Launch Date: The ISN first had interactions with Mtshini Wam in November 2010, at which time considerable social mobilisation was initiated. The project was launched in May 2012, and was finished in March 2013.

Location : Mshini Wam is located in what used to be an open space inbetween formal RDP houses located between Democracy Drive, Hlosi Drive and Ingwe Drive in the greater Joe Slovo Park in Milnerton, Cape Town

PROJECT IN BRIEF: To open public spaces and roads by re-arranging 250 shacks in accordance to a community-designed layout plan to ensure the long-term development of the settlement.

Implementing Organizations : This was the first collaborative project between ISN, CORC and the City of Cape Town after a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in April 2012. The local community project steering committee saw to the design, planning, savings coordination, demolition, and construction stages of the project. A local saving scheme, called Just Save, was established to facilitate the collection of community contributions for new top-structure, which came to 20% of the total cost. ISN was responsible for the deep mobilisation process, setting up of functioning community structures, and facilitate partnership meetings with the City of Cape Town. CORC facilitated the initial technical drawing aspect of the project, and provided onsite technical support. iKhayalami provided the top-structure material cut to size.

Basic Funding Details :

Social facilitation:        CORC (exchanges, transport) and Mshini Wam (labour hours)

Project planning:        City of Cape Town via CORC in the MoU context (preliminary feasibility study). EPWP to create short term employment for community

Top structure:            CORC (80%) and Mshini Wam (20%)

Basic services:            City of Cape Town (water and sanitation service points, and electrification)

Context: Many backyarders in the broader Joe Slovo Park in Milnerton were not accomodated in large scale housing developments in the early 1990s. Mtshini Wam informal settlement was founded in 2006 when backyarders occupied an open space on the corner of Hlosi Drive, Ingwe Drive and Democracy Way, which is surrounded by RDP houses. Although the Anti-Land Invasion Unit responded with the threats of demolitions, the South African National Civic Organization (SANCO) and Informal Settlement Management Department (City of Cape Town) were able to mitigate against such evictions, warning the police against further encroachment. At this time, the Mtshini Wam settlement expanded and continued to grow. Backyarders were paying more than R200 per month to the formal houses for access to basic service such as water, sanitation and intermittent electricity supply. After linking with ISN and conducting an enumeration, the community found that 497 people living in 250 shacks only had access to 6 chemical toilets and 2 water taps. One of the City’s limitations in providing services was high densities and lack of access roads.


The settlement was subject to major geographical challenges. The narrow pathways between shacks are subject to flooding, especially in the rainy seasons. The spread water-born illnesses are a daily reality. The community drafted a community constitution, which specifies that everyone must always use a bucket at the public tap areas so that no water is wasted and that the area is not flooded. Lack of cooperation could result in penalties. The majority of residents accepted this arrangement. This level of social organisation and cohesion impressed the ISN. They have also used their collective savings to upgrade the public taps area by building a concrete base so the freestanding taps are not easily broken.

In 2009, the community leadership established a relationship with ISN. By this time, the City of Cape Town via the contractor Mshengu Toilets delivered 16 chemical-based toilets that are cleaned three times a week by the contractor. After a long engagement with the City, three additional taps were installed. Since February 2012, an extensive mobilization was initiated in Mtshini Wam that resulted in a community led enumeration and overall settlement layout as envisaged by the community. The layout plan has been accepted and agreed on by the City of Cape Town.

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Impact: The in-situ “re-blocking” of Mtshini Wam informal settlement is making an impact on the imagination of what informal settlement upgrading could look like. More importantly, the technical interventions are lead by the community, and there is therefore considerable community buy-in and cohesion. The community has demonstrated that given the sufficient institutional support from community networks, NGOs and universities, Metropolitan government officials, and institutional enabling factors (such as the use of the EPWP), upgrading not only improves communities’ living conditions, it also builds critical “social capital” for a transformed and more active citizenry.

We attended the general meetings where we heard about this project in which there will be an improvement in the shacks [in many ways]. We were told that we had to contribute to the project. At first we did not believe it, but now we saw it and liked the idea. So I also saved and contributed to my shack because of the way in which I was living. This place is full of water and we can’t even walk. It is raining all the time. If there is a fire, the emergency cars can’t get in [access into the settlement].

Vuyisile Memani, cluster 2 resident and construction team member

“Re-blocking” creates a social and spatial platform allowing for the provision of better access to services. To further protect against fires, the community is hoping to use fire-resistant materials when re-building their houses. The City will partner to provide sewer and water lines, a formal access road, as well as electricity infrastructure and electrical boxes for each family. Recently, the community has also worked with Touching the Earth Lightly (TEL) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) around growing vertical vegetable gardens and have installed “the litre of light”, which amplifies natural light through a chemical-based dispenser installed in the roof of the shack. The evolution of the re-blocked settlement into green blocks of environmental productive spaces was featured at the 2013 Design Indaba at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). With funding from the Ackerman Pick n Pay Foundation and the Wildlife and Environment Society of SA (WESSA), the “green shack” drew print and television media coverage. On going engagements with these co-funders could result in the “green blocking” of Mtshini Wam. Premier Helen Zille has vouched to make the “green shack” a demonstration item centrally featuring community-based planning for the Cape Town World Design Capital campaign in 2014.

Project Description: The upgrading of Mtshini Wam was the first of 22 pilot projects in collaboration between ISN and the City of Cape Town as per Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in April 2012. In the first few months of 2012 the community in collaboration with ISN and FEDUP completed the enumeration process in order to understand the demographics and spatial relationships of the settlement. Paired with the enumeration exercise Mtshini Wam also mapped out their settlement. A preliminary layout plan was produced with little cardboard pieces cut to scale on a cadastral map of the site. The first cluster of 10 shacks was completed at the time when deputy minister of the Department of Human Settlements Ms. Zoe Kota-Fredericks visited the community. The minister participated in the handover ceremony of enumeration ID cards and commented on the impressive social cohesion.

After a delay in convincing the next clusters that savings were a precondition to the progress of the project, the project steering committee moved quickly to re-block the next first five clusters (80 shacks) in a month. More delays followed after EPWP contract were negotiated and the City’s agreement with contractors were reached. By November 2012 more than 75% of the settlement was completed, and by March 2013 the last five clusters were erected.

Initially, “planning meetings” occurred at weekly intervals between the City’s project managers and the technical and social support teams of CORC and ISN. However, as the project progressed, monthly “partnership meetings” between the City and CORC/ISN ironed out further project-level arrangements.

Objectives: The community has already completed enumerations, mapping, and creating a settlement layout for the blocking out process. The community is currently working to block out the entire settlement and provide each household with a flush toilet. The community is working to develop a gutter or trench system to direct rain to drains that the City will install and cut down on flooding. To further protect against fires, the community is hoping to use fire-resistant materials when re-building their houses. The City will partner to provide sewer and water lines, as well as electrical poles and electrical boxes for each family.

Constraints: Initially, the community did not see the value in savings. Re-blocking was therefore stalled after cluster one was completed. It has been difficult to maintain savings in clusters that have not seen improvements. Currently, community leaders are working to broaden the leadership base so that each cluster has a community leader responsible for informing their neighbours about the ongoing process, removing blockages at each step of the way as re-blocking continues through the settlement. Despite the challenges in savings, an impressive R160,000 has been transferred as the community’s contribution.

Another delay in the progress of the project was the finalisation of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) short-term employment contracts. At the signing of the MoU in April 2012, Mayor of Cape Town Alderman Patricia De Lille committed to creating short-term employment opportunities for the teams actively involved in the re-blocking projects via the Mayor’s Special Job Creation Programme, a subcategory of the EPWP. However, at implementation time, it was a scramble to secure these contracts. Under the pressure of the political commitment, CORC pre-financed a number of weeks’ labour to keep the community engaged. Eventually, the EPWP contract was activated in September 2012 and ever since more than 45 short term jobs have been created.

Projected Outcomes: This design will provide 250 households and 497 people with better housing and access to services. Mtshini Wam also stands to build a stronger community as it works together to create a savings base. Adequate drainage and access to emergency services will protect the community from fires and flooding. The reblocking project is set to become a precedent, and influence the way government thinks about in-situ upgrading.