By Andiswa Meke (on behalf of CORC)
For years the government has been testing different solutions with regard to bringing basic services to poor people and engaging with rapid urbanisation in South African cities. At times, these approaches are characterised by technically driven solutions that do not consider social use of infrastructure by community members. At others, there is a lack of service delivery altogether due to an often expressed perception by local government that is impossible to install services in dense and haphazardly structured informal settlements.
In response informal settlements affiliated to the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) organise themselves and explore innovative options that present alternative, community-led practice to local government and better their living conditions. TT is one of the oldest informal settlements in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Yet they still have no basic services.
The blog looks at the upgrading of TT community hall as an example of what communities are doing for themselves when supported with the tools to organise themselves and identify their own development priorities. Communities like TT have realised that they are the help they need to foster change and therefore need to be the ones gearing up their own upgrading processes.
Background of TT informal settlement
TT dates back to the late 80`s. According to a 2010 enumeration report by the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), the settlement had a population of 995 people in 339 households. The City of Cape Town installed Toilets and taps, this is how the settlement have access to water and sanitation. TT section is located in Site B in Khayelitsha, it lies opposite Mangaliso Primary school, with 79% of the settlement depending on social grants as a form of income.
Initially the structure that is now a hall belonged to a particular lady. She then donated her shack to the community to use as a hall where they could hold meetings and church services. However, over the years the structure lost its value as the material it was built in became old and flooded during winter because it was not developed properly.
In the beginning of 2015 the community of TT approached ISN to assist them with upgrading their hall because it was old and the material allowed for bad conditions especially during the winter season.
In 2009, ISN first visited the settlement on a mobilisation trip. After intense engagements, the community was convinced of ISN’s approach and willing to engage with the tools of the SA SDI Alliance. It was after that, the community elected 15 members to enumerate the settlement. TT profiled the settlement with the technical support from CORC who also assisted the community with house modelling, planning and design. The community then identified their needs as a community which included partial reblocking and a community hall; but they wanted the hall to take first priority. There were two profiling and enumerations done, one was done 2009 and a new one is being done currently.
October 2015 marked the start of upgrading the hall which is expected to be completed within December. The steering committee is heading up the project with support from ISN and CORC.
Features of the upgraded hall
- The main feature on the hall is that the material used is non -combustible which decreases the chances of the hall catching fire. The hall has been approved by the City of Cape Town fire department.
- Another is that the hall has a front and a back exit which could be accessed by all the members depending which side is closest for them.
- The floor is cemented and well paved which will prevent the flooding during winter season.
Challenges & Learning Points
- The challenge the community is experiencing is communication barriers with the suppliers of material and this has caused some delays.
- The value of ISN support on the ground.
- The value of regular site visits by all invovled actors during the projects to inspect the progress and address challenges that may arise during each stage of upgrading.
- The community has learnt how to engage with different stakeholders regarding their needs and the importance of unity, communication and cooperation when a settlement wants to change their living conditions.