Philippi, Cape Town The Vusi land is located in Philippi East, Western Cape, South Africa in an area that measures approximately 28 hectares. Purchased by the uTshani Fund, the land is proposed to house both the Vusi community and members of the Kosovo community as a result of an agreement with the Western Cape provincial government. Below is a map showing the Old Vusi site at Stock Road before the land swap deal with Eskom, which resulted in the New Vusi site in Phillipi. The new site is approximately twice the size of the original plot.
Vusi Ntsuntsha is a community-led integrated housing development project which has been over twenty years in the making. Within the SA SDI Alliance the Vusi project serves as an example of how through community mobilization and participation those living in informal settlements can create a more vibrant and sustainable housing option for themselves. By collaborating with the Western Cape provincial government and local support NGOs, the Vusi Ntsuntsha project aims to shift the development process in favor of the urban poor by providing community members with quality, low-cost housing and sharing their process with others through local exchanges.
Founded in 1991, the South African Homeless People’s Federation (SAHPF) began a savings group with the intent of using the pooled funds to purchase land on which they could build proper housing. After ten years of saving, the uTshani Fund purchased 14 hectares of land on the corner of Stock Road and R300 in Philippi East for the federation. Ownership of the Stock Road site was put under the Vusi Ntsuntsha Trust, and a formal Trust Deed was implemented in order to protect Vusi members. At the inception of the project, the goal was to have single story homes built for over 800 Vusi community members; however, a split within the Western Cape Federation kept the project from taking off at this original site. The project was further delayed by the division of Vusi members into SAHPF and the newly established Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP). Many years of disputes and mediations over the Vusi project ensued. The conflict came to a head in 2013, when Trustees under SAHPF attempted to sell the Stock Road property to Eskom (an electricity public utility company) without consulting Vusi members. FEDUP members quickly approached the uTshani Fund for legal assistance and counsel. After a lengthy legal dispute, a Master List of over 800 beneficiaries from both SAHPF and FEDUP was created. This was to ensure that if ever another communal property was sold, all members of the community would be accounted for, and therefore could receive the money they were entitled to as beneficiaries. Following the court’s decision, Eskom started expressing their interest in expropriating the land on the Stock Road site. In 2015, land swap negotiations between Eskom and the Vusi community, with assistance from the uTshani Fund, began. Negotiations ended in 2017, and the new Vusi site was established at the intersection of Philippi and greater Mitchells Plain. In early 2017, the Vusi community was approached by the Department of Human Settlements (DOHS) about purchasing a section of the Philippi wedge site to alleviate overcrowding in the Kosovo informal settlement. In conjunction with the South African (SA) SDI Alliance, the Vusi community opted to instead explore a land-sharing deal through a Land Availability Agreement (LAA) with Province in exchange for expedited approval and development of the Vusi land. The LAA has yet to be signed as of 2019. At the start of 2018, Vusi community leaders, with the support of the SA SDI Alliance, met with Province to open a dialogue about the process of developing the site. Thanks to the collaboration of all partners, by May 2018, international tested processes, such as enumeration, profiling, and workshops, were presented to the community. All community members were required to learn about the different mobilisation methods used by the Alliance to understand how the project was going to develop. The first step was the enumeration process, which began in April 2018 and lasted until March 2019. By collecting the necessary information, Province was able to screen all Vusi beneficiaries and provide a response regarding the members who qualify for grants while providing new options for those households who do not qualify. The commitment of these processes is that ‘no one will be left behind.’ As of July 2019, at least half of the 800 beneficiaries have been enumerated and verified, becoming formal members of the Vusi Ntsuntsha project. To finalize the verification process, the Alliance, in conjunction with community leaders, has started an advertising process to reach all original beneficiaries and finalise the number of recipients. Throughout the enumeration and verification process, all formal members of Vusi were able to raise their voices, propose ideas, and shape the process according to their needs. In early 2019, the Vusi Ntsuntsha community was invited by the Kenyan SDI affiliate to participate in a learning exchange, this time in Nairobi. The conference was based on the Mukuru SPA project, currently the largest informal settlement upgrading project within the SDI network. Five members of the community, plus experts from the Alliance, attended the colloquium to assist Vusi Ntsuntsha in the continued fight for their right to housing. Dumani Mqomboti and Zibele Ncobo, community representatives, expressed that their primary goal at this conference was to learn from a successful project to make the right decisions for Vusi.
One of the current challenges facing the Vusi Ntsuntsha project is the introduction of new stakeholders due to the partnership with Province, and the need to develop housing for the Kosovo community members. Province and Vusi have each come with their support groups. In total CORC has identified six distinct stakeholders with different roles and priorities for the project: 1) the Vusi community, which has been working for over two decades to see their housing and neighborhood realized on communal land; 2) the South African SDI Alliance, which has been supporting Vusi through its many organizations, and also wants to see the realization of the project as a precedent setting example of community-led housing; 3) The current tenants of the Vusi land, which includes a Dairy, would like to ascertain the certainty of their lease, and this must be taken into consideration in the planning and design of the land; 4) The Kosovo community, like Vusi, are hoping for new homes; and 5) Province would like to take part in housing both the Kosovo community, as well as, the development of the greater Vusi Ntsuntsha project. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the project, that cannot be understated, is the amount of time the project has taken and the history of setbacks the community has faced. Vusi may have formally began with the purchase of the Old Vusi site, but the community has been saving and organising as a group since the early 1990s. Many of the remaining elderly community members have been hoping for housing, and holding onto this dream, for over twenty years. Some community members have passed away, some have moved to other parts of the country, while some dreams have been carried on by children and grandchildren in the hopes that Vusi will be realized as a vibrant and viable neighborhood. The setbacks from the split in the movement, and the threat of Eskom expropriating the land have taken years to settle, but the hope is that the complicated partnership with Province will get Vusi closer to breaking ground on the new site. The community members have compromised and sacrificed for decades and will have to continue their work for years to see Vusi fully realized. It is crucial that community leaders keep the faith alive for the Vusi members as so much of their work is important in planning a sustainable community. Maintaining the Vusi community is vital to the realization of the Vusi Ntsuntsha project.
For its partners and beneficiaries, the Vusi Ntsuntsha project has created a new platform for the realization of a better future within the Western Cape in terms of housing, services, and standards of living. The participation of public, private, and third-sector partners (SA SDI Alliance) shows the importance of making slum dwellers active members of society. “We are not building just houses, but also community. We make them [beneficiaries] owners of the project.” -Vanessa Baatjies, uTshani Fund Even though Vusi Ntsuntsha is a project which has officially been in the works for more than a decade, community members are fully engaged with every step of the plan. As mentioned before, they participated during enumeration, profiling, verification, and income generation processes. In 2018, beneficiaries were also part of three technical workshops to keep themselves up to date with the project and to share their ideas and needs with leaders and city authorities. These engagements have resulted in the creation of valuable data not only for this project but for South Africa in general. Vusi Ntsuntsha has become a tool for the SA SDI Alliance to encourage participation across informal settlements not only in Cape Town, but has also served as an example across the 32 countries in which SDI operates. The sharing of knowledge has been reflected in the high levels of community participation and the ideas proposed for the construction of the future integrated housing project during the different exchanges, conferences, and weekly meetings. Where is Vusi now? The Vusi project is currently in a critical stage. Leaders and specialists from the Alliance are diligently working to finalize housing designs and verify membership lists. A primary goal for 2019 is to finalize and get the LAA agreement signed with Province, as it will enable the project to take off and be formally recognised. By securing the support of Province, it will be easier for community working teams to present beneficiaries’ ideas and needs to city authorities. The Vusi Ntsuntsha project has allowed slum dwellers to become not only prospective homeowners, but also designers, managers, and investors. It has enabled people to believe in hope, hard-work, and their contributions as integral to urban development. The support that ‘Vusi’ has from different entities will not only grant beneficiaries their right to housing, but it will also help in the enhancement of their opportunities regarding employment, transportation, education, and health services.