A grass roots partnership in Johannesburg’s oldest township

The Marlboro Community, SA SDI Alliance and the University of Johannesburg partnership towards developmental solutions.

By Jhono Bennett (on behalf of CORC)

Marlboro is situated in the Northern of Johannesburg, in Alexandra. It is to be found in the vicinity of Sandton, one of the wealthy suburbs of Johannesburg. It is not easy for someone to describe Marlboro as an informal settlement as the shacks are inside the building and are not directly visible for visitors. However, if one can describe an informal settlement an unrecognised occupation of land or buildings, Marlboro can be called an informal settlement.

The building users left the area after the riots that occurred during the first elections as well as due to the increase of crime that occurred in this time. They left behind 53 buildings that people from different countries, provinces, areas came to occupy. These people make up the community of Marlboro and live in constant threat of eviction.

The residents of Marlboro formed a committee to represent their needs, the Marlboro Warehouse Crisis Committee (MWCC), and have requested help from the South African SDI Alliance their fight against eviction, and towards an equitable solution for their current circumstance.

Marlboro/UJ Studio

CORC within the SDI Alliance has committed to supporting the MWCC and UJ in the next 7 weeks in their process of developing an integrated and holistic vision that encompasses possible urban solutions that fit within a possible developmental framework. This developmental framework needs to address solutions on an urban scale, a site specific scale and detail level in possible structural and spatial interventions.

To assist in this complex and daunting task a partnership between the MWCC, the University of Johannesburg has been established.  This partnership is directly and actively supported by the ISN, FEDUP and recently a newly formed civil entity; 1:1 –Agency of Engagement.  Overall support by the Alex Renewal Project and local councillors has been offered as a whole.

This process is planned to be conducted through participatory research, mapping and theoretical design possibilities between July 16 to August 31, with the students and staff of UJ working with the MWCC leadership and community members.

Aim of the Studio

The aim of this process is to produce a tangible and clear set of document that can be used to engage the city, and other stakeholders, in discussing a developmental future and possible ‘now’ solutions for the residents of Marlboro.

 

During the process the concept of capacitation and skills transfer is being stressed to build the knowledge of these processes with residents, students and professionals involved.

This will expose UJ students to the urban conditions of informal settlement dwellers and ultimately add to the growing body of knowledge in informal community development, while up-skilling Marlboro community members to assist in future developments in Marlboro and future exchanges.

From the process, the aim is to document and help legitimize the needs and concerns of the Marlboro community in a tangible manner that can be used to capacitate the MWCC and the residents in order to engage the City of Johannesburg.