The Collaborative Urban Resilience Exchange: How KYC data & partnerships support more inclusive development outcomes
Resilience building has emerged as an important priority for cities worldwide. With an increasing number of cities developing Resilience Strategies, there is a pressing need to understand how these strategies intersect with issues of exclusion and poverty. In cities with large portions of their population living in informal settlements it is critical that more attention is given to understanding these intersections. Triggered by a collaboration established under the Community of Practice for Resilience Measurement , SDI, 100 Resilient Cities and Itad have begun this work.
Given the centrality of peer-to-peer exchange in its learning approach, SDI decided to host a Collaborative Urban Resilience Exchange in its recently launched Know Your City Resource Center in Woodstock, Cape Town. As part of the exchange, which took place from July 16th-18th 2018, SDI brought together city officials and community organizations involved in resilience planning and implementation in Cape Town, Accra and Durban. The exchange supported reflection by officials and communities from the three cities about how community-collected data on informal settlements and partnerships between government and organized communities (a package of strategies known as Know Your City by SDI and its partners) can support resilient city strategies capable of generating more inclusive city development outcomes.
Learn more about the reflections and outcomes of the exchange by clicking on the image above.
Women Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye
By Skye Dobson, SDI
As the Black Panther movie continues to smash box office records and enthrall the world with fearless female African superheroes, a meeting in eThekwini last week suggests we brace ourselves for Women Transformers – coming to a city near you.
The words stretch out across her bosom: Women transforming the slums of our cities, the jet-black shirt and white lettering convey the same no-nonsense, bold authenticity as the woman with the sky-blue doek (headscarf) and thick wooden walking stick. Sitting at the shiny boardroom table in the Mayor’s parlor of the eThekwini Municipal Council offices, wiping the sweat from her brow, she looks decidedly like someone who understands that transformation is not a development cliché, but an overdue national imperative.
Mama Mkhabela, (full name, Nombulelo Anna Estevao) joined the shack dwellers federation (now called FEDUP) 30 years and one month ago. She recalls the first time she sat in on a savings group meeting in Lindelani informal settlement and heard women from the settlement talking about the need to come together to solve their problems. She says the women were telling each other that poor people can’t wait for government to give them things, but must start making change themselves. Shy and quiet back then, she recalls sitting back and listening to figure out what was going on. She soon joined the Sophumelela Savings Group and quickly gained the trust and respect of her fellow savers.
At first her husband was suspicious of her work with the federation. She recalls him secretly following her to a meeting in another community one time. The meeting lasted so long that he had to stay the night and help everyone get back to their places the following day. “From then on, he stopped fighting with me. He saw that I wasn’t up to any trouble and we were just working!” she says with a chuckle. The Sophumelela Savings Group secured housing loans from Utshani Fund – a part of the South Africa SDI Alliance – in 1999 and the women in the group set about building their own houses. Mama Mkhabela managed the loan repayments and moved from a bookkeeper to a treasurer and is now the regional leader of FEDUP in Kwa Zulu Natal. The region has 70 savings groups with 9,672 members and has built over 2,500 houses.
Mama Mkhabela had not come alone to see her mayor. Two comrades from FEDUP, Rose Molokoane and Emily Moholo, accompanied her. The three women have been engaged in the struggle to transform the lives of the poor for decades.
When apartheid ended and commitments were made to house the poor, there was a sense in many communities that the battle was won. Of course, it was soon painfully clear to communities living in shacks that the structure of society rather than the lack of houses was the true cause of their deepening poverty and exclusion. FEDUP and SDI supported communities in KZN to understand the need to shape policy and practice in the city – to support people-driven housing as well as informal settlement upgrading, improved livelihoods and savings, and better access to land and tenure security. “When we started”, says Mama Mkhabela, “there were very few women in city council. The officials were all men and they were very, very difficult. Only the late Patrick (former leader in FEDUP and the Informal Settlements Network) could penetrate the city.”
But times are changing.
Rose Molokoane, President of FEDUP and the Coordinator of SDI, grew up in an informal settlement called Oukasie in the South African town of Brits. Today Rose sits on a plethora of national and international bodies tasked with shaping land, housing, and urban policy and practice. Last year she was elected Chair of the World Urban Campaign where she champions the role of grassroots communities and local government partnership for implementing global agendas. On the international stage, eThekwini’s leadership frequently encounters Rose and other SDI community leaders. SDI’s unique local to global presence has slowly but surely convinced the city of the need to partner with shack dwellers in eThekwini and has quite literally secured these women a seat at the mayor’s table.
Emily Moholo, meanwhile, was born in Mafikeng and is a member of Ithuseng Savings Group. She is a regional leader of FEDUP in the Free State and chairperson of the provincial joint working group on partnerships between the municipality, provincial government, and the Federation. She is also a member of the SDI Management Committee, and supports the SDI affiliates throughout the Southern Africa region to build strong slum dweller federations and partnerships with local government.
Mama Mkhabela, Rose and Emily invited one of the Directors of the SDI Secretariat (a woman) and the Chief Executive Officer of Global Infrastructure Basil (another woman) to accompany them. The women’s joint mission was to: a) update the Mayor on the South African SDI Alliance’s work, b) request that their MOA with eThekwini Municipality’s Human Settlements Department be expedited and signed before the close of the financial year, c) request that the Know Your City campaign be recognized by the city as an important strategy for collaborative informal settlement action to build resilience and guide climate-friendly investment in infrastructure and upgrading, d) introduce the city to GIB and share an update on the SDI/GIB partnership, and e) to demonstrate SDI and the SA Alliance’s intention to increase support to city efforts to become a leader in inclusive climate and resilience informal settlement action and to accelerate implementation of commitments made in the New Urban Agenda towards the SDGs.
“We don’t come to the mayor looking for handouts” says Rose. “We’re bringing ideas, partners the city needs, and we’re ready to work.”
From the City’s side, there were three strong women at the table. Mayor Zandile Gumede is among a growing cadre of female mayors leading global discussions to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable urban citizens are at the center of climate change responses. She currently serves as the Chair of C40 Africa where she advocates this approach. Globally, the number of women mayors is rising rapidly, which many believe bodes well for inclusive resilience planning and implementation. Indeed, the Resilience Strategy of eThekwini Municipality, formally adopted by the eThekwini Municipality Council in August 2017, is spearheaded by an all-female team comprising Debra Roberts (award-winning global climate change leader), Jo Douwes, and Manisha Hassan, is a product of a four-year consultative process with a broad and diverse group of Durban’s stakeholders. The SA SDI Alliance provided critical inputs to one of the two critical Resilience Building Options of the Strategy, namely: collaborative informal settlement action.
The Mayor said that it was refreshing indeed to engage with groups so clearly seeking positive change. She expressed confidence in the Human Settlements team’s ability to get the MOA signed quickly to ensure stronger communication and implementation at greater speed. She recommended that implementation of the MOA involve the convening of administrative and political officials in order to strengthen leadership capacity at all levels. She highlighted the need to work together to advance the city’s 5 year agenda and to ensure eThekwini, the SA SDI Alliance, and SDI continue to collaborate at the local and global level to showcase the power of community-government partnership for implementation of global urban and climate agendas.
Chairing the meeting was former Head of Department for Human Settlements at eThekwini Municipality, and recently appointed Deputy City Manager for Human Settlements, Infrastructure and Transport, Beryl Mphakathi. Beryl has been a tireless champion of the partnership and MOA between the SA SDI Alliance and the Human Settlements Department. At the request of the team, she committed herself to ensuring the MOA is signed before the end of the current financial year. Beryl explained that the MOA is necessary to “formalize our partnership…to pull all our efforts together and to commit our capacity and time.” Beryl invited the Acting Head of Department for Human Settlements to attend the meeting and ensure the MOA is tabled in time.
When Mama Mkhabela speaks of Beryl she says, “Truly speaking I’m so happy. We are very lucky to have a woman in that position. I can say, she respects me. I respect her. She took a while to understand the federation, but when she did she started to call me her mother. Even if I call her at night she has to respond. If she can’t answer your question right away, she will call you back. We work hand in hand.” When women can forge authentic, humble, thoughtful relationships such as these, institutional partnerships between the city and communities that are based on respect and practical action emerge. Such partnerships have the potential to mitigate the overinflated egos, political turf battles, short-sighted and self-serving approaches that have characterized male-dominated city politics in eThekwini and beyond.
While the centrality of women’s social relationships as a critical resource in community-based political mobilization has long been recognized in South Africa and abroad, city decision making remains dominated by males. If the walls of the Mayoral Boardroom could talk they would have countless tales of hustlers hustling on behalf of their own personal interests. But these women are hustlers acting in the interest of their community. Women transformers from the community, the city, and the international development sector have the opportunity to generate practical collaborations and partnerships to shift the status quo through new models of leadership and pragmatic action aimed at improving the lives of communities. Critically, women transformers from the community must not devalue the power within themselves by elevating leaders or partners – male or female – above the grassroots collectives from which they emerged.
Let’s keep an eye on eThekwini’s community, professional, and government Women Transformers and see if, indeed, they can transform city governance and the slums of their cities as the t-shirt promises.
SDI is often asked, What about the men? Of course, men are an integral part of the SDI movement and the struggle for inclusive and resilient cities. In the meeting described, there were inspiring and committed male leaders and professionals: namely, Jeff Thomas from Utshani Fund, Ndodeni Dengo from Informal Settlement Network (ISN), and Arnotte Payne from CORC (all part of the SA SDI Alliance). These men toil hand-in-hand, day-in and day-out with the women mentioned in this blog. As a leader from SNCC (Civil Rights Movement in the USA) once said of working with strong women leadership, “you come to realize that manhood isn’t the ability to knock someone down but finding your own humanity.” Jeff, Ndodeni, and Arnotte embody this viewpoint and understand that it is not heroic individuals but committed organizers that will sustain a movement and transform the status quo.
SDI, WIEGO & Avina: Growing a Global Coalition of the Urban Poor
**Cross posted from the SA SDI Alliance Blog**
By Yolande Hendler, SA SDI Alliance
Piesang River – the home of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), a meeting place filled with sounds of Portuguese, isiZulu, Spanish and English, a place filled with expectations of what a four-day learning exchange might hold for its participants – representatives of urban poor networks from across Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil and South Africa. Are there joint mobilisation strategies? How does each movement build partnerships? And what does advocacy from the perspective of community leaders look like? These questions shaped the purpose of the four-day learning exchange from 21-24 September in South Africa’s east coast port city, Durban.
The participants included community leaders and supporting organisations from
- the Brazilian Alliance of Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI)
- the Ecuadorian Waste Picker Network
- the Ecuadorian Network for Fair, Democratic & Sustainable Cities
- the Association of Recyclers in Bogota, Colombia (Asociación de Recicladores de Bogota)
- Fundacion Avina in Peru & Ecuador
- Women In Informal Employment : Globalising & Organising (WIEGO)
- Asiye eTafuleni in Durban (AeT, network of informal workers)
- The South African SDI Alliance as hosts: Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), Informal Settlement Network (ISN) and Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC)
What brought together representatives from such different locations? Their affiliation to SDI (Brazil & South Africa), WIEGO (Colombia & Asiye eTafuleni, South Africa) and Fundacion Avina (Ecuador). All three are global movements of the urban poor. Although their approaches may differ, SDI, WIEGO and Avina share the vision of building equitable, just and inclusive cities. The learning exchange was convened by Cities Alliance, of which WIEGO and SDI are both members. Envisioned as a two-part exchange, the first was hosted by SDI in South Africa, while the second will be hosted by WIEGO in Colombia.
The exchange focussed on exposing the visitors to the South African Alliance’s approaches to- and outcomes of community organising. This included a visit to housing and informal settlement upgrading projects, a savings scheme, conducting practical data collection, a partnership meeting with government and getting to know the context of informal workers.
A People’s Approach to Housing and Upgrading
While each movement shared its main focal areas and organisational approaches in presentations on the first day, a real sense of getting to know each other occurred through questions and anecdotes that opened windows into personal and collective experiences:
“In Colombia waste-pickers have been organising for more than 30 years – recycling is an option for poor people who are old or don’t have access to jobs. I was displaced during the war. My husband was killed by guerrilla fighters. Through recycling I was able to support my family” (Ana Elizabeth Cuervo Alba, Colombia)
“As waste pickers in Ecuador we lobbied the government to a point where we now have a national agreement that pays waste pickers for recycling” (Elvia Pisuña, Ecuador)
“Urban informal workers usually face extreme challenges with people resisting their presence in public spaces .We called ourselves, Asiye eTafuleni because it means – come to the table. Let us negotiate for the inclusive future of the working urban poor.“ (Richard Dobson, Asiye eTafuleni, Durban)
Incidentally, Piesang River also displays the fruits of FEDUP’s militant negotiation with national government around housing delivery. FEDUP leaders explained that the vast housing settlements in Piesang River and Namibia Stop 8 (a further area visited that afternoon) are a result of their success in convincing government to grant members direct access to their housing subsidy. This enabled them to self-build larger houses, culminating in the adoption of the People’s Housing Process (PHP) policy. Although it has not been without its challenges, PHP represents a breakthrough in altered approach from “delivery” to “collaboration”.
In contrast, community leaders of the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) elaborated on their difficulty in achieving breakthrough in municipal support for informal settlement upgrading. With over 2700 informal settlements in the country and an increasing housing backlog, the ISN supports communities with tools and plans for negotiating with local government around service delivery through incremental upgrading. During a visit to Mathambo settlement, community leader and regional ISN coordinator, Ndodeni Dengo explained that despite the settlement’s relatively small size, existing structures were located in high density to each other, with most not larger than 9m2 – and a deficit of water, sanitation and electricity services. The community had collected data about its settlement through a detailed household level enumeration that helped them negotiate upgrading plans with the local municipality. By using wooden boxes for planning a new layout that would enable service installation, the community established their ideal design for the upgraded settlement.
How do urban poor communities organise?
Over the next two days the visitors were introduced to the driving force behind FEDUP and ISN’s housing and upgrading projects: the practice of daily savings and data collection as tools for community organisation.
At Kwa Bestar savings group, the visitors saw that saving is not primarily about collecting money, but about collecting people. Savings groups are a space where trust is nurtured through daily saving, sharing needs and identifying common solutions. At present, the group of 39 active members has saved US$ 2800. It is also engaged in forming smaller saving units to access loans by generating income through small businesses. The keen involvement of young people aged 8 – 25 in the savings process was a special highlight. Once more it became evident that savings is about growing and enabling people, showcased by the rich dance, drama and music performances by the youth.
Where savings builds self reliance, data collection builds knowledge: upon arrival at Zikhali, a small, rural settlement in the northern sugar cane fields of Durban, Rose Molokoane, National Coordinator of FEDUP and SDI deputy president, explained:
“When a community knows clearly who they are, which are their problems, it is much easier to negotiate with municipal officials”
This is how data collection through settlement profiles (of a settlement’s history, infrastructure, conditions) and enumerations (detailed household level surveys) enables partnership with local government officials. When walking around the area, the group mapped the settlement boundaries and landmarks such as water and sanitation points on GPS devices while others spoke to residents, collecting household data by using the Alliance’s enumeration form.
Approaches to building partnerships with government
It is through savings and data-collection that SDI’s urban poor federations leverage partnerships: saving contributions show self-reliance and community will; settlement-wide data powers a community’s negotiation capacity. On day three the visitors accompanied the Durban Alliance to a meeting with the local municipality, province and a representative from national government, discussing the progress of housing and upgrading projects.
The South Americans perceived
- A strong relationship with government officials
- A measure of trust and flexibility in receiving visitors at the meeting
- Political willingness to listen and debate
Insights from the South African participants
- The perceived trust and partnership with Municipal Government was “built by doing”, demonstrating results and inviting the municipality to be part of the social process
- Despite the working group and formally conducted meetings, the municipality often does not give prompt answers to the most urgent needs of communities
The visit to Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) added rich insight to the experience of informal workers and an added dimension to partnership building with local authorities. The group was introduced to AeT’s work in developing inclusive spaces that support sustainable livelihoods for informal workers. The shared realities of informal settlement dwellers and informal workers became particularly evident on a walk-about through the bustling Warwick market in Durban’s inner-city. For AeT and the SA SDI Alliance the encounter highlighted similarities and differences in approach but most of all established a platform for increased collaboration in the future.
Reflecting, Learning and Joint Advocacy
With a rich collection of experiences and impressions, the group gathered on the last morning to reflect and share on the ….
- Non-monetary value of savings. Savings are about collecting money and people (building social capital, trust, self-reliance)
- Power of information: data collection is crucial for building self-reliance, identifying common goals and establishing negotiating power
- Key role of women as cultivating transparency and accountability
- Cultural factors present in South Africa: welcoming, joyful people, ability to join efforts and to coordinate
- Youth work: value of young people generating and managing their own savings to use in initiatives of their choice (e.g. creative arts)
- Global similarities in poor people’s struggles
- Recycling as Income Generation: value in using opportunities around you (e.g. waste = recycling opportunity = income generation)
- Increased awareness of interface between shack dwellers and informal workers
… and on strategies for the road ahead:
- Mobilisation Strategies: Gain understanding of waste picker movements in South America
- Building Partnerships: Plan further exchanges with local (i.e. national) counterparts of global movements
- Prepare for Joint Lobbying at Global Events such as Habitat III.
As the global development community gears up for Habitat III, global movements of the urban poor are establishing a firm coalition. This learning exchange forms an integral part of that process, “allowing networks organised around livelihood and habitat to come together, share their experiences and strengthen their capacity to organise and advocate in favour of the urban poor” (Cities Alliance, Exchange convener). When speaking with a united voice, advocacy has the potential to influence policy discussions on increased collaboration between communities and governments.
“By referring to our connection with one another, WIEGO, SDI & Avina can make a strong case for a pro-poor agenda. Only if we come together as poor people we can show our governments that we are influencing their policies to meet the needs of the people. “ (Rose Molokoane, FEDUP Coordinator & SDI vice president)
National Community Exchange – Durban to Cape Town
**Cross-posted from the South African SDI Alliance blog.**
By Yolande Hendler, CORC South Africa
Informal settlement leaders from Kenville and Foreman Road in Durban are mobilising their communities to upgrade their settlements with better services and improved spatial layouts. Last week’s exchange to Cape Town (29 April – 2 May 2014) therefore presented a first-hand opportunity for them to draw insights from fellow community leaders.
Over the week the Durban visitors were hosted by Kuku Town, Flamingo Crescent, Langrug & Mtshini Wam communities in and around Cape Town. Each day was dedicated to an in-depth visit of each settlement. This included a detailed site visit, discussions on collecting savings, enumerating and profiling settlements and contributing to planning and mapping. Besides bringing leaders together on a national level, the exchange also connected communities locally: for leaders from Kuku Town, Flamingo and Langrug the exchange comprised a first time visit to the other settlements. Exchanges are thus the most important learning vehicle in the South African Alliance, facilitating the direct exchange of information, experience and skills between urban poor communities.
Day one in Kuku Town: Upgrading & Savings
Community leaders met in Kuku Town, a small settlement that recently completed re-blocking and in the process secured one-on-one water and sanitation services from the City of Cape Town. Read more about Kuku Town and re-blocking here. In the discussion community leaders took the visitors through a step-by-step picture of Kuku Town’s experiences. ISN representative, Melanie Manuel, explained that
Community leaders share their experiences around organising and upgrading in Kuku Town community hall.
“What we do in ISN is not only to beautify our settlements but to actually change the way we live. Savings and partnerships – like we had with Habitat for Humanity and the municipality – are an important part of this.”
Yet, before partnerships can be formed, a community needs to know its settlement in terms of the number of (un)emloyed people, the number of structures and families and details on service provision (electricity, sanitation and water). This information is collected in enumerations. Kuku Town community used its enumeration data to plan its re-blocked layout and to negotiate the provision of one-on-one services and short-term employment opportunities through the City’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). Community leaders explained that they organised themselves in clusters to be able to navigate the logistics around communication and construction during re-blocking.
Among a variety of questions, the visitors took special interest in understanding the connection between savings and upgrading, especially the role of community contributions. Melanie explained that
“Savings contributions enable us as communities to take ownership and responsibility of the changes and upgrading in our settlements. We want to move away from a ‘free for all mindset’ and restore dignity and pride to our communities”
But collecting savings poses a continuous challenge. How to go about motivating communities and responding to accusations? Flamingo Crescent’s community leader, Auntie Marie, shared her experience:
“Getting the community’s commitment for daily savings is difficult. People only want to act when they see that things are happening. You’ve got to be tough. If you’re not tough you won’t get anything right”
For Kuku Town community leader, Verona Joseph, the partnership with the City and its support in this regard, was crucial. This became evident at Kuku Town’s official handover that afternoon which was attended by the ward councillor and City officials. The handover and a site visit completed the first day of the exchange, demonstrating what a tangible community-government partnership can look like.
Exchange participants join handover ceremony in Kuku Town.
Kuku Town site visit: Inspecting water and sanitation units provided by the City.
Day two in Flamingo Crescent: Re-blocking and Partnerships
Flamingo Crescent is about to begin re-blocking and – in partnership with the City of Cape Town – is set to receive one-on-one services. On a walkabout through the smoke and dust-filled pathways community leaders received a thorough impression of the settlement’s layout. Most structures – consisting of old cardboard, zinc, timber and plastic pieces – are situated around a broad, u-shaped pathway that is intersected by smaller, narrow footpaths. Flamingo’s population of about 450 people resides in 104 structures. The entire settlement makes use of only 2 taps and 14 chemical toilets that are emptied three times a week. The absence of electricity means that fire is used as a central source for cooking and warmth.
In a nearby community hall, Flamingo’s steering committee explained its relationship with ISN and the challenge of collecting savings contributions due to its high unemployment rate (50%). Flamingo’s enumeration acted as a powerful entry point to negotiating an improved layout and service provision with the City of Cape Town. Together with students from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (USA) the community designed the re-blocked layout and conceptualised plans for a crèche and a play park. Later, the visitors joined the steering committee’s meeting with a Cape Town City official who provided an update on the City’s contribution to upgrading. For the visitors this was of particular value as it emphasised the crucial role of partnerships and the number of actors involved in a given project. The question at the forefront of many minds was: how can we do this in our communities at home?
For Auntie Marie, Flamingo community leader, it is evident that
“If it wasn’t for ISN, I don’t know where we would be. Through ISN we were introduced to the City and we got a partnership. We started thinking, ‘Now something is going to happen’. Flamingo is going to be re-blocked!”
Check back here in the coming days for more on this exchange. In addition, you can take a look at an additional report on the exchange, put together by the Durban representatives, here.
NIMBYism Blocks Development in Havelock, Durban
**Cross-posted from the South African SDI Alliance Blog**
By Jeff Thomas, CORC, South Africa
Havelock informal settlement is located 8km outside Durban central, close to the northern suburb of Greenwood Park. The first settlers – a coloured man and his wife – settled on this land in 1986. Since they were “scared of living alone” – as they put it – they invited other people to join them. In the early years, the new settlers were continually harassed, especially the women, who were vulnerable to attacks on their way to the main water sources. In subsequent years, the settlement grew to a sizable settlement of 389 residents living in more than 200 shacks. The land is privately owned; one part by the Kwa-Zulu Natal Provincial Department of Human Settlements and another part by a private owner. Havelock is built against a hill and the shack density is high. Read more about the background to the settlement in this profile.
Havelock settlement profile from South African SDI Alliance on Vimeo.
In the following report, I endeavour to give context to the unfolding dynamics in Havelock, where to community has completed all the design, received an in-principle go-ahead from government, and started preparing the site. The re-blocking project has been approved by Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF), an alliance seed capital fund, and the eThekwini Metro has indicated a willingness to collaborate. The report tracks the activities over the weekend of 10 – 12 May. The Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY), a wicked complex layered with racial, class and land rights dynamics, have blocked the incremental upgrading of the settlement.
Thursday 9 May
Over the past few weeks, the reblocking site has been cleared which required tree felling, clearing away undergrowth, and gathering together discarded pieces of building material. A consulting Civil Engineering firm manager and his operator arrived in the morning to discuss how we should proceed with the terracing work. Points made were:
- need to stay well clear of the sewer line that runs between the site and the church property above it
- further cutting up of the logs from the felled trees to allow the tractor to carry them up to Havelock road for later disposal
- need to remove various bottles lying around that could puncture the tractor’s tyres
the engineer’s preliminary assessment of the work was that it would take at least 4 days. We arranged for the tractor would come on site on the morning of Monday 13. In the afternoon another engineering firm, a subcontractor to the municipality’s Water and Sanitation Department tasked to install new services (following a presentation by the Havelock community on their re-blocking layout plan and dire shortage of ablution facilities), came to site to assess the need and contemplate possible locations for further ablution containers. The outcomes of the visit were:
- confirmation of the position of the sewer line between the site proposed for locating the re-blocked structures and the church property
- there is another sewer line across the settlement parallel to the first but about half-way down – almost where CORC architect and the community had allowed for additional ablution facilities in the layout designs
- the open area on the other side of the small stream and adjoining the bottom of Sanderson Road is the best first option with the one within the settlement to be contemplated only once re-blocking has progressed to that point
- community should liaise with the owner of the property adjoining the site at the bottom of Sanderson Road to identify if the manhole that is shown on the map the engineer had with him is indeed there. Poor visibility meant that surveyors could not accurately plan the line from the proposed ablution container to this existing line.
- the engineer also commented on the extremely poor condition of the existing ablution containers and said he would propose that these be replaced with new ones.
Monday 13 May
Over the weekend the community had attended to the preparations required by the civil engineering firm to bring their tractor on site. Having cleared a way through the bushes down to the area to be terraced it proceeded to cut a “road” down past the ablution containers, thus creating easy access for possible removal of these and replacement with new ones, as suggested by the subcontractor. Then a line was pegged across from South to North to ensure no encroachment on or damage to the sewer line between the area to be terraced and the church property. After this, the community and supporting engineers started to work on the top terrace, cutting and leveling the soil and removing stumps.
At this time, they were approached by a group of people from the Greenwood Park neighborhood’s ratepayers association, who demanded that the work stop. Allegedly the ratepayers went as far as threatening to burn the tractor if it continued to operate. The Havelock community was obviously angered by this perceived interference in something that they felt had been well-negotiated with all parties and there was then a stand-off between the two groups.
Somebody from the formal community group had already contacted the Land Invasion Unit of the eThekwini Metro and some of their staff, including a senior officer, arrived on site. Somewhere within the ensuing discussion the issue of a High Court interdict order (Order 3329/2013) allowing the Municipality and the police the right to demolish structures and to evict people who occupy or attempt to invade certain designated pieces of Municipal land was introduced. This comes after the courts’ clampdown on alleged “land grabs”, as a front page article of the Mercury, a local Durban paper, reported.
The upshot was that the Land Invasion Unit told the Havelock settlement that in terms of this broad order granted by the High Court they could not proceed with the terracing and re-blocking. The small area that had been leveled would need to have some of the stacked soil returned to it so that there was no place where a structure could be constructed. However, this seems to be highly inconsistent: Why now, when the ratepayers called the Anti Land Invasion Unit a week prior regarding tree-felling activity – at which time the community explained about the re-blocking – they didn’t refer them to this Court Order?
Once the Land Invasion Unit had left, a group of the neighbouring residents continued to stand at the top of the site where it adjoins Havelock Road in order to see that the tractor operator adhered to the instructions of the Land Invasion Unit.
At this point I arrived and was confronted by the ratepayers with a barrage of questions and complaints, on the one hand, and an understandably irritated Havelock community on the other. The ratepayers complaints were ill-informed despite the fact that ISN had printed notices some of which were distributed in the area and others put on light poles. I then contacted the Land Invasion Unit to confirm exactly what his instructions had been. I wanted to understand whether the tractor should replace the soil.
By this stage the local DA Councillor for Ward 34, Mr Ganesh, arrived and was also vociferously greeted by the questions and complaints of the ratepayers. The Havelock community was displeased at the situation since their continuous interactions with him and the ANC PR Councillor up to date. The community felt that the councillor had failed to keep the Municipality adequately informed about what was happening. A pastor from a local church stepped into the situation and suggested a mediated meeting between grievances of the ratepayers and the community. The meeting is scheduled for the 1st of June at the nearby Greenwood Park Primary School. Representatives from CORC, ISN and the Municipality will also be present.
In order to find a way forward that might allow for the re-blocking project to continue the following actions are proposed:
- Make contact Legal Resources Centre, who has recently been involved in the Madlala Village community in Lamontville. We need to come to grips with the implications of the High Court order. But the primary litigation point will be the 37 sites to which it apparently refers as well as to possibly explore any legal action the community can take.
- Set up a meeting with the Land Invasion Unit to understand why the project was not stopped when the trees were felled.
- Co-ordinate a meeting of CORC and ISN with the Housing Unit who is also a member of the Interim Services Committee (responsible for informal settlement upgrading) on Havelock project plans issue tabled at the many previous meetings
- Attend the mediated meeting with the ratepayers to negotiate outcomes
- Discussion of the Havelock issue at the next Ward Committee meeting to be held on 15/5
Government as “outsourcer”, government as “facilitator”
By Benjamin Bradlow, SDI secretariat
David A. Smith of the Affordable Housing Institute has a great post about a Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) – led enumeration in Durban last month. It gives a good sense of how the community-led self-surveying is a key tool for community empowerment, as well as how this fits into the greater strategies of community-driven housing delivery and slum upgrading. Here’s a key quote from Smith:
Enumeration by the people themselves represents outsourcing an essential governmental function both to accelerate its delivery and to create political standing for the poor themselves. If you won’t do it for us, we will do it for ourselves and make you acknowledge us.
When we talk about “outsourcing an essential governmental function” such as census-taking for evidence-based solutions, I wonder what does it really mean to “outsource” such a project? If governments are not doing it, then is it really an “essential government function”? And what does it even mean to call something an “essential government function”?
The political value of an enumeration sheds some light on these questions. As I mentioned, enumerations are not just about momentary community empowerment for the sake of community empowerment. Having witnessed other FEDUP enumerations, I can say that the show of songs, slogans, and speeches can have a powerful emotional effect, something Smith also describes in his Durban experience. But the real test of enumerations is the way they can change our very notions of government.
It is helpful to think of these surveys not as “outsourcing,” which implies that it is some kind of half-hearted, last ditch measure, but rather as the most effective way to do such a survey to begin with. Poor communities are best placed to know the kinds of issues that really need to be surveyed, they stand to benefit the most from the information, and they have the most legitimacy to conduct the surveys. Once they have the information, they can negotiate with governments from a more informed, more organized, and more constructive standpoint.
In fact, it may be more useful to think of such “outsourcing” as the most effective thing government can do on this particular issue. But we can do away with this market-based language (every time I type the word “outsourcing” I think of big telecom companies, but maybe that’s my own problem). Ultimately, the government will have to act on this information. Instead of being the driving force behind development of poor communities, governments can think of themselves as facilitators working in partnership with poor communities — in fact, being led by poor communities. Poor communities need the political will, the technical capacities, and the finance that only governments can provide. And governments cannot facilitate these things without encouraging the organization of poor communities around their own resources, a key example being the information gathered through enumerations.
So it is not a binary of either governments leading or governments throwing up their hands and “outsourcing” community development and organization. Instead, governments can be facilitators, encouraging the very people they serve to take the lead and organize themselves. Then, governments will benefit through the strengthened political will and practical expertise to work towards development that can only come from these kinds of “people-centered” approaches.