Slovo Park residents moved from violence to self-help

Slovo Park

LAUNCH DATE:  2010

LOCATION:  Slovo Park, Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Slovo Park is an informal settlement situated south of Eldorado Park, Johannesburg, adjacent to Nancefield, 10 km south of Soweto

IMPLEMENTING ORGANIZATIONS:  ISN, FEDUP,CORC, University of Pretoria Department of Architecture

Slovo Park residents moved from violence to self-help

Slovo Park residents moved from violence to self-help

CONTEXT:   The residents of Slovo Park have, for a number of years, protested against the non-existent basic services rendered by government to this challenged area. The service delivery protests made headlines again in 2009 when the police fired rubber bullets at residents burning tyres during a DA election campaign event. In 2010 the residents decided to organize their community and move towards their goals of water, sanitation and electricity through mobilizing their own resources and demonstrating to government what a people-driven process is able to achieve.

PROJECT IMPACT:  Slovo Park is an informal settlement comprising about 5000 households, totaling about 25,000 people who benefit directly from the improved water connections and an upgraded community hall. The project furthermore impacts on numerous other settlements at national and international level through learning exchanges, facilitated by CORC. The project is the result of a successful partnership with the University of Pretoria, a process which has triggered similar partnerships between other communities and learning institutions.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION:  In July 2010 the residents of Slovo Park, after three years of trying to engage Provincial Government about the provision of water, flush toilets and electricity realized that the State was not going to aid them. The leaders compiled a skills audit and gathered all the plumbers in the community. In a general meeting the leadership encouraged the community to organize themselves into street clusters, find their own solutions, install a main pipeline from existing standpipes and make household connections to the main pipe.

There were various ways in which the different streets organized themselves. For example in Mampara Street it was agreed that residents from each site would contribute an amount of R100 for the main line pipe. Once the pipe was installed each household would save an amount of R350 for the pipes and fittings. Once the money was raised they would be able to connect to the mainline. In other streets they had different strategies. Some families bought their own pipes and fittings, layed the pipes and then asked the plumbers to connect to the mainline. The average amount that people spent to have a standpipe connected to their site (and includes contribution towards a mainline) was R450.

The Slovo Park leadership encouraged the plumbers not to charge for their services due to the fact that it is a community initiative. Residents generally give between R20 to R50 as a thank-you to the plumber. Of the 1152 sites approximately 1050 have a connected standpipe to the mains on their site. (A further enumeration in January 2011 further established the number of people living on each stand, where the toilet is on each stand, whether and where the taps are, and – in preparation for clusters – where the doorways are on each shack, plus finally the number and positions of shacks on each individual site.)

Through a connection made between ISN chair Patrick Magebhula and the University of Pretoria, six architect students worked tirelessly with the community in the design and upgrading of the community hall. In 2005 a hall was built to be used as a polling station and was then handed over as a community hall. In a service delivery protest a while back residents stripped the zinc sheeting of the hall off to use as shields against the rubber bullets. After the protest the hall remained in a dilapidated state.

Initially the idea was for the students to assist with blocking-out of Slovo Park. However, Slovo Park was blocked out into plots and roads in the early nineties by Slovo Park residents. Each plot is 250 square meters. A re-blocking of Slovo Park is something that might be necessary especially due to the increased density in the settlement but as it stands it has a pretty good layout.

The students met with community members from Slovo Park. They discussed the findings of the first enumeration and were guided by the community in identifying the need to upgrade the community hall. The students came with no resources other than their enthusiasm and technical skills. The students had an eight week time frame. This really aided in making things happen. The community shared their ideas of how they wanted the hall and surrounds to look after the upgrade. The hall had lost all its cladding, the slab had crumbled and the area in front of the hall was being used as a dumping ground. The architects took note of the community’s ideas and went to the drawing board. They came back a few days later to show the community the drawings and model. The community suggested numerous changes, which the students then incorporated. This process took two weeks.

At the community level ISN was mobilising people to work on the project. The leadership conducted a skills audit in the community. Those with skills such as brick laying, tiling, plumbing and welding were asked to come on board to help upgrade the hall. In addition to these skilled artisans numerous community members volunteered to come work on the project. Community leaders also started collecting contributions of R5 per household to go towards food for the volunteer workers. The leaders in Slovo Park together with one of the students went to all surrounding businesses asking for donations either in the form of food for the workers or in the form of materials. The leadership of Slovo Park asked residents to donate ‘spare’ or loose bricks. In total 600 bricks were donated by the community.

The first phase of the upgrade was completed on the 19th of November 2010.  It included the completion of the hall, the use of old dilapidated post boxes as serving container and benches, paving of the entire area in front of the hall, installation of four taps with grey water going to feed trees and the planting of 20 trees.

Material came from various sources.  The students managed to get paving, ready-mix concrete and   tiles donated. As the momentum for donations grew, the community became creative. One resident managed to get ten massive gum-poles donated from the company he worked for. Another resident organized the leftovers of tar from Road Works. Another resident used the steel rims of two car tyres for drains. Other residents loaned their generators. Others offered the use of their bakkies and cars. All the artisans brought their tools to site – from spades, to paint brushes, to picks, to saws, to welding equipment, to tiling equipment and so on. The community organized the cladding for the walls of the hall by going to the nearby river to cut the bamboo. On Saturday the 20th of November the hall was officially opened. Two officials, one from Johannesburg Municipality and the other from Ekurhuleni attended the function as well as senior lecturers from the Department of Architecture from the University of Pretoria. An ongoing partnership between CORC, ISN and the University was discussed, following up on a MOU that was drafted between SDI and the African Association of Planning Schools (AAPS) and the suggestion that individual Universities enter into country based MOU’s with local affiliates. The City official indicated that the Municipality would also be interested in such a partnership.

The students mentioned that they would like to continue working with the Slovo Park community. However, the distance between Pretoria and Slovo Park is too far for them to maintain long term. The senior lecturer suggested that a link should be established between PTA Uni and Wits and that ultimately Wits Architecture Department should be brought on board. The PTA University has offered to assist ISN in Tshwane.

OBJECTIVES: The project is an example for a successful partnership between a community and an academic institution, based on human resources and skills. The project made use only of in kind donations, and, except for exchanges, no outside funding was provided. Even greater is the impact at city-wide and national level, as the project is an outstanding example for the scope of delivery a motivated partnership is able to achieve. The project has immense potential to go to scale, as it is not dependent on external subsidies and/or funding.   Enumerations and mapping proved to be powerful tools for the capacitation of the community.

PROJECTED OUTCOMES:   Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality has visited the project and subsequently put the community at the top of their list for electricity supply. The partnership with the University of Pretoria has triggered an interest of Wits University to enter into a similar partnership. The University of Pretoria is looking at assisting a new project in Tshwane. The South African SDI alliance has introduced representatives of NUSP to the project, so experiences and learning can influence national policy debate on urban planning.

CONSTRAINTS:   A mind shift within the community was necessary to move from violent service delivery protests to an active participatory upgrading process. The community first struggled to secure the necessary materials for the planned development, as no funding was available or even applied for. However, strong community leadership managed to overcome these hurdles and facilitated an impressive joint effort of a great number of residents. Later on the students supported the community with their own contacts and managed to access enough in kind donations to let the building process go ahead.