Tackling the Challenge of Sanitation in South Africa


Cross posted from the SA SDI Alliance website

By Ava Rose Hoffman (on behalf of CORC)

In this blog, Mzwanele Zulu—National Informal Settlement Network (ISN) Coordinator—discusses the process of identifying community priorities and engaging with local government to construct the Midrand Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) Facility, which will become operational in the coming weeks.

Midrand is an informal settlement located in northwestern Port Elizabeth, situated in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality. The settlement was formed around 2007-2008, when backyarders and shack dwellers from nearby areas began squatting on the land—an open space owned by the municipality. Mzwanele describes that the situation in Midrand was “very destitute” given the high unemployment and crime rates. Nonetheless, Midrand’s favourable location provided an excellent opportunity for carrying out in-situ upgrading. Mzwanele describes:

They are close to transport and they are not far from the city as well. People do not want to go to the peripheries—they’re always being chased away from the cities. They want to be developed where they are so they are able to access employment opportunities and walk to workplaces and places that they’re looking for jobs. So we’re hoping that working closely with the municipality will create an opportunity for them to remain there.

When the ISN began engaging with Midrand, the settlement was not recognised on the Municipality’s informal settlement database and as such, the settlement completely lacked basic public services. At that point in time, in the absence of services provided by the Municipality, the ISN began mobilising the community. Mzwanele describes:

When we identified the settlement, there was no water, no electricity, no toilet facilities… When we started, I think 7 years ago, engaging with Midrand and with other communities in the Eastern Cape Region—in particular in Nelson Mandela Metro—we started talking about the challenges that communities are facing… We believe in people helping themselves. We started capacitating leaders to engage and talk about their challenges, and of course we did enumerations and profiled the settlement.

Community members map the settlement layout


Community members number shacks, one phrase of the enumeration process

Through the profiling and enumeration process in Midrand, it became clear that the principal challenge facing the settlement was sanitation. Bringing the WaSH facility to fruition began with the process of savings—community contributions that are applied toward the total cost of the project. Mzwanele recounts:

The community was very receptive to the idea of saving—they are continuously saving. They are seeing value in what we are doing through this process. They started saving and it took about four to five years to be able to get a buy-in from the municipality. We’ve been engaging with the municipality—trying to convince them to assist us in working together and ensuring that these people will be improving their conditions with the support of the Municipality. So, that’s how this process unfolded in the beginning.

During these early stages of engagement between the community, the ISN and the Municipality, Mzwanele describes that “the Municipality was shocked to hear about Midrand—they didn’t know about it—and they started by putting one tap for the community.” The installation of the water tap, connected to the public municipal system, marked significant progress in alerting the Municipality about Midrand’s needs and getting local government “on board” with the upgrading process. After the installation of the water tap, replacing bucket and pit toilets with proper flush toilets constituted the next item on the community’s upgrading agenda.As such, the design for the WaSH facility was developed by the community with technical support from iKhayalami building team who project managed the building of the facility by working closely with community members who were employed through the project and who also received training from the iKhayalami team. The first phase was funded by the SHARE project through iKhayalami; the second phase will be funded by the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC). The facility consists of ten flush toilets, wash basin facilities for doing laundry, and a caretaker room where an upkeep employee will store amenities such as soap and toilet paper. Mzwanele describes that for the time being, the facility does not include showers: “This is setting a precedent. If in the future, we need to do it, we can consider putting in showers as well.”

The facility will become operational in a few weeks once the municipality finalises issues relating to supply chain management and connects the facility to the bulk electricity and waste systems. Mzwanele describes that engaging with Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality was never a problem, but in the past, implementing projects proved to be a difficult and often lengthy process: “They were always promising that things would happen, but they were taking a long time.” The finalization of the facility—which will significantly improve sanitation conditions in Midrand—marks a breakthrough in the relationship between the community of Midrand, the ISN, and the Municipality. Mzwanele describes:

We started this process not knowing if either the mayor or senior officials of the Municipality would be happy with the kind of approach that we are doing with the community. But as we speak, we are working towards signing a Memorandum of Understanding [with the Municipality]. It’s not an easy thing—it takes time—and of course, the politicisation of our program is one of the key challenges that we are facing. Some of the people in the Municipality were doubting us, as the Alliance—that we perhaps belonged to a political party. But in the end, everyone understood that we are just helping those that are ready to help ourselves and that we are trying to organise and prepare communities that are ready for upgrading and development.

Mzwanele suggests that the implementation of the Midrand WaSH facility has paved the way for scaling up in-situ upgrading throughout the municipality and beyond, in other municipalities—however, change must be achieved incrementally, beginning at the community level:

At the moment, our key objective is to set a precedent with this one project so that they are able to see that we are not just talking. We are having some things on the ground that are happening so they can be able to see the improvement of services being done at the community level. Because if these people are able to use flush toilets, then of course, we’ll be talking about electrification of these settlements and other services that are required for the community. The other challenge that the community is facing—it’s a common problem nationally, of course: housing. They are living in wooden structures, plastic structures, but what else can they do? Whilst they are waiting for housing from government, they are living there. They’ve proposed with us that they would like to re-block their settlement. That means that they need to improve their top structures. Working very closely with the municipality, we will be able to bring more innovation.

The nearly complete Midrand WaSH Facility


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

Construction of Langrug road hierarchy starts

Langrug, South Africa

**Cross posted from SA SDI Alliance Blog**

By Walter Fieuw (on behalf of CORC)

To the casual observer, a road is simply a tarmac to allow for different usages. Perhaps we can also define it as a line of communication, which is connected to a greater network through bridges, tunnels, support structures, junctions, crossings, interchanges, and so forth. Roads connect our neighborhoods and cities to one another, and give us right of passage. These road hierarchies are usually planned well, and neighborhoods and cities grow around these cadastral maps.

Langrug, South Africa

But in informal settlements, smaller pathways emerge as needed. In many ways, the informal city grows exactly in the opposite direction than the formal city. In the formal city, cadastral maps are carefully designed, but in the informal city, planning emerge through means of negotiating space in the process of place making. What then happens when formal regulations start to interact with informal ways of city-building?

In Langrug, an informal settlement located 3km outside the town of Franschhoek, an example has emerged where the informal processes of settlement has interacted with formal city-building planning processes. This article will not delve into the history of the settlement, which is available here. Important for contextual purposes, the community has been engaging the Stellenbosch Municipality since 2010 around the in-situ upgrading of the settlement, for which the community won the prestigious award from the South African Planning Institute in the “Community” category. The Stellenbosch Municipality applied for Upgrading of Informal Settlement Programme (UISP), or Part 3 of the National Housing Code, funding from the Western Cape Province. The UISP project has advanced to Phase 3, which includes full services.

Last week, the Municipality started paving secondary roads which has emerged organically through the years of settling on the land. The secondary roads have been well planned by the community, when they conducted an intense spatial mapping exercise in March 2011. The Alliance’s report on the spatial mapping in 2011 gives insight into the spatial knowledge the community has generated, which has made a significant contribution to the servicing of the settlement:

CORC supplied an aerial photograph of the terrain as well as some guidance on conducting spatial analysis, and in particular on what indicators to look for and how to identify an area’s constraints or opportunities for development. Then, photograph and markers in hand, the team went out into the February heat to locate all the infrastructure and facilities that they had agreed could benefit from improved maintenance or upgrading. The result was an interim map that detailed the position and conditions of all Langrug’s toilets, water taps, drains, drainage gullies, electricity boxes, street lights, and commercial activities, and thus threw light on some of the settlement’s most pressing issues.

In the coming month, the Stellenbosch Municipality’s appointed contractor will start the groundworks to implement a central access road. The community’s vision for an incremental upgrading approach to developing the neighbourhood has been a powerful guide in imagining what the community could look like.

Langrug, South Africa

Presentation at the Global Land Tools Network

The 16 week Planning Studio with UCT’s School of Architecture Planning & Geomatics (SAPG), a department in the Engineering & the Built Environment (EBE) faculty, has generated many other proposals for a responsive spatial development framework which can guide the future upgrading of the settlement. The Alliance will continue to report on the development of Langrug informal settlement, and the partnership with the Stellenbosch Municipality.


Community Forums Take Shape in Khayelitsha, Cape Town

Nkanini Community Forum

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

By Nkokeli Ncambele, Informal Settlement Network, Cape Town (edited by Walter Fieuw, CORC)

Nkanini is a large section of about ten informal settlements on the far south-east region of Khayelitsha. In 2002, when the railway station Chris Hani servicing the area was completed, many people from Makhaza, Site C, Langa, Gugulethu, and other areas settled on the land. Many of the new settlers were living in overcrowded backyarder shacks, where rents and utility services were charged at a premium. Law enforcement often clashed with the new settlers, but could not prevent the inevitable. Today, Enkanini consists of more than ten informal settlements on this low lying area.

Many of these settlements are associated with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), particularly Chris Hani and lower Chris Hani, Stendini, Shuka Section, Newlands, Isigingqini, ARC Section, and Zweledinga. On Friday the 5th of April, a coordination meeting was called to bring together all these settlements and start up a conversation about the needs and aspirations in the settlements.

Nkanini Community Forum

I, Nkokeli Ncambele, an ISN coordinator, gave the delegates from the above mentioned informal settlements a welcome brief and upfront said that the ISN has not been in contact with the area for some time, but it is time to re-connect and talk about the future upgrading of the settlements. I gave a brief background the work of the ISN over the past three years and the progress made in ensuring a partnership with the City of Cape Town. We talked about the kinds of upgrading projects that have been completed, and how these could be a reference point for some of the settlements. This includes 22 informal settlements planned to be upgraded, with different priorities. There is emerging consensus from the City to provide 1:1 toilets in re-blocked settlements, but this remains an ideal. All these intiatives are aimed at building a network across the City to create a platform for the voices of the urban poor to be united and stand in solidarity.

The question of representation of settlements were a significant point of discussion. Anton, a community leader from Newlands, asked whether each of the settlements in Enkanini would form part of these “sectional forums”. Do we need to publicly elect people in each of the areas to distribute the information. I reflected on our experience of setting up a community committee where I lived in Mfuleni. We were democratically elected at a general meeting. The community entrusted us to represent them in matters of engaging government on development and service delivery. All the people sat down together and we talked collectively about the problems and needs in the area. After that we create a plan for development and talk to the City. Services are now coming to Mfuleni because we stood together. So each area needs to have at least 4 people. But you need to tell ISN what you need. You need to take the initiative and come up with solutions.

Nkanini Community Forum

Some of the community members suggested that a general meeting is needed to discuss in more depth the needs and aspirations of each of the settlements. Bonwisa, the representative from Standini settlement, called out that these meeting should happen at times convenient for all to attend, such as weekends or after a day’s work. I responded by saying that yes, Nwe need to have a big date to call together the whole community. We need to have an agenda for that large meeting, and then discuss with all the community. At that time, we need to discuss the completion of the enumerations, which was stalled in 2009 for a number of reasons. I told those present that as the network coordinator, we can not plan anything if you are not with us. All the leaders need to agree on the programme, and then we will have real representation. We are not coming in and tell you what to do; you need to tell us.

The settlement representatives spoke among themselves and a number of core issues were presented. For instance, in Newlands and Isiginqini, there were no post boxes and people had no proof of address. This complicated a lot of everyday life, such as applying for jobs, opening a bank account, and so forth. Chris Hani settlement said that many of the mama’s were ready to start saving towards school fees for their children, but because they did not have a bank account, they often had to travel to Zone 40 to deposit money. I mentioned to them that we can support them around setting up local savings schemes, and our partner grassroots network, the Federation of the Urban Poor, has a lot of experience in doing so.

Nkanini Community Forum

Nkanini section is located far from the city, and accessing opportunities remains a large challenge. Despite the geographic disadvantage, Anton from Newlands said,

We live here in a beautiful area. Here in the plain we have the best view of the city. You can see Table Mountain there and Stellenbosch mountains on that side. But we do have issues regarding moving around and the busses are scarce. I am frequently on the community forums with the City. We usually talk about the lack of busses, but they usually say they can not allocate more bustime to us. 3,000 drivers need t0 service this whole area, but there are only 10 controllers in this Nkanini area. Chris Hani train station is close by, but people living on that wide [Western side – Stendini, Town 3, etc] have to go to the far [Eastern] end, which means you have to take a taxi to go there. The station was designed for Makaza people, not for us.

Another community leader reflected that there big promises of job creation with the construction of the Monwabisi Beach, which they said will become like a Waterfront. The City promised that there will be many jobs. Some people travel to Stellenbosch for seasonal work on the wine farms. But it is very dangerous, and people are frequently attacked. Others work in the light industries in Durbanville and Kraaifontein, and as far as Houtbay.

ISN will continue to host community forums in Site B, Site C, Victoria Mxenge and other surrounding areas. These forums aim to bring the communities together to talk about their daily challenges and the ways to which they respond to these. Forums are also linked to prioritising development, and starts the community process at the grassroots.

Partnering with the City of Cape Town in Mtshini Wam: Day 2 of the 5 Cities Seminar


Community members showcase model homes in Mtshini Wam. 

By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat 

The second day of the 5 Cities Seminar kicked off in Mtshini Wam, a settlement of roughly 200 households located in the greater Joe Slovo Park area of Milnerton, Cape Town. The day focused a lot of attention on the change that is possible through re-blocking, or blocking out, a community-led upgrading methodology that reconfigures a community’s layout to transform tiny passageways, dangerous and impassable, into wide walkways with courtyards where children can play and women can hang washing to dry. Shacks upgraded with fire-retardant material face each other, providing added safety for families who can now find shelter from the Cape’s sometimes harsh conditions. 


A wide walkway and upgraded shacks in re-blocked Mtshini Wam. 

Mtshini Wam was founded in 2006 when settlers occupied open spaces of a government-funded housing settlement in Joe Slovo Park. Though the Western Cape Anti-Land Invasion Unit responded with threats of demolitions, The South African National Civic Organization (SANCO) and Informal Settlement Unit (City of Cape Town) were able to prevent evictions. 

Mtshini Wam settlement expanded and continued to grow. Households in Mtshini Wam depended on water and services from the formal RDP houses, paying up to R50 (USD $6) a month for water. When Mtshini Wam asked the City to provide them with service delivery, they were told this could not be done because the settlement’s density was too high and there were no access roads. Greg Exford, Informal Settlements Manager for the City of Cape Town, said during his welcoming remarks on Wednesday that, “This area was, per capita, so dense that under normal conditions the City would never have been able to make it work.” 

In 2009, responding to a lack of services and the challenges they had faced in trying to work with City, community leadership from Mtshini Wam approached the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) for support. “Prior to re-blocking, the settlement was very dense,” said community leader Nokwezi Klaas, “There were no passageways and when there were fires it was virtually impossible to get into the settlement. All the toilets were on the outskirts and there were only three water taps for over 200 households in the settlement.”

Mshini Wam Site Visit

Local community leader Nokwezi Klaas describes her work in Mtshini Wam.

2009 was the starting point of a partnership between the Mtshini Wam community, CORC and ISN and the City of Cape Town. To date, this partnership has allowed the community to carry out a settlement-wide enumeration and re-blocking process, install chemical toilets and water taps, and upgrade their shacks using durable, fire-resistant material. Both the City and the community agree that this would never have been possible without a strong, dialogic partnership.

Mshini Wam Site Visit

Mshini Wam Site Visit

Representatives from ISN, including Western Cape coordinator Mzwanele Zulu (pictured on far left) and the City of Cape Town, including Greg Exford, Informal Settlements Manager for the City of Cape Town, were present at the gathering in Mtshini Wam on Wednesday. 

“This project will go down in the history books of human settlements,” said Mr. Exford, “It shows what can be done when the community works together with partners in government… In order to make government work for informal settlements, we have to fuse the conventional with the unconventional, otherwise it’s not going to work.” 

Mshini Wam Site Visit

Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg, the Mayoral Committee Member for Utilities Services, echoed this point, stating that, “Unless you physically take the community with you and ask them how we are going to achieve change together, you are going to get nowhere. In this way, you can find the synergy between what is demanded and what is feasible.” 

Luthando Klaas, another community leader and supervisor for the Mtshini Wam technical team, described some of the more technical aspects of the upgrading process in Mtshini Wam. There are seven teams, made up solely of community members, responsible for different aspects of upgrading. These include a technical team, gardening team, carpentry team, cleaning team, compacting team, demolition team and a building team.

Mshini Wam Site Visit

Mr. Klaas describes the various aspects that influenced the design process for the layout planning of the settlement. “When they started the design process,” he says, “one of the important things was to see how to improve services and improve safety and security so that police and emergency vehicles can come into the community and the community can feel safe in their space.”

In addition to this, he describes the sometimes-challenging process of negotiating with the community about the size of structures. During the enumeration, it became apparent that the size of structures varied considerably from one household to the next. In order to make adequate space for each household, community members agreed that no structure would exceed 20 sq. meters in size, allowing those households occupying the smallest shacks (some under 5 sq. meters in size) to live in more comfortable, livable spaces. This willingness to sacrifice individual gain for the benefit of the whole community is something that is quite understandably nearly impossible without a community-led process. 

Mr. Klaas spoke confidently about the community’s plans for the future, stating “we don’t want to be in shacks forever.” Members of the technical team showcased housing models that illustrate the community’s hopes for permanent, brick houses and their determination to continue upgrading their settlement. Klaas emphasized that, “it does not end with iKhayalami [upgraded] shacks. The community was able to move from wooden shacks to safer structures, and now they want to continue to move up to more livable structures for themselves – brick houses.” 

Following these presentations by the community, the group of roughly 100 participants had a chance to walk around the settlement and witness the change made through the processes of re-blocking and upgrading. Wide walkways give way to courtyards where clothes hang to dry and kids play under their mothers’ feet. Each cluster contains between 10-15 shacks and is built around a courtyard, sharing a communal vegetable garden that grows everything from spinach to dill to tomatoes. Shacks without adequate exposure to sunlight are lit with low-cost solar lights made from a plastic soda bottle filled with water and bleach. A community member welcomes a few others and me into his home so that we can see just how much light one of these bottle-lights can provide.

Mshini Wam Site Visit

A community member from Mtshini Wam describes his solar-powered light to another community member from Zimbabwe. 

Mshini Wam Site Visit

Community leader Nokwezi Klaas shows a community garden to a community member from Ghana. 

All in all, the most striking thing about Mtshini Wam is the spirit of the community. They have transformed their impassable settlement into a neighborhood. There is a sense of pride and enthusiasm that is contagious, a reality which is evident in the inspired words of the city officials present at the gathering. 

After a morning in Mtshini Wam, the afternoon was spent in the chambers of the City of Cape Town government building. Participants were given the opportunity to discuss and reflect on their experiences in Langrug and Mtshini Wam. The afternoon session began with introductions by Vuyani Mnyango, a local ISN leader, and Mkhabela Estavao, a FEDUP leader from KwaZulu-Natal province. Mr. Mnyango began by describing the formation of the ISN in Cape Town and the steps that were taken to build a partnership with the City. 

Mshini Wam Site Visit

“In 2011,” Mnyango says, “it was decided that the partnership needed to take action on the ground.” Today, CORC, ISN and the City of Cape Town are engaged in re-blocking processes in the settlements of Mtshini Wam, BBT Section of Khayelitsha, Vygieskraal and Masilunge.

Mkhabela Estavao describes South Africa’s Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), a national network of women’s centered savings groups that, in partnership with CORC and ISN, mobilizes poor people to improve their lives. FEDUP was started in 1991 and is one of the oldest federations in the SDI network, having given birth to a number of other affiliates across the African continent. Membership currently sits at roughly 20,000, but Ms. Estavao emphasizes that this number does not even begin to capture the number of families that have been impacted by the work of FEDUP. For example, she states that over 80,000 families have received housing through the Federation’s processes. When FEDUP realized that they could have even greater impact by involving men more actively, ISN was formed.

Leon Poleman, Project Manager with the City of Cape Town, was next to speak. He spoke of his experience working with CORC and ISN on upgrading and re-blocking, of his inexperience planning for informal settlements and his initial skepticism at the somewhat unconventional methods already being implemented by ISN in Mtshini Wam when he arrived on the scene. 

Mshini Wam Site Visit

“I come from a formal engineering background,” he said, “When you go to university and technikon, no one speaks of the design of informal settlements, or at least not in my time. So it was quite simple: In my day there were no informal settlements, and this re-blocking thing, we don’t know anything about it, so off you go! And back into our meetings we went to keep discussing how we go about this.”

But what Mr. Poleman quickly realized was that these unconventional methods were the perfect compliment to his formal engineering background, and that through working hand in hand with the community, they were able to find solutions that would have been impossible had the community not been involved. He concluded with a reminder to the other professionals in the room: “We have to understand that this is informal by its nature,” and that therefore, the solutions we find must speak to this informality.

Shortly after this, the discussion was opened up to comments and questions from the floor. Councillor James Slabbert, Portfolio Head for Human Settlements for the City of Cape Town, expressed a keen interest in learning more about the work being done in Langrug, and welcomed CORC and ISN’s input in utilizing their experience with re-blocking to provide input to the drafting of policy around informal settlement upgrading for the City. Mzwanele Zulu, ISN Coordinator for the Western Cape, was pleased to hear the City’s willingness to make re-blocking part of informal settlement upgrading policy, and urged the City to stick to its word on this point. Following the meeting, arrangements were made by CORC staff and ISN leaders to meet with Mr. Slabbert at a later date to continue these discussions.

Another issue that came to the fore during this session was the question of secure tenure for residents of settlements like Langrug and Mtshini Wam, questioning whether upgrading and re-blocking do enough towards this aim. Patrick Magebhula, national coordinator for ISN, confirmed that  “the reasons for upgrading is to allow people to live where they are now, so re-blocking is just another way to give people land tenure where they live.”

Mshini Wam Site Visit

Greg Exford echoed this point, stating, “If we do upgrading [in our informal settlements], people are given security of tenure. If we do enumerations, as soon as we have that person on [the City’s] database, they have security of tenure.”

The meeting closed on a positive note, with a colleague from Zambia commending CORC, ISN and the City of Cape Town. “What you have achieved in Mtshini Wam is a huge achievement. This is a wonderful first step. Now how do we get other communities on board so that we can spread upgrading to more communities?”

This is the key question for the 5 Cities Programme. Earlier in the day, Mzwanele Zulu had expressed his eagerness to scale up the activities in Mtshini Wam to settlements across Cape Town. In Cape Town, thanks to a growing partnership with the City, this becoming more of a reality. Despite challenges and setbacks, experiences like that of Mtshini Wam is evidence of the promise these partnerships can bring when the community takes the lead. 


In South Africa, Innovations in Financing Slum Upgrading


An artist’s impression of the devastation of informal spaces under apartheid planning.

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

By Jhono Bennett and Walter Fieuw, CORC South Africa 

Post-apartheid urban and housing policies have underscored the necessity of progressively integrating the poor as a means of restructuring spatially fragmented cities and eradicating asset-based poverty. Postapartheid urban policies had to redress apartheid fragmentation and segregation and the subject of transformation in democratic South Africa has been the historically constructed uneven development of ‘islands of spatial affluence’ in a ‘sea of geographic misery’.

With the relaxing of influx controls during the late 1980s, South African cities have been subject to rapid urbanization and resultant growth of informal settlements in inner-city and peripheral areas. The growth of informal settlements in the past two decades have by far exceeded government’s efforts to deliver better services, provide adequate housing and mitigate against disasters and vulnerability. Despite the government’s efforts to deliver more than 2.5 million housing units since 1994, the housing backlog have remained at 15-17% of the urban population (2.1 million units outstanding). Today there are more than 2,600 informal settlements, and continue to grow between 5-7% across different regions. This is a stark increase from 300 informal settlements in 1994. Urban vulnerability has increased, juxtaposed with worsening human development indices, service delivery constraints, insecure tenure, and safety and security concerns.

Since 2004, with the introduction of Breaking New Ground, and through consecutive National Housing Codes (2004, 2007, 2009), the Department of Human Settlements have introduced the concept of “upgrading informal settlements”, which aims to progressively integrate informal settlement into the broader urban fabric, deliver better services, and incrementally secure tenure. To this effect, a performance agreement was signed between the Presidency and National Minister of Human Settlements, Mr. Tokyo Sexwale. Output 1 of the Presidency’s Outcome 8[1] (Sustainable Human Settlements and improved quality of household life) aims to upgrade 400,000 households in-situ by 2014. Moreover, such interventions are also spotlighted by Chapter 8 of the National Development Plan (also called “Vision 2030”) which calls for the integration of informal settlement into the urban fabric through upgrading, incremental security of tenure, and better service delivery.


Community organisations of the poor have been systematically sidelined through the governments supply-sided approach to urban restructuring and housing delivery. The rally call of social movements in South Africa has been that of greater inclusion in decision making processes and meaningful engagement around settlement improvement. The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) has emerged as an alternative social movement that prioritises pragmatic engagement with government around collaborative approaches to upgrading of informal settlements. However, in Gauteng, communities have been systematically disregarded, which lead to the mobilization of thousands of informal settlement dwellers to march on the office of the premier.

In the wake of the Asihambe solidarity march on the 11th September, and in response to the growing demand from communities to start small scale and autonomous improvement projects, the Johannesburg CORC office has begun a renewed effort through the CUFF project process of engaging and supporting the informal settlement communities in Gauteng around a range of projects.

The Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) is an initiative of the South African Alliance. The fund is capitalized by CORC, uTshani Fund and contributions from SDI. The Fund’s board—made up of 60% shack dwellers and 40% support NGO professionals—receives proposals for upgrading projects, but the community is ultimately responsible for writing up the project description, get quotes from suppliers, and implement the project (with support from ISN, CORC and uTshani Fund).


The CUFF projects are one of several tools CORC uses to support the ISN/FEDUP in mobilising organised communities towards development. The CUFF projects work synergistically with the Savings,Enumeration, and Community based planning methodologies alongside partnership formalisation with local government, and call for the identification of a key developmental item needed by a community. The leadership and community members  then work with ISN/FEDUP and CORC technical members to design, quantify and cost the project. In order to proceed, the community members are required to collect and save a fraction of the project cost towards the contribution of the overall costs that, once approved by the CUFF community/NGO board, will be implemented in the community. The objectives of the CUFF projects are to set precedents for Govenment and Community partnerships in informal settlement upgrading by providing technical assistance and seed capital for pilot projects. This process should ideally create systems, procedures and structures that enable communities to work in collaboration with government institutions.

In order to meet these growing demands, the Johannesburg CORC office has employed the help of several new interns from the 1:1 Student League Network, having gained experience in this network through the University design/build projects, they are open minded and ready to engage with the difficulties involved in the socio-technical support of community driven development processes. These interns are working under the supervision and guidance of the ISN/FEDUP’s technical community groups and the various leadership structures in the settlements.

New intern Sumaya described her experience in working directly with the community

We met with leadership at the community hall to initiate community mapping process where we mapped out key areas and “problem” areas, as described by the Magandaganda community. Members expressed a desire to have their own yards as they are experiencing disputes regarding unclear tenure. A few members of the leadership also showed some hostility and hesitation as they felt that their concerns are not being taken further fast enough. They also expressed concern regarding the risk of crossing the rail-line that borders the settlement.


The CUFF teams are working on several projects in the City of Johannesburg and Ekurheleni such as Marathon, Delport, Peter Mokaba,  Innesfree and Magandaganda. These projects vary from the installation of communal taps to the allocation of plots in denser settlements.

Mohau Melani, regional ISN coordinator, explained the process of engaging the communities as follows,


 The enumeration will provide the settlement committee with total knowledge of everybody who is the settlement. This will also assist the community in dealing with and control of allocation into sites once their measured into a layout … The community has promised to provide us with the background history of the settlement when the community meets with ISN and CORC technical teams. ISN delegates assist the community with the measurement and costing of the pipes in order to increase a number of taps in the settlement.

The collaboration between community organisations and committees that drive local development agendas, networking at the regional level via ISN, and receive technical support from CORC and ISN is proving to be an indispensable model for community driven development.

Simultaneously the CUFF project teams are profiling and collecting critical data to prepare identified settlements for larger development processes through the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP).

[1] http://www.info.gov.za/issues/outcomes/index.html. Other outputs of Outcome 8 is to improve the access to basic services (Output 2 includes the following improvements: Water – from 92% to 100%; Sanitation – from 69% to 100%; Refuse removal – from 64% to 75%; Electricity – from 81% to 92%), facilitate the provision of 600,000 accommodation units in the gap market (earning between R3,500 and R12,800), and mobilisation of well located public land for low income and affordable housing.


In Johannesburg, Communities March Against Evictions

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

By South African SDI Alliance

On Tuesday the 11th September, thousands of shack dwellers from Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni (the mining belt), Tswane (Pretoria) and smaller towns and cities such as Mogale City, Midvaal, and Sedibeng gathered on Mary Fitzgerald square in Newtown, Johannesburg. The agenda was a simple but powerful one: mobilising those affected by poor service delivery, insecure tenure, and evictions.

The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) coordinated this march of solidarity, bringing together a constituency of organised communities that have been engaging in vain with local and metropolitan governments in the Gauteng Province. After more than a month’s intensive mobilisation, mass general meetings, and administrative and logistical preparation, residents arrived in their masses on taxis and busses. More than 100 settlements were represented.

ISN handed out t-shirts with large slogans reading “no upgrading without us”. The sea of orange, green, yellow, red, black and white rallied around the procession leaders from ISN. At 11am, the march started and continued on Bree Street. The City was brought to a stand still as shack dwellers marched peacefully in solidarity of the campaign against poor service delivery, land and tenure, evictions and disenfranchisement from decision making processes. The tall buildings of Joburg’s Central Business District enhanced the procession music.

The march was a roaring success and the ISN proved their proved their point: the voices of the poor are to be respected and acted upon. People in informal settlements are organising to promoted people-centred, pro-poor and inclusive city building. Only when the poor are central partners in development can cities be socially sustainable.

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

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


Communities Continue Fight Against Evictions in Johannesburg

Evictions in Marlboro

By Kwanele Sibanda, CORC South Africa 

As had been agreed upon in last night’s mass meeting, in Marlboro Industrial Area, Johannesburg, the Marlboro residents began to mobilize one another and demonstration began as early as 3am on Wednesday. Throughout the protest, no arrests took place. Only roads leading into the community were barricaded. Teargas was only fired once when the residents attempted to barricade the old Pretoria road opposite the Total Garage. The demonstration and barricading of roads was done by the residents to protect themselves and shelters from further destruction by the JMPD as well as drawing the attention of the officials that include the councillor and the Mayor. The protest ended at about 11am. The leadershisp then decided to go and meet with the station commander of Bramley Police Station (SAPS).

Evictions in Marlboro

The leadership, with support from four ISN members and CORC, met with the Station commander and five other officers who were present during the demonstration. The purpose of the meeting was to request the SAPS to play a mediating role in the conflict between the concerned residents and the JMPD. The Marlboro residents expressed their disappointment in the lawlessness being demonstrated by the JMPD in spite of the community’s efforts to engage in formal legal procedures. In addition to the above, a background of the eviction was given and this was outlined up to the current desicion made by the High Court. The station commander had a full understating of the community’s position and his response was that it is in his best of interest to protect the community, however in so doing he does not want the SAPS to be caught up in legal issues without proper knowledge of the current court ruling.

Evictions in Marlboro

Before the arrival at the police station, the SAPS had already been given a letter by the City’s legal representatives that states that the Judge’s ruling only allowed the residents to occupy the open space ERF 799 and 1008, but hindered them from erecting any form of shelter. In so doing the City’s lawyers did not provide the court interdict to the SAPS. The provision of the original interdict copy by the residents and the explanation that if the CITY/JMPD disputed the court’s ruling or could not comprehend enhanced the understanding of the SAPS in the sense that the JMPD/CITY was supposed to make an urgent court application for further clarity from the High Court. While the meeting progressed, the station commander immediately contacted one of the JMPD head of officers and immediately arranged a meeting that will be facilitated by the SAPS. By the time the meeting ended, attempts where still being made to contact the City Officials so that they can also be part of the meeting. The JMPD agreed to avail themselves and it was agreed that the meeting shall be held at the Bramley Police Station on 23 August 2012 at 9am. The community leaders shall take part in the meeting with support from ISN and CORC.

During the day, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) arrived on site to assess the situation on the ground. Their site visit was mainly triggered by the letter they received yesterday from the city’s legal representatives who deny knowledge of yesterday’s destruction of shelters erected on ERF 799 and 1008 after the court had authorised the temporal return of the former residents of the aforemetioned sites until the 29th of August when the matter is finalised. Before the end of day yesterday, LHR had already made an urgent interim interdict application to the high court. Tomorrow at 10am the matter shall be heard in court. The leaders of Marlboro have already deployed members to attend the SAPS/JMPD meeting at 9am as well as the High Court matter at 10am.

The Dark Side of Planning: On the Demolition of Chico’s Ice Cream Factory

Yesterday we reported to you about evictions taking place in Marlboro Industrial Area of Johannesburg. Today we have a full write up from the South African SDI Alliance on the evictions, and the ways in which FEDUP, ISN and CORC have been fighting against this brutality. 

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

By Walter Fieuw, CORC

On the 13th of August, heavy machinery rolled in on the tattered and teared Marlboro Industrial area. Charles and Tapelo, community leaders in Marlboro, had to look on as the bulldozers started tearing into Chico’s Ice Cream Factory, which was home to 109 families, or 282 people. Chico’s Ice Cream Factory is but one of 53 derelict buildings that the Marboro community, in partnership with ISN and CORC, enumerated between September and October 2011. Community members were trained to administer the questionnaire and worked closely with the CORC Johannesburg office in capturing the data into databases.

Early in August, the Alliance reported on the evictions that started on August 2nd when Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) cracked down on the settlement with no eviction order. In the early morning hours, when residents were leaving for work, the JMPD moved in on 3 occupied sites and demolished 300 dwellings. They refused to talk to the community leadership and presented no formal interdiction from the court, only offering NGO representatives a hand written statement in a note book as paperwork for such eviction. They claimed that notice was given with no supporting documentation, then went on to say they don’t need to give notice because the of the 72 hour trespassing by-law which according to legal representatives requires even more paperwork than a general eviction order. The JMPD has not communicated its mandate with the housing department and now as result over 400 residents of Marlboro are now out on the street with no alternative housing options.

Evictions have been ravaging the area since the 2nd of August, leaving many people homeless. The Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), and more specifically, the by-laws management department, have been carrying out these illegal evictions. These are illegal, because according the laws protecting poor people from the onslaughts of local governments and/or land owners, the evicting party needs to formally obtain an eviction order, which is granted by regional courts. In these hearings, the judges consider all the aspects of the evicting party’s request, which includes whether alternatives to upgrading has been considered (such as upgrading the informal area), what the impact on vulnerable people would be (woman, children and the elderly), and what the relocation options are (such as consolidation with other informal areas, housing developments, etc). Constitutional Court cases have resulted in a number of processes that needs to be adhered too. The JMPD did not follow any of these legal routes, and have been on a rouge mission to clear the Marlboro area of all informal settlers.

Chico’s is one such a factory that is now being destroyed, and all 282 inhabitants have been displaced. Although the Alliance, through the Community Upgrading Financing Facility, have been able to secure three army-style tents to the value of R30,000, this merely serves 40 families. More tents are now forthcoming as relief donations are trickling into Marlboro area. There does not seem to be any hope that the residents of Chico’s will be sleeping in even the most elementary accommodation for the next while.

The factory used to have a very peculiar housing typology. To make more space available, the community built a sturdy 2nd level of shack above the first. These pictures illustrate the nature of settlement in one of these factories.

With the decline in industrial activity in the late 1980s, the factory owners rented out these buildings to poor families living in overcrowded conditions in neighboring townships such as Alexandra. Charles, a community leader in the area, mentioned that

the history here is actually that people started staying in these factories. They were renting because some owners advertised for rentals. So the people came in their numbers. But later on, the City actually gave some court orders that people had to vacate. We boycotted that and went back to the owners and they ran away and stayed with the City. We had a media statement that says we can not be moved from these areas unless they have an alternative. So that is how they started staying in these buildings.

Chico’s used to be an Ice Cream factory located on 4th street, where not even the brave footsoldiers of Google Streetview dared to venture (when dragging the Google Streetview icon over Marlboro area, on 5th Street is covered). But the enumeration of Chico’s, as with all other 53 factories in the Marlboro area, goes much deeper than technology can reach. The enumeration has captured a socio-economic and demographic profile of all the residents that used to live here. Although the residents have faced fires in the past, such as the 18 June 2010 fire that destroyed a large number of shacks, as reported by Africa Media Online, the community has been able to regroup and assist those who lost it all. These social ties are more than moral solidarity but display the resilience of communities to adapt and recover.

Chico’s factory is also called Building 77. These building were referenced by these numbers before the enumeration started. The enumeration data therefore has two levels: by building, and by shack number (which was numbered in the enumeration exercise). By referencing both building data and shack data, a common dataset is developed that serves as the basis for spatially tagging enumeration data. In this way, the data becomes alive. The data tells the stories of what used to be left of Chico’s Ice Cream factory.

In October 2011, CORC produced a short video documenting the impressions of Marlboro community leaders on the enumeration process. At 2:18 in the video, an interview with a young man living in Chico’s is captured. He said,

I live here in Chico’s. I have been living here for 11 years. I stay with my mother. Here in Chico’s we are very poor, if I can put it like that.

In another interview, a young man living with his girlfriend said the following when asked by Charles what his expectations are for development in the area:

Up to date, I have been living in this area. Now the problem that I am having is unavailability of jobs and better accommodation. From the information I am receiving from different people, there are promises to improve the area, but I don’t know how long it is going to take.

CORC has drafted a preliminary enumeration report on the findings. The enumeration breaks down the enumeration data of all 53 factories and categorises the findings by population statistics, migration, education levels, social grant recipients, occupation and income levels, and finally, tracks the communities’ development aspirations. On the enumeration process, Charles said

The ISN and FEDUP have introduced a programme of enumeration. So with the enumeration, we are trying to arm ourselves and say to the City, “We are the people of Marlboro. How many are we? We stay in a space of this size”. And so we will be able to talk how then the development will be. So we hope with the programme of the FEDUP and ISN we believe that something will come up. We are saving, and saying to the government, “This is what we are doing, then can you come in and join us in making the area we are living in better”.

Charle’s wishes will not realise. Chico’s have been destroyed. But the sword cuts both ways. While the positive side of community based knowledge generation through enumeration, as experience by millions of people making up the federations aligned to Shack / Slum Dwellers International (see this series of research papers), materialises citizenship when this grassroots knowledge drives development agendas, the data will now be used as a protections mechanism in the court of law. The community possess the most detailed data on the individuals and families affected in the evictions. The sword of knowledge will now be deployed to fight back on the inhumane and draconian actions of the City of Joburg.

Marlboro community is working alongside Lawyers for Human Rights and instructed them instructed to demand an end to the evictions and failing that, to proceed on an urgent basis to the High Court for relief. Said Louise du Plessis, senior attorney in LHR’s Land and Housing Unit,

This situation is shocking. The law is clear. There are countless court orders requiring a court order before an eviction can take place. This blatant disregard for what the courts have repeatedly said is especially worrying considering JMPD is tasked with upholding the law.

Who are giving these orders? Are the factory owners involved in the eviction process, or is this a rouge mission by the JMPD? These are the questions that the community with support by CORC and Lawyers for Human Rights will be uncovering.