1.    Launch Date


2.    Location

Kuku Town informal settlement is located on a little triangle of open land at the end of 14th Street, Kensington and close to Kentemade train station in Cape Town. Kuku Town consists of 22 households, making up a community of about 50 people. The relatively small settlement is conveniently located, close to transport, jobs and social amenities.


View on to Kuku Town in process of upgrading

3. Project in Brief

To upgrade existing structures with zinc aluminum, to reconfigure the spatial layout of the settlement (re-block 22 households) opening access for one-on-one water and sanitation services

4.    Implementing Organisations

ISN, CORC, iKhayalami, Habitat for Humanity South Africa (HFHSA), City of Cape Town

ISN facilitated the interaction between the community and City of Cape Town. CORC provided social and technical support in terms of exchanges, enumeration, planning and implementation. The City of Cape Town provided one-on-one water, sanitation and electricity services. iKhayalami oversaw and implemented the construction. HFHSA entered the project at a crucial time to support the re-blocking process by sourcing G5 fill material to raise the new structures and mitigate potential flooding.

Partners in the Project: Community Members, ISN, Habitat for Humanity, City representatives and CORC

Partners in the Project: Community Members, ISN, Habitat for Humanity, City representatives and CORC

5.    Basic Funding Details 

The project was approved by the Community Upgrading Finance Facility in 2013.

Community contribution: 20% of cost of structures

CORC contribution: 80% of cost of structures; social facilitation

City of Cape Town contribution: service delivery (water, sanitation, electricity)

Habitat for Humanity Contribution: G5 fill material

6.    Contact Details

Verona Joseph (Community Leader): 079 533 8605

Sizwe Mxobo (CORC):  083 353 8464

Anton Terblanche (City of Cape Town) : 084 244 2449

7.    Context

The first people started settling in what is now Kuku Town in about 1985.  Over the years more families settled due to employment opportunities in Cape Town and Kuku Town’s ideal location.

Before re-blocking, the walls and roofs of most structures consisted of dilapidated material – old cardboard, timber and plastic – which resulted in poor insulation and leakages, especially in the rain. The poor quality of the structures – especially the old wood – attracted rats. The settlement had 2 communal water taps and 4 flush toilets. Council provided electricity in 2010 through electricity boxes.

Structures before re-blocking

Structures before re-blocking

The majority of Kuku Town’s population is above 50 years of age.  The enumeration showed that more than half of Kuku Town’s residents moved there after being evicted from where they previously stayed. Other reasons included the realization of employment opportunities, closer proximity to family members and more affordable rent.  About 47% of people living in Kuku Town stated that they were unemployed.

Christina Ethel Joseph, Kuku Town community leader at the time, made contact with the City of Cape Town around 1996 to organize service provision, as there was a lack of electricity, toilets and taps.  Although the community was interacting with the City it was not yet formally registered. But after a fire broke out in a neighboring house in 2006 where Christina was staying she lobbied the City for permission to stay in Kuku Town and in the process succeeded in registering Kuku Town on the City’s informal settlement database for the first time.

8.    Project Description


Kuku Town’s interaction with ISN started in 2012 when the City’s Principal Field Officer (PFO) introduced community leaders to ISN.  ISN mobilized the community by sharing the tools and processes (e.g. savings, enumeration, planning) the community could use to upgrade its settlement. The interaction between the community, ISN and the City of Cape Town was formalized on 19 April 2012 when the City and ISN/CORC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which resulted in clarifying a way forward for collaborative partnership.

After the City of Cape Town adopted re-blocking as an official policy on 5 November 2013, Kuku Town was also designated as one of three pilot projects that the City would support in the 2013/14 financial year. The City thus indicated a long-term commitment of resources to re-blocking projects, to departmental alignment and to meaningful interventions in informal settlements.


Following this initial meeting the community went on exchanges to Burundi and Sheffield Road settlements in 2011. Both settlements had already undergone upgrading in terms of re-blocking and improved service delivery in partnership with the City of Cape Town. Their similarity to Kuku Town’s situation made them ideal sites for an exchange. After the exchange, a big community meeting took place in Kuku Town to explain upgrading to the community.


After some initial resistance the community decided to opt for re-blocking. This meant that they needed to start saving toward contributing to their own structures. Most community members chose 12m2 and 20m2 structures for which they respectively needed to save R740 and R1000.  The remaining cost of the structure was covered by the Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF). Savings were recorded in personal savings books and were deposited in a community savings account. Regular bank reconciliations were communicated to the group. Over three years the community managed to save R 17 820. Although most community members are above 50 years or unemployed many managed to come up with savings by collecting the deposits from bottles, tins or finding temporary ironing and gardening work.


Community Savings Books


In April 2012 community members also led an enumeration in Kuku Town.  The enumeration produced data on the reasons for moving to Kuku Town, the rate of employment and school enrollment and water and sanitation provision, found that. Through the process the community collected relevant, verifiable, and specific data that was used to build models and draft the re-blocking plans.  A further significant outcome of the enumeration was the re-registration of every community member with the council.  Before the enumeration, different families would reside in one structure. The community wanted every family to get its own structure. This, however, was not possible because several community members were not registered with the council.  Through recounting community members during the enumeration, it was possible to register people so that each household could have their own structure.


Around October 2012 the community was actively involved in planning and modeling the re-blocked layout with support from the CORC technical staff. As Kuku Town is a small and dense settlement the layout had to consider creative options. The new structures would be erected along the sides of the neighbouring walls with a few re-blocked structures in the centre, opening up an L-shaped pathway throughout the settlement that enables public space and easy vehicle access in emergency situations.

The community presented this proposal to the City who subsequently agreed to install one-on-one water and sanitation services for every structure. This made a big difference to the 50 people who previously had to share 2 taps and 4 toilets.

Community Designed Re-blocked Layout

Community Designed Re-blocked Layout

Service Provision

The City installed water and sanitation services in November 2013. Kuku Town already had previously installed electricity. However, the electricity boxes were re-installed according to the new layout in April 2014. The City installed services in Kuku Town as part of a broader agreement between the Alliance and the City (2012) in which the City agreed to support 22 upgrading projects. Click here for more. Due to delays in sourcing contractors, Kuku Town (along with Flamingo Crescent, Mtshini Wam and other informal settlements) engaged in active discussion with the Department of Human Settlements and the Mayor’s office.


The new structures were erected along with the re-blocked layout from February to March 2014. iKhayalami set up the structures while HFHSA provided the G5 fill material.  The Alliance and Kuku Town community celebrated the official completion of re-blocking on 29 April 2014 together with representatives from ISN, FEDUP, NGOs CORC, iKhayalami, HFHSA, City of Cape Town officials and the Councillor. Every community member received a personalised ID card containing demographic information  – a symbol of having taken one step closer to reaching security of tenure.

After reblocking

9.    Impact

Social Impact

  • Kuku Town’s upgrading was a community-led process. It facilitated a space in which communities took the lead on organizing and capacitating themselves through rituals such as savings, community-driven planning and implementation.
  • The project established a relationship with the councillor and the City
  • The project included a number of partners, like Habitat for Humanity
  • After completion, Kuku Town has become a site for learning exchanges for other communities who want to go about a similar process
  • During construction, some community members found temporary employment through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP)

Lydia and Verona, both on the leadership committee, agree that one of the biggest changes is that

“As a community we are comfortable now.  We don’t have rats any more and when it rains we won’t lose our clothes. But people’s way of life is also changing. At the beginning, it was a struggle to convince them, but now they have other things to focus on – they are fixing things in their homes. With the new structures everyone’s lives will pick up because this is a very upgraded informal settlement now”.

Physical impact

  • Upgraded water and sanitation services on a one – on – one basis
  • Upgraded structures
  • Re-blocked spatial layout which has increased open spaces and improved safety within the settlement
  • Stronger tenure security for settlement residents
  • Registration of every community member on city database
6. After reblocking 3

One on One Service Provision

10. Objectives

Open up (i.e. re-block) the spatial layout of the settlement to allow emergency vehicle access and to curb the risk of fire and flooding, upgrade existing structures, improve existing services (electricity) and deliver one-on-one water and sanitation services.

11.  Constraints  & Lessons learnt 

  • Local government contracts are not necessarily conducive to upgrading in small settlements, like Kuku Town
  • Future projects need more political support
  • Savings can be a strong monitoring tool for community readiness

12. Projected Outcomes

The project has opened up opportunities for future work and collaboration on housing issues and lobbying for tenure rights.

Kuku Town after re-blocking

Kuku Town after re-blocking