By FEDUP and uTshani Fund
The Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) and the uTshani Fund are two organisations working in alliance to bring the urban poor in South Africa together and bring their huge collective resourcefulness, creativity, energy and social force to the task of delivering secure, affordable housing to everyone. The FEDUP / uTshani Fund alliance has initiated housing projects in urban and peri-urban communities across all nine provinces, improving the lives of some 17,000 households so far.
FEDUP’s primary vision has been to ensure that the urban poor – and particularly poor women – gain full citizenship rights and become key actors in determining the development priorities and policies of cities. The Federation has worked to move both urban policy and poor communities away from crisis-led reactive interventions to gendered long-term partnerships in which the urban poor themselves play a key role as visionaries and partners in generating “win-win” solutions that create revised models of development.
At a mass gathering on March 1st, attended by local, national and international shack dwellers, city officials and NGO staff, FEDUP reasserted its vision to build inclusive and pro-poor cities by positioning the poor as central actors in urban development. They were gathered at Stretford Park in Extension 6 of Orange Farm, where joyous singing and chanting resounded throughout the park, overlaid with the DJ’s big dubstep beats.
While the gathering buzzed and hummed, the deputy minister of Human Settlements Ms. Zoe Kota-Fredericks, and Gauteng Members of Executive Council met in a private meeting to discuss the unlocking of People’s Housing Processes in the province. Patrick Magebula, national FEDUP leader and advisor to the minister of Human Settlements Mr. Tokyo Sexwale, mentioned that the processes in Orange Farm are unfolding across the country, and poor people’s groups across the country are actively contributing to changing the way government engages poor residents. Since March 1992, when women across the country mobilised around savings collectives, the Federation has engaged with formal banking institutions and all three tiers of government, helped setup Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI) by participating in and leading international exchanges, and most importantly, ensured the material improvement and tenure security in the lives of thousands of poor people. The FEDUP has shared their successes (and failures) and supported new savings initiatives in encouraged and supported savings groups in Angola, Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Uganda, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
On Ms. Kota-Fredericks’ arrival, she addressed the crowd and said, “We are encouraged that people take their own initiatives rather than waiting for the government to come to them. Through your savings you were able to build yourselves better houses, much better than the RDP houses that the government provides. The government needs this kind of commitment from the community so that we can be able to provide services faster and more efficiently”.
Houses built by the Federation through the People’s Housing Process have been of significantly higher quality than those built through privately contracted government delivered starter houses. The current houses being completed with the subsidy pledge are all larger than 50 m2 in size with a fully fitted bathroom, a kitchen with a sink as well as three to four spacious bedrooms. The houses are fully electrified. The finishing includes plaster inside and outside, and is also painted inside and outside. These are achievable through the savings and contributions of the beneficiaries.
The beneficiaries on the projects are mainly elderly women. Young men and women help the beneficiary to construct the houses. Subsidy forms are completed among the members and submitted to the provincial housing Department for approval before building can commence for any beneficiary.
Said Mrs. Manthoka and Mr. Mangena of Orange Farm about a poor people’s movement, “It was a good experience to work with the Federation. It brought us happiness! It was so unfortunate that the whole thing came to a standstill now… There was a problem with the interpretation of the subsidies. People thought that government would be paying the subsidies upfront”.
Poor people have always been in charge of their own developments, building very innovative, very large, and very effective shelters that meet their needs. These creative, colorful, and appropriate homes tend to constitute the vast majority of the architecture of the Global South. It is thus imperative that shack dwellers themselves be involved in the struggle to house the urban poor. They have the appropriate skills and vision to develop their own, comfortable settlements, with a small amount of professional and financial support from the experts and politicians.
Ms. Kota-Fredericks mentioned the long standing relationship between the FEDUP and the national department of Human Settlements. It started with the pledge from Minister Joe Slovo in 1994, which was followed up by Sankie Mthembu-Mahanyelele. Minister Sisulu also pledged subsidies to FEDUP and uTshani Funds in 2004, but provinces have been slow to release these funds for a number of reasons. Rose Molokoane, national coordinator of the FEDUP, commented that a lot of work still remains, as many people still live in harsh conditions. Said Molokoane, “The majority of our people are still poor and can’t afford proper houses. They are living in appalling conditions in informal settlements. But we are confident that our partnership with the government will grow stronger and will achieve more. When we started banks could not loan us money as we were regarded as high risk customers. But we have never lost hope, we decided to do it on our own and it worked”.
Some quotations borrowed from the following online articles: