Beyond the Board

by James Tayler

By Louise Cobbett, SDI Secretariat

In keeping with SDI’s method of learning through exchanges, Dan Ericsson the Swedish Secretary of State and UPFI Board Member, engaged with the communities of Joe Slovo, Sheffield Road, TT section and Barcelona on his visit to Cape Town, South Africa.

The Secretary of State was welcomed by chorus after chorus of traditional song and dance. After around of introductions, there was a dialogue between the communities and the Secretary. First Mr. Ericsson was introduced to FEDUP and the ISN. After which, the communities told of their individual problems facing their settlements.

The main problem was the lack of access to basic services, however this was coupled by the enthusiasm and optimism for the ever-improving relationship with the City of Cape Town. The community of Barcelona in particular, championed the use of enumerations as they were already seeing the benefit as they prepared to enter negotiations with the City.

Mr. Mzwandile Sokupa, the manager of informal settlements at the housing directorate for the City of Cape Town was also present. He spoke honestly of the difficulties facing the department in their efforts to deal with the city’s housing problems. He highlighted that the department simply does not have the capacity to work at the grassroots level. This is why the partnership with CORC, FEDUP and the ISN is so critical as it enables the city to interact with organized communities. The partnership with the City was cemented last March when they began to investigate the possibility of pilot projects.

Later in the afternoon, the communities of Joe Slovo and Sheffield Rd accompanied the Secretary for respective site visits. Both settlements have dealt with blocking out (where the settlement is reblocked to reduce fire risk and allows for a more efficient use of space). Mr. Ericsson was able to see an informal settlement before and after the reblocking – a section of Joe Slovo was reblocked after a fire in 2006 and Sheffield Rd is just about to start restructuring the settlement.

Mr. Ericsson continues his visit with a trip to the Durban Federation.