Building Support for the People’s Process

by James Tayler

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.

Walvis Bay

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