Know Your City: Slum Dwellers Count

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Earlier this month, SDI launched a landmark publication: “Know Your City: Slum Dwellers Count,” showcasing the extraordinary contribution of the Know Your City (KYC) campaign to understanding and taking action to reduce urban poverty and exclusion. Over the next weeks, we will post a chapter from the book to our blog weekly and related material on our social media platforms every day. Enjoy! 

Download the full publication here:

By Rose Molokoane, Vice President of SDI and National Coordinator of the South African Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP)

When I told people at the launch of our Know Your City campaign at Habitat III that SDI would profile 100 cities before World Urban Forum 9 (WUF), people thought I was making empty promises like everyone else. I told people that SDI was done with all the talking. Yes, it was good to talk and get the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in place, but now the talking should end and the work should begin.

Sometimes when I’m in the community, I gossip about the Member States arguing about commas and which words to put in their documents. While they argue, we’re in the informal settlements counting toilets, negotiating with mayors, and building our own houses. I tell the community that we were the ones who put words into the New Urban Agenda about participation and community knowledge, and that now we have to show everyone how it’s done in practice.

If you want to know what it means to Know Your City, I want you to talk to one of the SDI federation members. You’ll find them in more than 30 countries. They’re easy to spot. Usually they’re singing and making a lot of noise. I want them to tell you about measuring shacks that are so close together you need to climb up on roofs to see what’s what; about mapping settlement boundaries and trying not to fall in drainage channels lined with garbage; about going house to house and hearing stories that make you want to cry; and about being chased by dogs and even by people with weapons as you administer enumerations. SDI members will tell you why they go to all that trouble and why they’re always screaming, “Information Is Power!”

After you ask them, then you can read this report. Some of you don’t believe things until they’re in a report with some big words and big numbers. That’s why we did this. We have too many stories, but if we made the report too big it would cost too much money, and we need that money to keep doing our work.

As communities, we know we can’t do everything alone. But we want the global community to understand just how much we’re doing to try to improve our settlements and cities and fulfill the goals we set together. While we’re trying so hard, some governments are still bulldozing our communities and setting them on fire because they want our land. This is one of the things that makes me so angry and disappointed.

In South Africa, our government is trying to understand. Our national government is trying to support Know Your City. Our local governments, through the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG-Africa), are also trying. The problem is that government normally promises to bring resources, and then they don’t. If the slum dwellers can bring their resources, why can’t governments? Governments have already committed to these goals. If we really have a partnership, then each side needs to bring something to the table.

Know Your City is about understanding our problems together and then working, practically, to fix them. It’s not a “project,” this thing we call Know Your City. We have been doing it for decades, and we’re going to keep doing it until our cities change. SDG 11 calls for inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities. Look at our information, our knowledge, and our efforts, and think about how it will support all of us to implement these commitments.

Click here to read the full publication.

In Memory of Mama Iris

Dear colleagues and friends,

In the midst of the daily demands and challenges of our far flung network of the urban poor, I face the task today of once again bidding farewell to an iconic figure in our movement, who in her own quiet and unassuming way contributed so much to what we have become.

Iris Limakatso Namo, or Mama I as she was known to all of us, passed away this Workers Day. Born in 1930 she spent most of her adult life in Katlehong. At first she made a career as a social worker – no easy task at the best of times but especially during the brutal years of apartheid – and the East Rand (today’s Ekurheleni) was one of most brutal places during those brutal years. Always a prominent member of her congregation and the wider Catholic Church she was nominated in 1990 by Sr. Marie Mcloughlin, who ran what became the Southern African Catholic Development Agency, to run a conference on homelessness, landlessness and poverty. It was a responsibility that I shared with her, and that formed the basis of a fifteen year partnership that took us to hundreds of informal settlements in South Africa and beyond. It was a decade and a half in which we immersed ourselves fully into the lives and struggles of the slum dwellers whom we were fortunate enough to support in their extraordinary efforts to form a network of women centred savings collectives that continues to strive for equality and justice throughout the continent.

The movement itself shares many of the characteristics that we all came to identify with Mama I: quiet, understated, preferring to get on with doing things instead of making a noise and seeking attention, principled but not at the expense of pragmatism, and pragmatic but not at the expense of principle. What is more there is an ethos that defined Mama I and which the more dedicated professionals in this movement still maintain. To be sure she had the benefit of her life experience as a poor black woman growing up in apartheid South Africa to fuel her innate understanding of injustice, exclusion and exploitation. As a result she was devoid of the fuzzy sentimentality or even the professional political correctness that are valorised today ahead of (and sometimes instead of) a no nonsense determination to produce results, to work with the urban poor on their turf and on their terms.

With Mama I’s passing we can be tempted to proclaim that we have come to the end of an era – at least as far as the SA alliance is concerned. Sure there are many veterans still around, but Mama Iris joins a long list of SA alliance stalwarts who have left us for good: Vusi and Pule, her son Lucky and Magebs, Tembelihle and Mamlilo, Mam Tohlo and Tatane, Janap and Manuel, Gregory and Nomvula … the lists runs into the hundreds. I imagine she has already tracked them all down and while they are trying to comfort her, she is leading them in Federation songs, telling Patrick not to be so irreverent and making sure they are all saving every day.

Hamba Kahle Mama I. I owe you more than you ever knew.

Joel Bolnick 

Manager, SDI Secretariat


Later that same day, the SDI Secretariat received this email from a colleague in our Kenyan affiliate:

This is truly sad.

In Kenya we are currently putting together Muungano’s history. A few days ago, we remembered Mama I  in the backdrop of a 2002 enumeration exchange visit to Katlehong. I got to spend a car-ride worth of time with her then. We got to share a very special moment together. A moment that framed for me what the federation struggle meant.

I was on exchange with a rather cantankerous, far from refined, 60-something old federation mama called Monica. I love her spirit. She didn’t read and write and carried pencils, forms and other enumeration materials, with great passion and precision.

Mama I’s son picked us from the airport. Before we went to Katlehong, we drove to some place near Pretoria to pick Mama I.  On our way back, in what seemed to be a long uninteresting road, Monica startled us all by demanding in Swahili that the car stop. I translated and the car stopped.

Monica, untied the knot she had made of the seatbelt (something we all had laughed about). She got out of the car and fixed her eyes on the police station across the road. Then as if to herself said, “this is the place they killed Steve Biko”. I translated for Mama I, and asked if this was true. Mama I didn’t say anything. Monica did not need our confirmation.

Back in the car Mama I asked if Monica had been to South Africa before and I said she hadn’t been. She asked me to ask Monica how she knew this. Monica said that there was picture in the Kenyan newspaper the day Biko died.  She had kept a newspaper cutting. We all didn’t say very much after.

I then understood Monica’s struggle was far deeper than the accurate tabulation of enumeration results. I think Mama I may have shared a kinship with Monica far beyond distance, refinement, language, programming… – I am sure they shared a special depth in understanding of the state of poverty.

May she rest in eternal peace.


Breakthrough and Struggle: Land, Housing and Backyarders in Tiryville, Eastern Cape

By Dolly Cedras (on behalf of FEDUP)*

When you look down the hill, there’s a flat piece of land called Lapland. That’s where we used to live before we moved to Tiryville. At the time Tiryville already had bank financed houses and some open land where we built our shacks..

Dolly Cedras (left) and Leana Ceasar (right)

I lived in my shack for 16 years, and in 2002, after I managed to buy the plot next to my shack I thought about building a house. I went to the municipality to ask for help but they said I needed to get other people to join me. I then found out that the area was zoned for bank-financed houses and not for low-cost housing. So I wrote a letter to the then Minister of Housing, Lindiwe Sisulu, and asked if the area could be rezoned from private ownership into an RDP project area.

One day I met Mama Chawe who was part of the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP). She said to me: “I can see that you are struggling to get a house. Come over and listen.” She told me about the rituals of FEDUP and the agreement with uTshani Fund [as a financial bridging institution for government subsidised housing]. So I listened and she said I should join FEDUP. I got my green savings boekie [little book] from Mama Chawe for R8. And that is how in 2003 I joined the movement now called FEDUP and began saving.

View onto Tiryville

On their next visit from Port Elizabeth, FEDUP national leaders called a meeting and told us more about the movement and the People’s Housing Process (PHP). We were introduced to the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) and together we soon met with the municipality to begin negotiating for our subsidy to build FEDUP-led PHP houses. We convinced them by first building my house [a show house]. The inspector was happy with the quality and so we had many more meetings with the municipality, CORC and uTshani. Eventually we managed to get a contract of 48 PHP houses for the FEDUP members in Tiryville.

We started construction in December 2014. At the moment [July 2015] we have already completed 17 houses and 7 further houses are half-way built. When the foundations were built there was a delay in the construction process because the engineers changed the floor plans. So far the construction process has been quite smooth and we haven’t had many problems with the municipality.

FEDUP built PHP house


Dolly and FEDUP Coordinators inspect a near-complete FEDUP house

Most of the challenges we experienced were in the community. Many were upset that our houses looked so nice. But they did not know that our houses were FEDUP and not municipality built. [Due to FEDUP’s 2006 pledge agreement with the national and provincial department of human settlements, eligible FEDUP members are able to gain direct access to their housing subsidy through the PHP instrument. This enables FEDUP members to build bigger houses (50m2) than the municipality (35-40m2)]. Some neighbours still come to ask about the houses. Others decided to join FEDUP savings scheme too.

Bank-financed house in Tiryville

Although some of us have houses many of our FEDUP members in Tiryville are backyarders because they weren’t able to buy plots. Leana Caesar coordinates the FEDUP backyarder group in Tiryville.

“As the backyarders in Tiryville we identified some land which the municipality identified too. But up to this moment we have not yet received any response to our land submissions. The challenge is that the municipality does not know the real number of FEDUP backyarders. There are 970 people in Tiryville that do not have houses. 212 are FEDUP backyarders. But the municipality thinks that the number is only 170 people. The actual problem is that we are waiting for land so that FEDUP can help us.

In the meantime the other backyarders are saving. They believe in the principles of the Federation. Others have not joined FEDUP because they’ve given up hope. It’s been years that we’ve been trying to push this process. For example, my first application for a house was in 2001 (14 years earlier)”

(Liana Caesar, Tiryville backyarder coordinator)

I know the frustrations that Liana speaks about. There was a time where we needed to each pay R 40 for housing subsidy forms. Do you know how much money I’ve spent on driving to and fro from the municipality in Port Elizabeth? When the municipality did not have forms for us we went and printed them ourselves at the Internet café. I needed to keep hope. I’m telling you, this breakthrough with the municipality is a praying matter.

Dolly's blue FEDUP house

Almost all of us in Tiryville receive grants and pensions. In fact all 48 beneficiaries are unemployed. Many of us try and make a little bit of income. Some sell cookies and tea; I am a seamstress. I can’t tell you if each of the 48 households will remain FEDUP members. But I can say that I like FEDUP. You know, the municipality was often not very responsive to our requests. But FEDUP had an ear to listen to me. No one else could have given me my beautiful blue house!

* Documented and compiled by Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

Rose Molokoane Appointed to Council of Social Housing Regulatory Authority

SDI and the South African SDI Alliance were informed last week that Rose Molokoane, national coordinator of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) and Deputy President of SDI, has been appointed to the Council of the South African Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) by Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu. The mission and vision of the SHRA is to regulate and invest in the development of affordable rental homes in integrated urban environments through sustainable institutions. 

SDI is hopeful that Rose’s appointment to the SHRA board is a signal that this important body will begin to scale up social housing in South Africa.

Rose Molokoaneis a coordinator of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), and a coordinator of SDI. She is a resident and member of the Oukasie savings scheme in a slum settlement outside Pretoria, South Africa.

A veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, she is one of the most internationally recognized grassroots activists involved in land tenure and housing issues. FEDUP has helped more than 150,000 squatters, the vast majority of whom are women, to pool their savings. This has won them sufficient standing to negotiate with government for a progressive housing policy that has already produced 15,000 new homes and secured more than 1,000 hectares of government land for development.

Molokoane has initiated federations of savings schemes throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. She was awarded the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honor in 2005 for her struggle to bring land and homes to the poor.


Launch of Upgrading at Flamingo Crescent with Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille

**Cross posted from the SA SDI Alliance blog**

Authored by CORC

“People said Flamingo Crescent [Upgrading] will never happen. But today is here and this is the proof that it has happened – one cannot do it alone we need to work as a collective!”

– Melanie Manuel, Informal Settlement Network (ISN) Co-ordinator

Last week’s upgrading launch at Flamingo Crescent informal settlement celebrated the completion of re-blocking, installation of water, sanitation and electricity services for each of Flamingo’s 104 households, the unveiling of Flamingo’s first formal street names and opening of the settlement’s own crèche, Little Paradise. Moreover it marked a milestone in an ongoing upgrading process, showcasing what is possible when communities, intermediaries, governments and stakeholders form partnerships.

Delegates from community organisations and networks, the Mayor of the City of Cape Town, delegates from various government departments, ward and sub-council politicians, NGOs and support organisations gathered in the Lansdowne Civic Centre from 11:00 on Monday 10 February.

The re-blocking project is lauded as a successful demonstration of community-led, participatory planning, collaborative implementation and improvement of informal settlements. The uniqueness of the project was that despite the settlement’s density no one was displaced and grossly inconvenienced during the implementation of upgrading 104 structures.


Flamingo Crescent before and after re-blocking and upgrading. 

First engagements around Flamingo Crescent 

First engagements began in 2012 after the City of Cape Town signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the SA SDI Alliance around joint community-led upgrading of 22 informal settlements, of which Flamingo Crescent is the third, having built on the experiences of Mtshini Wamand Kuku Town. It differs from the previous two in the severity of its socio-economic challenges – high levels of crime, unemployment, violence and poverty. Given these circumstances the Alliance’s Informal Settlement Network (ISN) facilitated implementation and engagement between the City and the community.

Melanie Manuel (Flamingo Crescent ISN facilitator) shared,

“When we started the partnership with the City of Cape Town in 2011 in Vygieskraal it was a day of celebration and no one knew the hardships that would lie ahead. As time went on we realised we fundamentally believe in community participation, a bottom up approach because we know communities understand their settlements best.”

Read more background here.

The Launch: Messages on Upgrading and Inclusion in Services

At the launch, the first speaker, Councillor Anthea Green shared,

“Since 2012 I have said that we need to upgrade Flamingo Crescent, despite resistance from the rate payers and residents’ groups. We were committed to work with the community, and now this is a transformed settlement”.

Informal settlements not only face substandard basic services like water, sanitation and electricity but are also cut off from functions of city administration such as receiving a residential address. The re-blocking project allowed the City and the Post Office to give Flamingo Crescent street names and addresses, after the community made this requirement upfront in their development plan.

Gerald Blankenberg, regional director of the Post Office, said that the Post Office Act and other regulations require the post office to expand addresses to underserviced communities.

“Informal communities are often times socially and economically disconnected from basic administrative functions, and therefore a residential address will give the Post Office an opportunity to serve the community with dignity”, he said.

In the keynote address, Mayor Patricia de Lille emphasised the significant role of Flamingo community’s steering committee, the Alliance’s ISN and Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) in the success of the project. She, however, expressed concern about the slow pace of project implementation, emphasizing the need to boost municipal and community capacity to ensure the roll out of more projects in the City’s 200 informal settlements.

“The aim of re-blocking is the improvement of informal settlements while people wait for a housing opportunity”, she observed.

In closing of the ceremony, the Mayor handed over certificates of tenure to community members, ensuring formal recognition of residence and tenure security.

City of Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille with Flamingo Crescent community leader, Maria Matthews. 

The Impact of Upgrading : Before and After

Before re-blocking, the community of 405 residents had access to only 14 chemical toilets (of which 7 were serviced) and 2 water taps. There was no electricity so that contained fires in tin drums dotted the settlement’s dusty pathways. The community was especially concerned about the safety of its children playing in the busy street.

Re-blocking restructured space in the settlement, opening courtyard areas and clearly designated access roads, enabling the City of Cape Town to install individual water, sanitation and electricity services per household. What sets Flamingo apart from previous projects are its paved pathways, with official road names as well as the construction of a crèche.

The community contributed 20% to the cost of its structures through community-based daily savings. During the implementation phase, 20 jobs were created through the Expanded Public Works Programme.

Flamingo Crescent before and after. 

Into the Future: Community voices on Partnership and City Fund

“Since 2010 we have been thinking about improvements in our settlement. This is when we got in touch with ISN, who introduced us to CORC, and we then made a partnership with the City [of Cape Town] We explained what we wanted from the city – our own taps, toilets and electricity. But we needed to come together and draft our own plans”.

(Maria Matthews, Flamingo Community Leader)

Through the SA SDI Alliance the community additionally partnered with several organisations. iKhayalami supported the community, ISN/FEDUP and CORC around training community members and top structure construction. The community established the re-blocked layout and community-based maps in partnership with students from Cape Peninsula University of Technology and support staff from CORC. With the support of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI, USA) the community drew up plans for the crèche. Habitat for Humanity South Africa contributed to construction by supplying the roof sheets and windows. The Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD) donated funds to build the crèche. CECD will also support around the training and registration of the crèche.

From Melanie’s speech it was clear,

“This project is successful because of the methodologies we use. We allow communities to do their own designs. The community also made a [financial] contribution [in a settlement] where 95% of community members were unemployed. How do we change the mind-sets of people who are still waiting for adequate housing? Let’s change the way we are living now while we are waiting for housing to come.”

(Melanie Manuel, ISN Facilitator)

Important as settlement improvement is in itself, the methodology is just as significant. Moreover, Flamingo Crescent serves as a precedent for informal settlement upgrading on a larger scale. The day ended with the community leading the Mayor through their settlement, unveiling Flamingo’s new street names and officially opening the Little Paradise crèche together. It is Melanie Manuel’s closing words that speak of the future:

 “We need to look at a holistic plan for the metro. Let’s look at how we can reach basic services much quicker and how we can scale up. The Alliance projects do not only focus on reblocking but on basic services in every form. The Alliance has designed a City Fund with which communities can directly access money for upgrading in Cape Town. In Flamingo the Aliance’s Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) helped us match the 20% that each community member contributed to their structure. This kind of facility on a city-level will go a long way – we challenge the City to continue partnering with us and match our contributions in the City Fund!”


South Africa Supports Swaziland to Engage Government around Upgrading Policy

Last week, a delegation from South Africa travelled to Swaziland to support communities in their work with government around a national upgrading policy currently under review. Read the full report below. 

By Kwanele Sibanda, CORC, South Africa 

Background of Swaziland

The Kingdom of Swaziland is located in Southern Africa and is land locked (almost completely surrounded by South Africa) with the Republic of South Africa and Mozambique forming the boarders. The Swazi Nation Land, which is communal, is held in trust by the King and parts of it are allocated by Chiefs to individual Swazi families for their use. Swaziland has four administrative regions which are further divided into 55 Tinkhundla Centres (Local Administration) these form the basic unit of political administration. Political parties were banned from the constitution promulgated on 13 October 1978.

Swaziland is one of Africa’s smallest countries yet has an estimated 2014 population of 1.27million which ranks 155th in the world. The country faces several health issues including HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. It has a life expectance of just 31.88years, the lowest documented life expectancy in the world and less than half the world average.

34% of the nation stands unemployed. 70% live on less than a dollar per day. 35% of adults suffer from HIV. 

Background of local federation

The federation of Swaziland is known as SLIPO (Swaziland Low Income People’s Organization). No local support NGO has been established as yet. The federation activities are currently being anchored by John Dlamini who has supported the federation from its revival in 2011. In 2008 an exchange was held to Zambia and it was attended by municipal officials and zone leaders. Upon their return, they established the federation with a lot of support from the municipality. An MOU was submitted to the national government in 2012; however no formal feedback was given back to the federation.  Out of Swaziland’s total of four regions, the federation is in two regions namely: Manzini and Hhohho. The other two regions that have not yet been mobilized are Lubombo and Shiselweni. SLIPO’s membership is currently at 429 and they have R498 333.00 in savings. The federation is currently in the process of building a federation office that is being funded by SDI.   

Purpose of exchange

In 2008, residents of Mbabane were informed that the government is working on a policy around upgrading; however it is asserted that no further consultation was held with the respective communities. Without much knowledge about the implications of the policy; the communities remained relaxed. As SLIPO intensified its engagements with the state in 2014, it came to light that the policy had reached an advanced stage and if it is not attended; its implementation may come with more harm than good for the poor communities. To start off the process, the policy shall be implemented with an intention of upgrading 9 areas around Mbabane and that will affect Ward 1, 2, 3, part of 7, 11 and 12. Each Ward is divided into Zones. The Land Allocations Policy and Procedure went through council and passed. It was recommended that it be forwarded to the Minister and it is currently with him for approval before it is forwarded to cabinet. The first and direct negative implication of the policy especially to the poor is that; he who cannot afford a site estimated at R42 000 shall be required to seek a new place of residence (in a form that can be described as eviction). According to the state, the aim of selling the sites is that of raising funds for service installation. As SLIPO grows to another stage within the SDI alliance; it encountered a challenge that requested support; hence the request for the South African alliance to go and support. Delegated to support the federation of Swaziland from South Africa was Patrick Matsemela, Nomvula Mahlanga, Thandeka Tshabalala and Kwanele Sibanda.

Exchange preparatory meeting

Date:  30/10/2014

Day one of the exchange started off with a preparatory meeting. The preparatory meeting was between the South African delegates and 6 SLIPO saving scheme leaders. 

Introductions were made in the following manner: name of member, saving scheme, component, total saving scheme amount and UPF.

The preparatory meeting had 3 main objectives:

  1. Introducing some of the South African delegates to the Swaziland federation members and briefing on the federation’s background and current status that prompted the need for an exchange.
  2. Outlining the programme for the entire period of stay.
  3. To discuss key issues that had to be focused on in the meeting with the Mayor and the Councillors.


  1. Introductions were made and John Dlamini from SLIPO shared the background of the federation as indicated under ‘Background of local federation’.
  2. The programme of the exchange was outlined as indicated below:
  • 30/10/2014 – 10:00: Preparatory meeting (S.A and Swaziland federations)
  • 30/10/2014 – 16:00: Meeting with the Mayor of Mbabane and the Councillors.
  • 31/10/2014 – 08:00: Meeting with Zone leaders
  • 01/11/2014 – 10:00: Meeting Federation leaders + site visit to the office under construction.

       3.  In preparation for the meeting with the Mayor, the points below were highlighted:

  • The meeting with the Mayor and the Councillors was requested by SLIPO.
  • The meeting with the Mayor came about in the following way:
  • It was prompted by the advanced stage of the Land allocation policy and procedure that is currently a draft; in the swing of being implemented and above all, putting all informal settlers and low income earners at risk of being evicted from their current places of residents.
  • The SASDI delegates were requested to focus their presentation on how they partnered with their government and what they have achieved.
  • Shared background information on the draft policy and its inevitable implications.
  • The team was advised that councillors to be met are from both the formal and informal wards. It was also added that SLIPO does not focus on informal wards only, but also mobilizes and organises members in the formal wards because there is a great percentage that is struggling to pay rates and taxes and run at a risk of having their properties seized.
  • SLIPO would like to mobilize, organize communities, use SDI tools and be able to influence policies and the manner in which they are drafted.
  • SA delegates were advised to expect challenges from some councillors because in the coordination for the meeting, some councillors were already arguing how South Africans can assist Swaziland and yet they are burdened by their own informal settlements.
  • Request to emphasize the non-political aspect of the organization
  • Our challenge is that within the Municipality, there is no proper handover of information as a result the change in officials imply starting engagements all over again.
  • It was also indicated that even Mayors and Councillors of places that have not yet been mobilized were invited so that they start getting an understanding of the SDI’s approach to development.

Meeting with the Mayors and the councillors


  • Benito George Jones – Mayor of Mbabane
  • Khetho Dlamini – Mayor of Manzini
  • Makhosazana Shongwe – Representing Mayor of Ngwenya
  • Sipho Shongwe – Mayor of Piggs Peak
  • Four councillors, seven SLIPO representatives and four SASDI alliance delegates.
  • The meeting was chaired by John Dlamini
  • After introductions the purpose of the meeting was outlined as that of making a formal presentation to the Mayors and Councillors about the SDI Alliance with more focus on SLIPO
  • SLIPO’s presentation covered its background, aims and objectives, member, savings UPF, loans, projects as well as areas covered.
  • The above was followed by the SASDI alliance’s presentation that gave an overview of SDI, tools used, S.A partnerships with the state and other formal institutions as well as achievements. The various representatives explained how working closely with saving and organized communities results in meaningful development.


  • The Mayor started off by indicating that he is impressed with the presentation made and the approach being taken.
  • He went on to enlighten the delegates about the differences that are there between S.A and Swaziland.
  • While South Africa has three spheres of government (national, provincial and local), Swaziland only has national and local. In addition to the above, the local municipalities rely on rates and taxes payment as funds for development; hence the need to sell plots and install infrastructure.
  • The municipalities have a serious budget constraint because they do not get a budget allocation from national for service installation and maintenance. Funds received from national are for subsidizing service provision that is made to areas that do not pay rates and taxes. An example was given of a community that has street lights and waste removal, but does not pay rates and taxes.   
  • The Mayor furthermore emphasized that if there are such communities that are taking a stand in development; the state and SLIPO have to jointly have a model that clearly states how the process is going to be undertaken.
  • Inputs made by Mayors and councillors from other areas showed that they have interest as well as a lot of knowledge about SLIPO. Some councillors even mentioned names of saving schemes within their areas that were not present in the meeting.
  • Lastly, it was indicated that for SLIPO to be recognized as a national structure, it has to cover all the four regions of Swaziland.
  • In response to the question about the MOU submitted, it was indicated that the MOU was directed to national and not the local municipality. It was recommended that a formal working relationship starts off at a local level and the work done will be able to influence the national level.


  • SLIPO has the task of mobilizing, organizing and motivating communities to save in the remaining two regions.
  • SLIPO has to draft and present to the Mayor a model that can be used in the purchase of plots as well as infrastructure development.
  • Need to draft an MOU directed to the local municipality of Mbabane.





On day two of the exchange, a meeting was held between SLIPO saving scheme leaders, Zone leaders and the SASDI delegates. Zone leaders are equivalent to community leaders in the South African context. The aim of meeting them was that of: sharing the SDI concept with them, reporting on what SLIPO has been doing in form of saving schemes, share report back from meeting with the Mayors and Councillors and also requesting their support in establishing more saving schemes in their respective Zones.

The zone leaders were informed about the upgrading policy and also reminded that it is everyone’s challenge therefore a joint effort is required in finding a better solution. The estimated cost of each plot is around R42 000 and that will require at least a R600 contribution per member per month for at least five years. It was mentioned that the majority of residents are unemployed and for those that are employed they hardly earn R3 000 per month.

The zone leaders gave a positive response and some even shared history of the government’s targeted areas. One of the zone leaders indicated that one of the targeted areas is an area where his parents were born. ‘My father is 86 years old now. He is unemployed and does not receive any pension. How is he supposed to raise the required money?’ The leaders basically denounced the displacement of residents in the name of development and furthermore pledged to support SLIPO in mobilizing communities and engaging the government in a workable solution to the challenge.

The Zone leaders requested SLIPO to visit their Zones so that presentations can be done to each entire structure.



DATE: 01 November 2014

On the third day of the exchange, a meeting was held with saving scheme leaders. The purpose of the meeting was to give a report back of the engagements that had taken place on the 31st and the 1st of November, share savings reports, discuss mobilization and establishment of more saving schemes.

All presentations were made and various proposals were made for taking the process forward. Below is what was proposed:

  1. Establish a team to focus on mobilization. Draft a program that will include meeting the Zone leaders as well as extending to the remaining two regions.
  2. Write a letter to the Mayor thanking him and the other officials for hosting SDI and also make a request of starting monthly joint meetings to share what SLIPO is doing, request relevant officials to participate in the various SLIPO activities, request for support and to keep constant communication around activities.
  3. The SLIPO saving scheme leaders have the task of going back to their respective saving schemes to discuss and agree on a reasonable affordable amount that saving scheme members can contribute on a monthly basis towards the purchase of plots.
  4. The Mbabane Mayor’s comment about financial strain at a Municipal level was noted; however it was proposed that while SLIPO members save and make contributions towards their development, SLIPO should stay determined to tap into useful resources at the disposal of local municipalities. The leaders have a task of drafting an MOU directed to the Municipality of Mbabane as recommended.
  5. The leaders must start off by choosing one settlement that they will use as a learning centre and work on a project with the municipality.
  6. It was recommended that the upcoming three enumerations scheduled for January 2015 should be of settlements that have active saving schemes and also fall under the areas that will be affected by the new policy. The policy has defined places were the implementation will start.
  7. SLIPO must choose a documentation team to compile stories about projects, exchanges, engagements and personal stories from members.
  8. The leaders should make a follow up on the proposed exchange to South Africa with official that have influence on the policy being drafted.
  9. FEDUP should assist in the establishment of networks.


SDI President Jockin Arputham Visits South African SDI Alliance in Cape Town

Jockin Arputham visits Cape Town

SDI President Jockin Arputham (right) and Rajiv Jalota, Additional Municipal Commissioner for Greater Mumbai Municipality (left). 

*Cross posted from South African SDI Alliance blog*

Jockin Arputham, president of Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI) received a warm welcome from the South African Alliance in Cape Town yesterday on the last of his four-day visit. As a long-standing, much-valued friend of the Alliance he spent the day with community leaders in Khayelitsha and with representatives of the City of Cape Town and Western Cape Province.  Jockin spoke about the power of savings and the Indian Alliance’s partnership with the Municipality of Greater Mumbai. In this context, Jockin was accompanied by Rajiv Jalota, the Additional Municipal Commissioner for Projects in Greater Mumbai Municipality.

Jockin Arputham visits Cape Town

Community leaders in Khayelitsha welcome Jockin. 

Jockin Arputham visits Cape Town

An official welcome from Tamara Hela, community leader from UT Gardens, Khayelitsha.

The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) has mobilised and profiled several settlements in Khayelitsha that are set to proceed on water, sanitation, drainage, re-blocking and community facility projects.  Jockin’s visit linked Khayelitsha’s community leaders – many of whom are fairly new to ISN and SDI processes – to the broader context of the South African Alliance and SDI as a global network.

National coordinators of the South African Alliance’s two social movements, Patrick Maghebhula (ISN) and Rose Molokoane (FEDUP) welcomed Jockin by speaking about the Alliance’s history with the Indian Alliance. They referred to the South African slogan – Amandla Imali Nolwazi: Power is Money and Knowledge – and its roots in the relationship with India.

“This slogan started influencing me after we went to India (in 1991). We shared ideas around democracy with the Indians. We saw that after 40 years of democracy millions of people in India were extremely poor. We realized that if you sit around and wait for democracy it will come…but it will come with its own laws that might not cater for you. We need to do something to translate these laws to our own life. And so we learnt the experience of self-reliance from the Indians. We need to drive our own lives – and we do that with savings. This is how relationships with government were formed in India. Our savings and our information give us power to influence laws. We know, that yes, we may be poor, but we are not hopeless“

(Rose Molokoane, National FEDUP co-ordinator)

Jockin Arputham visits Cape Town

Rose Molokoane, national FEDUP coordinator. 

In the keynote address, Jockin emphasised that

“Savings are a life line. We talk about savings the whole time because money is what speaks.  But when you collect money – door to door – you also collect information. When you have information you can plan action and if you act, something will happen. This is why money and information guarantee us power.  We need to think about how to support ourselves”

As 40 – 50 % of Mumbai’s population – 19 million people – lives in slums, many millions do not have access to toilets. In fact, the ratio translates to about 1 toilet for every 800 people.  The NSDF has therefore been working together with Mr Jalota and the Municipality to construct community planned and -owned toilet facilities. This experience, Mr Jalota explained, would help to develop more policies for Greater Mumbai.

Jockin founded the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India (NSDF) in the 1970s. Often referred to as the “grandfather” of the global slum dwellers movement, Jockin was educated by the slums, living on the streets for much of his childhood with no formal education. For more than 30 years, Jockin has worked in slums and shantytowns throughout India and around the world. After working as a carpenter in Mumbai, he became involved in organising the community where he lived and worked (Reference). He helped found SDI and has been awarded many prestigious global awards, most recently the Skoll Foundation award for social entrepreneurship. On behalf of SDI Jockin has also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Jockin Arputham visits Cape Town


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

Mandela Speaks to South African Federation on Role of Communities in Building a Better Society for All

Nelson Mandela Visits South African Federation

In 1995, shortly after being elected the first democratic president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela visited the Homeless People’s Federaiton of South Africa (now called Federation of the Urban Poor) in Oukasie, Gauteng. Oukasie is the home to one of South Africa’s oldest savings schemes, started by Rose Molokoane, one of the founding members of the South African Federation. 

In his address to the Federation members of Oukasie, Mr. Mandela talks about the importance of government working together with the urban poor to meet South Africa’s housing challenge – a major challenge in 1995, and perhaps even a greater challenge today. He highlighted the important role of women in working to acquire safe, secure housing, stating the following notable point: 

“You are showing that in building together we build each other, better communities and a better society for our children to grow up in.”

Today, the South African Federation of the Urban Poor has reached a critical mass consisting of some 1,500 autonomous savings and credit groups whose size range from a minimum of 15 to a maximum of 500 members. Since Mandela’s address in 1995, FEDUP has established itself as an international pioneer in the field of tenure security and people’s housing. Through its collective power, this network was able to lobby government for direct access to the housing subsidy programme (without the interference of developers or contractors), secure 10 million rand as a revolving loan facility, and heavily influence low-income housing policy under “the People’s Housing Process” (PHP). By securing these entitlements from the national government, the Federation was able to deliver 12,000 housing units (average size being 56sqm), incremental loans for a further 2,000 houses, infrastructure for 2,500 families, land tenure for 12,000 families, hundreds of small business loans, three parcels of commercial land, eleven community centres, and several crèches. This was all administered through its own housing finance facility, the uTshani Fund

These days FEDUP and uTshani are still actively building houses and engaging government on the re-directing of housing subsidies to support people-centred, participatory and empowering development. Being strategically aligned to the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), FEDUP members are adding years of experience to the relatively new experience of informal settlement upgrading. The creative synergies at the intersections of a woman’s movements anchored in daily savings and livelihood strategies and a predominantly male-led and broad based social movement are redefining the social mobilisation “rituals”.

You can read Mandela’s full address below: 

Mr. Mayor; 
Members of the Homeless People’s Federation; 
Citizens of Oukasie, Brits and neighbouring areas

The rains of the past week have brought joy to many in our country, not least in this fertile farming area.

But the drenching downpours have also highlighted one of the great challenges facing our country – the challenge of putting decent roofs over people’s heads.

In approaching this task we have learned a great deal from the people – from those who are the biggest providers of housing in the country, the homeless themselves. We have learned the value of partnership between ourselves and the people in their communities.

We recognise the efforts but into housing by the people themselves. We are proud of the way our people use their initiative, mobilise their meagre resources, sharpen their skills, and put in their labour, in order to provide shelter for their families.

Government has committed itself to supporting the people’s housing process. We will provide mechanisms and funds to support it in such a way that the standard of housing can improve – particularly for the poorest of our people.

What I have seen here today confirms that this is the right course. The Homeless People’s Federation, with its 20 000 members across the country and its savings and training schemes, is setting an example of Masakhane in action.

What is particularly encouraging is to see the women taking their lives into their own hands, taking charge, determined to improve the lives of the communities and of our country.

You are showing that in building together we build each other, better communities and a better society for our children to grow up in. You are showing that with the interfere in the legal process, but it is not disinterested in the case whose outcome, we believe, will have wide impact.

Government is busy formulating a police on the ownership of mineral resources. Consultation will ensure that the resulting policy accommodates the aspirations of all stakeholders while ensuring that the mining industry retains its central position within the engine room of economic reconstruction.

Amongst our strategic objectives is the goal of ensuring that mining rights are made available to small entrepreneurs and that ownership of the industry is opened up to previously excluded communities. This also was the vision of Kgosi Lebone Molotlegi. It will be the duty of his successor, the Bafokeng people, and indeed all the people of South Africa, to continue the struggle for economic empowerment on all fronts.

During this delicate period of mourning and transition we urge the members of this community to close ranks and not to allow differences op opinion to drive them apart. You are one people. The practice of prohibiting non-Bafokeng persons from being buried in the same graveyard, regardless of their sojourn within this community, is a blight on the esteem and respect in which our nation holds this community and on the dignity of Kgosi Molotlegi in particular. Nevertheless, this issue should be left to the community to sort out on its own in accordance with the new culture of our rainbow nation.

Kgosi Lebone departed at a time when we had just concluded our first democratic community elections. The establishment of democratic local authorities in rural areas needs to be handled with great sensitivity. We are confident that this community will assist the new leader to play his constructive role in the process. In all villages under Kgosi Lebone’s jurisdiction, the elections went smoothly, and we look forward to an equally smooth establishment of local councils.

This is in everyone’s interest. We need one another and we all have a role to play now and in the future. The improvement of our lives and the future stability of our localities depend on these councils. An amicable relationship between the Kgosi and the newly-elected councillors will give local democracy in the rural areas a strong foundation.

Bafokeng People;

As we bid our final farewell to our beloved Kgosi Lebone, let us look back at his heroic record and reflect on the love he had for this community. Let us, for a moment, focus on his vision of a prosperous future and pledge that we shall never rest until that ideal is realised.

Thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

Originally appeared on

South Africa’s FEDUP Wins Govan Mbeki Human Settlements Award

FEDUP wins Govan Mbeki Award for Housing

**Cross-posted from SA SDI Alliance Blog**

By Greg van Rensburg, uTshani Fund, South Africa 

Each year government recognises the partnerships with all sectors involved in developing sustainable and integrated human settlements. The Govan Mbeki Human Settlements awards are a prestigious ceremonies hosted by the National Department of Human Settlements in two stages: the Provincial and the National. The award ceremony aims to showcase and demonstrate the partnerships with the department at both tiers and promotes best practices in meeting the delivery mandate of the Presidency’s Outcome 8, which is aligned with the vision of building sustainable human settlements and meeting the Millennium Development Goals. The MEC of Human Settlements at the Provincial tier nominates projects in the five specified categories which displays exceptional quality, promotes best practice, brings together stakeholders, and most importantly, improving the quality of life for the beneficiary-partners.

FEDUP wins Govan Mbeki Award for Housing

According to the Gauteng Province’s Department of Local Government and Housing, a thorough investigation was initiated to access the quality of the projects nominated. The Department’s website says the following of the Gauteng evaluation process:

Prior to the ceremony of the Govan Mbeki Awards, there is a preceding quality monitoring process of projects submitted by entrants throughout Gauteng. The awards ceremony, to be held on Thursday, signals the end of the Gauteng Leg of the process. The awards are named after the liberation stalwart Govan Mbeki whose life work and struggle envisioned landlessness and homelessness as some of the inhumane legacies of the apartheid system. The ceremony will celebrate those contractors in Gauteng whose work and delivery is symbolic of the quality and dignity of human settlements that Govan Mbeki strove for.

The Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) has been transforming housing policy from the bottom up for the past two decades. Premised on the notions of social and political change, savings groups linked to the Federation has built more than 12,000 since 1994, and continue to set a precedent in woman’s empowerment through self-build and collaboration with government. FEDUP’s work has been recognised at the highest levels of government, and has been showcases to international audiences such as UN Habitat, Cities Alliance, World Bank and other multilateral organisations.

On the 11th of April, FEDUP was nominated in the Gauteng Provincial Govan Mbeki awards. This event, hosted at the Emperors Palace, Kempton Park in Johannesburg and chaired by the MEC for Local Government and Housing, Ms Ntombi Mekgwe, FEDUP was awarded the award for the Duduza project. uTshani Fund acts as Account Administrator to FEDUP, and provides technical support to the Community Construction Management Team (CCMT). The contract signed with the Province allocated 150 stands in Duduza, of which 134 houses have been completed. In this year alone, 93 houses were built. On average, FEDUP builds houses with the same subsidy quantum but the differences are vast! Houses are larger than 50m2 in size compared to government build of 35 – 40m2.  These houses are fully fitted with a bathroom, a kitchen with a sink as well as two spacious bedrooms. The houses are fully electrified. The finishing include plaster inside and outside, and is painted inside and outside. These are achievable through the savings and contributions of the beneficiaries from their savings.

The FEDUP alternative is continuing to reshape the policy and institutional landscape. But most importantly, it is the building of a strong woman’s federation that opens many other avenues for livelihoods and poverty alleviation.