The SA SDI Alliance engages with government, international organisations, academia and other institutions wherever possible to create relationships that benefit the urban poor. The nature of partnerships entered into always includes urban poor communities as key actors who hold expert knowledge and are critical participants in developing solutions concerning land, basic services and housing.
The rationale for pragmatic partnership building in the Alliance dates back to the early 1990s, when FEDUP (then known as the South African Homeless People’s Federation) engaged with Indian slum dwellers:
[In India] we heard a story that…Indians had voted for their democratic government and expected honey and milk to flow on the street. However, after 40 years what they got was a queue of 800 people waiting for one toilet…We realised, even if we get democracy in South Africa, if poor people are not organised, government will work for them and not with them.
FEDUP Coordinator and SDI Vice President
In a society that had been liberated through confrontation, boycott and the struggle for rights in South Africa, the organising concepts used by Indian slum dwellers, including a commitment to engagement and dialogue with the state, were unfamiliar. In India the South African Federation had seen that constitutional democracy would not necessarily translate into tangible improvements and chose to orientate itself towards dialogue with state institutions.
At the same time, the state became an instrument for implementing private sector economics where land and housing became “products” to be delivered by the market. The urban poor sector became fragmented and weak as powerful social movements were co-opted into the state and their leadership entered government.
It was clear that grassroots movements of the urban poor needed to be rebuilt not around demands for constitutional rights but to negotiate with their own knowledge and resources to ensure the translation of these rights into improved living conditions on the ground.
Stories about Partnerships
National Department of Human Settlements
International Budget Partnership – South Africa
Department of Environmental Affairs
Cape Town Collaborative Initiative (Isandla Institute, VPUU, DAG, Ubuhle Bakha Ubuhle, PEP)
Western Cape Provincial Department of Human Settlements