In Nairobi, Mobilising Against Evictions in the Ongoing Struggle for Land

Solidarity March - Mukuru

**Cross-posted from the Muungano Support Trust Blog**

By Nysanani Mbaka, MuST Kenya 

Mukuru – we will not budge

On Wednesday 12 September hundreds of city dwellers from the Mukuru belt, including Mukuru Kwa Reuben, Mukuru Kwa Njenga and Maendeleo settlements, converged at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park I. The agenda was a simple but powerful one: mobilising those affected by rampant land grabbing, poor service delivery, insecure tenure, and inhumane evictions, which contravenes Kenya’s new constitution.

The Kenyan slum dwellers federation, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, coordinated this march of solidarity, bringing together a constituency of organised communities, pastors, legal experts, small scale traders and supporters of this quest. After more than three months of intensive mobilisation, mass general meetings, and administrative and logistical preparation, residents arrived en mass at the Uhuru Park where they would later march to the Milimani Law Courts to lay a claim on some of the lands within the Mukuru belt that are currently in the hands of corrupt business people and well-connected political figures.

Solidarity March - Mukuru

The march was catalysed by the recent forced evictions of informal dwellers living in the industrial zone of Mukuru Kwa Reuben and Mukuru Kwa Njenga. The Mukuru settlement community lodged an immediate interdict against Kenya’s Former President Daniel Arap Moi, Subsequent Commissioners of Land during Moi’s tenure, an aspiring Presidential Candidate in the upcoming 2013 General elections, just to name but a few. The slum dwellers were represented in court by a team of lawyers associated by The Katiba Institute. This case, which is serves as an example of all past evils committed against slum dwellers by the wealthy and mighty, informs a more direct agenda for holding government to account.

Communities in Nairobi City have been taking the initiatives to dialogue with local and central governments for more than a decade now. Government has not been entirely responsive to any of these initiatives.

Solidarity March - Mukuru

Kenya’s Minister of Lands, James Orengo said he was not aware of the land grabbing cartel in his Ministry, but will take time to act on some of the petitions and synthesized reports highlighting some of the culprits involved in “auctioning of the slum dwellers”, but that it will take time to investigate and report his findings to the Mukuru dwellers. He also reiterated that the community is exercising its right within the constitution to seek justice over the land issue.

Leading the memorable peaceful demonstrations were Joseph Muturi, Ben Osumba and Evans “Papa” Omondi of Mukuru settlement, all members of Muungano wa Wanavijiji. Papa said of the demonstrations, “We are here to support and protect our people from forced evictions engineered by selfish personalities who practice forced evictions without caring about the future of the urban poor.”

“We don’t want people to be homeless, in fact we demand security of tenure which we also hope the government is ready to negotiate for. Thereafter we demand housing for all, said Joseph Muturi.

The peaceful march was indeed a success and Muungano wa Wanavijiji proved their point. The matter is currently before court and the federation will respect the outcome of the court process.

 

SDI President Jockin Arputham Reports on World Urban Forum 6

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By Jockin Arputham, SDI President

A large team from SDI attended the World Urban Forum in Naples, Italy in the first week of September. The delegation from India included Celine d’Cruz (SPARC/SDI), Jockin Arputham, John Samuel (NSDF), Parveen and Savita (Mahila Milan). There were leaders from several other countries from Asia and Africa in the delegation as well. 

SDI had many events which were held at their exhibition stand, and participated in several networking sessions in which they showcased the work of SDI and its affiliates. In addition, many SDI representatives participated in the events of UN-Habitat in the official program as well as networking programs of other organizations. Over the weeks since WUF, various members have begun to report their reflections on their presentations, views and activities.

Jockin at the Panel of “What Needs to Change?”

In one of the main Dialogue Events, the question asked to all panelists was, “What can you needs to change to make cities work for all?” 

Jockin challenged the person who asked the question and also the audience saying: “Since 1975 when this discussion began in the first UN Habitat event in Vancouver, what have we all done since then to make what we discuss actualize 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.” 

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Jockin on a Networking Panel on Challenges of Sanitation 

In a networking event on sanitation, Jockin challenges all the others in the panel and audience: “Have you constructed even one toilet – in someone’s home, or a toilet shared by several families, or a community toilet in a slum?” 

His perspective was that the actual DOING demonstrates the real challenges that stop universal sanitation from taking place. 

Of all the MDGs that are critical for the urban poor, this one is very tough because it’s the lack of practice and learning and evolving solutions that has stagnated this development investment – not money, not technology and policy. 

In Johannesburg, Communities March Against Evictions

ISN Gauteng solidarity march from South African SDI Alliance on Vimeo.

By South African SDI Alliance

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.

Read more about the march: sasdialliance.org.za/isn-leads-with-asihambi-land-housing-and-zero-evictions-campaign/

This is the memorandum handed over to the Premier’s office: sasdialliance.org.za/gauteng-informal-settlements-memorandum-handed-over-to-premier-mokonyane/

 

Kenya SDI Affiliate Reports on the World Urban Forum

**Cross-posted from the MuST Kenya blog** 

By Irene Karanja, MuST Kenya

The World Urban Forum was established by the United Nations to examine one of the most pressing problems facing the world today: rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies.

In the space of a few short years, the Forum has turned into the world’s premier conference on cities. Since the first meeting in Nairobi, Kenya in 2002, the Forum has grown in size and stature as it travelled to Barcelona in 2004, Vancouver 2006, Nanjing in 2008 and Rio de Janeiro in 2010.

The Forum is one of the most open and inclusive gatherings of its kind on the international stage. It brings together government leaders, ministers, mayors, diplomats, members of national, regional and international associations of local governments, non-governmental and community organizations, professionals, academics, grassroots women’s organizations, youth and slum dwellers groups as partners working for better cities.

Muungano wa Wanavijiji and Muungano Support Trust in the World urban forum in Naples

Increasing population and rapid urbanization in Africa pose a serious threat of depletion, pollution and degradation of freshwater supplies, especially in the fragile environments of high density areas which are already slowing down development in water-scarce countries in this region. As a result of this scenario, a comprehensive insight into this was warranted and the topic of discussion was floated as:

I.       Human Right to Safe Drinking Water & Sanitation, Germany: “Building Sanitation for Equitable Future Cities: Community-Driven Approaches from across the SDI Network”

The key note speakers included:

  • Jockin Arputham (President of SDI),
  • Celine de’Cruz (SDI Coordinator, India),
  • Irene Karanja (Muungano Support Trust /SDI, Kenya),
  • Pauline Manguru (Muungano wa Wanavijiji/ SDI, Kenya) and
  • Virigina Roaf (UN Special Rapporteur).

Kenyan SDI, federation Member, Pauline stresses a point

During this event SDI’s message is that the existing deficit in sanitation reflects a serious deficit in governance at the city level, as water and sanitation are some of the most obvious amenities that link citizens to their government. In this event, Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI) in collaboration with the UN Rapporteur for the Right to Sanitation will present community-driven approaches to address the serious deficiencies in sanitation in slums across Africa and Asia.  In addition, the Rapporteur will share the challenges of stigma faced by various groups within the context of sanitation.

A section of the audience pitch questions to the panelists.

In Kenya, Muungano wa Wanavijiji through the support NGO, MuST has been undertaking community led planning which seeks to leverage city investments on infrastructure to the community managed sewer and water connections.

Following a successful networking event at the World Urban Forum, key points which arose included the following;

  • Plan early, plan ahead, plan big and leave plenty of public spaces; this allows for future infrastructure as needed;
  • Plan for future population growth – assume a doubling of the population;
  • Plan constantly; planning should be going on even while urban          improvement programmes are underway;
  • Carry out sanitation, water and hygiene (WASH) planning in close collaboration with urban and land use planners – not in isolation. This is essential to ensure that WASH investments are appropriate to the future development plans of each city area and will therefore not be wasted;
  • Coordinate WASH planning with energy sector plans as water services are heavily dependent on a reliable energy supplies;
  • Integrate water and sanitation planning with flood protection planning to achieve more resilient, city wide systems;
  • Have a clear vision of full service coverage and commit to achieving it;
  • Segment cities into zones with different characteristics of income levels, topography, housing density, water supply, and access to sewerage. Build up service development plans and wider urban development plans to suit each area;
  • Develop specific plans for low income areas, as these are likely to be distinct from those in higher income areas. Use innovative models (such as the micro-water systems in Lagos) and test their viability. Where appropriate, cross-subsidise low income users with revenues from higher income users; make specific plans for city wide faecal sludge management, including the full sanitation value chain;
  • Use the planning process as a means of convening stakeholders and building collaboration between Ministries, departments and ensuring the participation of non-government stakeholders.
  • Especially in cities with scare water resources, maximise supply by developing all sources of water possible, including where possible: rain water, groundwater, surface water, recycled water and desalination. On the demand side, make every effort to reduce non-revenue water as this is like to deliver a very high return on investment; implement campaigns to reduce consumption;
  • Support local governments to perform their key role in urban sanitation, as they have many other responsibilities such as health, education and transport. Help the different departments of local government to plan in an integrated way to ensure a properly coordinated urban development;
  • Demonstrate political leadership, as this is needed to ensure that effective and participatory planning is achieved – it will not happen without this;
  • Make use of one of the planning tools available, such as IWA’s Sanitation 21 city wide sanitation planning framework.

 II.    UNDP Side event: Sustainable Urban Governance, Engagement with Informal Dwellers for Inclusive Urban Governance

The participation and civic engagement are key avenues to better governance. Governance addresses pertinent issues of social equity and political legitimacy, which in most cases is misconstrued to mean efficient management of infrastructure and services.

Unfortunately most cities grapple with issues of transparency and accountability to its people. Overtime this has grown into poverty traps thus putting millions of people in socio-economic bondage.

From Left to Right :Hon. Daniel Chisenga (Mayor of Lusaka, Zambia) , Joyce Lungu (Federation Leader, Zambia), Paul Manyala (Ministry of Lands, Kenya)
and Pauline Manguru (Muungano Federation leader/ Kenya),

Speakers at this forum included;

  • Pauline Manguru (Muungano Federation leader/ Kenya),
  • Joyce Lungu (Federation Leader, Zambia),
  • Hon. Daniel Chisenga (Mayor of Lusaka, Zambia) and
  • Paul Manyala (Ministry of Lands, Kenya)

In hopes of establishing a harmonized governance process in which informal dwellers are included as participants in urban development and governance rather than ignored due to their often characterized “illegal” status, this side-event focuses on building a relationship between these slum dwellers and urban managers of urban centres. The event will convene representatives of government at all levels; technical city managers; representatives of informal urban dwellers; civil society; and academics to discuss alternative forms and processes for urban managers and other actors to engage informal dwellers in responding to slum development as a governance issue.

Closure of the World Urban Forum 2012

The President of the UN-Habitat Governing Council Mr. Albert Inzengiumba appealed to political leaders to pay more than lip service if the urban future was to be a reality. The president, who is also Rwanda’s Minister for Housing was optimistic that achieving the urban future.

In his address, UNEP Executive Director Dr. Achim Steiner said his organization was committed to working with UN-Habitat to achieve sustainable urbanization. “Issues of ustainable urbanization, lessening poverty and such related issues can only be tackled jointly and not in isolation,” he said.

Dr. Kirabo appealed to the delegates to go back to their respective countries and reinvigorate the National Forums saying they were the best avenues for addressing urbanization issues.

 

Urban Upgrading in the Spontaneous Zones Of Ouagadougou

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By Chantal Hildebrand, SDI Secretariat

Sustainability is the anthem of the generation. NGO’s have moved from projects formulated a decade ago, where a building was built or a bag of rice given with few programs informing locals on how to maintain said building or plant rice in order to feed themselves in seasons to come, to programs which try to address the question of what will happen when said program ends. Although this is a step in the right direction, it may be wise to re-evaluate the programs we are currently implementing and ask ourselves a question we should have been asking all along: “Are we any closer to a day when programs like this one will no longer be needed?” Questions like this should be forefront of all programs, especially in terms of urban development, if we intend to meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goal.

Urban upgrading programs are not a new phenomenon in Burkina Faso’s capital city, Ouagadougou. Its history goes all the way back to 1974 when the UNDP implemented the Cissin Slum Upgrading Program. Since this project, various NGOs and foreign governments, including France and the Netherlands, have built upon the Cissin Slum Upgrading Program or have implemented their own urban upgrading project, often times with the support of the government.  Although these programs successfully decreased irregular and informal settlements in the city up until the late 1990s, they have been unable to manage the increase in urban populations that have taken place in the past decade and have rarely addressed service provisions or facilities in these once informal areas. Due to these flaws, Ouagadougou has continued to struggle with the management and inclusion of “spontaneous zones” (preferred term for the informal settlements of Ouagadougou) in their urban development plans.

Ouagadougou has a population of 1,475,223 inhabitants; about half of the total urban population, but it is unclear whether or not this number includes the inhabitants of the spontaneous zones surrounding the city limits. According to the residents of these zones, housing is still a struggle in Ouagadougou. Walking through the spontaneous zones, you are met with simple mud brick houses (often constructed by the slum dwellers themselves) often separated by slim dirt pathways leading to either the community water pump, the occasional school, or to a main road entering Ouagadougou city (there are wider unpaved roads where cars can access these spontaneous zones more easily). The homes often are two rooms, holding families averaging 7 people. The majority of these households have access to traditional pit latrines, since the community is rarely connected to the water supply system. Although the majority of the population have roofs over their heads, these zones face vast inadequacies in service provision, a very low level of sanitation, and insufficient road networks.

 

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However, despite these challenges, a significant characteristic of these spontaneous zones is that they do posses regular plots. Burkina’s urban planning relies heavily on the 1984 Land Tenure Reform Act, where the land is nationalized and the government sells land by lotissement (subdivision). Between the years of 1983 and 1990, the government implemented a national urban upgrading program in both Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, where more the 125,000 plots were regularized and as a direct result the amount of unplanned areas of these cities were rapidly reduced. Today this lotissement policy is difficult to implement due to market liberalization which has led to an increase in land speculation. Despite the government’s interventions in slum upgrading, the city’s population continues to grow and spontaneous zones are consistently expanding, and due to the lack of investment in infrastructure and service provisions, the zones’ populations continue to live in poor living conditions.

In August 2012, Ouagadougou finished phase two of UN Habitat’s Participatory Slum Upgrading Program (PSUP), one of the newest slum upgrading programs in Burkina Faso. According to the UN Habitat website, “[t]he programme’s purpose is to strengthen capacity of local, central and regional institutions and key stakeholders’ in settlement and slum improvement through the use of good governance and management approaches, pilot projects and contributing, where needed, to the policy development, and the implementation of institutional, legislative, financial, and normative and implementation frameworks” (www.unhabitat.org/content.asp?typeid=19&catid=592&cid=10980). Using enumeration and profiling techniques conducted by a team made up of urban planners, representatives of the municipality of Ouagadougou, the national government, and key stakeholders(including the participation of community members), PSUP has profiled and mapped three spontaneous zones to provide a better understanding of the organization of the settlements. Presented with this information, the community then chose the projects they feel are most needed in their communities. Implementation of these projects will take place during Phase 3 of PSUP, which is scheduled to begin in January 2013 after the parliamentary elections in Ouagadougou in December.

Although not a new concept, the PSUP’s approach to engaging government institutions in slum upgrading is taking a step in the right direction. Furthermore, as a large project, smaller organizations are able to play a supporting role in the implementation of more grass-root projects which can help sustain the work the PSUP has done in these informal zones. SDI and UCLGA’s Know Your City project is a perfect fit for this role. Similar to the PSUP, the Know Your City project relies on enumerations and mapping as a means of community upgrading; however, our approach is completely community driven, providing a means of mobilising the population to begin upgrading on their own terms. As the PSUP focuses more of its attention on the capacity building of local and national authorities and collaboration between all institutions, Know Your City uses a bottom-up approach empowering the community and its members to take a more active role in their settlement upgrading. Together these programs will enable the empowerment of both groups allowing for a plethora of ideas to be exchanged and the creation of a strong bond and understanding between the national and local government, along with city planners and other key stakeholders’, and the slum populations.

Many factors need to be aligned for a project to endure long after its original architects and designers have left it to its own devices. More than sustainable, projects need to be able to evolve and shift to better fit the world’s ever-changing state. Under this understanding, the overall goal is that current upgrading projects will address the problems of today’s developing world so that future projects focusing on this same issue are unnecessary. So the question remains, will the collaborative programs of SDI and UN Habitat lead to less of a need for slum upgrading projects or will we both merely be adding to the plethora of attempted programs that have yet to make a significant impact? Only time will tell but as slum populations take hold of their own upgrading and begin collaborating with local authorities to plan more inclusive cities, the need for external interference in urban development will likely decrease.

 

Taking the Reigns: Slum Dwellers Drive the Upgrading Process in Pune, India

Pune, India

By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat

In March I came across Mukta Naik’s piece for Global Urbanist blog on her firm’s involvement in a project to redevelop two slum clusters in Delhi as part of the national Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) housing scheme. While her piece highlights a number of key principles in the creation of cities that include rather than marginalize the urban poor – arguing, for example, for in situ upgrading rather than relocation, and the central participation of slum dwellers in the planning process – I felt as though in the end, there was at least one critical departure from my take on the role of slum dwellers in the production of future cities. Naik concludes her piece with a statement that, “in the end, many of the demands of slum dwellers are not implementable” and the onus lies on the urban planning professionals, architects and engineers to advocate on their behalf for more realistic solutions, and to convince local governments of their rationale and viability. 

The experience of urban grassroots social movements and individual communities proves that slum dwellers are more than capable of devising realistic, implementable, solutions to their own housing and infrastructure needs. Although the process may be longer than one driven by professionals, its success is often more sustainable, and more relevant – characteristics that benefit both the government and the slum dwellers in the long term. To this end, local governments across India and the developing world have in many cases (and often after much negotiation, exchange visits to other projects, and even some heated disagreements) been brought into the process, convinced of the viability of these projects, and seen the concrete benefits of involving communities in all stages of the upgrading process – from planning to design to construction to maintenance. In addition, I would argue that the role of the professional is not to provide the right answers, but instead to ask the right questions; not to advocate for the urban poor, but rather to support their voice so that they can  advocate for their own needs and, ultimately, their own solutions.

One of the most notable examples of this is happening 1,500 kilometers from the scene of Naik’s article, in Pune, India, the second largest city in Maharashtra state after the megacity of Mumbai. Here, organized communities of the urban poor have been working for roughly twenty years to build a social movement that results in concrete improvements in the lives of slum dwellers. This alliance includes a national collective of women’s savings groups, Mahila Milan, a national slum dweller federation, NSDF, and their support NGO, SPARC

During a trip to Pune in January, I met the leaders of Pune’s Mahila Milan (MM) in their local office above a community toilet project constructed and managed by the women of MM. This group of women manages projects ranging from housing construction to water and sanitation to large-scale government-sponsored resettlements. Starting with management of daily savings, the MM women have learnt the necessary skills for management and coordination of human as well as financial resources. 

Pune’s Mahila Milan began their upgrading work by taking up an in-situ upgrading project for 1,200 households in the settlement of Yerwada under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission’s (JNNURM) Basic Services to the Urban Poor scheme (BSUP).  Here, old tin shacks have been torn down and replaced with one, two and three-story single and multiple family homes in the style of townhouses and small apartment blocks. Inevitably, political battles crop up during this aspect of such projects. The process of demolition and reconstruction requires the facilitation of intense negotiation by MM’s members and leaders. The ways of managing these grievances are maybe the most important lesson of all, and highlights MM’s integral role in the process.

In Yerwada, MM have driven all aspects of the project: from community mobilization to design of re-blocking plans and upgraded houses to negotiations with city government around building regulations and provision of infrastructure and basic services. Using social technologies such as self-enumeration, community mapping, and daily savings, the women of Mahila Milan have been able to engage at all levels, bringing empowering tools and information to both the people on the ground and the officials in town hall.

One of the most fascinating things about this project is the use of space. Most of the homes’ footprints are no bigger than 250 square feet. By adding a second floor, this footprint is nearly doubled, allowing extended families to live comfortably together. One woman’s home is a narrow triangle of only 170 square feet. The second story nearly doubles this, and MM has ensured that she has permission from the municipality to build a third story once she can afford it. 

In addition to reconstructing the homes, MM worked hard in Yerwada to realign the structures, widening pathways and making space for municipal water, sewerage and electricity connections. Management of construction was made easier thanks to MM’s direct involvement as overseers of the construction process. Footpaths, widened from crevices to lovely pathways, are now lit by street lamps. MM worked with the families to construct homes suited to their needs and personal aesthetic. Homes are painted bright colors, and front doors hung with bright flowers. It is clear that this is a community. Not a slum. Not an informal settlement. It is a neighborhood, with families living and working, improving their homes and walking their kids home from school. 

Following the successful upgrading in Yerwada, the Indian SDI Alliance’s community-owned construction company was contracted by the city to construct 750 homes in 7 additional settlements across Pune: Bhatt Nagar, Chandrama Nagar, Mother Theresa, Netaji Nagar, Sheela Salve Nagar, Wadar Wasti and Yashwant Nagar. 

Prior to PMM’s involvement in slum upgrading in Pune, city government had experienced local resistance in their attempts at slum upgrading. This was due largely to a lack of community involvement in the development of upgrading plans. The state was proposing high-rise housing projects or individual subsidies and loans, neither of which appealed to the communities. Once Pune’s MM got involved, they were able to assist the wider community to develop housing solutions for in situ development and relocation that are at the same time community designed and delivered and viable in the eyes of the city government. So far, Pune MM has constructed roughly 3,000 units in situ across Pune using a blend of subsidies, loans, and community contributions.

These citywide successes provide an important node for learning across a transnational network of organized slum dweller federations that spans the Global South.  Groups of slum dwellers, support professionals and government officials from across India and the developing world travel frequently to Pune to learn from the experiences of the Pune MM and city officials. In the past few years, these exchanges have inspired groups from neighboring Orissa to South Africa to Brazil as to the power of community participation in the upgrading process.

In addition to serving as a center of learning, Pune has become an example of successful slum upgrading for the wider urban development community. Students from Pune University and KRVIA in Mumbai, as well as universities in Sweden, Australia and the United States have all traveled to Pune for research work and urban planning studios.  

The upgrading experience in Pune clearly disputes claims that slum dwellers are not capable of conceiving and implementing their own solutions. Of course, professional expertise is often necessary in implementing large-scale upgrading projects, but it must be deployed in ways that support the experience-based knowledge of slum dweller communities. Indeed, it is this experience, skill, and history that led this community to come into being in the first place. We have to constantly be thinking and acting with the question in our mind: Does this further marginalize the urban poor? Does my work as a professional minimize the decision-making influence of residents in planning for physical upgrades that will affect their lives? Do my thoughts, actions and words serve the creation of an inclusive city, or a fragmented one, where the urban poor are kept on the periphery?

For it has been proven that through the mobilization of organized slum dweller federations like Pune’s Mahila Milan, the urban poor can take the reigns of their own development, and that city governments are often quite happy to come on board.

 

ISN leads with “Asihambi: Land, Housing and Zero Evictions” Campaign

**cross posted from the South African SDI Alliance website**

Asihambi – we will not be moved.

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”

However, ISN have received confirmation letters from the JMPD and the Province confirming the march. See this photo album on SA SDI Alliance Facebook page with all the documents confirming this statement.

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.