SA slum dwellers and government learn together in India

by James Tayler

By Vuyani Mnyango, ISN Cape Town

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


* 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.

Community Policing

* 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.