Gauteng Archives - SASDI Alliance

‘An eye for an eye makes the world blind’ – FEDUP/ ISN say NO to Xenophobia

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, News, uTshani Fund No Comments

Authored by SA SDI Alliance

Following the outbreak of xenophobic violence in Gauteng in April 2015, the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) and the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) – both members of the SA SDI Alliance – hosted a dialogue on 24 – 25 April 2015 to say NO to Xenophobia.

“When Xenophobia broke out the Catholic Church approached ISN & FEDUP for support because people were fleeing their homes. We decided on a dialogue because we realised that there was a problem on the ground.“

(Sipho Vanga, ISN Coordinator in Gauteng)

ISN facilitators in Holomisa settlement, Gauteng (2014). Sipho Vanga (third from left)

ISN facilitators in Holomisa settlement, Gauteng (2014). Sipho Vanga (third from left)

The dialogue was titled, ‘Is it really xenophobia or violent protest?’ It brought together 32 informal settlement leaders from Johannesburg (COJ) and Ekurhuleni Municipalities (EMM) in Gauteng Province. Represented settlements included Sicelo, Slovo Park, Delport, Marathon, Makause, Ramaphosa, Holomisa (COJ), Holomisa (EMM), Mandela, Kanana Park, Meriting, Denver, Zacharia Park, Siphamandla, Tinasonke and Thembakhoza. In a press release statement, FEDUP & ISN explained,

“In order to try and avoid violent protest and xenophobic acts we will host a series of dialogues with the leadership of informal settlements AND those affected by xenophobia to discuss social ills with the aim to facilitate the integration of affected people back into our communities.

(ISN/FEDUP Press Release)

The program spread over two days and sought to find a common understanding of xenophobia and its causes in South Africa and to propose possible solutions to stop violence and discrimination. Topics of discussion included:

  • Xenophobia
  • Unemployment
  • Social Stereo Typing
  • Crime
  • Gender
  • Water & Sanitation
  • Upgrading
  • Land Tenure
  • Youth
  • Poverty

Day 1: Dialogue on Xenophobia’s Causes and Challenges

The first day engaged Gauteng’s informal settlement leaders who gave voice to their communities’ grievances, perceptions and concerns. Leaders shared first-hand experience of xenophobic violence, their respective perceptions of root causes and avenues of response.


As community leaders spoke about experiences and community perceptions in their settlements they highlighted some perceived frustrations relating to:

  • Crime

“Illegal immigrants commit crimes and cannot be identified because their finger prints are not in the system”

  • Lack of employment

“Capitalists employ foreigners over locals because foreigners are willing to work harder and earn below the minimum wage.”

“Foreigners operate … businesses without licences because they can afford to bribe… authorities that approach them.”

“South Africans cannot compete with foreigners who are in a position of purchasing bulk commodities that automatically reduce purchase prices.”

  • Drugs & Poverty

“Foreigner mostly bring in and deal drugs that make a huge contribution to the poverty cycle.”

  • Low service provision and development

“The government uses foreigners as an excuse to not develop a number of areas. Yet when foreigners are displaced from communities, it is the government that advocates for their re-integration.”

Dialogue participants explained that jealousy drives locals as they perceive themselves as unable to compete with skills, knowledge and experience brought into the country by foreigners. For leaders this easy influx was connected to poorly protected borders. As “government only listens when communities take extreme measures” leaders explained that xenophobia was a new discovery by South Africans to ensure that their voices are heard and to catalyse service delivery. Some leaders criticised government for using informal settlements as “refugee camps”. They attributed the lack of service delivery to government’s reluctance to undertake upgrading in settlements that are home to foreign nationals.

“It is crystal clear that informal settlement residents are ignored and side-lined by government at all levels. Government has failed us completely in all areas of service delivery. Yet, we are always trying our level best, no matter what, to meet, plan and partner with government AND we will never stop trying!”

(FEDUP-ISN Press Release)

As the discussion unfolded, leaders analysed the matter in terms of their own context and role within it, recognising that “maintaining peace should start with leaders themselves”. They acknowledged that foreigners did not invade their communities but mostly settled through negotiation with respective community leaders while others rented from South Africans. Despite initially expressed frustration, participants concluded that “an eye for an eye only makes the world blind” and adopted a stance of saying “NO TO XENOPHOBIA”.

Day 2: Supporting the Displaced

Day two’s discussions included members of the police, business forums, perpetrators and affected people. Those affected explained that they had come to South Africa to improve their lives and not to sell drugs. Participants agreed that community members would help each other to communicate openly about illegal activity.


Leaders furthermore agreed that no further violence should be experienced. They recommended that illegal immigrants try return to their home countries and apply for relevant travel documents. A further recommendation related to the need for consultative public engagements (between communities and relevant government officials) on integration plans for legal immigrants.

Dialogue participants had previously expressed a growing concern with government’s limited interest in engaging relevant community structures to identify the root causes of xenophobic violence in order to find ways of ameliorating it through community-led processes. Leaders decided that going forward, ISN & FEDUP should facilitate engagements with local authorities and jointly advocate for peace and integration in communities. Community leaders would draft a Memorandum detailing the grievances.

“We are apologetic for what happened in the country. That is why we held dialogues. ISN and FEDUP play an important role: we are not going to sit and watch xenophobia happen. Some foreigners – like our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe – belong to SDI [Shack Dwellers International), just like us. The solution is to create space for leaders to engage in dialogue. ISN&FEDUP should pressure government to deliver and CORC should be the middle man between us.”

(Sipho Vanga, ISN Co-ordinator Gauteng)

Outlook: Negotiation not Violence

For ISN National Co-ordinator, Mzwanele Zulu,

“The root cause of xenophobia is apartheid. It is something we can’t run away from – discrimination and apartheid realities are still present: people live in conditions where there is no transformation. There has been human rights transformation and perhaps some psychological transformation but no change in living conditions. Political, social and economic issues – especially the high unemployment rate – affect people and cause high levels of frustration.”

Mzwanele Zulu, National ISN Coordinator

Mzwanele Zulu, National ISN Coordinator

When cities act as engines of economic growth based on neo-liberal policies and programs they result in more inequality and poverty. Access to serviced, well-located land becomes increasingly difficult, as urban land markets are exclusionary by nature. More people are forced to access land informally and experience diminished opportunities to access employment, health, education, basic services and housing. In addition people experience diminished levels of political and administrative accountability. It is in this particular political and economic context in which informal settlement communities are trying to make sense of the chaos, their inequality and poverty.

“To address issues relating to informal settlement upgrading, urban poverty and development, the state needs CBOs, social movements and NGOs to work with. The same applies to xenophobia. We need drastic contributions from the state in terms of human and financial support. But the state’s response needs to be exercised through partnership with local channels.”

(Mzwanele Zulu, ISN National Co-ordinator)

Installing Water Taps in Holomisa Gauteng

By CORC, ISN, News, uTshani Fund No Comments

By Blanca Calvo (on behalf of CORC and uTshani)

Holomisa is an informal settlement located in Katlehong (Ekurhuleni, Gauteng). In May 2014, Pumelele Ntanjana, one of the leaders of Holomisa Informal Settlement, contacted the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) to request support for a possible re-location of a portion of his settlement. Today, Holomisa has been profiled and enumerated, new taps have been installed and it has become a learning centre for other ISN communities in Gauteng.

ISN Gauteng co-ordinators with Holomisa residents

ISN Gauteng co-ordinators with Holomisa residents

The Holomisa story tracks back to an ISN leadership meeting that took place in Germiston (Ekurhuleni, Gauteng) in 2008. In that meeting, leaders from all informal settlements in the area had been invited to attend, Holomisa amongst them.

When Holomisa leadership were told by their councillor that a portion of the settlement needed to be re-located because of the enlargement of a neighbouring school, they approached ISN for support. ISN was invited to visit the settlement, where they firstly met with Holomisa leadership and the ward committee members.

The community and ISN profiled the settlement in May 2014 and identified a need for more sources of water (only 2 functioning taps for about 500 households). This was confirmed in a public meeting, where residents requested support for an immediate improvement of their daily lives through implementing more taps, improving sanitation conditions and electrifying the settlement. The settlement’s improved service delivery would also be an additional step to ensuring land tenure.

Existing Water Taps in Holomisa

Existing Water Taps in Holomisa

Three parallel processes started from there. On one side, enumerations started on the ground, identifying 446 households. Since Holomisa had been identified as a learning centre for the region, leaders from 6 neighbouring informal settlements (Emalahleni, Thintwa, Vlakplaas, Mandela, Makalakaleni and Zola) were invited to join the enumeration process, ending up with capacitated leaders to undertake the process in their own settlements. A total of 10 local and 6 external leaders were capacitated. Besides, the figures highlighted again the need for more taps, with a backlog of 8 taps to meet official standards


Holomisa Textbox1

The mobilisation team engaged with the Ward Councillor, who was informed in a partnership meeting of the intention to install more taps in Holomisa with the support of the South African SDI Alliance. The ISN sent a letter to the ward councillor saying,

“We understand that we are poor humble people struggling to make our way in life. Like every South African citizen, what we expect is a fair and reasonable service delivery from Government in return for the taxes we pay”

Finally, the savings team organised community savings to save 10% of the budget for the project. The outstanding 90% of the budget was financed by the Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) housed in uTshani Fund.

Mandela Day (18 July 2014) was finally the day for the project to start. In the space of 6 days, one tap was fixed and three more taps were installed. 25 local residents volunteered for the project, a technical team of 10 ISN members was on site and 6 leaders from neighbouring informal settlements were invited to participate and learn in the process, thus increasing their skills and building capacity.

New Water Taps in Holomisa

New Water Taps in Holomisa

Holomisa Textbox2

The project was a success for the communities involved, not only because the installation of more taps improved the living conditions of Holomisa residents, but also because some valuable lessons were learnt.

  • Firstly, the will of the people has been proved to be the best tool to work with. The residents identified the need for more taps and lead the project from the first day.
  • Secondly, the power of residents taking ownership of the project. Residents did not wait for external people and institutions for their permissions or to come to the work, they pushed for their needs to be heard and did it themselves.
  • Finally, the learning centre has proved to be a success. 6 leaders from other informal settlements were capacitated using almost the same amount of resources.

However Holomisa’s story does not end here and the process is still on-going. Holomisa residents, are in discussion with their Ward Councillor for the re-location process of a section of the settlement. Continuous engagement with the ISN will ensure that the re-located residents will be allocated a new portion of land, which it is still to be identified.



How Community Construction Management Teams (CCMT) can lead upgrading projects

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, uTshani Fund No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)


The venue : Makhaza Day Care Centre in Khayelitsha Cape Town

If designing and planning with communities are key aspects of people-led projects then people-led implementation and -construction are too. The SA Alliance – through the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) – has pioneered this people-led approach since 1994. By lobbying government, FEDUP strongly influenced low-income housing policy that came to be known as “the People’s Housing Process” (PHP), a special housing subsidy that allowed for much greater involvement of communities in the construction of their houses. Since then, FEDUP members have successfully implemented the construction of their houses through Community Construction Management Teams (CCMTs).

Although CCMTs have for the most part been linked to housing projects in the Alliance, setting them up is just as relevant to the Alliance’s more recent involvement in informal settlement upgrading. During this week’s three day CCMT workshop, experienced CCMT members introduced Cape Town community leaders to the CCMT model of community-led construction and explored how it could function in informal settlement upgrading.

The Exchange

Over three days Hasane Khoza (Abi) and Maureen Skepu from Gauteng shared their experiences in community construction with about 30 leaders from 6 settlements in Cape Town. With a background in construction management, Abi has helped to train and set up CCMTs and monitor housing projects. Maureen has a rich experience in CCMTs – she became a member of FEDUP in the early 2000s, accepted a volunteer position with a local CCMT five years later, and in 2011, moved into her own CCMT constructed house in Orange Farm, Gauteng. Read more about Maureen’s story here.


Day 1 of exchange: background and formation of CCMTs

During the exchange, Abi and Maureen provided some background on the formation and strcuture of CCMTs, roles and responsibilities of each CCMT member and how to introduce the model of CCMTs to informal settlement upgrading.

The group also spent an afternoon in Flamingo informal settlement, which is currently upgrading and re-blocking. The visit offered an ideal opportunity for Flamingo’s steering committee to explain the way in which they have organised themselves so far and to explore the potential for them to form a CCMT to further streamline and ease the overall management of re-blocking. For the other communities present the site visit offered a first hand impression of what to consider for managing an upgrading project.

Terence Johnson, who has been involved in Flamingo from the outset on behalf of the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) explained,

“There are so many challenges and things you need to consider during upgrading. Some people don’t want to be moved, the rain causes flooding and leakages…. but we need to see these things not as a problem but as a challenge. And we can overcome challenges, especially if we work in a group like a CCMT. ”

Flamingo steering committee putting during on-site construction

Flamingo steering committee putting during on-site construction

How CCMTs work

On the first day Maureen explained,

 “The idea behind CCMTs is that communities oversee and implement projects themselves. In this way the community can make sure that the job is done properly. Because of this you need dedicated and thorough people on the team. The benefit of CCMTs compared to general steering committees are that each member has clear roles and responsibilities”

(Maureen Skepu, FEDUP housing project coordinator, Gauteng)

Within FEDUP, the CCMT process includes all the stages of house building: from drawing plans (which are formalised by qualified architects and engineers) to the construction process, which is contracted out to community members. The construction team consists of five members who each have a specific task: the technical officer requests specific items and provides quality control, the bookkeeper sources the best and cheapest materials, the storekeeper controls the inflow and outflow of stock, the loan and savings officer looks after the community’s finances, and the project manager oversees the whole process. And, unlike in the private and public building sector, most of the construction team’s members are women.

“The idea is to capacitate a community to move from being just employed in a project to driving the project themselves. Project management is a skill that can be learnt. Everyone can be taught and everything we know we have learnt. Managing a project leads to empowering a community.”

(Abi / Hasane Khoza, CCMT Construction Manager)


Abi answering questions about CCMTs

Community Questions, Discussions and Insights

The workshop was a space of many questions and lively discussions. These were about how to break down the budget at community level so each person knows exact quantities and costs of materials to expect, at what stage in a project process a CCMT could be formed, or that women’s strength, resilience and thoroughness are good qualities for CCMT members. The communities present also liked the idea that CCMTs share the overall responsibility of an upgrading project – a shift from one person to a team of people.

In reflecting on the three days that passed, the community members expressed their value for exploring how the CCMT process can work in informal settings and upgrading projects. The suggested next steps are to establish guiding templates for establishing CCMTs as well as monitoring and documenting project processes on the ground, so that these can be shared with others as well.

“What we can learn from the CCMT workshop is that we need to continue learning, especially from the mistakes we make. Let’s not only make a habit of learning but actually do something with what we learn”

(Lindiwe Ralarala, Masilunge community leader)

Discussing the role of slopes and gradients on the upgrading site.

A discussion on the role of slopes and gradients on the upgrading site.

Gauteng settlements install ‘Litres of Light’

By CORC, ISN No Comments

By Motebang Matsela and Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)


Naledi informal settlement in Soweto, Johannesburg

Many informal settlement dwellers have no access to electricity and are forced to rely on open fires, gas and paraffin appliances or candles as sources of light, warmth and energy.  The resulting frequency of fires that ravage informal settlement homes throughout South Africa is well known.  Gauteng’s Informal Settlement Network (ISN) introduced an alternative lighting option to community members in Gauteng settlements together with a team from ‘Litre of Light‘ Switzerland, who visited Johannesburg from 5-12 April 2014.

‘Litre of Light’ offers an alternative source of light through installing a 2litre PET bottle – that is filled with purified water and bleach – onto the roof of a structure. The water inside the bottle refracts the sunlight during the day and creates the same light intensity as a 55-Watt light bulb. With the correct installation and materials a solar bottle can last up to 5 years. The ‘Litre of Light’ is assembled by using cheap, durable and readily available materials. This enables urban poor households to access an affordable, environmentally friendly, long-term alternative to electric light during the day.

Demonstrations on how to assemble the 'Litre of Light' bottle

A ‘Litre of Light’ team member demonstrates how to assemble the light

ISN representatives introduced the team from Liter of Light to community members in four Gauteng settlements: Kliptown and Naledi in Soweto (South West Johannesburg), Innesfree informal settlement in Sandton (North Johannesburg) and Holomisa informal settlement (East of Johannesburg).  They had chosen these settlements because of the poor light conditions – many shacks do not have windows and those that do, only receive limited light due to the high density of structures in the settlement.

Over the week, the ‘Litre of Light’ team visited each settlement and workshopped community members on how to assemble the lights: a two litre plastic bottle is pushed through a steel sheet that serves as a metal lock to prevent the bottle from slipping. It is then embedded into a corrugated iron roof. A small part of the bottle is left outside while the rest of it protrudes into the room. After the initial demonstration community members proceeded to assemble their own lights. Each community installed a light in two structures. ISN community leaders are establishing the interest that was generated after this initial exchange – with a view to establishing how to move towards a broader vision of “candle-less settlements”.

The readily available materials and straightforward assembly process means that a majority of informal settlement households can install the light themselves.  This also brings about a potential income-generation opportunity in the long term. Both ISN and the Litre of Light team hope to spread this alternative source of light, as a manner of improving livelihood opportunities for shack dwellers and minimising the risk of day-time shack fires.

A community member in Innesfree, Johannesburg assembles a 'Litre of Light' bottle

A community member in Innesfree, Johannesburg assembles a ‘Litre of Light’ bottle

National leaders of the Alliance congregate in Cape Town

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, News, uTshani Fund No Comments

By  Walter Fieuw, CORC

Leaders of the South African SDI Alliance congregated between 16 – 18 January 2012 at the Lutheran Youth Centre in Athlone to follow up on progress made since the strategic meeting held at Kolping House in January 2011. At last year’s meeting, the Alliance agreed to a shift of focus towards upgrading of informal settlements. Despite one of the world’s largest housing delivery programmes, the South African government has failed to curb the demand for housing and the improvement of basic living conditions for milllions of poor people. The Alliance has pledged ‘to strengthen the voice of the urban and rural poor in order to improve quality of life in informal settlements and backyard dwellings’. This we will accomplish by supporting communities who are willing and able to help themselves.

At Kolping House strategic meeting, the following four broad strategies would define the work of the network:

1. Building communities through FEDUP and ISN using SDI social tools;

2. Building partnerships with government at all tiers;

3. Implementing partnerships through projects; and

4. Keeping record of learning, monitoring and evaluation.

Upgrading informal settlements is an inherently complex endeavour considering the various socio-political realities connect to harsh living conditions and illegality. However, across South Africa the urban poor are mobilising and building institutional capacity to engage local governments around community-initiated upgrading agendas. As the Alliance’s saying goes, “Nothing for us without us”. Dialogues and outcomes of this year’s strategic meeting focused on meeting the development indicators which the Alliance set for itself at Kolping House. This year will see a renewed focus on the following:

  • Capacitating regional leadership structures, and the creation of a national ISN coordinating team
  • Recommitment to the spirit of daily savings, daily mobilisation and daily exchanges of learning
  • Deepening the quality of selected settlement upgrading, while growing the ISN network
  • Developing relevant and sensitive indicators, guidelines and protocols for the Alliance’s core activities to spur self-monitoring and evaluation.
  • Resourcing the Alliance through effective partnerships with local governments, universities and other development agencies such as the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP, Dept of Human Settlements) and the promotion of establishing Urban Poor Funds, similar to the Stellenbosch experience (hyperlink: http://www.sasdialliance.org.za/blog/Memorandum/)

Building coalitions of the urban poor able to capture the imaginations of city builders, both from the top-down and the bottom-up, is not often highly regarded or understood when upgrading strategies are devised. The Alliance is committed to strengthening the voices of the urban poor through building effective, pro-poor partnerships and platforms with local government, and implementing these partnerships at project level. As the process to understand the discrepancies and commonalities between the agendas of communities and the municipality gets underway, work must begin. Communities and the municipality develop, in partnership, a mix of “quick wins” that can build trust and show real change for communities. At the same time, the Alliance is also geared towards challenging many of the assumptions that lie behind planning for the urban poor throughout cities in South Africa. Other projects that get chosen for implementation are difficult cases designed to influence the way the municipality operates so that its methods come closer to the planning priorities of communities. All the project types also influence communities. At these interfaces of bottom-up agency and top-down city management, new ways of seeing, grappling with and finding solutions for informality emerge, and shack dwellers are no longer passive by-standers to the development enterprise, but active partners and innovators of finding workable, affordable and scalable solutions to urban poverty.