By Walter Fieuw and Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)
There is a growing recognition that services need to be delivered to informal settlements in new ways. Such new approaches should aim at building community capacity through participatory planning, design and service implementation. Informal settlements are characterised by very different shapes and sizes, ranging from smaller inner city settlements located in residential neighborhoods to large sprawling settlements on the periphery of cities. Different approaches are needed to effectively transform these settlements into more dignified living spaces. Working with communities is paramount to succeeding in upgrading initiatives. The re-blocking of Kuku Town is an example of an alternative approach to thinking through aspects of place, safety and security through improved settlement layouts, and better located services.
The South African Alliance and Kuku Town community celebrated the official completion of re-blocking on 29 April 2014. Community leaders welcomed delegates from ISN and FEDUP, NGOs such as CORC, iKhayalami and Habitat for Humanity South Africa (HFHSA), City of Cape Town officials from the Department of Human Settlements and the Councillor of Ward 32, Cllr. Derrick America to the hand over last Tuesday.
Verona Joseph, Kuku Town community leader, opened the ceremony by welcoming guests and sharing some of Kuku Town’s history and the process of community mobilisation. Diverse partners involved in the upgrading process held a variety of speeches that gave thanks, recognised and acknowledged the community’s achievement after three years of negotiations and preparations. ISN and FEDUP community representatives, Mzwanele Zulu & Thozama Nomnga, voiced the importance of continuing the relationships and partnerships, beyond the completion of re-blocking. Cllr America echoed this sentiment and emphasised that upgrading a settlement is about restoring dignity. Every community member received a personalised ID card containing demographic information – a symbol of having taken one step closer to reaching security of tenure. The ceremony therefore marked an important milestone for the community, who founded the settlement in 1985.
In the meantime, the City of Cape Town has formally adopted re-blocking as an informal settlement upgrading strategy. It is included in the City’s IDP and Urban Settlement Development Grant (USDG) budgets for the next five years. The strength of re-blocking stems from the central participation of community members in the planning, design and implementation of their settlement upgrade. Unless community members are seen as central participants in the design of their settlement, the exercise remains futile, and not responsive to local conditions.