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.


Partnerships through Upgrading: 5 Cities Delegation Visits Langrug Settlement

Langrug Site Visit

By Chantal Hildebrand & Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI Secretariat 

Today marked the first day of the third 5 Cities Seminar, being held in Cape Town, South Africa from 5 – 7 February. Delegations made up of slum dwellers, government officials, support staff, and academic partners from across South Africa, and from the cities of Accra in Ghana, Kampala in Uganda, Blantyre in Malawi and Harare in Zimbabwe have come to share in the learning over the course of these three days. 

The 5 Cities Programme is an initiative started in the aforementioned cities in Malawi, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ghana and South Africa to support slum communities and local governments to work together with the goal of taking incremental slum upgrading to the citywide scale. Through collaboration on precedent-setting projects, slum communities and their municipalities begin a dialogue where the experiences and knowledge of the slum dwellers plays a crucial role in the development of their cities. These discussions have led to innovative and scalable slum upgrading projects, which demonstrate the strength of truly inclusive partnerships between the formal and informal in changing the face of their communities. 

Rose Molokoane, a member of the SDI board and national coordinator of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), opened the day’s programme with an enthusiastic speech, addressing both the slum dwellers and government officials present at Franschoek Town Hall. She made it clear that SDI’s objective is to “connect the world from the bottom to the top, putting the people in front.” She stressed the importance of building partnerships in order to do this, comparing the relationships being built between slum communities and their local governments to the building of a marriage. Ms. Molokoane expressed that, although these relationships have their ups and downs, in the end we hope to be able to look at each other as equals. With this mindset, and the implementation of collaborative work between municipalities and slum dwellers, projects in these five cities will set a precedent of slum upgrading at scale, and will be able to serve as a model for other cities around the world. Ms. Molokoane ended her speech with the promise that, “When we go together as 5 Cities, we come together as a collective and leave as one!” 

Langrug Site Visit

Following Ms. Molokoane’s address, the Mayor of Stellenbosch, Mr. Conrad Sidego, spoke about the municipality’s experience working with the community of Langrug, an informal settlement on the slopes of a mountain in the beautiful Franschoek valley. With a historical past, Stellenbosch has experienced many challenges and setbacks in terms of slum upgrading. Using the words of the Mayor, “We can’t change our past, but with time we can change the course of history…which is what we are trying to do today.”

Following these welcoming remarks, roughly 104 delegates joined the Langrug community for a site visit to the Langrug settlement. As “a settlement in transition” (borrowed term from a slum dweller from Johannesburg), Langrug, like many of the settlements in the other five cities present at the seminar, is currently working on a number of projects in collaboration with the Stellenbosch municipality around housing, water and sanitation, and general upgrading. 

The delegation broke into four groups with community members as the group leaders. The groups spent an hour visiting four different sites: re-blocking, sanitation, relocation and a WASH facility (water, sanitation, hygiene). At each site, community members, government officials and support staff explained the details of the projects, and visiting delegates were given time to ask questions and experience the work taking place in Langrug.. 

Langrug Site Visit

At the reblocking site, the Langrug community presented maps and plans for the reblocking project taking place in F block, the largest section of the community. The presenters explained that the process of reblocking begins with community-led profiling and enumeration of the settlement. After this process, community members are trained in GIS mapping and planning, where they use these skills to create their own maps of their community. Together, the community plans how they will rebuild each section to best fit the wants and needs of the community members living there. 

Langrug Site Visit

Based on the results of the profiles and enumerations, the main priorities of F block were identified as: security, building community through communal space, and drainage. Using this information, the community planned to reblock the section with the doors and windows facing inwards, towards a communal space which facilitates dialogue between community members, a safe area where their children can play and a space where the women can hang up the washing. The community designers explained that “the most important part of the planning was listening to what the people in F block wanted and making sure to plan blocks that people want to live in.” This plan has already been approved and now plans are being made to begin the re-blocking process.

Langrug Site Visit

Alfred Ratana, a local community leader, describes the relocation process. 

Following the re-blocking site was the relocation site. Coming upon an open area, paved with ball courts and equipped with a jungle gym, the group faced four community toilets delicately painted with pictures to appeal to the children of the communty, a water tap, community built drain pipes and an open space before a perfectly lined set of houses which demonstrate the improvement that can be made to a settlement through relocation when it involves community-led initatives such as reblocking. Aditya Kumar, a member of CORC staff who actively supports the work in Langrug, and Alfred Ratana, a community leader from Langrug, explained the process of relocation that took place here. In November 2010, a neighboring farm owner obtained a court interdict against the Municipality for the settlement’s greywater runoff into their irrigation dam. The municipality was forced to start negotiating with the settlement, because 14 families were to be relocated in the reserve earmarked for an access road construction. Cape Town’s Informal Settlement Network (ISN) was introduced to the settlement after the municipality engaged the network, opening a year-long relationship-building window. Ever since, a full scale in-situ upgrade project has been launched; providing better service with minimal disruption to residents’ lives. 

In addition to the relocation, Mr. Ratana directed the delegates’ attention to toilets and a water tap, also constructed as part of the relocation project, and addressing some of the settlement’s sewerage issues. In addition, the community used rocks from the mountain to construct four drainage pipes, which catch the grey water and help with the overall sanitation of the community, providing a solution to the issue of grey water run-off.  

Langrug Site Visit

Langrug Site Visit

Another impressive site was the WASH facility. With collaboration and funding from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in the USA, the Langrug community was able to construct their first multi-purpose WASH centre. According to Trevor Masiy, another community leader from Langrug, this WASH centre will house toilets and showers for men, women and children, a toilet that is handicap accessible, a salon for income generation, a reading centre for children and youth and sinks with seats where women will be able to do washing. Run and managed by the community, Mr. Masiy was clear that “this centre is not free, community members will have to pay to use showers and toilets…then the funds generated from the centre will be added to our UPF [urban poor fund] for other projects.” 

Langrug Site Visit

WASH facility. 

Langrug Site Visit

Trevor Masiy describes the WASH facility.

Langrug Site Visit

At the fourth site, David Carolissen, Deputy Director for Stellenbosch Municipality, and Langrug community members presented an impressive sanitation facility, complete with roughly ten toilets and eight water taps. This sanitation unit was constructed following an enumeration which found that households in this part of the settlement had no access to sanitation. Mr. Carolissen then shared his perspective saying, “[in Langrug] we mobilise around community commonalities.” By bringing the community together around a problem that affects everyone, such as sanitation, they are more likely to work together to find a solution. 

Although questions were posed throughout the site visit, it was not until the final discussion session after lunch that a panel from the Stellenbosch municipality and the Langrug community addressed comments and questions about the settlement. The visiting professionals seemed very skeptical of the sustainability and worth of the projects they witnessed at Langrug. Many questions from their side surrounded the funding mechanisms, the permanency of the shacks currently being built and the plans for permanent, formal housing in the long term. These concerns were addressed by Mr. Carolissen, who pointed out that planning for Langrug is based on the idea of a “rising platform of services.” In most informal settlements, this means starting with no services, moving then to communal services, to bulk service infrastructure, and ultimately to an formal house with on-site services for each household. 

On the other hand, the community’s questions and interests were focused on the community initiatives and the future of the partnership between the community and Stellenbosch Municipality. Some of the question posed included:

  • How long has it taken to get the partnership to the current level (between Stellenbosch municipality and Langrug)?
  • How are the R2 million managed for Langrug?
  • Which policy is being used when looking at levels for electrification? Much of the settlement was electrified, how was this achieved?
  • What motivates the municipality to engage or work in these areas?

The day’s final discussion demonstrated the continuous tug of war between the formal and the informal, as some still struggle to see the value of community-run, incremental initiatives for fear that it will not fit into the expectation of a permanent, formal settlement. Hopefully the next two days will continue to demonstrate the value of these types of incremental improvements, for while an improved shack is still a shack, a working toilet, access to clean water, and space for your children to play, combined with a structure that can withstand the realities of fire and rain, are surely steps towards a more dignified life, particularly when achieved through a process of co-production, hand-in-hand with key stakeholders who were previously out of reach.

For more information on the upgrading work taking place in Langrug, click here

The Art of Ark Building in Langrug, South Africa

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**Cross-posted from the CORC blog**

By Walter Fieuw, CORC

The dystopia of the urbanisation of poverty is a confounding reality, to say the least. People eek out a living in the harshest environment, are subject to environmental torture, and have little prospect of escaping the vices of modern life. Under imperial and apartheid South Africa, the right of non-Europeans/ non-whites to urban life was continuously supressed, if not denied fully. In fact, the very existence of the racist regime was premised on segregated urban spaces. This is why, argues philosopher Achile Mbembe of Stellenbosch University, “most social struggle of the post apartheid era can be read as attempts to re-conquer the right to be urban.”

This confounding reality is often worsened and aggravated by government policies that do not recognize the urban crisis. For many years, governments have shied away from devising comprehensive policies that tackle the challenges of urban poverty, and that harness the potentials for innovative development, which have historically been associated with urbanization. In the global South, the import of modernist planning norms and standards from the global North has perpetuated the existence and recurrence of peripheral urban slums by creating sanitized spaces for the elite.

What are the real prospects for social and political change in this new democratic dispensation? The high waves of market forces, income inequality, and worsening human development indices rock the tattered and bruised vessels of the urban poor. For some miracle of resilience and agency, the poor continue to press forward. In many cases, the hope of a more equal and fair society has found expression in the agency of the underclass, of the excluded, of the marginalized. These societies have depended on a forgotten art: the art of ark building.

Despite the introduction of potentially more progressive, transformative and situational responsive policies contained in the “second generation” of human settlement legislative frameworks (the first ten years being a dismal failure), local governments have struggled to come to grips with the extensive community engagement and difficult engineering and geotechnical interventions implicit in the upgrading of informal settlements. Organised communities are filling the voids created by lack of political will, social facilitation, and technical expertise by generating a resource base they own: knowledge about their settlement.

For this reason, Premier of the Western Cape, Ms. Helen Zille, paid a visit to Franschhoek on the 8th of May. She wanted to witness the progress made by the Langrug community in partnership with the Stellenbosch Municipality. Langrug is a large informal settlement on the slopes of Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Franschhoek. Seasonal laborers working on the wine farms and a large dam construction project established the settlement in the early 1990s. This settlement construed a forgotten people for many years, until the municipality was forced to action when the neighboring farm owner obtained a court interdict against the Municipality for the settlement’s greywater runoff into his irrigation dam. The municipality was forced to start negotiating with the settlement, because 14 families were to be relocated in the reserve earmarked for an access road construction. Cape Town’s Informal Settlement Network (ISN) was introduced to the settlement after the municipality engaged the network, opening a year-long relationship-building window. Ever since, a full scale in-situ upgrade project has been launched; providing better service with minimal disruption to residents’ lives.

Premier Zille visits Ruimsig settlement[1]

Premier Zille opened her address by saying that there is no more difficult policy environment than housing. The question of the spread of resources – either a serviced house for a few or better services and incremental tenure security for many – has continually shaped the South African housing policy debate. During the visit, Zille commented, “the important point about this informal settlement is that it is one of the first where we have a viable partnership with the community. And now, working with the community, we are installing stormwater, greywater systems, toilets, washing facilities, road and upgrading the place generally … but the existing thing about this project is that we are upgrading shacks where they are instead of moving people out and starting from the beginning”. Western Cape MEC for Housing Bonginkosi Madikizela said: “It is a fantastic model. The message to the rest of the country is that any development is a partnership between government and communities. They become partners rather than passive recipients”.

Much attention was called to the “model” of community participation espoused by Informal Settlement Network (ISN). Zille argued that this new “model” could be better articulated by having a single window policy approach to refining the government’s ability to navigate complex (and fragmented) policy frameworks. Although such an approach could be instructive, a model without agency has no value. Organised communities have an agency to transform urban landscapes by transforming their settlements. One of the failures of the government-driven and top-down implementation of housing developments in post-apartheid era was exactly this: the entrenchment of the forgotten apartheid ghettos. But informal residents are taking the lead in integrating their development with the greater evolution of their surrounding urban spaces. The ark communities are building is an inclusive one; one that has the capacity to deliver social and political change. This ark does not look or function like any of the government’s planning apparatuses, which are often founded on principles that entrench existing spatial inequalities. No, this ark is different. It is different because the ones designing the ark are different. Communities and government can only revive the lost art of ark building when they partner around deliverables such as improved living conditions. In this way, power is shared, and solutions are co-produced.

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