The importance of creating a human rights approach that looks at the future and gives a room for development and growth.
An approach that focuses on needs, and addresses the shortcomings of lack that there is.
Creating safe public open spaces that promote a space for dialogue.
Engage young people in discussions around clean water and air.
He also talked about an assessment toolkit of a child friendly city, that makes sure that a city has spaces where children can Play, Participate in different activities in safe spaces, that have social, health and education services, and this got me thinking of the small projects that we do around Langrug like painting toilets, and abandon concrete slabs, on how important is it for the children in informal settlements and how it can spread to different communities.
3. Ms. Katie Fairlier from FIG young surveyors network, talked about Recruiting young people into Land Profession. She talked about the aims and vision of the network and the importance and the nature of the work the network does and the benefits it gives to young professionals in land issues and the exposure it gives them into different projects. www.fig.net/ys.
4. On the topic Lessons from working on gender and land presented by Mr. Siraj Sait, this presentation explored a study done by GLTN and its partners, some of the subjects are that were explored are:-
The role women have play in acquiring land.
Breaking Youth and Gender may lead to fragmentation.
What’s the holistic approach between Youth and Woman (young woman)?
What are the problems facing Youth: The definition of youth and the fact that young people don’t remain in one place, they turn to move around, and
What is the specific youth political approach
This study posed suggestions that can lead into understanding of a key approach in achieving Land and Youth Human rights approach, and recognize all working within the land sector, despite their gender.
During discussion chaired by Ms. Clarissa Augustinus on the presentations, the following outcomes were discussed:-
Land is about politics, technicalities and high-risks.
Land is still a problem for a lot of people in the world; only 30% of the world population is registered land owners, with documents attaching them to piece of land, so adding youth increases the problem of land issues.
An affordable solution in solving land issues doesn’t mean cheap technology, but how do we not marginalize those that are technological challenged.
This discussion with these points led to Ms. Clarissa Augustinus presentation about GLTN’s responses to Land concerns. The presentation started by defining GLTN, and stating its mission and vision in creating a pro-poor agenda in land issues, by doing research on investigation on the root courses to urban poor rights and developing a tools to combat and facilitate the agenda.
In closing I learnt a lot of information at GLTN meeting and meet a lot of people working relative in the same field as myself, that are passionate about their projects they work in, they have inspired me to look at how to include young people more, while not excluding all the other groups into land issues, and how South African in can champion young people involvement in land issues. Although the is no clear definition on what Land means for the youth and why do young people need land, is it for shelter or agriculture or livelihoods the is a clear role that young people are marginalized when it comes to land culturally and economically and the current systems although it promotes youth development but the is not enough information about young people role in land issues, and as much as this is a challenge, for it is an opportunity for young people all over the world to claim their dignity in their community.
This opportunity also gave myself and Kholeka to exposure to other projects like MapKibera, that we are looking at creating a link with so that we can share and learn from about using GIS in Langrug, and also with FIG see what organization of young surveyors they are working with in South Africa, so we can see how the can help Langrug community and other informal settlements in survey information. Thank you a lot to SDI and GLTN for making this opportunity possible.
To view Sizwe & Kholeka's presentation, click here.
Water Kiosk, Kosovo Village, Mathare, Nairobi Kenya
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
Cities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, so often exclude the poor from the political decision-making and financial flows that affect their lives. A meeting of slum dweller federations, local government officials, and academics in Nairobi, Kenya, explored the role of the poor in the growing cities of Africa, and the need to break down the false assumptions of government bureaucracies and professional expertise.
Pakistani architect, activist, and writer Arif Hasan had a simple reflection after a visit last week to the bustling informal neighborhoods of the Mathare Valley in Nairobi, Kenya: “Laws are as good as the rules, regulations and procedures that accompany them. They are as good as the institutions that implement them.”
Slum dwellers in cities throughout the South currently achieve very little through the laws that supposedly govern their lives. Access to water, toilets, electricity, and security of tenure is but a dream for the vast majority of the billion informal residents of cities. The current rules of this life and death “game” of urban development are not only not working, but often actively exclude the poor. So what will it take to build the constituencies with the influence and desire to change these rules?
Such was the underlying charge of a meeting of officials from local government and utility companies, academics, and city/nation-wide slum dweller community organizations, known as “federations,” from Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. The encounter, hosted by Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), was ostensibly about identifying “emerging trends in urban cities in Africa.” But the need for a new governing order that includes the poor emerged consistently through interactions in Nairobi’s slum neighborhoods, as well as in the air-conditioned hotel conference room appointed to bring these actors together.
Kosovo, one of 13 “villages” in Mathare, is the site of a new approach to inclusion of the urban poor in water delivery to informal areas. For years, the Kenya Water Company had complained that they were not receiving revenue from the 6,000 Kosovo residents who were using informal water connections. The SDI-affiliated federation in Kenya, known as Muungano wa wanavijiji (Muungano for short), included many of the residents. They began to organize the community to negotiate with the Water Company to achieve greater access to water, and formalize the connections, so that the Company would receive revenue. As Kosovo resident and Muungano secretary Jason Waweru described it to last year, “We said that both us have rights. So who is to say who has a more important right? So we opened a dialogue.”
Collaboration and contestation have gone hand-in-hand, as both Muungano and the Water Company negotiate the tricky terrain of partnership between “informal” and “formal” actors. At one point, community members began digging individual trenches for water pipes without approval from the Company, in order to speed along the process. Eventually, everyone agreed to something called a “delegated management model,” whereby the Company provides bulk infrastructure, while the community members build and manage street-level piping, as well as collection of fees.
Rules for the Kosovo Water Kiosk
It is a model that went beyond the rules and regulations of a utility company that had not previously been willing to cede control of its authority to distribute water in such a way. And now it is a model that is taking hold in informal settlements not only throughout the Mathare valley and elsewhere in Nairobi, but also in the city of Kisumu.
So how do we actually change the rules of the game? Hasan argues that, in part, the professions associated with development tend to be a major impediment rather than enabler of change: “I worked as an architect and I can say that we are perhaps the most retrogressive of professions because we are so wedded to standards,” he said last week. “We need to break this passion for small ideal solutions and move to large-scale, non-ideal solutions.”
The interactions between communities, professionals, and government officials are beginning to produce the kinds of breakthroughs that can go to scale. This is precisely because they move beyond the regulations and rules that Hasan describes as rooted in “the ruins of collapsed [colonial] empires … even though those empires no longer exist.” In fact, many planning and architecture standards throughout cities in Africa are unchanged from the original codes established by colonial authorities.
One strategy popular amongst SDI federations to build relationships that break down such walls is community-led information collection, sometimes known as “enumeration.” In Stellenbosch, a small municipality outside of Cape Town, South Africa, an informal community called Langrug is home to approximately 1,800 households. After residents conducted their own enumeration, both the municipality and community found space to engage whereas previously the relationship had been full of protest, unmet expectations, and little change on the ground.
David Carolissen, municipal head of the Informal Settlements Unit, says that space made all the difference. “The data has on the one hand connected us to the slums. But it has also allowed the community to reflect themselves to us.” Now, the municipality and community are talking and planning together as they install more toilets, water points, clean up drains, build a new multi-purpose community hall, and prioritize 300 new employment opportunities for women-headed households.
Sometimes achieving this kind of change, which is often small at first, means creating “a spirit of trust among all the actors in this drama,” Hasan argues. “Trust will lead to better laws, less laws, and less bureaucracy.”
This means that both communities and professional actors need to prepare to act in new ways to move from the relationships of exclusion and conflict that characterize the urbanization of poverty in our cities. Tools for community organization such as enumeration and women-led daily savings, are working for groups like SDI federations to build political voice that can strike advantageous deals with formal actors to upgrade informal settlements. Settlements from every country represented at the Nairobi meeting could attest to real physical and social improvements that had come about through these initial steps of self-organization.
But for professionals in the “formal” sector — government officials, NGO professionals, and academics — there are few, if any, guiding principles for how they can act to achieve real change. Changing the rules of the game is anything but a technocractic exercise. A set of professional ethics for those working in development makes a lot of sense to create a sense of professional judgment that can approach challenges of urban growth. These are challenges for which no clear formula for technical action exists.
Hasan proposes one set of ethics that could, in fact, be useful for all actors, both “formal” and “informal”:
1. Planning and projects should respect the ecology of the region in which the city/town is located.
2. Land use should be determined on the basis of social and environmental considerations and not on the basis of land value alone.
3. Development should cater to the needs of the majority population, which is usually low and lower-middle income.
4. Planning and projects should respect and promote the tangible and intangible heritage of the communities that live in urban settlements.
Of course, as he notes, given the current paradigm of development, few, if any, projects would be enacted if they had to fill all four of these criteria. But a shift in professional mindset, as well as a shift in the formal strictures of bureaucracy and governance, is a prerequisite for new pathways to more equitable cities.
Leaders of the South African SDI Alliance congregated between 16 – 18 January 2012 to follow up on progress made since the strategic meeting held at Kopling House in January 2011. At last year’s meeting, the Alliance agreed to a shift of focus towards upgrading of informal settlements. Despite one of the world’s largest housing delivery programmes, the South African government has failed to curb the demand for housing and the improvement of basic living conditions for millions of poor people. The Alliance has pledged ‘to strengthen the voice of the urban and rural poor in order to improve quality of life in informal settlements and backyard dwellings’. This we will accomplish by supporting communities who are willing and able to help themselves.
At the Kopling House strategic meeting, the following four broad strategies were decided upon to define the work of the network:
Building communities through the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) and Informal Settlement Network (ISN) using SDI social tools;
Building partnerships with government at all tiers;
Implementing partnerships through projects; and
Keep record of learning, monitoring and evaluation.
Upgrading informal settlements is an inherently complex endeavor considering the various socio-political realities connected to harsh living conditions and illegality. However, across South Africa the urban poor are mobilizing and building institutional capacity to engage local governments around community-initiated upgrading agendas. As the Alliance’s saying goes, “Nothing for us without us”. Dialogues and outcomes of this year’s strategic meeting focused on meeting the development indicators, which the Alliance set for itself at Kopling House. This year will see a renewed focus on the following:
Capacitating regional leadership structures, and the creation of a national ISN coordinating team
Recommitment to the spirit of daily savings, daily mobilization and daily exchanges of learning
Deepening the quality of selected settlement upgrading, while growing the ISN network
Developing relevant and sensitive indicators, guidelines and protocols for the Alliance’s core activities to spur self-monitoring and evaluation.
Resourcing the Alliance through effective partnerships with local governments, universities and other development agencies such as the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP, Dept of Human Settlements) and the promotion of establishing Urban Poor Funds, similar to the Stellenbosch experience.
Building coalitions of the urban poor with capacity to capture the imaginations of city builders, both from the top-down and the bottom-up, is not often highly regarded or understood when upgrading strategies are devised. The Alliance is committed to strengthening the voices of the urban poor through building effective, pro-poor partnerships and platforms with local government, and implementing these partnerships at project level.
As the process to understand the discrepancies and commonalities between the agendas of communities and the municipality get underway, work must begin. Communities and the municipality develop, in partnership, a mix of “quick wins” that can build trust and show real change for communities. At the same time, the Alliance is geared towards challenging many of the assumptions that lie behind planning for the urban poor throughout cities in South Africa. Other projects that get chosen for implementation are difficult cases designed to influence the way the municipality operates so that its methods come closer to the planning priorities of communities.
All the project types also influence communities. At these interfaces of bottom-up agency and top-down city management, new ways of seeing, grappling with and undestanding informality emerge, and shack dwellers are no longer passive by-standers to the development enterprise, but active partners and innovators, finding workable, affordable and scalable solutions to urban poverty.
In July 2011, a national leader of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), Patrick Magebhula Hunsley, was appointed to serve on the Ministerial Task Team on Water and Sanitation headed by Ms. Winnie Madikizela Mandela. The Team came into being in response to the Makhaza toilet scandal earlier this year, and was tasked with addressing the issue of open-air, incomplete and dilapidated toilets in poor communities across South Africa.
By early 2012, the team is meant to report back to Minister Sexwale of the Department of Human Settlements with recommendations based on their findings on the scale and geographic spread of the problem, as well as any "irregularities or malpractices," of which quite a few have already been unearthed.
In early December, Ms. Mandela was in Cape Town for a National Task Team forum, where community leaders, task teams and members of social movements such as the Informal Settlement Network, one of the members of the South African SDI alliance, presented reports on the state of sanitation in their communities. Following these reports, the SA SDI Alliance made recommendations on upgrading of urban informal settlements based on their experiences of re-blocking at Sheffield Road.
They shared how this process has led to many positive outcomes, including the incorporation of sanitation within the re-blocked clusters, rather than on the periphery of the settlement as is usually the case. Where toilets have been incorporated into clusters, community members reported a marked difference in levels of vandalism and blockages, both of which are problems that can cause the State huge costs in informal settlements.
Upon hearing about Sheffield Rd., Ms. Mandela was eager to visit the community. She spent time meeting with women who have mobilized to turn what was not long ago a maze of dark alleyways with few safe or functioning toilets nearby into a vibrant community working together to bring about permanent change.
By Walter Fieuw, CORC, and Vernon Bowers, Stellenbosch Municipality
The creation of a new Urban Poor Fund was the highlight of the event: The community contributed R12,000 in savings
The enduring nature and extent of homelessness and landlessness in post-apartheid South Africa has compelled new approaches to housing the urban poor. Informal settlement upgrading – an incremental approach to securing tenure and improving basic service delivery – has gained recognition at local and national levels. The central participation of shack dwellers in the planning and implementation of settlement upgrading is integral to the creation of sustainable human settlements and inclusive cities. The anticipation for ‘deepening democracy’ through governance reform and extensive participation is arguably precursory to the prospects of ameliorating the depressing living conditions of slum dwellers. There has possibly never been a greater need for establishing effective partnerships between civil society and the state capable to navigate the turmoil currents of the urban crisis.
The South African SDI Alliance and Stellenbosch Municipality signed an important Memorandum of Understanding
At a spirited event on 12th November in the informal settlement of Langrug on the outskirts of Franschhoek, the Executive Mayor, H.E. Mr. Conrad Sidego, said: “The benefits of this partnership are far-reaching and should be viewed as a paradigm shift in municipal governance.” This historical event was centred on the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the South African Alliance aligned to SDI and the Stellenbosch Municipality. The establishment of an Urban Poor Fund servicing informal settlements in the borders of the Stellenbosch Municipality concretised this pledge of partnership and renewal to “municipal governance”. Delegates from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Swedish International Development Agency, the Governments of Norway and Uganda, and representatives from poor people’s federations in India, Namibia and Malawi were present. The Urban Poor Fund was financed by contributions by the Alliance and the municipality to the value of R3.5 million. Perhaps most significantly, R12,000 of hard-earned savings by the poor of the Stellenbosch region were also pledged.
In the first financial year, in addition to the capital and operational expenditure of community-initiated projects, the Fund will aim to “build an urban poor platform through a network of informal settlements and informal backyarders” by surveying, mapping and profiling settlements with the view of up-scaling upgrading across the municipality. Provisions are also made to invest in the social institutions of the poor in order to manage the partnership projects (e.g. setting up mini offices in five strategic clusters). Tiers of government and other interested parties to participate, especially role players in urban development, will also be engaged with the view of researching and designing “financial facility that incentivises community participation in informal settlement upgrading”.
Jockin Arputham, the president of SDI and of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India, addressed the residents of informal settlements across the municipality: “If everyone depends on the waiting list, it might be 25 – 40 years. And then you won’t even get water or a toilet. I think that the Municipality of Stellenbosch has taken a lead, and they have come forward with a very, very big blessing that where ever you live, that is your land of ownership. If you have your land, you can improve your housing and living condition, which is designed by you. It is our pleasure to set up the urban development community fund where people will have access to the money and the work has to be done by you, the way you want it. Your frustration list is the waiting list.”
The Mayor added: “Today is about changing mindsets in providing housing … Just days ago we contemplated that we now have seven billion people on the planet and the challenges going with that … For us as the local government, we also need to understand and face the reality of what we need to do. If we continue with our old thinking, there is no way that we are going to change this.”
International delegates from SDI were present to support the new partnership with Stellenbosch Municipality
These are the words that epitomize the approach the Western Cape Backyarders Network (WCBN) has towards solving the problems that exist within backyarder communities in Cape Town. But how do you build momentum in a community that has had a history of fragmented approaches to solving its numerous problems? The answer for Manenberg has been both simple in its execution and complex in the processes followed to get to where it is today. Various community organisations at work in Manenberg met recently at the People’s Centre at a gathering organized by the WCBN in conjunction with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) to review the work being done to improve the lives of backyarders in the area.
Organizing the Community
Patsy Daniels, chairperson of the Manenberg Development Coordinating Structure (MDCS) explained the history of community organization within Manenberg. She described how organisations within Manenberg have been competing for funds, resources and exposure, which has seen a very disjointed approach to solving the area’s problems. The role of the MDCS was to provide a coordinated structure for organisations to work together and has provided the platform for the WCBN to start making a real impact on the lives of the backyard dwellers of Manenberg.
Melanie Manuel of the WCBN highlighted the plight of people living in backyard shacks across Cape Town and brought into sharp contrast the unique set of problems faced by slum dwellers who are effectively hidden from the public eye. She explained that with the help of the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) and its links to Slum Dwellers International (SDI), the rituals of enumeration and savings were being utilized to begin an upgrading initiative with Manenberg backyarders as well as some of the most overcrowded rental stock houses in the area. The plan of action did not end here, however, and the approach being followed by the organisations tasked with looking after the housing sector in Manenberg included a multi-facetted method, which would seek to draw in various other sections of the community.
Yulene Waldeck, a member of the WCBN and Manenberg Community Management Services (COMS), then took the gathering through the proposals for a multi-purpose centre, which would be located on a vacant piece of land. The centre would provide accommodation for the elderly, drug abuse counseling facilities as well as skills training and support to young mothers who often lived in overcrowded conditions and had no place to go when facing the pressures of motherhood. In addition, the centre would serve as offices for the organisations working with backyard dwellers and give the community a first port of call in addressing the complex issues around backyard living and informality.
Savings and Enumerations
Savings served as the entry point for the work of the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) in Manenberg. Naeema Swartz of the Manenberg Slum Dwellers explained that even in a community like Manenberg where people are very poor, the need to save is very important. She emphasized that the discipline of savings was key to help many backyard dwellers in the area upgrade and improve their current living conditions. The principle here was to develop the ethos of self-reliance in addressing the concerns of their own community. Gail Julius of the WCBN took the opportunity to highlight another of SDI’s key rituals, that being enumerations and explained how this tool served as an excellent mobilizing and learning tool for the community of Manenberg. The enumeration helped the various role-players understand that overcrowding was one of the biggest concerns facing residents. In one instance the enumeration team had encountered a home where 22 people were sharing a one-bedroom house. The enumerations highlighted the difficulty backyarders had with regards to accessing basic services like sanitation, electricity and water. They would often have to pay for access to these services from the tenants of the rental housing stock. This meant that if there were issues with the tenants the backyarders had no grounds for legal recourse as the City had agreements with the tenants and not with the backyarders, effectively leaving them in limbo.
Henrietta and Lezhaun, members of a family of ten living in an overcrowded one-bedroom house in Manenberg, explained that they have been on the waiting list since 1987. Compounding their overcrowded circumstances was the additional fact that they are both blind. This family in particular raised awareness around the plight of many families where 2nd to 3rd generation members, having no place to move to, simply stayed in overcrowded conditions. In many cases, situations like these have led to the establishment of backyard accommodation which has been the only viable option for people who did not want to move out of Manenberg or lose the social security net that familial networks in the area provided.
Washiela Baker of the Caring Organization, who has been active in community work in Manenberg for over 25 years, stated that she was shocked at the findings of the enumeration. Being able to go into the backyards and witness for herself the conditions people were living under galvanized her to focus more effort towards these people who were hidden from the public gaze.
Providing realistic solutions
The enumeration thus guided the community organisations in the housing sector of the MDCS towards an approach that would seek to upgrade the living conditions of backyard dwellers by improving the dilapidated make shift structures, which thousands of residents in Manenberg find themselves living in today. A secondary proposal looked at the opportunities that existed in demolishing old rental stock houses and building structures that used the space more efficiently to house more people. Melanie Manual explained how the space currently occupied by a five-unit structure could be utilized to build units for eight families and include a courtyard space for children to play in safety.
Unveiling the Upgraded Shack
The main thrust of the gathering was to draw people’s attention to the dire conditions the backyarders found themselves in but at the same time highlight solutions which the community themselves could be involved in. The gathering was invited to take a walk to the site of an upgraded shack in the Manenberg area. Melanie explained that an agreement had been reached with the local government to allow for the upgrading of current structures as long as correct procedures were followed. Backyard shacks housing family of the tenants of council houses could be upgraded provided the tenants were in agreement. This simple step towards an upgrading agenda will mean that thousands of backyarders in Manenberg will finally have the opportunity to live in structures that provide shelter from the harsh Cape Town elements. The upgraded shack was built by an NGO called iKhayalami who specialize in affordable homes and alternative technologies for the urban poor. As people gathered round the new structure a discernable buzz could be felt sweeping through the crowd. Shouts of encouragement and praise rang out as Ms. Sandra Joubert was presented with the key to her new home. To outsiders it would not seem like much, but for this resident of Manenberg who had spent many a winter battling flooding, a leaking roof and the bitter cold, it meant a home that gave her not only shelter but dignity. As the guests who had been invited to view the shack dispersed, a crowd of local residents remained. Their interest had been sparked and inquiries were being made as to how they could access this new kind of shack.
Since the unveiling, Ms. Joubert has had numerous visitors to her upgraded shack all wanting to know how they could get their own shacks upgraded. The WCBN with the help of CORC, FEDUP, ISN and Ikhayalami had clearly struck a chord with the community and upgrading appears to be the more realistic and viable alternative to the never ending waiting list which seemed to offer no hope for the backyarders.
“This is a dream come true in bringing City Councils and communities around a table to talk about possibilities of city-wide informal settlement upgrading,” said Jerry Adlard, the facilitator of the 9th November learning event organised by South African, Namibian and Malawian poor people’s movements aligned to Shack/Slum Dwellers International. Paired with these words, was the call for honest reflection on the objective, structure, achievements, lessons learnt and challenges of unfolding partnerships in the cities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Ethekwini, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, Windhoek and Lilongwe. The learning event was preceded by two days of site visits to re-blocking, sanitation and relocation projects in the City of Cape Town and Stellenbosch Municipality.
How do various actors implicated in urban development build partnerships to ensure pro-poor and inclusive cities? Contemporary African cities are juxtaposed with multiple layers of social, political, economic and environmental realities, which in many ways are aggravated by its colonial past. On the one hand, cities are the spaces of aspiration, innovation and drivers of social change, and on the other, social polarisation, poverty, conflict and environmental degradation narrate the conditions of large portions of city dwellers. In an age that is characterised by urbanisation, said to transform the cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America, there is arguably never been a time where effective partnerships are more needed.
In many cases, slum dwellers are taking the lead in building partnerships with local authorities with the view to significantly influence the way slum upgrading is conceptualised and operationalised. The full participation of slum dwellers in upgrading programmes is central to meeting the outcomes of sustainable human settlements, tending towards social (and political) change. For instance, slum dwellers of the Homeless People’s Federation of Malawi influenced the Lilongwe City Council’s bureaucracy through its large scale enumeration project which involved churches, tribal chieftaincies and other community based organisations (Lilongwe slums span municipal boundaries and averages in sizes of 50,000 residents). This inclusive project resulted in a shift on the part of the City Council from treating urban development as homogeneous to rural development. The establishment of the Informal Settlement Unit, a department which reports directly to the Mayor, was the result of effective lobbying on the part of the urban poor. This partnership illustrates the limitations of technocrats and the possibilities of communities initiating their own developmental priorities.
In Windhoek, the partnership between the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia (SDFN), City of Windhoek and the Polytech is challenging the limitations to transformation implicated in the inherited colonial land use management norms. Space for policy innovation is opening where the contribution and full participation of informal settlements are at the plinth.
Partnerships unfolding in South Africa through the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) and Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) were also discussed at length. Some of the overarching achievements to date have included pilot projects in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and the mining belt in Ekurhuleni whereby communities successfully re-blocked (e.g. Ruimsig (CoJ) and Sheffield Road (CoCT)), installed drainage (Masilunghe (CoCT)), and resettled (Langrug (Stellenbosch) and Lwazi Park (CoCT)). Innovation through upgrading is challenging the enduring (mis)conceptions associated to the subsidised housing paradigm which only looked after the interests of the nucleus family. The SA Alliance’s aspirations for establishing city-wide Urban Poor Funds – funding facilities that support the initiatives of poor communities – have also partially realised when communities successfully leveraged funds from the Stellenbosch Municipality in financing the relocation project and associated service provision.
The institutionalisation of partnerships for city-wide upgrading initiatives is underway. Reports were heard from city officials and community leaders of respective cities. As communities penetrate the seemingly perceived ‘iron towers’ of city bureaucracy and build effective partnerships that influence budgetary allocation and prioritisation, the emphases are shifting from ‘control’ to ‘participation’.
Delegates argued that if the partnership cannot affect political will, for instance to transform the ward councillor structure (in the SA case), then there is no real power to promote the upgrading agenda. One of the Namibian delegates remarked:
“There is a problem to talk about the poor’s ‘self-reliance’ when the issue actually lies with the state’s orientation. Political space is opened to engage around delivery priorities and this is a two-way process; both the state needs to be held accountable, and citizens, demanding basic human rights, need to be proud and organised. One of the main reasons why the partnerships fail to deliver is that the departments don’t understand the difference between upgrading and housing delivery”.
An exhibition will soon open at the Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg, which will showcase the recent, successful partnership between the residents of Ruimsig, a small informal settlement on the north-western periphery of Johannesburg, the SA SDI Alliance and the University of Johannesburg, Department of Architecture. Ruimsig serves as the site for a pioneering studio for architecture students which aims to highlight the necessity and challenges that come within-situ upgrading in the informal context. Partnerships with the community, several NGOs, as well as the National Upgrade Support Programme (NUSP), have been put in place to ensure that the work produced by the students is closely informed by inhabitants’ immediate and long-term needs. Students, teachers and residents have worked together intensely, in a temporary studio in the settlement, to produce a map towards the sensitive ‘reblocking’ (or site-specific formalisation) of Ruimsig. Apart from the primary re-blocking exercise, various site-specific strategies, for short and long-term upgrading and sustainable growth of the settlement, were also work-shopped and tested, together with the community.
On the 1st of September, the project outcomes were exhibited to community leaders and residents of Ruimsig, as well as to representatives from the SA SDI Alliance, NUSP, project partners and officials from the City of Johannesburg.
As a pilot project its significance is potentially catalytic as its realisation will exemplify government’s goal of upgrading 400 000 informal households by 2014. In this context, students collaborated with ‘Community Architects’ from Ruimsig over a period of seven weeks. The collaboration with Ruimsig residents led to the development and illustration of strategies for the sensitive community-driven upgrading and formalisation of the existing settlement. This exercise builds on the inherent spatial qualities of a settlement which has, over a period of more or less 25 years, grown and evolved into a vibrant, dynamic and self-designed place.
The exhibition at Goethe on Main, opening on Thursday, September 21, will make a summary of the project – and its layered and complex process – available to a broader public. The collected work on exhibition until the 2ndOctober 2011 will portray, primarily through film, the challenging dynamics inherent in the teaching of this course, and the necessary shift required by architects, educators and officials to acknowledge and engage with the informal city and its networks.
Community development is often a hard, slow process that requires patience and dedication. The South African SDI Alliance takes the position that community members are actually the linchpin to the success of community development, and nothing less than full inclusion in their own development processes is sufficient. But how do you tackle the problems the urban poor face if the very city they live in effectively excludes them and government departments operate in isolation, trying to address issues which require an integrated approach? The solution lies in the concept of inclusion, and the Alliance has learnt that the City needs to be included in its efforts. But the inclusion of the City does not rest on the shoulders’ of its Informal Settlement Unit alone and the Alliance knows that a more strategic approach is required by drawing in the help of all role-players.
It was in this spirit that the South African SDI Alliance introduced itself to the new Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, at a meeting at the Civic Centre on 4 August 2011. In doing so, the Alliance aimed to garner support from the City for an integrated approach in tackling informal settlement issues and to highlight that community members were a valuable resource along with all government departments. Representatives from the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) and the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) described the history and nature of the partnership to the gathering, which included representatives from the City’s Human Settlements, Utilities and Urbanisation Departments as well as the Informal Settlement Unit’s manager. Since 2009, the Alliance has been working with the Informal Settlement Unit within the City of Cape Town’s Housing Department, and together the partnership has identified 23 settlements where joint pilot projects for incremental upgrading would be executed. The Mayor commended the fact that the Alliance was working towards solving one of the country’s biggest problems and affirmed that the City’s new administration was more than willing to work with them in this regard.
The Alliance representatives revealed that there were advantages in partnering with the City but expressed concern that not all departments were committed to the partnership. The Director of Urbanisation echoed these sentiments and explained that steps were being taken to address this issue. The Mayor affirmed this and envisaged practical engagement with the Alliance on a number of fronts and in particular highlighted that the ISN could make valuable input into the City’s five-year Integrated Development Plan, help the City resolve conflicts in areas that the ISN represents, as well as help establish an accurate database of informal settlements and backyard areas. She felt that a Memorandum of Understanding needed to be signed to formalise the partnership. The drafting of this document is currently underway and will be signed the next time the Alliance meets with the Mayor. It is hoped that this will lead to an integrated departmental approach from the City to informal settlement development issues, and through the Alliance the voice of the urban poor would be included in this process.
By Skye Dobson and Charlton Ziervogel, SDI Secretariat
22 July 2011 | The South African enumeration process has been underway since 1995. Enumerations are essentially community-run censuses, managed and conducted by slum dweller federations throughout the SDI-network. Enumeration is one of SDI’s key rituals for mobilizing communities and generating the crucial inputs for collective action required to improve the quality of life in informal settlements. The household information collected – on tenure, income, employment, and services – is vital to combating the invisibility of those living in slums and constitutes a powerful negotiating tool when communities approach their local and municipal governments.
To reap the full benefits of enumeration community ownership of the process is absolutely essential. This truth was discussed at length at an enumeration reflection meeting held in Cape Town on July 23rd, 2011. The meeting was chaired by Mr. Jack Makau, from the Kenyan Alliance, who has been instrumental in facilitating the enumeration process in many of SDI’s member Federations. Enumeration leaders from various settlements were in attendance, these included representatives from Barcelona, Bosbou, Burundi, Europe, Joe Slovo, Macasar, the Manenberg Backyarders, and Shukushukuma.
Mr. Makau opened the meeting by telling the assembled enumeration leaders that he was humbled to be chairing such a meeting, especially given the fact he learnt much of what he knows about enumeration in South Africa while participating in the process in Gauteng. . He also thanked the South African Federation for the inspiration it continues to provide throughout the international network. South Africa has long been associated with inspiring social movements and the Federation is continuing that honorable tradition of collective action to combat injustice.
The purpose of the meeting, Mr. Makau explained, was to reflect upon the enumeration process thus far. Ever the consummate community organizer, Mr. Makau was not there to provide answers, but to guide the community to find their own by asking insightful questions and probing the community to suggest strategies for combating the issues they themselves identified. He opened the discussion by reflecting on the enumeration exercise conducted in Burundi settlement two days earlier. To do so he simply asked, “Why do we do enumerations?”
Things started slowly – as such meetings often do. Those used to speaking started the discussion and highlighted their successes to date. Many of the achievements were stated in generic “development-speak” to begin with, but with a little probing from Mr. Makau, quieter members spoke up, the stories became more personal, and a fuller picture emerged.
The Federation members highlighted the contribution the enumeration process has made to mobilization efforts and the increased attention their groups have garnered. This was particularly true of the women from the Manenberg backyarders who noted the very many discussions they had whilst conducting the survey. Aside from merely asking the recipients to respond to the questionnaire, they answered many questions themselves – about what the Federation is, what it does, and why enumerations are conducted. The group identified the purpose of enumerations as being a tool to give a voice to communities and strengthen their case when it comes time to negotiate with municipalities and other urban development authorities.
The members also identified the deepening of their own understanding of the settlements in which they live. The Manenberg group were shocked and deeply saddened by the horrid conditions “backyarders” live in, and the exploitation they suffer at the hands of their landlords. The group has since taken their enumeration data about the number of backyarders in their settlement to the municipal council demanding that there be budget line committing the council to support these most vulnerable residents.
Others were also able to prioritize certain vulnerable groups for action based on enumeration data. In one settlement it became clear that disabled persons had no access to toilet facilities and the community has approached their council to rectify the matter. Another group found an elderly woman sleeping under a plastic sail and sought donor support to provide her with adequate shelter. Still others cited the ratio of toilets and water-points to residents to be of primary concern.
Melanie Manuels, from the Manenberg backyarders, explained their approach to the enumeration. Before commencing, the group mobilized an effort to map out local stakeholders in their area to whom community members with particular issues could be referred. Despite severely constrained financial capacity, the group knew it could direct vulnerable residents to certain service providers free of charge. This approach received much praise from those assembled in the reflection meeting and will likely be incorporated into the efforts of other groups.
The power of community-driven enumerations was highlighted in an account from Mzwanele, a community leader from Joe Slovo. He explained to the group how their particular enumeration proved that there were less people than originally thought within the settlement. This meant that upgrading could be done in situ without having to relocate people to the periphery.
The meeting then turned its attention to some of the challenges encountered thus far. Of principal concern was the difficulty maintaining community enthusiasm for the effort. Some leaders cited teams of 50 dwindling to teams of 15 by the end of an enumeration, while others expressed dissatisfaction that many enumerators see their contribution as a job, rather than a collective effort to improve the lives and livelihoods of people within their community. The group agreed that real community involvement meant everyone should understand why enumerations were conducted. More importantly the discussions revealed that enumerations should be a tool for inspiring community members to learn about and take action on issues facing their settlement.
Mr. Makau was able to comfort the group by informing them that it is a problem encountered by many Federations. Instead of providing them with a solution, he told them stories of other enumeration processes throughout the world and how other Federations attempted to resolve the issue. He then gave the assembled members a chance to mull over these strategies.
The group concluded that their issues came down to effective mobilization. They decided that it is their job to make sure Federation members see them as role models who are part of the Federation because of a deep desire to seek the greater good for their communities. In so doing, they concluded, the Federation would be encouraged to feel that same passion. They resolved to return to their own communities and reinforce the key SDI rituals and spirit that had drawn them in, and ensure the enumeration exercise is viewed as ritual like any other – conducted to strengthen collective efficacy and capacity in the community. There was agreement that the enumeration exercise should be perceived as a process – rather than a discrete activity.
In addition, the Federation members decided it would be wise to ensure members of the community being enumerated take an active role in enumeration of their settlement. In so doing, it is hoped the value of enumeration will be internalized more wholly and the Federation can minimize the occurrence of members perceiving the exercise as a sort of employment.
The group resolved to share the conclusions from the meeting with their respective settlements and discuss them in greater depth in order to determine specific strategies for more effective mobilization. A powerful suggestion came from an elder in the group who suggested inspiration be taken from the leaders’ own motivation for doing what they do and for getting involved in the Federation in the first place. The group agreed and decided that the way SDI rituals are introduced when first contact is made in a community is very important. False expectations and misinformation in this regard were identified as part of the reason why community enthusiasm may dwindle over the course of an enumeration
Mr. Makau thanked the members for their contribution to a productive reflection meeting. Such meetings are crucial to the collective learning SDI seeks to promote and help to ensure the Federation remains nimble and effective in its work – collectively conscious of strengths, weaknesses, and strategies for success that reflect its core values.
Building a bridge between the “informal” and the “formal”: Reflections on slum upgrading in South Africa
In January, the South African SDI Alliance affirmed a vision to build city-wide networks of informal settlement communities that mobilize to upgrade their settlements. Nearly six months later, about 30 representatives of the Alliance partners — the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP), Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), iKhayalami, and uTshani Fund — met in Cape Town to reflect on the upgrading work that has been accomplished thus far.
On 7 June, visitors from elsewhere in South Africa visited the settlement of Sheffield Road. There, the ISN and CORC have worked with community leadership to re-arrange or “re-block” shacks in the dense settlement built on a road reserve. In addition to re-arranging the settlement spatially, they have built upgraded shack shelters. As the project has fallen within the ambit of a city-wide partnership between the Alliance and the Metropolitan Municipality of Cape Town, the community has been able to work with the City to install new toilets in locations planned by the community as part of the arrangement of shacks.
The Alliance then spent the next two days reflecting on the way in which the upgrading process has unfolded in Sheffield Road. The lessons from this case study served as a springboard for a deeper discussion around basic principles for upgrading projects ongoing or still to come both in Cape Town and in the Alliance nationwide.
The underlying lesson of this discussion is that upgrading informal settlements is anything but the technical exercise presented by many in the formal world such as governments, professionals, and academics. The primary challenge lies in the basic fact that upgrading settlements requires the inclusion of whole affected communities in the processes that go into such improvements. Whether we refer to the political, financial or planning aspects of upgrading, it is the initiative and leadership of organized communities that is the essential ingredient in making a project successful.
Evaluating and learning from Sheffield Road
Critical feedback from all participants emphasized both positive and negative aspects of the process and outcome of the Sheffield Road project. Positives included the demonstration that in situ reconfiguration of space within a settlement can make a large contribution to the building of social bonds and life within a settlement, as well create a safer environment from both crime and natural calamities. Further, the relationship of the city-wide ISN and the leadership of the Sheffield Road community helped build a bridge to municipal officials. This resulted in the provision of new toilets located as part of a spatial layout plan developed by the community. Though leadership structures have been challenged throughout this process, the existence of strong leaders able to mobilize residents through a risky process of tearing down shacks and rebuilding, has been a powerful impetus for the success of the project.
Participants noted an apparent dependency on technical support from the NGO, insufficient contributions from savings, difficulties with uninterested or unaccountable leadership structures, and a general lack of “sensitization” of the community. It was emphasized that community mobilization is the key to the sustainability of any upgrading project. As long as the NGO drives the process, the project fosters a growing sense of entitlement in the community and prevents residents from taking ownership.
What is blocking out?
Blocking out is a way of refining the planning of informal settlements. Put more simply, “blocking out” or “re-blocking” refers to a rearrangement of shacks in an informal settlement. Re-blocking is a way of addressing the larger concept of spatial reconfiguration versus the simple delineation of sites. The difference is between focusing on individual households or space that is used by whole communities. The space can be used for communal amenities, or to create lanes for installation of services such as water, sanitation and electricity.
Blocking out is also understood as a way to increase tenure. It demonstrates community capacity with regard to planning, and makes way for installation of services, which can provide a greater level of security to residents.
In the case of Sheffield Road, iKhayalami, a NGO linked to CORC, provided replacement zinc shelters to residents who moved their shacks as part of the “re-blocking” exercise. The Alliance debated whether this should be linked to “re-blocking” and how it should be done.
Positive aspects of provision of shelter are primarily related to the fact that residents’ shelters may be damaged in the course of moving their shacks. Further, they are only given four walls, so they contribute to the building of their new shacks, breeding stronger ownership of the project. Finally, the provision of a shelter upgrade through iKhayalami was considered necessary for mobilizing the community in a non-disaster situation.
Criticisms of this approach centered on the linking of private housing space — the upgraded shack — to what is primarily a project about public living space — the re-blocked settlement. Some participants noted that the upgraded shelter may be seen as minimizing the existing investments that residents make into their shelters prior to the re-blocking exercise. A related point was that informal settlement residents have demonstrated great resourcefulness in building shacks and sourcing material for these shacks. Therefore, provision of a new shelter may distract from larger upgrading projects. Some suggested that the provision of new shelters in the context of re-blocking could amount to a reduced form of “RDP” housing provision, and could set an example for a R5,000 subsidy for improved shack versus a R50,000 subsidy for a government house.
Another critique suggested that it would not be cost-effective for CORC/iKhayalami to provide heavily subsidized shelter upgrading solutions at any kind of meaningful scale. While some participants saw this as a critique of working to upgrade private shelter through provision of modular iKhayalami-type materials, an additional view was that this was also a way to access the resources of the State for the poor. The NGO would be making an up-front investment to get much greater returns in terms of the potential resources that could be secured from the State. The view is that funds such as those coming from Emergency Housing Fund or Urban Settlements Development Grant could be made available at large scale for such an upgrading protocol, given a proper demonstration model. The popularity of the iKhayalami shelters in the projects proposed to the Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) board, even with a 10% required contribution on the part of informal settlement residents, indicates that this may be a favorable option.
Finally, there was a discussion about the difference between finance for public upgrading improvements — eg. public space, basic services — and funding constraints for individual improvements — eg. shelter. This led to a discussion of the possibility of trying to implement a financial instrument for shelter upgrades. It could be partly microcredit, which would help provide some recognition for the investments that families make to upgrade their shelters. By the same token, the discussion acknowledged that upgrading an informal shelter is a risk that would be very difficult to get banks to take on without some kind of further guarantee. Hence a mix of grant funding and microcredit was proposed as a way to a) provide access to finance, and deepen formal acknowledgment of investments that the poor make into their shelters, and b) to develop a potentially sustainable mechanism for both securing finances for upgrading informal households from a State nominally keen on providing subsidies for poverty alleviation, while simultaneously “banking” an “unbanked” sector.
How do communities organize to upgrade?
“Blocking out is actually a mobilization tool more than anything else. We are saying that we are an Informal Settlement Network. So we need to be preaching informal settlement upgrading.”
— Rose Molokoane
The case of Sheffield Road highlights a number of challenges regarding community organization. The long time frame of the project is due primarily to difficulties in mobilizing savings contributions for the shelter upgrade. Further, the ISN leadership engagement with the community included the institution of a new community leadership structure that was not initially accepted by the community. Ultimately, there was a sense that it was especially difficult to build a constituency for upgrading at Sheffield Road without dangling the carrot of a shelter upgrade.
But if a community-led approach to upgrading is to be taken to scale within the Alliance, then everyone agreed that the key conversation is about how communities organize themselves. Savings has long been the backbone activity of the Alliance partners. Yet savings has been one of the most difficult activities to mobilize in the upgrading process. A central contradiction is that savings has long been a membership-based activity linked primarily to FEDUP. But upgrading is a community-wide process, which therefore requires community-wide pooling of financial resources.
In Sheffield Road, re-blocking has been done in clusters of about 15 shacks, and savings has also been organized at that level. In Umlazi in Durban, the community divided itself up into five different sections, and has begun saving by section for upgrading projects.
Such strategies for community-wide savings have a big impact on the methods of organization that communities are finding necessary for upgrading at the whole settlement scale. In Slovo Park, in Johannesburg, the community leadership realized that it had to organize structures all the way down to the block or street level in order to be effective. “We realized that we were holding lots of meetings and people weren’t coming,” said community leader Mohau Melani. “We realized that we have to go down to the block level.”
It was further noted that enumeration can be an effective tool for promoting such organization. Perhaps even more importantly the use of enumeration as a tool for understanding the most important needs of a community was underlined. Participants agreed that, in most cases, the enumerations taking place within the Alliance are not being used to the full extent of their potential effectiveness.
A social movement aimed at the upgrading of informal settlements is an issue-based social movement. Therefore, the primary activities of this movement need to be geared towards identifying developmental issues — through tools like enumeration, profiling, and regional dialogues — as well as the pooling of political and financial resources — through the establishment of deeper leadership structures, savings schemes, and participation of women.
The challenge of scale
The establishment of the Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) is an initiative of the Alliance designed to encourage a constituency for community-driven upgrading projects nationwide. CUFF operates through a bottom-up structure. Informal settlement and backyard shack dweller communities make proposals to a board composed of a majority of slum dwellers, for grant funding for upgrading projects.
The intention of CUFF is to demonstrate a wide multiplicity of upgrading solutions, methods for community leadership of upgrading projects, and institutional structures for bottom-up, city-wide finance facilities for upgrading that can eventually be adopted by the State. CUFF was established earlier this year, but few of the projects that the board has approved are yet up and running. Participants in the meeting agreed that a renewed focus on deep mobilization, as detailed in the previous section, needs to be the primary focus in order to generate a constituency for projects that will be creative, effective, respond to community need, and have potential for going to larger scale.
The number one determinant of an effective upgrading project is an organized community. It was resolved that the following factors are key to evaluating an effective community:
Leadership structures are constituted all the way down to the street or block level. At the settlement-wide level, a Community Development Committee that include all existing structures in a community (eg. women’s forums, business forums, task teams, etc.)
Regular community meetings where residents have a chance to bring up their needs and have them recorded.
Community-wide savings. There are different methods that can exist for how these are organized, but the key is to have transparent and accountable systems that breed trust in the process.
Enumeration. A clear and participatory account of the needs and make-up of the community.
Regional dialogues to draw out the type and scale of needs that exist at the regional or city-wide level.
Participation of women.
Partnership with local authorities. These are designed to increase learning around the challenges and successes of community-led strategies for informal settlement upgrading, and to get these methods adopted as policy.
NGO role is to link communities, provide strategic support for external partnerships, and advise network leaders on building their movement. NGO professionals do not mobilize communities, and should not become primary implementers or managers of a project.
Focus on existing community investments in their settlements. Shelter upgrades should not ignore the pre-existing capacity for building, maintaining, and upgrading shacks in informal settlement communities.
Alliance goal is to develop a large variety of upgrading solutions, and not to standardize a one-size-fits-all approach for all settlements.
Shelter upgrade can accompany other upgrades, but mobilization (meetings and exchanges) should make clear that such work is entirely de-linked from other types of upgrading (eg. blocking out). Role of shelter upgrade is to provide a model that can access further resources from the State for the poor.
In January, 2011, the Indian Alliance of SPARC, NSDF and Mahila Milan hosted a four day workshop with SDI affiliate members from across Africa and South-East Asia to consolidate members’ enumeration processes and experiences. The workshop was intended to create a space for, firstly, collective reflection on the importance of this fundamental SDI activity and, secondly, to develop strategies to strengthen the SDI Secretariat’s ability to assist member federations expand and deepen their enumeration processes.
About Enumerations: Functionally, enumerations and surveys are tools by which the community collects information about its resources, land ownership, history, services that are provided and the community’s priorities. The various forms in which enumerations are exercised are detailed here. This information forms an important basis for addressing deprivations in slum areas, long-term strategic planning and for negotiating with authorities for land, tenure and infrastructure.
However, enumerating activities do much more than that. They are used not only as a tool to collect information about their communities, but also as a means of connecting and reaching out to people, and through this process, give individuals a collective sense of identity. They provide communities and their aggregated federations with a sense of who they are, what their collective needs are and information and data to produce insights about their situation. People learn to explore processes of contestation with the state about information the state has generated about the poor, which is often not comprehensive and can generally not be disaggregated to produce projects and investment possibilities or to benchmark what needs to be improved upon.
Workshop and its Objectives: In SDI’s collective experience, enumeration processes have been invaluable. Enumerations need to be expanded and carried forward at a large scale – and it was with this overarching objective in mind that the workshop was organised. Within this, a sub-objective was to focus on how support professionals and NGOs can improve their roles in assisting their federation-partners design and execute surveys, manage data and prepare reports.
The Workshop was therefore designed to create a space to:
Discuss each participating country’s enumeration process, with the goal of clarifying and strengthening the various activities involved, identifying challenges and planning strategies to overcome these challenges
Identify opportunities for the SDI Secretariat to support country-exchanges for federations to learn about various enumeration processes strategies
Increase capability of federations and supporting NGOs in terms of data management and analysis
Exchange thoughts and ideas about the potential for standardization of basic data used by cities and countries
Discuss the possible future uses of GIS for mapping settlements and possible future production of biometric ID cards
Participants at the workshop included representatives from the SDI Secretariat and NGOs and federations from Ghana, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Philippines and India.
Structure of the Workshop: The Workshop was spread over 4 days. Introductions and outlining individual participants’ expectations of the Workshop dominated the first half of the first day, while the second was dedicated to “setting the stage” – i.e. identifying the current status of federation work, common challenges and an overview of SDI’s near-future objectives. The second day included presentations from each country representative about their enumeration “journey” – each followed by a Q&A session which probed deeper into the role and value of enumerations in addressing needs of federations in that country. On the third day, the Indian Alliance organised a field visit to Pune, where local Mahila Milan presented, on site, their journey from savings and credit activities to enumerations to negotiations with governments to improved housing and sanitation. On the final day, participants evaluated whether their expectations had been met at the Workshop, developed action plans to expand their enumeration activities and identified key peer-to-peer exchanges that would, with the support of the SDI Secretariat, facilitate their goals.
Main themes discussed: Several important issues emerged over the course of the workshop, particularly during the individual country presentations. A brief on each participating country – their enumeration history, processes, key achievements, challenges and top priorities – is included in the full report. Some of the prominent and common issues that emerged were:
The ‘age’ of NGOs and federations, in terms of experience and capacity for enumerations, in creating processes that lead to effective engagement at the individual/community level and enable a strong federation to take root.
The importance of building the legitimacy of enumeration processes and data gathered to, firstly, facilitate engagement with outside partners and stakeholders and, secondly, to transform relationships so that federations are valued as partners in national development processes
Balancing the fundamental commitment of the process to be accountable to its constituents with the demands of governments (and others) to “make data look” a certain way – in an effort to produce information in ways that suit the needs of both, the communities and others
Understanding the subtleties of the process – including survey design
Understanding the data – in terms of its findings, its role in bringing communities together and in promoting ownership of the process (translating the data back to the community)
*** A full report with country briefs and other key insights can be downloaded here***
The Zimbabwean Alliance hosted the second National Forum whose theme was ‘strengthening our process through savings’. The Forum which was held in the Midlands Province in Gweru was attended by Federation members from the seven regions namely Harare, Matebeleland South Matebeleland North, Masvingo, Mashonaland West, Manicaland and Midlands.
SDI affiliates from South Africa, Namibia, Malawi and Zambia graced the occasion and assisted greatly with the discussions. The Forum’s main agenda involved presentation of regional reports, reflection on the Federation rituals and drafting of regional work-plans.
The various regions reported how they had expanded the Federation coverage through opening savings schemes in new areas. In areas around Harare, new initiatives like Shamva, Bindura, Guruve and Marondera had now been mobilised whilst Matebeleland South now encorporated areas that include Plumtree, Kezi, Gwambe, Esigodini and Tsholotsho. The countrywide mobilisation of new areas had seen uMfelandawonye chapters grow from 32 areas in 2008 to the current 54 areas. The different regions also reported on the establishment of networks in their areas – a strategy that had seen participation of more members and strengthening of groups through breaking regions into smaller clusters. Networks were also reported to be facilitating the decentralisation of regional budgets.
A majority of savings schemes outlined how they had started the creative usage of savings through the mobilisation of money for buying groceries, pre-purchasing building materials and availing loans for business projects. Some of the products from the business ventures were also on display at the Forum. Harare region, for instance, showcased products from a project that was producing building materials and herbal medicines. The various regions also highlighted that the move to ensure the immediate usage of savings had been necessitated by the lack of trust in the banking sector.
The regional reports were then followed by specific presentations on the Federation rituals and components. Under the health component, it was reported that a pilot mobile clinic had been set up and been functional for close to three months. The clinic was currently stationed at the Crowborough Federation resource centre catering for the wider community as well.
The presentation on land noted that negotiations with both central and local government institutions had since yielded a total of around 5354 stands across the country. Infrastructure was however reported to be the biggest challenge hence there was a now a well-coordinated campaign for alternatives like boreholes and ecological sanitation units. Whilst on one hand lobbying was going on with officials to have buy-in, the Federation’s capacity to build the eco-san toilets was being developed through training sessions and exchange visits. Seven artisans training sessions have so far been conducted in the country’s six regions.
Enumerations as a powerful tool for negotiations had been expanded and sharpened to include mapping. The national enumeration team reported how they had started building and strengthening their teams in preparation for a number of surveys as well as the Harare Slum Upgrading Programme. Lastly, the Forum participants then grouped according to the regions in order to prepare regional work plans on the basis of the different areas’ priorities.
Southern African hub meeting
Consistent with current practice with other SDI hubs, the Southern Hub of Africa met in Zimbabwe around the latter’s National Forum. The five SDI affiliates in attendance appraised each other through country reports.
The Malawians provided feedback pertaining to their National Forum held in 2010 and thanked the other affiliates for their support. The Malawians also reported on a series of exchanges around water and sanitation that had taken place with Zimbabwe. The activities in Malawi had also started to have impact on policy as shown by the Malawian government’s Growth and Development Strategy which was modelled around the Federation concept.
The Zambians indicated that they were currently busy with a number of housing projects as well as building resource centres hence they had plans to strengthen their capacity through artisans training programmes. In addition, the Zambians had scheduled two Forums on Housing and Health in the first half of the year which drew a lot of interest from other affiliates.
In Swaziland, the need for Federation strengthening emerged as the main priority although it was mentioned that interaction with central and local government had significantly improved. A national forum held in December inn Swaziland had helped to boost the savings schemes.
In Harare, the Federation was implementing Slum Upgrading Project in partnership with the City of Harare and already an exchange had taken place with the Malawians around this project. The Zimbabweans noted that there were plans to scale up current health programmes.
In Namibia, a countrywide 5-year programme (Community Land Information Programme CLIP) documenting informal settlements, was reported to be underway. The Namibians also informed the meeting about the pending programmes aimed at supporting the emerging process in Angola.
The South Africans invited other affiliates to their National Forum earmarked for March 2011. In particular, FEDUP requested support on health issues from other affiliates during the Forum.
After the country reports the meeting then went on to discuss the UPFI call for proposals whose sum total for the entire hub was US$100000.00 with a repayment period of 3 years. The affiliates discussed the terms for accessing UPFI funds and the following country-level issues were noted as the basis for allocation;
Existing city-wide processes
Existing revolving community-based loan fund
Existing country-wide network of federations
Existing partnerships with government.
On the project level, the following specific considerations were observed as critical for the disbursement of funds;
Impact – the extent to which a project will yield results and benefit members
Policy – the extent to which a project will influence central and local government policy
Leverage – the extent to which a project has scope to attract additional resources
Innovation – the extent to which the resources will go towards new alternative
Sustainability – the extent to which the resources will go beyond the project period
In the end, the affiliates agreed on the following allocations for the UPFI call;
Housing project in North West Province
Completion of Federation resource centre in Lusaka
Construction of Chinsapo Community Hall
Scaling up of the health initiative in Harare
*Namibia did not have a proposal during the time of meeting
The following exchange programmes for the hub were planned for the year 2011.
Slum dweller community leaders from throughout South Africa made a historic commitment last week to build and network community organizations in order to upgrade informal settlements at scale throughout the country’s cities. The three-day meeting at the Kolping House in Cape Town brought together over 100 delegates from the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), Poor People’s Movement (PPM), Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), uTshani Fund, uDondolo Trust, and Shack Dwellers International (SDI).
This wide-ranging alliance of community organizations and non-governmental organizations linked to SDI agreed to a program of action designed to build community leadership around issue-based development. Key activities include capacitating communities to collect their own information through household surveys, so as to be active participants in planning for their settlements and cities.
Further, a cornerstone of the agreed resolutions was an intention for networks of community organizations to build partnerships with municipal authorities. These partnerships will form the basis for a program of community-centered planning for upgrading settlements, and managing urban growth.
“Our strategy is a version of that old rally cry: ‘Nothing for us without us,’” said Patrick Magebhula, ISN chair, FEDUP president, and advisor to Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale. “The kind of upgrading we speak of is not about land and services alone. This is about realizing real citizenship and equality in our cities.”
Magebhula made the remarks at a ceremony on Friday, 21 January, where the South African SDI Alliance joined hands with housing officials from the municipalities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch to reaffirm their partnerships to upgrade informal settlements. The Cape Town partnership has already led to upgrading projects in 7 informal settlements with active involvement of the local community, facilitated by the ISN as a network of informal settlement communities throughout the city. In total, the Alliance and the municipality have already agreed to work in at least 20 informal settlements.
“I have been walking this road with the Alliance for two years. I have shared the pain and I have shared the joy,” said Mzwandile Sokupa, director of the Cape Town municipality’s informal settlements department. “We bring all resources to the table, in terms of people, in terms of funding, in terms of will … We are also saying, ‘nothing for you without you.’”
Johru Robyn, Town Planner in the housing department of the Stellenbosch municipality, noted the transforming effects of his department’s partnership with the SDI Alliance. “We have pursued many public-private partnerships, but our partnership with [the Alliance] has led to a total rethink of our housing strategy,” he said.
The shift has been two fold. Firstly, Stellenbosch had never before considered an informal settlement upgrading program. Johru also noted the impact that the Alliance has had on the way Stellenbosch engages with informal settlement dwellers: “Now we don’t go to the community to talk to the community. Now we go to the community to speak with them.”
One of three planned partnered upgrading projects is already underway in Stellenbosch, and the city is exploring the creating of a jointly-managed “urban poor fund,” for wider scale upgrading in the municipality.
Nation-wide, the South African SDI Alliance has 23 pilot projects for informal settlement upgrading underway in 7 cities. Another 32 are planned, for a total of 55 pilot projects. Such work is done in partnership between communities, municipal governments, and, in 2 instances, also academic institutions.
FEDUP has long been the largest civil society initiative to empower the poor to build houses for themselves utilizing the governmental People’s Housing Process subsidy. Since 1994, the Federation has built over 15,000 houses.
Federation national coordinator and SDI deputy president Rose Molokoane reflected the Federation’s shift in focus to incremental upgrading during the round of singing that punctuated Friday’s ceremony. After singing an old Federation song about building houses, “Zenzele” (do it for yourself), she pointed to Magebhula who wrote the song. “ Now I want someone who composed this song to make a remix,” she said.
Pictured above: SDI President Jockin Arputham speaks while Ugandan Housing Minister Michael Werikhe, and Mats Odell, Swedish Minister for Finance, Local Government and Housing, look on.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
The Board of Governors for SDI’s Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI) held its second and last meeting of the year last week in Stockholm, Sweden. Such gatherings are a unique chance to mobilize political support for a people-centered agenda for urban development. High-ranking government officials from countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America, joined slum community leaders to discuss how to support initiatives of locally-rooted community organizations in cities throughout the Global South.
The UPFI provides seed funding to local urban poor funds of national federations affiliated to SDI. The idea is that the money provided by UPFI catalyzes local initiatives that can leverage further resources, have an impact on urban policy, demonstrate possibilities for reaching further scale, and increase sustainable financial practices of the poor through savings.
“I see it as a tool that supports the SDI affiliates in upscaling their development,” says Rose Molokoane, member of a savings scheme of the Federation of the Urban Poor in Oukasie, South Africa, and deputy president of SDI. “For us to have one basket of funds draws the funders to come closer together to create space for the poor and strengthens our self-reliance.”
The Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation (ZHPF) is an instructive example of the ways in which the poor control their developmental future through the UPFI. The ZHPF has used the funding to build “eco-san” toilets in cities such as Bulawayo and Chinhoyi. These toilets are pioneering a cheaper, environmentally-friendly alternative to basic sanitation provision in slums where the high cost of traditional basic services has impeded any kind of incremental development.
The Malawian Federation, also affiliated to SDI, served as a horizontal resource for the development of the ecosan model. In March of this year, a Malawian team comprised of three builders, one federation member and a Water and Sanitation Programme Manager, went to Zimbabwe to teach the ZHPF about the ecosan toilets and construct model toilets in those areas. The projects have enabled the ZHPF to change policy at the local level by involving city officials, and have also had an impact up to the national level. The ZHPF is the leading community voice of the poor for housing in negotiations for a new Zimbabwean constitution. The incremental upgrading strategies employed by the Federation, especially with regards to sanitation, are affecting local university planning curricula as well.
The Stockholm meeting of the UPFI board, hosted by the Swedish government, was coupled with a seminar on “reshaping financial markets to make them more relevant to the poorest of the poor.” This seminar featured a mix of slum dweller activists, academics, NGO professionals, and finance experts, presenting on policy and practice in urban settings in Asia, Africa, and South America. Over 75 people from the Swedish business world attended the seminar, and the hope is that private institutions can begin working to develop financial instruments for poor individuals and communities. Access to finance is one of the biggest challenges impeding many people's ability to get out of poverty, especially in urban environment.
Jockin Arputham is the founder of the National Slum Dwellers Federation in India and president of SDI: “To empower the poor you need to organize the people and make them taste the fruit of organizing. Your power is strengthened by your negotiating power. You don’t go empty-handed to negotiate with government. The UPFI helps people to win the kind of power you need to negotiate with government: statistics, finance, everything. Now no government cannot ignore SDI. There’s no way anyone can ignore this process. They have to engage communities,” he says.
By Blessing Mancitshana and Patience Phewa, CORC South Africa
Editor's note: South African slum dwellers that are part of the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) and the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) traveled to Namibia on 6-9 August to learn and support an enumeration exercise in the city of Swakopmund. As the Community Organization Resource Centre's (CORC) Blessing Mancitshana and Patience Phewa write, the activities are of particular note because of the extent to which the local communities controlled and took ownership of the activities, as well as the enthusiasm displayed by local government officials to support this people-centered process.
The first activity was attending to the Swakopmund Municipality meeting where the DRC (Democratically Relocated Community according to the Municipal official) enumeration exercise was briefed. In the evening of the first day, the team attended to a community meeting where they were planning for the presentation of the preliminary results of the enumeration to the municipality of Swakopmund. The community prepared the program for the day. This enumeration was conducted by the community members with some assistance from the councillor’s office; it took the members two months to run the exercise. All the enumerators who took part in the data collection exercise from the beginning up to the end were rewarded certificates for their work by the mayor of Swakopmund. The community used to have some saving schemes but of late all of them are extinct, the Federation women of Namibia also assisted in mobilising the community about the importance of savings.
On the second day of the exchange, presentation of the results to the municipality representatives (who included the mayor, councillor, town planner and even the governor) was done. The meeting took place in the DRC settlement with more than two hundred community members taking part in the meeting. The governor acknowledged the importance of the work which was done by the community, also stressed that this whole activity of enumeration has the potential of lifting the community into another level. The town planner has some previous experience with SDFN, he also promised to work hand in hand with the community especially around the planning related issues.
All the results which were presented during the meeting were calculated manually by the community members. From the South African delegation to Namibia, a great difference was noted since the results take a prolonged period to be presented and mostly they have little reflection of community efforts since they are presented professionally. All the results are written on big charts and then presented in the meeting. The community really demonstrated some ownership of the whole process that they did not wait for NHAG (Namibia Housing Action Group) to do everything for them. The community was advised to form a community team that will follow up all the proposals made by the officials from municipality.
The third day of the exchange was centred on savings, the team was divided into two groups where the other group visited the backyarders at the Hadama |hao community, whilst the other group revisited DRC settlement to assist in setting up a new saving scheme. A new saving scheme was set up in DRC and was named “Promise.” A brief discussion about basic ways of running a saving scheme was held with the members of the new saving schemes. The team was also briefed on how to mobilise other members in the community for them to participate in savings. Some of the backyard saving schemes now have a piece of land with houses which they are paying for on monthly bases. The land is being serviced by the municipality. They have problems in the repayments of their loans from some members, and it was concluded that the group will be supported by the other backyard groups. The other backyard group which are still saving are waiting for blocks of land which were allocated to them. The land is already planned, but the area still need streetlights.
On the same day the team visited Walvis Bay, Kuisebmond settlement where there are other Federation saving communities. The team attended to the Savings meeting which was attended by seventeen saving schemes. Each and every saving scheme present gave a brief report of their social situation and financial status. Most of the members indicated that they were only saving for a house; however, they did not have a clear outline of plans on how to transform their savings into housing and other social issues. Most of the saving schemes are made up of backyard dwellers. In order for them to push their housing agenda, the saving schemes were advised to plan and conduct an enumeration which will help them in bringing in more people and at the same time stimulating the community to take up action for their own development. The community of DRC in Swakopmund and other Federation members were to assist in the proposed planning and implantation of the enumeration. Whilst in Kuisebmond, the team visited a settlement where SDFN houses are being constructed; however, one of the structures caused a lot of controversies especially about its size which was far bigger than the expected size of SDFN houses.
Important observations of the S. African team in the exchange
The community manually work on their information to get the preliminary results ( a faster way)
Presentation of the results to the other community members and the municipality is done by the community itself
The community prepares the agenda of the first meeting / engagement with the municipality
Results are presented manually by the community so as to maintain the community taste in the whole exercise
Implementation of the lessons learnt
The results presentation and preparation methodology observed in Namibia to be implemented in KZN at Umlazi township, Ezakheleni community and in Dunbar settlement
In Huruma, one of the many slums in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi, six savings schemes work with the Akiba Mashinani Trust. These residents are part of an ambitious community led housing project. A group from South Africa's Informal Settlement Network went to visit the project in early July to learn from their experiences.
The Huruma residents' first step was to look at the land they were sitting on and form an advocacy team in order to negotiate with the landowner. The process took three years before they could an agreement with the landowners. The agreement was applicable for all 6 settlements, and they have signed a MOU with the Nairobi City Council.
The residents of the Kambi Moto neighborhood in Huruma retained leadership of the project even during a highly technical phase of building design when they ‘dreamed up their houses’. The houses were built based on the plans that emerged: semi-detached multi-storey structures, with the possibility for incremental additions upwards.
At first, the community appeared to be particularly unprepared to begin construction. For a long time, residents focused on the theoretical challenges that could come from the housing project. The found that once they started to build, a lot of the questions were answered and it proved to be the catalytic process for the federation. Membership to the savings schemes also increased with the tangible signs of progress within the settlement. The planned number of houses within Kambi Moto is 270.
Quite often when development happens without the community’s direct input, the houses do not make sense for the community in terms of its ability to pay and willingness to use the structures. The residents of Huruma were able to avoid those problems by building incrementally. Each structure, which can reach up to four floors, costs about $2,000.
The community is required to provide the manual labour, which drastically cuts the cost of the structures. They begin with starter houses, which is a ground floor structure consisting of a living area and a kitchen. The second level is a bedroom and a shower/Indian-style toilet. Because of limited space, they have made the effective use of what does exist by using the roof as a place to hang washing or keep chickens. After the family has saved enough, it begins construction on the third and fourth levels. Ultimately, it means that if the family, for whatever reason, does not complete the later levels; the house does not feel incomplete.
One of the most significant lessons to come from the exchange concerned architecture’s role in the process. By having the communities discuss their dream houses, it created a space in which the community were a part of a relatively technical process, and architects could work with the community to articulate the community's desires fro the development.
The aim of these designs is to build as part of the city, rather than to look at it in isolation. The buildings become a manifestation of the slum dweller’s contribution to the city, solidifying their presence. And these tested community initiatives can serve as the basis for reorganizing cities, as the aim is not to simply construct houses, but to build the community and networks.
We can describe the pace of evictions in South Africa as more of a slow, continuous burn than such a massive firecracker. Many slum dwellers in Cape Town and Durban are living out their lives in "temporary" transit camps after they were relocated years ago, promised better housing that has not yet come. Not much evidence has surfaced thus far that the pace of these relocations picked up much more in the months immediately before the World Cup. But they didn't stop either.
In Johannesburg and the rest of Gauteng province, the story is similar. Max Rambau of the Community Organization Resource Center (CORC), SDI's local NGO affiliate in South Africa, writes about residents of Kliptown in Johannesburg, a historic area near where South Africa's Freedom Charter was signed. He has been working with the community there after houses were destroyed by the council of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality on 28 June. In the last two months, similar acts of city government-sponsored destruction and dispossession were visited on the neighboring informal settlement communities of Gabon and Chris Hani near the formal town of Daveyton in the Ekurhuleni municipality.
Informal traders also faced harassment from municipal authorities as the World Cup approached. Those selling food to construction workers at some of the major stadiums were continuously moved and forced into temporary stalls as construction progressed. Many worried that they would not benefit from the World Cup at all when FIFA insisted that all concessions be from FIFA’s official sponsors. While many traders lost their prime trading spots — and anticipated revenue from the soccer bonanza — some in Cape Town and Johannesburg did manage to negotiate significant concessions.
So while there are plenty of both winners and losers on the field during this World Cup tournament, the poor are only ending up on one side of the divide. They have not benefited economically from the World Cup, and few are able to afford to attend the games. Exclusion, illegality, and State-sponsored violence and dispossession, are still the hallmarks of urban poverty in South Africa. Much as they are throughout the growing cities of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
The challenge will be what happens after the tournament. Will evictions continue apace as the local and national authorities continue their pursuit of "world-class" cities and “cities without slums”? Will the poor continue to be marginalized through the very development programs intended to benefit them?
And let us not restrict our gaze to the State. We can and should ask tough questions of ourselves as civil society actors. What methods of community organization can empower the poor to engage the state around true bottom-up developmental agendas of and by poor communities? How can government actors be moved away from the programmatic initiatives that have failed in the past? What kinds of agglomerations and networks of community organizations are necessary to this end? How can professionals, academics, and others act to support the organic struggles of the poor in ways that achieve tangible gains on the ground?
The World Cup has many people in South Africa in a state of collective euphoria. But, when all is said and done, the urban poor in this country will still face evictions, landlessness, homelessness, and lack of access to basic services. Just as they did well before the World Cup. In a little over a week, the soccer world champion will be clear. But the answers to such questions of urban development are those that will be central to the future of this country.
Below is the text of a report by Cape Town Informal Settlement Network leader Vuyani Mnyango on an April exchange to India that included members of the ISN and Cape Town city officials. A report on the same exchange written by the Cape Town city officials can be found here. ------------------
15 April 2010
Meeting with Mr. Jockin Arputham & Mr. Sundar Burra
* He introduced himself to the visiting team from South Africa, he also share his long way & stories while in the struggle around the developments for the poor. * He said that he can just tell the team of the middle -up system not starting from the bottom -up otherwise it will be a long story to tell. He said that they managed to collect people from the streets/ pavements convincing them to form part of the movement (Savings). * He also stressed that organizing will be the best tool to fulfill the people’s need wherever they will be staying. * He also encouraged that people need to be patient on whatever they wanted to achieve for communities.
16 April 2010
Federation – Mahila Milan
* They had managed to relocate people from different directions such as Railway line Dwellers, Under – Bridge & Pavement Dwellers & the Harbour Dwellers. * They convinced these different groups to form part of the movement for the poor (savings) so that they can have a say to the government but the people saw that as a one step forward. * The Federation had played more than a big role in these different people with different needs. * Before any development to take place, they also do the enumerations so as to know more about the community its people’s needs. * There are about 2000 units in each flat that accommodates about 10 000 families. * Each unit is about 125 square metres wide and that is the size of most units that you can find in each flat. * These buildings are being managed by these communities. * The maintenance of these buildings depends to the co-operatives, the people that had chosen by the communities to look after these buildings. * Each house has its own sanitation (tap & toilet) including electricity; each house has its own electricity box so that the owner is responsible for the use of the service. * People who were not part of the savings were included in the development to take place in their communities they were not excluded at all. * Mahila Milan is the platform and the group which is based in the presenting and focusing in the Federation needs but it is presented by people from different communities and different groups. * The sanitation block is being managed by the communities not the government as the government had failed to look after them. * People are still saving while in the houses but they called it a general savings which is based on the daily problems that faces the people around the community and that is playing a big role. * Mahila Milan is also looking at poverty that also affects poor families by supplying food parcels and that is done through the help of SPARC (the NGO that is helping the Federation its needs for its communities. * Out of their savings they had managed to buy the land which was not that expensive at all they paid for it. * These buildings had been built after year 2000, but these buildings looked very old on the outside as if they are more than old. * Mahila Milan is busy on the designing of the plans of the houses (flats) and they also play another role of training the people who will be building the houses training them on how to build from the bottom to the top.
17 April 2010 Pune
* The team SA was looking at the contractor when it was starting to build houses in the in-situ upgrading at Pune at Mother Teressa informal settlement. * Also the savings here are playing a big role amongst the community development as the people are keen to be part of any kind of a change in their communities, even if somebody has to move so that the in-situ upgrading has to take place but people are all in the same page nobody is against of anything. * They said that Mother Teressa had once visited this settlement that is why they also called it by her name just after she left. * The in-situ upgrading is taking place in this settlement without of any disturbances from the community side. * The government is being told by the people on what they wanted & on how it should be done.
Sanitation Block (Toilets)
* SPARC had also played a big role in the construction of the sanitation blocks to these communities with the help of the Federation as they are working closely. * They had convinced & explained the communities for the need of these sanitation blocks to be built in their communities. * There are about 300 – 500 families that are using these toilets in daily basis. * People had to pay for the membership in order to use these facilities and pay the monthly fees the use of them but that is done by each family in the community. * These toilets are being managed & maintained out of the monthly payment that is being paid by each family. * The toilets before were not in a good condition for the use of the public (people of each community). * There is a small amount of money to be paid by the community that will be specifically for the toiletries to keep these toilets healthy. * The ones for the city are totally different from the ones that are for the projects according to the management of them.
* All the communities had the same way of controlling crime in each area. * There are about 4 females and the males are about 4 to make what we call it a Police Forum but they call it a Police Panchayat. * This more than linked to the state policing as this had played a big role in decreasing crime in each community. * This is only based to the abuse, civil cases including the criminal cases. * They take the person to the police station where a person has to pay a huge amount regarding that will be reported. * This had been recognized & authorized by the Commissioner as it will be helpful to the communities at large. * This had made a big change as it had decreased the crime rate throughout the country.
General Points that had been found in the Indian Exchange (Summary)
* People of India are more than commitment when it goes to the development of their communities. * They show more than a willingness to co-operate in any kind of process that will lead to the success of their developments. * They are also peaceful as they will all be wishing to be the go -getters, they won’t fight during the developments. * They are having more patients to wait for what they want even if it can come after 10 – 20 years but they will wait. * The human rights are not an issue there, people are focusing on their priority needs and they go for them. * The communities need to be taught about the processes of the developments to be followed during the period of the development. * Federation had managed to organized to gather together different people from (i) Pavement Dwellers, Railway Line Dwellers, Under –Bridge Dwellers & the Harbour Dwellers.The savings is the best tool that the communities had put more focus on as the best tool to be used when organizing people but it is based their daily needs. * They had been taught on how to keep their hope around what they wanted to achieve in future. * They had also been taught about on how to be strategic when dealing with organizing people for the development of their communities. * Poor people are more than involved in the developments that will affect them on the ground for making decisions of what they want & how to go for it.
MINISTER of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale demonstrated a promising tone of seriousness and innovation regarding the challenge of human settlements in his budget speech to Parliament last month.
He warmed the hearts of the poor when he said the challenge of slums must receive at least the same political attention as that currently being given to the World Cup.
The energy the minister hopes to unleash towards a “human settlements 2030” is on his doorstep. The poor communities are best placed to work with government to develop and implement such policy.
The press has a fascination with what are often referred to as “service delivery protests”. The fires and looting make good copy for editors desperate for any kind of violence or scandal.
But there is a much bigger story developing across our biggest cities. The poor are organising, informal settlement by informal settlement, to work with all levels of government and other stakeholders to address their most pressing needs.
We can recall the street and issue-based people’s development committees so effective in the civics movement that organised communities to improve their own lives and bring down apartheid. The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) is the first major attempt in the post-apartheid era to bring South Africa’s settlement-level and national-level organisations of the urban poor under one umbrella, this time to work with government in finding solutions to slum poverty.
In just one and a half years, groups in over 600 informal settlements have come together in the ISN in the country’s five biggest metropolitan municipalities: Jo burg, eThekwini (Durban), Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, and Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth), as well as in the smaller Sol Plaatje municipality (Kimberly).
The ISN includes settlements linked to the largest poor people’s organisations in the country: Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Federation of the Urban Poor , and Sanco.
Groups in informal settlements in these cities are working together to fully understand and address the problems facing residents of each informal settlement. We call these activities city-wide “informal settlement profiling”.
Armed with this knowledge the poor now have the capacity to inform and work with the government.
For example, poor people from Slovo Park in Johannesburg are visiting Joe Slovo on the Cape Flats to learn how they can conceive and implement projects in partnership with local authorities around basic services such as water, sanitation, waste removal, and energy. They are bringing these lessons home with them.
I am so pleased that the minister has called for a shift in policy towards incremental upgrading strategies. This has always been our strategy.
We know, as the minister said last month, that the poor cannot just wait years for a house, without doing anything themselves to improve their living conditions.
We also know that the greatest obstacle to incremental strategies for upgrading informal settlements is the lack of security of tenure.
Let us seize on the minister’s call for innovation by thinking creatively about land tenure issues as they relate to informal settlements.
President Jacob Zuma’s promise to provide land to poor urban dwellers can be coupled with the minister’s strategy to develop new ideas on tenure arrangements.
Sexwale lived much of his life in a shack. Informal settlement life is no mystery to him.
Organised communities of the poor are ready to work with him to make a better life for all.
The second day opened with the same unforgiving humidity that Rio is famous for. Let there be no confusion – it is very, very hot here, but the majority of the SDI delegates are taking it in their stride. It is just this reporter who is the delicate flower and is finding it a struggle to survive…
There was a session on the IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) development challenges, and there were some very interesting points to have come out of it. Firstly the panel, which was made up of various governmental individuals, highlighted that cities reproduce poverty, and that poverty is defined by location. Brazil has been attempting to produce better equity and therefore equality within it’s cities, but that public resources are stacked.
The panel had therefore indirectly supported SDI’s constant belief in the enumeration. If the resources are stacked against the poor, the only way they will be able to challenge the flow of resources, is if they are organized. After conducting an enumeration communities then know where the resources need to be channeled – sanitation, electricity or flood prevention
The Indian minister revealed that India is only 30% urban, and here is clearly an opportunity for SPARC, Mahila Milan and the National Federation of Slum Dwellers to build upon their success and work with governments to prepare for the eventual urbanization of India.
Edith Mbanga of the Namibian Shack Dwellers Federation gave a presentation to the Global Land Tools Network (GLTN) of the United Nations on the power of enumerations in the community process:
I felt it went very well, and even though I was sitting up there as SDI, we were able to give examples from other countries. I was talking about enumerations, which is something that happens all over the SDI countries.
The first day of the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, began with SDI making a grand – and visual – entrance. The 67 delegates broke the traditional monotony of the gray suit brigade. It was a fitting visual representation of SDI’s way of saying that it’s what happens in the communities, and not the meetings, which counts.
The forum's opening ceremony featured a very well choreographed dance production. But the message that the toned dancers were trying to get across, was somewhat lost on the 3, 500 strong crowd. Perhaps it is the best analogy of the fear that SDI has about the conference.
It gave deeper meaning to Jockin’s advice the previous day, which was to make full use of the opportunities to get governments to make firm commitments on land and services.
For example, on the first day the Tanzania, Ghanaian and Zimbabwean federations organized meetings with their respective governments.
Highlights of the first day were SDI’s networking event, called "Protocols for large informal settlement upgrading." It was probably the only session that started and ended with a song. The session featured 5 case studies and of struggles for secure tenure and fights against eviction. There was Mzwanele Zulu from Joe Slovo in Cape Town; Jack Makau from SDI spoke about Kibera in Nairobi; Philip Kumah spoke about the process of upgrading Old Fadama in Accra; Claudius Pereira of URBEL (Urbanisation Company of Bele Horizonte) and Marcos Landa, the coordinator of the Brazilian movement talked about Osasco, which is a settlement in Sao Paulo and finally Jockin, the president of SDI and the National Slum Dweller’s Federation of India gave his views on the experiences of Dharavi in India.
Jack Makau’s impression of the event was it was a session about things that people have done, rather than a session about hypothetical situations and new thinking. And there are very few sessions like that. The examples of concrete achievement largely consist of answers coming out of communities, which is exactly what SDI is here to showcase and build upon.
pictured above: FEDUP's Alfred Gabuza (far right) speaks at a meeting of the Informal Settlement Network in Roodeplaat, South Africa, on 20 February 2010.
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
Adapted from remarks given at a roundtable discussion on “meaningful engagement” hosted by the University of Western Cape Community Law Centre and the Socio-Economic Rights Institute, on 4 March 2010.
“Meaningful engagement” is a term that has gained currency in South Africa over the last few years primarily through a series of Constitutional Court (the highest court in the country) cases regarding evictions of poor, informal dwellers. These decisions have compelled state actors to “meaningfully engage” in various ways with those they want to evict before pursuing the actual forced removal.
I want to make three related arguments about the limits of a legal framework for engagements between the state and poor citizens. The first is that “meaningful engagement” is a political process, and it is often a messy one at that. What is needed, then, is for governments to prepare to respond appropriately to the capacities of organized communities to engage. My second argument is that because it is such a political process, the inherently technocratic orientation of the law means that it has only a limited role to play in structuring these kind of engagements. Finally, I want to add to a discussion about how poor communities are preparing themselves for sustained, “meaningful engagements” with government.
Real “meaningful engagement” must be sustained engagement, not one-off encounters of the sort mandated by courts or those that constantly require the intervention of lawyers. S’bu Zikode of slum dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo was part of the workshop on “meaningful engagement” hosted by the Wits Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) on 27 July 2009. There, he argued that “meaningful engagement” is part of a greater struggle by ordinary poor people to reclaim their humanity in their relations with the state. According to the report from this workshop put out by CALS, Mr. Zikode suggested that sustained dialogue, negotiation and learning with government officials were key to developing the kinds of relationships necessary for people-centered development.
“Meaningful engagement” is not something that should happen only when the law commits the state to pursue to specific interventions along these lines in order to implement its own policies. From the side of civil society, a “rights-based” approach is only a small part of a much larger effort to empower communities of the urban poor to organize around their own resources and capacities, accumulate local knowledge, set priorities, and engage other stakeholders — often the state — in order to broker deals. These are the basic propositions of Slum Dwellers International affiliate federations in over thirty different countries. In South Africa, our allies are the Federation of the Urban Poor, known by its acronym as FEDUP, and the Informal Settlement Network, a nation-wide network of settlement-level and national-level slum dweller organizations, including Abahlali and FEDUP.
In large part, we tend to only talk about “meaningful engagement” between poor communities and state institutions when conflicts between citizens and the state are reaching their breaking point. Evictions are sometimes a useful starting point to begin such engagements, but for such an engagement to be “meaningful” it cannot end with the resolution of the eviction case in and of itself. Though there have been important victories against evictions, state institutions and private actors continue to seek many more evictions than the number being won in the courts. More widely speaking, more people live without access to water, sanitation, or energy. This country is bound by a constitution widely lauded for its guarantee of rights to basic services. But too many people persist without these services. A legal framework alone is inadequate to address structural inequality and poverty.
Abahlali was responsible for a Constitutional Court victory against the proposed KwaZulu-Natal slums act, which, had it not been struck down, would have paved an even easier path for the state to pursue evictions of informal dwellers than it currently has. This was an important, but, in a sense, limited win. Simply put, evictions are still occurring.
The law can sometimes tell the state not to evict. It can even force the state to consult with the poor. But it just can’t construct a process that is, by nature, an organic, political one. In some eviction court cases, like Olivia Road v. City of Johannesburg, the city is ordered to “meaningfully engage.” In the Olivia Road case, part of the application of the term meant that the city was to conduct a survey of residents of the Olivia Road building, a responsibility it ultimately tendered to an outside professional consultancy. This was anything but “meaningful engagement” with the unique and pre-existing knowledge resources of poor communities.
Organized communities of the urban poor have implements of their own that effect positive outcomes in ways that build “meaningful,” sustainable engagement with the state and other actors who bring eviction orders. When communities organize around their own resources and capacities, chief among these is information. It is on this point that the intention of court-ordered engagement between the state and ordinary poor citizens can get lost.
In other cases of action in the face of eviction threats, communities have organized around their own knowledge capacity to first face down the threat, and then to create the space for dialogue with government that ultimately leads to developmentin situor a truly negotiated relocation. The case of the Joe Slovo community here in Cape Town is a great example. Though the legal battle last year eventually staved off imminent eviction, the possibility for sustained, “meaningful” engagement with the state has only come about through these kinds of organizing measures. Just last month, the community finished up a process of issuing itself informal household ID cards. This was the latest step in an enumeration process, in which the community surveyed every household on a wide range of social indicators. This process of information gathering has assisted significantly in organizing the community to be strong advocates for its own priorities as it negotiates with the Cape Town metropolitan municipal government on how to upgrade the settlementin situ. Even despite many of the obstacles that remain, victories in court appear almost pyrrhic when compared to the developmental achievements of an organized community armed with its own information and priorities prepared to engage with the state. This is an experience we have seen throughout our SDI network.
“Meaningful engagement,” if we take it to be a term that can help describe a greater sense of civic purpose in the ways in which citizens interact with the state, points to a bottom-up approach that is not limited to the Constitution or any other legal framework. Secondly, while a court can enforce specific obligations and rights, a democracy is the sum of much more than just these compulsions. Finally, the state can meaningfully engage by pursuing policies and interactions that facilitate the kinds of community organization that reinforce and grow the capacities of ordinary poor citizens. Organized communities of the urban poor can use their tools of association to workwiththe state towards their own development. It is this kind of bottom-up governance that most effectively empowers citizens to engagewiththe state to help fulfill the social rights agenda that South Africa’s legal framework demands. The law can, on occasion, protect the most vulnerable to defend their rights. But the law alone cannot ensure the growth of the necessary capacities to allow the most vulnerable to take hold of their destinies as proper democratic citizens. “Meaningful engagement” that comes about through the hard work of the organized poor themselves — work and organization facilitated by a truly developmental state — will begin to deliver the kinds of social outcomes and restructuring of social relations that documents like the Constitution can only imply.
David A. Smith of the Affordable Housing Institute has a great post about a Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) - led enumeration in Durban last month. It gives a good sense of how the community-led self-surveying is a key tool for community empowerment, as well as how this fits into the greater strategies of community-driven housing delivery and slum upgrading. Here's a key quote from Smith:
Enumeration by the people themselves represents outsourcing an essential governmental function both to accelerate its delivery and to create political standing for the poor themselves.If you won’t do it for us, we will do it for ourselves and make you acknowledge us.
When we talk about "outsourcing an essential governmental function" such as census-taking for evidence-based solutions, I wonder what does it really mean to "outsource" such a project? If governments are not doing it, then is it really an "essential government function"? And what does it even mean to call something an "essential government function"?
The political value of an enumeration sheds some light on these questions. As I mentioned, enumerations are not just about momentary community empowerment for the sake of community empowerment. Having witnessed other FEDUP enumerations, I can say that the show of songs, slogans, and speeches can have a powerful emotional effect, something Smith also describes in his Durban experience. But the real test of enumerations is the way they can change our very notions of government.
It is helpful to think of these surveys not as "outsourcing," which implies that it is some kind of half-hearted, last ditch measure, but rather as the most effective way to do such a survey to begin with. Poor communities are best placed to know the kinds of issues that really need to be surveyed, they stand to benefit the most from the information, and they have the most legitimacy to conduct the surveys. Once they have the information, they can negotiate with governments from a more informed, more organized, and more constructive standpoint.
In fact, it may be more useful to think of such "outsourcing" as the most effective thing government can do on this particular issue. But we can do away with this market-based language (every time I type the word "outsourcing" I think of big telecom companies, but maybe that's my own problem). Ultimately, the government will have to act on this information. Instead of being the driving force behind development of poor communities, governments can think of themselves as facilitators working in partnership with poor communities — in fact, being led by poor communities. Poor communities need the political will, the technical capacities, and the finance that only governments can provide. And governments cannot facilitate these things without encouraging the organization of poor communities around their own resources, a key example being the information gathered through enumerations.
So it is not a binary of either governments leading or governments throwing up their hands and "outsourcing" community development and organization. Instead, governments can be facilitators, encouraging the very people they serve to take the lead and organize themselves. Then, governments will benefit through the strengthened political will and practical expertise to work towards development that can only come from these kinds of "people-centered" approaches.
No trains enter the old train station in Alberton, situated at the western edge of the Ekurhuleni metro municipality in Gauteng. They stopped years ago, shortly before the end of Apartheid. But people never stopped arriving in the station on the top of a hill on the north side of the city.
Sarah Tshabalala, age 60, has been living since 2002 in a shack numbered “327” in the informal settlement that grew up on both sides of the old station platform. She came here four years after the settlement first began. “We don’t live nicely, as you see the conditions,” she says, gesturing to her tiny shack and large piles of trash nearby.
On Mondays and Fridays, Tshabalala says she has regular domestic work, earning R100 a day. The rest of the week she cares for her four-year-old granddaughter — the mother has died — and collects cans and bottles for recycling. She cannot say how much she earns from this work, as any profit goes immediately towards buying paraffin and bones with which to cook.
Having recently turned 60, she applied for a pensioner’s grant from the government in June, but was told to come back in September to receive assistance in filling out the paperwork. Even then, the bureaucratic hassles continued. She has not received a single pensioner’s check.
Now Tshabalala and other Alberton residents worry how much longer they may remain at the old train station eking out the meager living they can as it is. Intersite, the company that owns the land — and claims to want to restart the train service in the station — is threatening to evict the residents. In 2007, some residents were moved into RDP houses in the settlement of Thinasonke, 30 km away. There was little rejoicing amongst these people for their newfound houses. Many maintain a second residence during the working week in a shack in Alberton station. At least there, say residents, finding employment is still a possibility.
Fighting a case for eviction … while it is being built The Community Organization Resource Center’s Max Rambau attended a meeting between Intersite representatives, community leaders Sam Makhafola and Malibongwe Rasmeni, and ward councilor Bruna Haipel on 5 October. There, he says, it became clear that Intersite was building a case for eviction.
A quick glance at the minutes from this meeting bear out such an interpretation. Much of the time was spent discussing the presence of illegal immigrants in the settlement and accusations that the community was using electricity and water that they do not pay for. The latter charges are spurious on their face. There is no electricity to speak of in the settlement, and only two working water taps. Towards the back of the settlement, another tap, flowing uncontrollably with water, has been left unfixed by the municipality and Intersite for the past two years.
No one is providing any services for the residents of this settlement. Fourteen pit toilets exist for the 252 households counted by community leadership. Many women despair of having to relieve themselves in bushes that leave them exposed to the ever-present threat of rape. Trash piles up on all sides, including that dumped by the municipality just outside the borders of the settlement. “I know it’s our responsibility to make our place clean, but it’s the responsibility of the municipality to help us do it,” Rasmeni said.
On 8 October, the community marched to the Alberton Civic Centre to hand over a memorandum of demands to the Ekurhuleni Metro Municipality mayor’s office. ANC Deputy Branch Secretary for Alberton George Letloleng handed over the memorandum for the community.
Confused allegiances, changing agendas The leadership of the ANC local branch, whose representatives do not live in the settlement, complicates an already complex set of political relationships that affect the residents of Alberton Station. Ward councilor Haipel is from the Democratic Alliance, as is much of her council. The Ekurhuleni metro government is run by the ANC, but with a significant DA minority. Meanwhile, Rasmeni and Makhafola have suggested that the assistance offered by General Alfred Moyo and Mohau Melani of the Informal Settlement Network may be perceived as threatening by ANC leaders.
On 16 October, Moyo suggested that Rasmeni and Makhafola focus on their mandate from within the community rather than focusing too much on political affiliation. The goal should be to form an informal settlement development committee, and not congregate under a banner larger than that.
The ANC branch secretary Lufele Lufele and his deputy, Letloleng, have clashed on multiple occasions with Haipel about the real intentions of the ongoing process between the ward council and Intersite. They demand, with good merit, to see Intersite’s plans for renovating the train station site, question the overbearing presence of Intersite lawyers, and ultimately accuse the proceedings of moving apace towards eviction.
At a meeting on 19 October between Intersite, the council, and community leaders — this time with a representative from Wits’ Center for Applied Legal Studies observing — Haipel admitted multiple times that the goal was eviction, even while denying Letloleng’s argument to his face. “Intersite is going to do the eviction, but they will need to sort out alternative land,” she said at one point. At another, she was unequivocal: “The fact remains that, legally, they [the residents of Alberton Station] are going to be evicted.”
Moreover, a second process, independent of that of the DA-led ward council has been initiated based on the memorandum delivered to metro authorities. The speaker of the EMM council, Patricia Nombeko Kumalo is chairing this process. She has spoken with clarity about the need for service delivery to be the number one priority in the area. Though this has also been brought up in the ward council-driven process, moves towards informal settlement upgrading have been reluctant and little progress is evident from a process that has gone on for much longer than that initiated by Kumalo. Her visit to Alberton Station on 16 October in response to the memorandum brought home the need for immediate action there. “It would have been a different ballgame if I didn’t go there,” she said. Later in the day on 19 October, she met with Rasmeni and Makhafola, accompanied by other EMM officials and the ANC branch representatives.
Room for positive action The situation for Tshabalala and other residents of Alberton Station is quite clearly tenuous. Intersite is pursuing a case for eviction that is, at least half-heartedly, being shepherded by the ward council. Though Haipel has talked about service delivery, it remains rather unclear what she plans to do about it.
Kumalo appears to be driving a new process that could yield dividends and provide leadership within government structures to stave off eviction. She said that the EMM council approved R100 million to address service issues earlier this year. According to her, the tender is out and about to be awarded. This is a place where community-driven leadership can step up. Kumalo clearly recognizes the value of informal settlement upgrading and has expressed a keen interest in the work of the Informal Settlement Network in this regard after learning about it from Moyo. She met with ISN and CORC representatives on Friday, 30 October, about such issues.
Such an ongoing engagement may reveal new ways that the community of Alberton Station, and perhaps others in the Ekurhuleni metro could benefit from partnership with government. But it will be important for individual community leaders to remain close to their communities and not get caught up in talk shops with politicians.
Prior to a community meeting in Alberton Station, held on the platform of the old station, Chantelle Solomon, age 24, stood off to the side, holding her small child. When I asked her what she would most like to do to improve her situation, she was unequivocal: she wants to move to somewhere where she can have a house and get work. Rasmeni walked by and encouraged her to say that cares most about toilets, not houses.
It may very well be that informal settlement upgrading is the best option available to the people of Alberton Station. But community buy-in will be key to ensuring that the continued political negotiations turn towards the people and not just political convenience.