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NEW PUBLICATION: A people’s led approach to informal settlement upgrading

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Exploring partnerships with local government: A people’s-led approach to informal settlement upgrading

It is with great pleasure that we share our most recent publication:  

It comes at a time when South Africa is grappling with issues of land, redress and possible legislative amendments in the face of poverty, inequality and exclusion. The effects of these living conditions are borne by the poorest of the poor, many of whom live in urban informal dwellings.

For over twenty years, shack dweller communities linked to FEDUP have recognised that an amendment in formal rights does not necessarily guarantee improved living conditions. In response, these urban poor communities have been organising themselves to engage the state to ensure incremental solutions to land, shelter, livelihood and tenure. 

This publication narrates the experiences of informal settlement communities who, together with FEDUP and ISN, have sought formalised partnerships with cities and municipalities.

We ask: what are the ingredients for a people’s led approach to building effective partnerships with local governments, specifically around informal settlement upgrading? 

Based on the experiences of FEDUP and ISN across South Africa from 2008 – 2018, the publication also examines the factors that contribute to the breakdown of such partnerships, once established. 

Our intention is that this publication will be useful to a variety of actors: urban poor communities when organising and engaging with municipalities, municipal and government representatives, organisations in the sector, interested actors in academia, the private sector, and general public when engaging with informal settlement residents and communities. 

Our hope is that this publication contributes an additional narrative to the current debates on land and redress –  a narrative that reflects the voices and organising strategies of urban poor communities.


Why we save: A photo story by FEDUP Mpumalanga

By FEDUP, Savings One Comment

By Ntombikayise Promise and Emgard Msibi (on behalf of FEDUP)

This photo story (text and images) was compiled by members of a FEDUP savings scheme in Mpumalanga with the purpose of introducing how urban poor women organise themselves through savings activities. 

It all starts with our ambitious citizens uniting to form one strategic society.

FEDUP members gather for a savings meeting in Kwa-Ndebele.

FEDUP members gather for a savings meeting in Kwa-Ndebele, Mpumalanga

When we stand together, we shall conquer. We create sustainable development through people-led development. Knowledge is power! We are one!

More impressions of KwaNdebele savings meeting

More impressions of KwaNdebele savings meeting

Securing our beautiful land for the poor. Umhlaba Wethu, Izwe Lethu. Our Land, Our Country. These women together with Walter Monyela [from CORC] gathered to ask the Chief of Kwa-Ndebele permission to buy the land of KwaMhlanga-Mountain View where they aim to build one hundred houses for the poor.

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As long as we are in motion, we will get there. Our vision is SMARTSustainable, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time bound.


Mama Madonsela speaks about being a FEDUP members in Leandra, Mpumalanga:

“It is a good experience to work with the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) because it has brought us dignity and happiness. We were able to get together as a unique group to gather information and then explore our talents. Hence we showcase our skills through the great work of art”

The vision of these FEDUP members is to develop their own initiatives by using their skills and drawing on the support of FEDUP. Not only do these members have skills for art but they also have their own garden where they plant mushrooms and strawberries. They are still in search of a market to sell these.

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Saving for the near future 

Initially the community of FEDUP did not see the value of saving, up until it was introduced to FEDUP. FEDUP in Bethal continued to grow from a small number of collectives. These women gather every Sunday afternoon to save money. Saving money makes them happy and wise enough to make good financial decisions with their lives.

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The coordinators in our savings groups play different roles. In the picture below our loan facilitator is Sbongile, our treasurer is Neliswe, Thembi organises transportation, Mainah is our secretary and Nomvula Nkosi is our programme director.


Our savings groups in Bethal, Mpumalanga:

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SDI and SA SDI Alliance meets Pope Francis at World Meeting of Popular Movements in Rome

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By Bunita Kohler (on behalf of SA SDI Alliance)

From 27 – 29 October 2014 the World Meeting of Popular Movements was held in Rome. It was initiated by the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace together with the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences along with a number of social movements.

The meeting was largely aimed at organisations and movements of excluded and marginalised communities. The event brought together over one hundred delegates from different backgrounds. Delegates represented precarious workers, temporary workers, migrant workers, the landless, homeless and people most at risk. Many bishops and other church workers also participated in the event.

WMPopular Movements Rome1

The theme of the meeting was defined as: Terra, Domus and Labor (Land, Housing and Labour). Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) was among those invited and was privileged to send ten delegates to the event.

The first day of the conference focused on popular movements sharing their realities, struggles and thoughts on the lack of decent work opportunities , decent shelter and adequate land. On Day 2 Pope Francis addressed the conference and thanked everyone for accepting the invitation to discuss serious social issues.  He described the meeting of popular movements as a positive sign, a sign that the poor are no longer satisfied with mere promises.

“The poor are no longer waiting, they are organized. They put solidarity into action. Solidarity is not just a few sporadic acts of generosity. It means struggling against the structural causes of inequality”.

”You smell of your neighbourhoods and you are a gale of hope for your communities.   Love of the poor is at the heart of the Gospel and the social teaching of the church. God entrusted land to humans to protect and cultivate the land. Land reform he said is not just a necessity but a moral obligation.  Every family should have a home. We must build neighbourhoods and live together with our neighbours.The lack of job opportunities is an outcome of a social option that considers profit more than human beings, a system that views people as disposable objects which demonstrates the worst form of exploitation and a “waste culture”.What we see today is a “Globalisation of indifference” – the world has become an orphan as God has been forgotten.”


The Pope called for a revolutionary programme and a social structure that once again put people at the centre.

Pope Francis was positive that Popular Movements could be the revolutionary force to create a new order and give new energies to society. Popular movements should encourage new forms of participation and leadership that would include rather than exclude. They should create leaders that are subservient and humble and that gives space to the youth, a leadership that is noble and gentle and leaders who are truthful and who will lead by example.

In his final remarks to the delegation the Pope committed to walk side by side with the Popular Movements.

“My wish”, he said, “Is to accompany you on your journey. We will make our way together”

In summary, day two was indeed a historic and emotional day for all the delegates. The Pope treated us like brothers and sisters, was cheerful and very clearly expressed his beliefs and views on the disorder that reigns in our world today. He expressed solidarity with the causes of TERRA, DOMUS and LABOR. He said that the poor needed to be the protagonists, not the “ones being helped”. The poor are able to help themselves when they defend their right to land, housing and jobs.

Day two was a day that spoke to the hearts and minds of us all, an emotional time in which the Pope entered into our “homes”.   We experienced the Pope speak from the heart and we witnessed his respect for human life and his deep love and respect for human beings.

The third and final day was devoted to concrete commitments for continued interaction among the popular movements and their collaboration with the church.  The discussions on day three focused on finding solutions and alternatives to ensure a house for everyone, land for everyone and a job for everyone.

For our movement, Shack Dwellers International, this was an opportune moment to build links, to create greater solidarity and to commit to on-going coordination with other landless, homeless and jobless movements in order to strengthen the voice of the poor internationally.

South African delegates attending mass at the Vatican. Left to Right: Wilma Adams (SDI), Rose Molokoane (SDI & FEDUP), Bunita Kohler (CORC)

South African delegates attending mass at the Vatican. Left to Right: Wilma Adams (SDI), Rose Molokoane (SDI & FEDUP), Bunita Kohler (CORC)