Durban, KwaZuluNatal

PROJECT REPORT:  Cato Crest, Durban

1.  LAUNCH DATE:  2009

2.  LOCATION:   Cato Crest is a densely populated informal settlement, about seven kilometres from the inner city centre of Durban in the South African province KwaZuluNatal.

3. IMPLEMENTING ORGANIZATIONS:  FEDUP, ISN, CORC, SDI, uTshani, Ethekwini Municipality, Ngcobo &Associates Development Consultants, provincial Department of Housing



Bunjiwe Gwebu (CORC) 031 3049694

Lucia Shibe (community leader) 083 5390928

Cato Crest (Durban, KwaZuluNatal)

Cato Crest (Durban, KwaZuluNatal)


Cato Crest is a well organized and mobilized settlement, where a people’s process is unfolding. This highlights the limitations of the prevalent, contractor-driven approach of the State. The Province has handed funds over to the Municipality, which in turn has appointed the private contractor Ngcobo &Associates Development Consultants to deliver State-subsidized housing. 400 structures have already been built through this formal partnership. However, the community can rely on a strong leadership which has been capacitating residents through savings schemes since 2006. Two years ago, ISN contacted the community and introduced their upgrading concept, which goes beyond loan finance from daily savings. The Alliance subsequently managed to build trust at provincial level and was given the chance to build houses based on a community-led process.


Cato Crest comprises 2000 dwellers of whom 250 are FEDUP members and participate in regular savings, supervised by Lucia Shibe. She also serves on the board of the Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF), a fund which was initiated by the alliance in May 2011. Phase 1 of the Upgrading Project will impact on 24 families directly. However, there is keen interest of the other community members and the formal partnership for more structures, designed and built through a people-centred process. The ISN activities, such as enumeration and re-blocking, furthermore capacitate a much larger number of beneficiaries.


Cato Crest is a mixed development, where FEDUP aims at building 24 double storey structures, pre-financed by uTshani and SDI, and ISN assists the process with an enumeration, blocking out and improvement of services. Community leader Lucia Shibe has been seriously mobilizing the settlement since 2007. When ISN first made contact in 2009, they were welcomed by an enthusiastic women’s group, full of aspirations and dreams. As opposed to other settlements, FEDUP understood that the objectives of both networks work hand in hand, and chose to actively participate in the ISN process. The community was told that ISN’s agenda goes beyond housing and aims at the improvement of basic services.

At mass meetings in April 2010 the community decided to take up ISN’s offer to enumerate the settlement and to establish the exact needs of Cato Crest: The settlement is very densely built with shacks often on top of each other. Three fires razed the settlement in 2010 with in one instance more than 100 structures being burnt down. Flooding is another severe problem with a nearby river regularly threatening lives on the unstable land situated on a slope.

The community at that point had already identified some pieces of vacant land which they were willing to move to as a possible solution to the shack density and danger from disaster.  ISN presented these plans to the ward councilor who responded positively and has since been an avid supporter of the process. However, after the initial successes, the ISN process lost momentum, as the political counterparts were drawn into pre-election campaigning, and all further decisions regarding enumeration and blocking out were postponed to after May 2011.

In the meantime FEDUP was given an ultimatum by the Municipality to come forward with a business plan for a site where the federation plans to build 24 double-storey structures. This is the first time since a large-scale project (how many?) at nearby Piesang River, that the network is opting again for a multi-storey building solution. The site is a commercial property which was rezoned for residential purpose and measures approximately 1300 m2.

The community first planned to build 36 structures which would stand up to three storeys high. But recently the members have decided to reduce the number of sites and allow slightly more space for a bigger footprint of the individual houses. Slum Dwellers International (SDI)has visited the site several times and committed to bridge-finance the building. It is hoped that within a year, the provincial government will repay the subsidies. Currently R65.000 subsidy per house are being discussed within the partnership. The province is welcoming the people’s process as an alternative to the contractor-driven approach facilitated by the Municipality. However, because the project is regarded as a “ministerial project” it has not undergone the normal preparation phases and is lagging behind with regards to town planning, surveying and legal registration of the site. Only the geo-tech assessments are fully sorted.

The alliance has six months from May 2011 to come forward with their proposal, or the Municipality will claim the site back. A community architect from CORC has met with the community on various occasions and drawn up plans. These originally also included a 50 m2 single storey office space for FEDUP. However, the community decided to bring their own architect on board to revise these plans. It is currently not clear whether they will pay him from their savings, or whether uTshani will be asked to settle his bill.

In preparation for the subsidy application, beneficiaries have to be registered and screened by the Municipality – a process which CORC is assisting the dwellers with through regular follow up with the project manager.  At the same time CORC is trying to renegotiate the subsidy amount to allow finance for the bigger structures.


To successfully demonstrate a parallel, participatory process of FEDUP initiated housing delivery and ISN facilitated services upgrading. To create a case study for a “ministerial project” which can trigger learning at the highest level of the formal sector, i.e. NUSP. To establish evidence for higher density building in South Africa, inspired and triggered by exchanges within the SDI network to places such as Kenya. To build houses, planned, mapped and designed by the beneficiaries, in direct competition to the contractor-driven approach of the Municipality.


The ISN process slowed down due to the pending elections. Enumeration and re-blocking should pick up after May 2011. The FEDUP building process lacks momentum because of land issues and funds not being approved – problems that the Province has to resolve. At the same time the community and alliance face the October 2011 deadline when they must deliver a sustainable business plan or else the site will go back to the Municipality. The alliance is trying to deal with this Catch 22 situation through enhanced liaising with the community and the City officials. The fact that the community has decided to bring their own architect on board has added tension, which will probably cease once it is clear who will pay him.


Phase 1 will comprise 24 double-storey structures, erected through a fully participatory People’s Process, based on strong leadership and savings. This should inspire the formal sector at municipal, provincial and national level to not only outsource more projects and land to the Alliance, but to eventually incorporate these practices as part of government strategies. The project has the potential to serve as a good learning example for the parallel unfolding of upgrading and housing delivery in a high density urban environment.