By Kwanele Sibanda and Walter Fieuw (on behalf of CORC)
Midvaal municipality is located in the Gauteng province and its name is deduced from its geographical location: Midvaal lies halfway between Johannesburg / East Rand and Vaal / Vereeniging areas. Together with Emfuleni and Lesedi municipalities, Midvaal is part of the Sedibeng district municipality. Midvaal is located near the Vaal Dam in a beautiful countryside and has been spotlighted for its tourism potential as it boasts eco-tourism and avi-tourism opportunities.
According to Midvaal’s 2nd news bulletin of 2012, the 2012/2013 IDP and Budget is focussed on maintaining and enhancing basic service delivery to all areas in Midvaal with a shift towards addressing the need for additional infrastructure and social facilities in poorer communities. Midvaal has undergone a radical change from quaint country area to booming tourist, recreational and industrial centre in Southern Gauteng. According to Statistics South Africa, Midvaal has grown from 60 000 residents in 2001 to 100 000 in 2007. A report by Gauteng’s Provincial Government ranked Midvaal as the province’s top municipality in terms of quality of life. In the 2011 Municipal Productivity Index, conducted by Municipal IQ, Midvaal was ranked 5th out of 266 municipalities.
However, despite the reforms in municipal governance spurred by the growth of local and regional economies, the life for the majority of informal settlement dwellers have not improved. The uneven development in Midvaal is perhaps most noticable in the level of services in the informal settlements. Sicelo Shiceka is an informal settlement in located 5km outside the town centre of Meyerton. There are sections that are densely populated, and other areas have easily accessible with walkable pathways and access roads. The municipality claims some areas of the land is dolomatic, a soil typology that has plagued development in many areas in Gauteng. The municipality aims to build about 450 houses in the near future, but this will never cater for more than 4,500 households living in Sicelo Shiceka. The settlement is also subjected to fierce political contestation between the Democratic Alliance and the African National Congress. On a recent walkabout in the informal settlement, MEC for Local Government and Housing Humphrey Mmemezi commented on the situation,
I realized after the walk about in the area that there are no toilets and people use nearby bushes and open pit toilets to relieve themselves. I made a commitment that we will get funds so that we can buy toilets for the community. There are also only 9 taps for the community of 4000 shacks.
Even though the “department was able to secure R5,7million to provide 1000 toilets and these are going to be cleaned twice a week”, this was done with very little input from the community. The municipality appointed the private security company Red Ants to conduct settlement profiles and socio-economic enumerations in the informal settlements of Midvaal, which is a 3 year agreement. ISN made a number of presentations to the Head of Department: Housing and showcased the detailed eight page enumeration template which includes socio-economic and demographic questions. This information is often of paramount importance to the community’s needs. External service providers such as the Red Ants, who only have a one-page questionnaire asking the most basic questions, do not facilitate these questions. ISN and CORC also produce ID cards as a result of the enumeration exercise, which give the households protection against evictions and displacements.
In the month of October 2012 ISN and CORC supported Sicelo Shiceka settlement more intensely. A number of engagements with the municipality and the community was facilitated and it was agreed that ISN will be allowed to conduct a autonomous and independent enumeration in Sicelo. The main objective of the enumeration is empowering the majority of shack dwellers that will not be accommodated by the 450 housing units to have a development plan with which to engage the municipality with. An arrangement was struck between CORC and the Midvaal municipality in which the municipality, through the subcontractor Red Ants, will remunerate some of the enumeration expenses. The enumeration comes as an opportunity for community organization, strengthening of leadership and saving schemes as well as paving way for future working relations between the ISN and the municipality in other settlements.
The enumeration of Sicelo Shiceka started yesterday, 31st of October. More experienced enumerators from other communities linked to ISN in Gauteng will support the community of Sicelo Shiceka. This is the first initiative in the Sedibeng district municipality, and ISN is making in-roads in showcasing, through the enumeration and subsequent planning processes, that people-centred processes are much more effective and efficient than external contractor driven interventions. Only once the community owns the data, and plans situational responsive solutions to better service provision, livelihoods creation, and secure tenure, true empowerment occurs.