FEDUP celebrates two decades with a house opening in Orange Farm


Photo: Gauteng Province Department Local Government and Housing

**Cross-posted from the CORC Blog**

By FEDUP & uTshani Fund 

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:


The Beginnings of Enlightened Planning?

Focus group discussion in Arua

By Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat

In a previous piece on the Makerere/SDI partnership in Uganda, Noah Schermbrucker, questioned the sources of knowledge that guide urban planning. In this second installment I would like to continue that discussion. When considering the planning profession I am often reminded of Michel Foucault’s account of the clinician and the evolution of scientific empiricism in The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception (1963).

The “gaze” of the planner these days is often perceived to possess the same objective and rational wisdom as that of Foucault’s clinician. In urban development circles urban planners are believed capable of revealing the city’s hidden truths and taming urban unruliness through a classificatory kind of wisdom, which enables them to identify nodes of dysfunction with supposedly enlightened and absolute objectivity. The planner, like the medical clinician, is believed to possess no agenda and seek solely to maximize efficiency.

Such scientific empiricism, Foucault explains, abstracts knowledge from the subject. This, I believe, is the danger of modern urban planning and the reason SDI, with support from AAPS, is eager to ensure the planning profession reconnect with the subject of analysis.

In this, the second phase of the partnership, Uganda’s future planners ventured into the field with their community professors – placing the “knowers” firmly in the realm of the “known” – to use Foucault’s terminology. Groups of approximately 10 students boarded buses on the 5th and 6th of  March bound for the 5 secondary cities in which NSDFU works. From Arua in the country’s north-west, to Mbarara and Kabale in the south, and Jinja and Mbale in the east, the students secured a rich exposure to the urban challenges facing Uganda.

These 5 cities, part of the Cities Alliance-funded Land Services and Citizenship (LSC) program (called TSUPU in Uganda), have a strong federation presence that is driving community collected information gathering, forging deep and productive partnerships with municipal government, and launching community managed development projects in slums. This new partnership will certainly contribute toward strengthening and deepening this ongoing initiative.

When the students arrived in each of their respective cities they first met with federation leaders who debriefed them on the urban reality in their municipality, the work of the federation, and the enumeration process. The students asked these members many questions and engaged them in rich discussions on issues of land tenure, services, and housing.

The groups then paid a visit to the Municipal Council to meet with various political and technical municipal officials. The federation introduced the students and partnership to the municipal officials and its links to the LSC/TSUPU program. In each city the officials, most of whom had been part of the enumeration effort, praised the new partnership and expressed commitment to supporting the initiative as well as incorporating federation enumeration data into the municipal planning process.

Following the visit to the municipality, students ventured into the settlements in which the federation members live. Armed with the enumeration data the students were able to interrogate the data and enrich their understanding of its meaning. In focus group meetings and one-on-one interviews life was breathed into the data. The stories of members about eviction, lack of services, and housing conditions ensured the students would see the data for what it is: an account of life in slums and an essential ingredient for effective urban planning. They also came to see the local community for what it is: the best resource for local knowledge and the most invested in the urban development agenda.

For most of the Makerere students it was their first time to visit these cities and as the country’s future urban planners they expressed gratitude for the opportunity to see that Kampala’s urban planning needs are not the same as those of secondary cities.

In Kampala, each of the capital’s 5 municipalities (formerly divisions under Kampala City Council, these are now municipalities under the newly formed Kampala Capital City Authority) played host to a group of about 10 students as well. The federation first took the students to the Municipal Offices in Nakawa, Makindye, Rubaga, Kawempe, and Kampala Central. Like they did in the secondary cities, the Kampala students were able to meet officials from the Division and introduce the program as well as ask questions.

The students then split into smaller groups in an effort to verify federation profiling data on each of the parishes within the 5 municipalities/divisions. This was a massive undertaking and one that involved the students covering great distances each day. Though they live and study in Kampala, many of these students had not ventured so deeply into the city’s slums nor examined so closely the socio-economic realities therein.

With their community professors leading the way and the blessing of municpal officers, the students were able to move freely in the slums, ask questions, make notes, and take photographs to enrich the profiling data collected by the community. These observations were critical for the students as it enabled them to problematize the certainties of planning they have learned in the academic world.

The students will now take the data – hopefully no longer abstracted from the subject – and analyze it further in order to compile reports that will be returned to the federation for verification in the next phase of the partnership. After verification, the students will finalize the reports in a uniform format that will be published. In the final stage of the program students will return to the municipalities in which they worked and assist the federation to present the information to local authorities and discuss the critical contribution such information should play in the planning process. They will also share lessons on the way their conceptualization of what it takes to be an effective planner has changed during the program.

In Noah’s blog post he correctly pointed out the power that comes with knowledge. Foucault argues the reason the myth of the clinician’ s objectivity survived for so long is because, “the gaze that sees is a gaze that dominates.” In this first field visit as part of the urban studio, the gaze of the planner was brought closer to that of the subject, which we think is a positive step toward making the planning profession more responsive and more capable of executing its duties.

SDI will keep you posted as the workshop in Uganda unfolds. 

The Zabaleen of Cairo

busy with food

By Celine D’Cruz, SDI Secretariat 

Zabaleen is Arabic for Garbage People. 

Our visit to Cairo in late January 2012 was planned on the invitation of Ezzat Naem Gunn, a leader from a local Egyptian NGO called Spirit of Youth (SOY), run and managed by residents from the Zabbaleen community. 

The objective of this visit was for SDI to understand how the Zabbaleen organise themselves and create a voice and an identity for themselves in the city of Cairo. This visit also gave the opportunity for SDI to share with members of SOY, SDI’s strategy for organising and creating a voice of slum dwellers locally, nationally and internationally. Though SDI does not specifically work with issues of garbage collectors and recycling, it does work with settlements where communities also recycle among many other occupations. For example, in Dharavi, in Mumbai, NSDF/SPARC have been working towards making sure that the interest of the recycling communities are taken care of while the government is planning the redevelopment of Dharavi.  

Past exchanges by members of the SDI federation members from South Africa and Kenya to Cairo focused essentially on sharing technical information on the recycling process and savings. The focus of this particular visit was to understand the evolution of the leadership and organisational set up of the Zabbaleen.

Day1:Visited Al Mokattam (the hills) close to where one of the six zabbaleen communities of Cairo is located.  The Mokattam township houses one of the six garbage collectors settlements in Cairo. This is also where SOY has its office. Since it was a Sunday most of the recycling workshops/ businesses were closed, but we noticed women sort the garbage backlog from the previous days collection. Most of the Zabbaleen are Coptic Christians and being a Sunday they took us to see the St. Simon’s church at Al Mokattam located very close to the community.

Ezzat, 43 years, who gives leadership to SOY, lives with his family in the Mukattam village and was also a garbage collector as a young boy. He was one of those bright boys who decided to start his own NGO, “Spirit of Youth” to work for the rights of garbage collectors like him.  Not knowing any better, they decided to create an NGO with members from the Zabbaleen settlements. Ezzat gave us a background of their history and politics of garbage in the city of Cairo. Later that afternoon we got more of the history and context from Laila Iskander (not a Zabbaleen) but who was invited to be on the Board of SOY.

What Got our Attention… 

The differentiation between the garbage collectors mostly men and young boys – who use trucks (they used donkey carts in the past, however, the quantity of garbage they collect has increased and they have had to invest in trucks) to collect garbage from door to door in their respective areas. On the other hand, the garbage sorters are mostly women and children who are responsible to sort the waste once the truckloads of garbage return to the settlement.  They separate the garbage in different categories but mainly they separate the organic from the inorganic waste. The inorganic waste like paper, plastic, metal etc. are then recycled in the recycling workshops owned by members of the Zabaleen community who have been able to afford to buy the machinery over time.  In the past the Wahahi’s controlled this part of the process as they made the profits from recycling. 

History and politics of garbage in Cairo is very interesting. The Zabaleen families manage the waste of about 60% of the cities population. The other 30% is managed (or not so well managed) by private companies. The rest of the 10% of the slums get left out, as they cannot afford to pay for their garbage removal.  The slum dwellers also consume less as compared to the others citizens in the city, making their garbage valueless to the garage collector.  So according to Zabaleens they recycle 80% of the garbage they collect (it use to be 100% when the pigs were around), while the corporations recycle 25% of the garbage they collect, and put the rest in landfills.

The history of garbage collection in the city of Cairo began with the people who migrated from the oasis (Wahiyas) who came first to the city in 1910.  They monopolised garbage collection in Cairo by signing contracts with building owners. In turn, they collected money each month from families who lived in these apartments. In the second wave of migration around the 1940’s, families, mostly farmers from Upper Egypt affected by the drought, migrated to the city in search for jobs. The Wahiyas who were Muslims made a deal with these new migrants who were Coptic Christians that they would give them access to the areas that they collected their garbage from and promised them land if they collected their garbage for them. The Wahiyas controlled the right to collect garbage and took responsibility for waste removal in the city and the Zabaleen managed the hauling and the disposal of the garbage. Though this meant working under the control of the Wahiyas, the early leaders agreed to this, as it seemed like a reasonable deal.  In the early days when the Wahiya’s managed this process by themselves, the organic waste was used for heating water in the public baths (also called hamams in Arabic) and for cooking large pots of beans which needed long hours of slow cooking. When the Zabaleen arrived, they began to purchase the organic waste from the Wahiyas to feed to their pigs. This worked well for the Wahiyas as well, as the common baths and community kitchens for cooking beans was soon dated.

The government realised how lucrative the garbage business is and, in 1989, decided to take more interest in the city’s garbage. They decided to regulate the garbage collection process and give out contracts to private corporations to look after different sections of the city.  The government did not compensate the Zabaleen for these changes, and as a result, the privatisation of waste collection threatens the socio-economic sustainability of the Zabaleen community. The Wahiya’s who continue to have some control and have struck deals with the city and the private corporations on behalf of the Zabaleen.  However, the Zabaleen have overtime understood that they need to  create their own private businesses and register as companies so that they can bid for contracts directly just like the private corporations do. 

More recently, in April 2009 the Zabaleen have faced another challenge when the Mubarak government, ordered the culling of all pigs in Cairo, They used the spread of H1N1 (a type of hepatitis) as an excuse. However, the Zabaleens are clear that this was a way to appease the Muslims who have had a long standing issue about the pigs. This has had its own implications for the Zabaleens and the city, both negative and positive.  This was a major setback to the Zabbaleen and the city because the pigs ate all the organic waste. Immediately after the culling of the pigs, there was a visible increase of trash piles and rotting food on the streets of Cairo.  However, the young people in the community having now lived without pigs since 2009 like it that way.  The community is divided about having pigs and this is also pushing them to think of compositing their organic waste (a fairly new idea). They are also rethinking about creating pig farms away from their home (with the change in government in the last year they think they can get the pigs back) separate from their present living space. There are also worries that the government is seeking to remove the Mokattam Village, also known as “Garbage City” on grounds that their occupation is hazardous and therefore want them to relocate outside of Cairo.

Forming a Syndicate of Garbage Collectors is the next strategy. That evening there was a celebration of the Zabaleen Syndicate, a new born institution created by SOY, as a next step to create an identity and voice for the Garbage Collectors in the city.   The idea of the syndicate is in the process of being refined and the leadership have yet to get clarity on the role and function of the syndicate and how they wish to see this grow and evolve. They defined it more as a union while Shekar and I felt that the scope would be greater if it was created as a federation of garbage collectors, a concept that was larger than the union, which is to organise and build their capacity and their voice as a movement of the urban poor garbage collectors in the city.

Day 2: Visited APE, an income generation focussed NGO run by a group of middle and upper class women in Cairo whose mission is to generate income for the Zabaleen women. They train women in making home-based products from recycled material like cloth and paper. Women learn how to weave carpets and do patch work and make items from cloth and paper and sell their produce from an outlet that they have on the same premises.  APE calls this “learning by earning.”

However, most of these women who come here also continue to sort garbage, which is their main source of income.

Establishing companies is the next step to create a formal identity as garbage collectors so that they are able to bid for contracts.    We spent most of the day with members of SOY at Al Mokattam visiting different recycling businesses. We tagged along with a team of young men who were visiting the Ministry of Investment to register a new Company for Garbage Collectors. This seems to be a recent preoccupation of SOY as a way to deal with the politics of garbage in their city.  They have a target to register 100 such companies. The Zabaleen have decided to create companies and formalise themselves so that they can also bid for contracts like the private companies.  It was very interesting for us to see that they have their act together, have obviously mastered the procedures and had their paper work in place. They confidently entered the Ministerial office along with us where we were met by the manager of this new company also a Zabbal (single garbage collector). Thereafter we visited an outfit called “GAFI” (General authorities for Investment and free zone), also government-run, that gives advice to emerging and young enterprises. Our three men seemed to have a very professional and long relationship with the officer they were meeting.

This young officer was very enthused to explain to us what his job entailed. We were struck by how passionately this young man was involved in their new company and said that he got his happiness from supporting the Zabaleen. This surprised us but was also not so unusual as it reminded us of similar people in government who care about slum dwellers and want to support them in the cities SDI works with. He also said that he was not the only one and that there were many of his colleagues who feel the same way and want to do what ever they can to support the Zabaleen’s. The Zabaleen’s have found an in road into the government system, which is a smart move on their part. Forming companies as a way to formalise their relationship with government so that they continue to get business.

DAY3: After visiting the Pyramids at Giza, Shekar and I requested for some time with the SOY team. We wanted to use this time to ask questions to SOY and to present the organisational strategies of SDI and have an exchange of ideas.

We had three questions:

  1. We wanted to know the connection between SOY, CID (a private consultancy company started by Laila Iskander) and APE, the income generation NGO that we visited the previous day.
  2.  We wanted to understand the Zabaleens’ vision of establishing companies and how they saw this in the big picture, with the formation of their own organisation and the newly formed syndicate.
  3. We clearly saw with our eyes that the women were at the bottom of the garbage pyramid (just like the women in Dharavi, Mumbai). They sat there painstakingly taking care of the details and sorting the garbage thoroughly and looking for little treasures that they may find.  We wanted to know how they planned to include these women in their new Syndicate. Would there be a role for these women who merely sorted the garbage too participate?  After all they were not the garbage collectors or the recyclers but were a significant actor in the process.

Ezzat and his young team were very interested in NSDF’s and SDI’s story and organisational vision.  The main messages were the role of savings and information gathering as a means to organise the communities and as a new way to talk to government and other institutions.  The other message that came across was that SDI’s success was mainly due to the participation by women at the level of 60-80% of membership at the city and national level, which gave them something to reflect about. 

Our reflections and potential follow up:

  1. What struck us was the similarity in the role of women in Cairo and Mumbai in the recycling process. They were at the bottom of the pyramid, very powerless and very vulnerable. We strongly feel that there is scope to initiate savings among these women who sort garbage. 
  2. Similarly a large number of children are involved in collecting and sorting garbage. SOY has started a recycling school for them but there is scope to design nutrition and health programs to support the women and children as way to address their needs but also as way to find a more integrated way to address their needs along with the children. The savings groups can take ultimately take responsibility for these other programs as well.
  3. The Egyptian government does not respect NGOs in the same way that they do with the private sector. The formation of companies is a therefore a very good strategy for the Zabaleen’s in their socio political context.
  4. Cairo and Bombay are both mega cities are like a mirror image of each other in their energy fields. The Zabbaleen of Cairo may have lessons to learn from the organisation building strategies of NSDF, the slum dwellers from Mumbai, which may be useful to the Zabbaleen leadership and the recycling communities. In turn the slums of Mumbai can learn from the occupation-specific knowledge and skills and negotiations of the Zabaleen. 
  5. Housing and land does not seem to be an immediate problem for most of the Zabaleen. When they first migrated to city they lived in tin shacks. They have since been evicted at least 3-4 times in their history before settling down where they presently have. Now that they seem to be in a fixed place for a long time they have invested much of their income in constructing 3-4 storied buildings of brick and cement. They start with a single brick structure and slowly construct a floor each and move upwards depending on the needs of the family.  Not sure if the city has any set building regulations but the construction of these buildings seem unplanned and ad hoc but serves their purpose. The garbage is sorted and stacked in all the by lanes of the settlement. They could have planned better for storage facilities if they had the luxury of making a settlement plan.  Each house has its own toilet and water connection and electricity.  However, it will be interesting for SDI to understand and compare the housing context of the Zabaleen’s to the slum dwellers of Cairo who we were told continue to live in tin shacks in many areas. 

You can watch a video about the Zableen here. 

Learning from Community Professors in Uganda

Housing Mock Up

By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat

“In communities we know the number of settlements, services and origins of the people. We know how they spend their money and how they would like to develop their areas. You cannot plan from the office but if you go to the ground and speak to people and learn from them it can help you plan better”-Katana Goretti (Treasurer of Ugandan Federation)

The old adage that “knowledge is power” is particularly pertinent when it comes to traditional modes of development thought and planning. Who is afforded the right to speak? To what purpose do they speak and in whose interests? Who is included and, far more importantly, who is excluded? Far from being benign such narratives inform practices, models and interventions. They become a version of the truth ratified by officials, academic texts and practitioners. In this case the truth is not absolute it is socially produced within a very specific set of paradigms and engagements which all too often exclude the diversity, flexibility and value of community based knowledge. Surely those living in areas earmarked for development know their own needs best?

If we are to challenge current models of development to be inclusive of communities we have to confront the knowledge regimes that perpetuate them. These are housed within various spheres of society including the state, large development agencies and academic institutions. Through partnerships, negotiations and the setting of infrastructure precedents federations across the SDI networks attempt to create new spaces in which community knowledge comes to influence and inform development decisions. One such example is currently underway in Uganda where future city planners and geographers are being exposed to the knowledge and experience of federation members.

SDI has entered into a collaborative field project with third year planning students at Makerere University. Community members will accompany students in Kampala as well as 5 secondary Ugandan cities (Mbarara & Kabala, Mbale, Jinja and Arua) where students will conduct enumerations, transect walks, mapping exercises and other important community centered rituals. The students will be broken into groups with a specific focus for each member (e.g. housing, sanitation, education). In this manner students will have an in depth engagement around a core issue. Throughout the fieldwork process community members will assist, guide and teach the students about their communities and the obstacles that they face. Not only will future planners, geographers and architects be exposed to conditions of informality but also just as significantly they will come to see the intrinsic value of incorporating informal knowledge and practices in the planning processes.

Students at Makerere University learn from Slum Dwellers

Community professor Zam explains savings schemes to the Makerere students

The outputs of the project will be detailed reports reflecting community challenges that will be submitted to local authorities that will also be drawn in throughout the process. Reports will validate enumeration data around key issues decided upon by community members at a meeting on the 5th of March. These issues include; water, toilets, roads, health centres, ownership of land and housing typologies. The verification of data arose out of community needs to present concise reports to authorities about their areas in order to create awareness and leverage resources. Importantly this is a demand driven process and not one determined by a top down intervention.

On Wednesday the 29th   February federation members visited the Makerere campus for the launch of the collaborative studio project. Katana Gorreti Bwakika Zam and Kasalu Ronald from the Ugandan Slum Dwellers Federation spoke to the students about savings, enumerations, mapping and how these processes had created social and political capital as well as solidarity within slum communities. The importance of knowing ones own community and the collection of information was also stressed. The students received the presentations enthusiastically and by the end of the meeting community members had taught the students the “Umeme” gesture popular amongst the East African federations (waving of the hands instead of clapping, a movement which does not exclude those who cannot clap).   

Students at Makerere University learn from Slum Dwellers


Reflecting on the session over a cool drink in the University cafeteria federation members joked about becoming community professors and teaching students, a position that they never imagined themselves in. As the project progresses this is exactly the role that members of the Ugandan federation will fulfill. As students visit their settlements and become engrossed in the processes that they employ they will be the community professors whose experience, perseverance and knowledge begins to inform practice.  Katana tells me “ What I would like to see is the community, students and the government working together…as someone within the community we know best where to put the roads, drainage and garbage.”

Students at Makerere University learn from Slum Dwellers

Community Professor Katana explaining the SDI rituals

Peter Kassaija, the enthusiastic teacher spearheading the partnership at Makerere stated “ We want students to go beyond sitting in the office and into the field in order to get to know the communities which they plan for. For the federation members the lines of communication are now open and they [the students] will learn as much from you as you will from them.” This is a welcome attitude and one from which many academic institutions can learn. Practical field experience of informal settlements not only debunks myths but exposes students to conditions and people who are normally excluded or given mere “lip service” in planning decisions about their own areas. During this process students will be forced to engage beyond the confines of the classroom with forms of knowledge that are not included in their curriculums but which are absolutely vital to the future equitable development of cities.

It is these types of partnerships that have the potential to not only create new spaces for learning but also enable informal community knowledge to become part of citywide slum upgrading processes. Across the SDI network tireless federation members are working to ensure that the knowledge of community professors is taken seriously and incorporated in developmental frameworks. If we are truly to change the segregated spatial form and exclusionary policies of future cities it is time that we all sat up and took very seriously the lessons which community professors can teach us. As Katana aptly sums up, “ An old broom sweeps better than a new broom. That is community members they have experience of all the corners and the problems in their communities.”

SDI will keep you posted as the workshop in Uganda unfolds. 

For more photos from Noah’s trip to Kampala, visit our Facebook page. 

Click here for more information about the Uganda Slum Dwellers Federation. 

MORE FIRE! Deputy Minister visits Mshini Wam and Siyahlala settlements in Joe Slovo Park


**Cross-Posted from CORC blog**

By Walter Fieuw, CORC

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!]

Deputy Minister visits Mshini Wam

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.

Deputy Minister visits Mshini Wam1

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:

  1. Create a shared community vision of the future, especially with regard to informal settlements upgrading and backyard rehabilitation;
  2. Identify and prioritise key issues, thereby facilitating immediate measures to alleviate urgent problems;
  3. 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;
  4. Develop action plans for addressing key issues, drawing from the experiences and innovations of diverse local groups;
  5. Mobilise community-wide resources to meet service needs, including the joint implementation of sustainable development projects; and
  6. 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.