An ISN leadership meeting was held in Bloemfontein on the 8th of March 2012 where 76 leaders represented 14 informal settlements falling under the Mangaung Metro Municipality. This was the first ISN leadership meeting that brought together all the Bloemfontein informal settlement leaders. The main objective of the meeting was to ensure that community leaders were familiar with the core activities and principles of the ISN. More importantly, the meeting was used as a platform for the leaders to identify the first pilot settlement where an enumeration will be conducted and to elect a coordinating team for the Mangaung region. The pilot project suggested was Pieter Swaart informal settlement because of its dire need for water provision (residents are forced to buy water from nearby formal houses at premium rates).
At the meeting, leaders were afforded the opportunity to ask questions relating to ISN. This discussion triggered many responses about the nature of community mobilisation and engagement with local government, and briefly presented the common challenges amongst the settlements that are potential ISN pilot projects. These challenges related to sanitation and water provision, access routes for emergency services and community halls. Other bigger challenges noted included the need for schools, electricity, churches and police stations. Unlike numerous informal settlements of Gauteng and Cape Town, most of Mangaung informal settlements are situated on municipal land and shacks are widely spaced.
On Wednesday 13 March, the newly elected regional ISN delegation met with the Mangaung Metro officials. Ten informal settlements were represented. The official was impressed with ISN’s approach to upgrading and further more requested the team to make a presentation to the Mayor, town planners and other relevant departments that he is going to invite. After the meeting with the Metro officials, a large gathering in Pieter Swaart settlement was organized, and more than 170 community members attended the meeting. Once again, the regional ISN coordinating team was introduced to the wider community and the core activities of the ISN, especially that of enumeration, were introduced to the gathering.
The groups also expressed solidarity and a commitment to working together. This was concretised when the coordination team tracked a number of households who were evicted from a settlement close to Bloemfontein’s CBD. The households have been sheltering in a hostel building. Following up on evicted families will be a defining characteristic of the regional coordinating team’s programme of action for future negotiations.