By Olwethu Jack (on behalf of CORC)
An incredible story is unfolding in the Moeggesukkel informal settlement, a community of about 320 households located 30km north from Port Elizabeth towards Uitenhage. At the end of 2012, the community started mapping out the existing layout of their settlement and started allocating lots to individual households. With very little professional or technical support, the community is now taking proactive measures to start a regularisation process which the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality (NMMM) can initiate the upgrading of the area.
In the Eastern Cape, the ISN and its grassroots partner the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) – a movement of woman-led savings collectives addressing poverty, homelessness and landlessness – have made significant in-roads in building a partnership with the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality (NMBM). More specifically, the settlements of Seaview and Moeggesukkel are anchoring the engagements with the NMMM. Seaview is a settlement of 320 households located 30km south on the N2 from Port Elizabeth. Moeggesukkel is home to 370 households and is located approximately 20km from PE towards Uitenhage. Both the settlements have been enumerated, they are actively saving towards contributing to their own development, and the are in the process of drafting local implementation plans for improved services and settlement upgrade. The Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), an NGO that provides socio-technical support to ISN and FEDUP, has been supporting these two communities for the past 8 months. This has resulted in interest from the Nelson Mandela Bay University (NMBU) who has pledged inter-disciplinary support to the upgrading of these two informal settlements.
The Moeggesukkel technical team is leading the procces by measuring the plots and assisting the community with moving and building the shacks. Working from satellite image, the technical team has started mapping informal walk ways, public water and sanitation infrastructure, electricity poles and so forth. The existing layout of the shacks, as per the satellite image, were noted, and potential reconfiguration of this low-density peri-urban informal settlement was suggested. The team has been working in close collaboration with Mr Ndaba, the director of Spatial Planning in the NMMM.
This mapping exercise informed a potential new layout for the settlement in blocks the community self-designed. With very little technical and professional support, the community has initiated the re-blocking of their settlement by themselves! No new materials, no equipment and on-site supervision was present. Rather, the community started their own reguralisation process for the NMMM to replicate and recognised and start allocating plots to the community.
This is not a static process. People are often coming and going, and in the mapping process, the community is facing challenges of people who left the community coming back to claim their land. Services are desperately needed in the area, and the municipality has not been collecting the debris in the process of moving the shacks.
The way forward for this settlement is arranging a meeting with the Department of Human Settlements to present the layout, and the associated actions taken, together with Mr Ndaba and myself, technical support person to Port Elizabeth, Olwethu Jack (I am based in Cape Town). After presenting to municipality we need to ask the city to provide us with engineers drawings with servitudes. The community has saved more than R9 000 towards the improvement of their settlement.
It is worth mentioning that the ‘soft aspects’ of developmental interventions are often just as important as the hard, technical aspects. These two communities have demonstrated their ability to articulate complex matters such as regularisation, in-situ upgrading and productive spaces in informal settlements in simple language, and in their own vernacular.