By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)
Tucked between Lansdowne’s industrial warehouses and timber depots lies Flamingo Crescent, an informal settlement situated on a street by the same name. On a walkabout through its smoke and dust-filled pathways, community leaders would tell you that Flamingo is home to about 450 people who reside in 104 structures. The entire settlement makes use of only 2 taps and 14 chemical toilets that are emptied three times a week. You would come across contained fires in tin-drums – because the absence of electricity means that fire is a central source for cooking and warmth. Most structures – consisting of old cardboard, zinc, timber and plastic pieces – are roughly situated around a broad u-shaped pathway that is intersected by smaller, narrow footpaths.
This picture is about to change as Flamingo community goes about upgrading its settlement. Since its first engagement with the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) in 2012, the community has been preparing for re-blocking and – in partnership with the City of Cape Town – is set to receive one-on-one water, sanitation and electricity services.
Mobilising the community
The community steering committee recounts how the first people arrived in Flamingo in 1992. Many had previously resided around the M5 motorway in Cape Town. Others had been living under Lansdowne Bridge. During the first meetings with the community, ISN introduced the ideas of informal settlement upgrading and re-blocking. It explained how communities could drive their own development processes through making savings contributions, joint planning and implementation. ISN representative, Terence Johnson, emphasises the importance of the community-led process, particularly in Flamingo, where “people had given up hope”.
“When we met with ISN it was the first time we got a partner to help us change our circumstances. After we linked up with ISN and CORC the community decided to elect a new steering committee so we could get better organised and get a better life for ourselves”
(Mark Solomons and Chirne Arnold, Steering Committee Members)
During a general community meeting the steering committee shared the ideas of upgrading and re-blocking with the community and explained that every community member needed to make a 20% contribution to their own re-blocked and upgraded structure. The community’s response was initially skeptical because they had expected to receive government-subsidized housing.
“But through going on exchanges the community slowly changed its mind. We saw examples of a re-blocked settlement with upgraded zinc aluminum structures in Sheffield Road and Mtshini Wam as well as the one-on-one services for every upgraded structure in Kuku Town”
(Chirne Arnold, Flamingo Steering Committee Member)
The community began saving in 2012 and to date has saved about R42 000. Each payment was made to the treasurer of the steering committee who recorded each transaction in the community savings book and counter signed the community member’s personal savings book. As the majority of Flamingo’s population is old and unemployed (50%) the collection of daily savings proved to be a challenge. Nevertheless,
“Some community members like Ouma Sarie have almost managed to save the entire amount. She started with one packet of cigarettes and sold each cigarette one by one. She has saved R860 to date and only has another R200 to go.”
(Elizabeth Rantoetse, Flamingo Steering Committee)
Other community members saved some money through working. Those that were not able to save anything are set to receive short-term employment during the construction process through the City’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).
Enumeration, Planning and Partnership
Flamingo’s enumeration took place in April 2012. Over a period of one week, community members, supported by the Alliance, gathered social and demographic data about their settlement. This enabled the community to gather information about Flamingo’s population, the number of structures and the exact extent of water and sanitation amenities. The enumeration also gathered details on the extent and spread of employment as well as the reasons for moving to Flamingo. During a planning studio with students from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and CORC technical staff in 2013 the community surveyed the site, designed its re-blocked layout and verified its enumeration results. Later that year the community was joined by students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (USA) who assisted in conceptualising plans for a crèche and a play park.
Flamingo is one of several pilot projects supported by the City as part of a broader commitment the City made in 2012 to support the upgrading of 22 partnership projects. For more background click here. Following the 2012 agreement, the City, Alliance and Flamingo community met in a number of partnership meetings. The enumeration acted as a powerful entry point to negotiating an improved layout and one-on-one service provision. So far, the main sewer lines have been laid and two clusters of structures have been cleared and are ready to be re-blocked. As implementation continues, Flamingo community continues on-site meetings with City officials to discuss details and project developments.
Auntie Marie, Flamingo community leader, reflects on the road thus far:
“If it wasn’t for ISN, I don’t know where we would be. Through ISN we were introduced to the City and we got a partnership. We started thinking, ‘Now something is going to happen’. Flamingo is going to be re-blocked!”
CORC will continue to document project developments in future posts.