By Mengi Deedee, CORC
After spending almost one month with mapping, architecture students of the University of Johannesburg started the second phase of their activity at Ruimsig on Thursday, 11 August. From the professional side, Bro Max and Andre attended the event. Government officials from the Municipality and the ward councillor were not in the party. ISN was very well represented, FEDUP was absent. The principle has remained the same. Four groups with two community architects in each group presented their what for Ruimsig’s development.
Before the presentation of each group, the community leader of Ruimsig raised two concerns: The first concern is that the community was feeling left aside. They explained to the lecturers their frustration. In fact, from the community side, it exists a plan for re-blocking. After discussing with the lecturers, an agreement was found about the size of the yard. The size that was retained is 15 square meters per yard. Another concern raised is that people have tenants in their yards. According to the mapping exercise, the students have found that 95% of the residents in Ruimsig are tenants. Their landlords do not stay at Ruimsig. The community leaders believe that as the land on which Ruimsig is established belongs to the municipality, in principle the rental system should be banished. Everyone should benefit from the area, and the residents should avoid the fact that other people are being exploited by others.
The presentation of the four groups went well. Group A focused on strengthening the rental opportunity in Ruimsig. Another scenario suggested by the Group A was to distribute land equally to the residents. The main idea developed in Group B is sectional stands. This means that in re-blocking Ruimsig, a piece of land should be given to everyone staying in the settlement. In their discussion, Group C was concerned about the issue of how to incorporate ownership and the rental option. The community is reluctant toward rental opportunities happening in Ruimsig. The community only wants people who are staying in Ruimsig. The leadership believes that with the development of rentals, residents of Ruimsig would bring other people to the settlement. As a result, the settlement could become overcrowded. This reaction was qualified by the students as too simplistic. The students raised the concern that there is a need to be rigorous, sensible and intelligent in dealing with social issues.
Group D took another direction in suggesting to take into account the economic benefit of the tenants. The group was asking if tenants can be absorbed somewhere in the settlement. Are they going to have a piece of land as well? To accommodate more people is an ideal to reach. However, design can’t solve this problem. Another issue raised by the group was how to deal with the relationship between extended family and ownership.
Students reached one conclusion which is that social issues surrounding design are not easy to deal with. Questions such as how to reconcile the formal and informal housing, and how should we make abstraction of legal issues and focus only on design were asked by the students. The students will meet again on Monday, August 15. In following the students’ debate, one may argue that there were more questions than answers. This pushed Bro Max to say that we are hoping that the students will help us to find solutions to some of the issues facing the community of Ruimsig.
After the students’ debate, we had a meeting with the leadership of Ruimsig. The aim of this meeting was to discuss with the leadership of Ruimsig some sensible issues raised by the students. It was agreed that the leadership must have control of matters that are happening in the settlement such as the rental issue. The matter related to foreigners should be discussed with the community. However, regarding the issue of foreigners, it was suggested to the leadership to leave the city to resolve that issue. The issue that still causes worries is the court order.