Mtshini Wam Archives - SASDI Alliance

Reflections on re-blocking: Why community participation is key

By CORC, ISN No Comments

By Ava Rose Hoffman (on behalf of CORC)

In this blog, the SA SDI Alliance speaks with Nkokheli Ncambele—ISN Coordinator of the Western Cape—to learn about how the participation process functions on the ground during informal settlement upgrading, and in particular, reblocking initiatives . Reflecting upon the Alliance’s early experiences with re-blocking in Sheffield Road (2010-2011) and Mtshini Wam (2012-2013), Nkokheli highlights the value of building partnerships between informal settlements, support NGOs, and local governments.

How has the re-blocking process enabled residents to better engage with city officials or service providers in the long run? Has the re-blocking process enabled citizens to become more knowledgeable about how to interact with the state?

In our project called Sheffield Road, the government was saying [to community members] that they can’t do anything in the road reserve. But when the community started engaging with the municipality, the community learned how to negotiate with the city, [using] their tools—starting from profiling and enumerations. The enumeration is what helped them identify their problem, and then they start engaging [with the City]. Through the engagement they decided to start reblocking cluster one. When they finished Cluster One, everyone in the community was saying, ‘This thing is working, we want this thing [reblocking.’ Then they started rolling it out in the community. While they were in Cluster 3, the government saw the value of re-blocking, and then they came and installed 15 toilets that were not there before. So, that exercise [served to] teach a lesson to the government, and teach a lesson to the community.

Community members discuss the re-blocked design in Sheffield Road

Community members discuss the re-blocked design in Sheffield Road











In Mtshini Wam, each and every winter they [the community] experienced flooding. And when they went to government, government was saying they can’t do anything [improvements] there because there is no space. And the community started organizing their general meetings, and trying to find a solution. Because, remember, they are the ones living in those conditions, so they had to come [up] with the solutions, and their solution was re-blocking. They went on an exchange to Sheffield Road to see what other communities were doing. When they came back, they started engaging with the people [in their community], and the technical teams of CORC and ISN went to Mtshini Wam and started helping them [with] how to design their community [reblocked layout]. At the end of the day, even if you can go today to Mtshini Wam, they will tell you that this re-blocking, it helped us a lot because, they were living in bad conditions. They were affected by their health because of the gray water that was smelling.

How did that engagement or negotiation with the state play out after the re-blocking was complete? Was there any continued engagement between the community and the state after the process was complete?

There is always a question of, ‘What else after this? What are we going to do?’ Obviously engagement is still happening between the community and the municipality, because, remember, these people, they don’t have a title deed. So they have to negotiate for the title deed. So now, their engagement is on another level. It’s not on the level of shelter; it’s on another level of getting houses, adequate houses. I remember they finished their design, where they said what they want: double stories where everyone can fit. And they even went to Joe Slovo in Langa to see how the design of Joe Slovo looked like, because it’s what they want to implement in their community.

Do you think the re-blocking projects have helped to change power dynamics within communities or empower more vulnerable members of communities?

I think firstly, what re-blocking brings to the community is security. It brings the trust between the community itself, because where they were residing before, no one would know their neighbours. But after the re-blocking, now, everyone is known in the community. It’s a community, its not an informal settlement anymore, it’s a community where the people of that community have pride in what they did. It also brings trust to the leadership—the leaders are the ones who will take us to the house.

Who would you define as vulnerable members of a community? Do you think that re-blocking has helped those vulnerable members get more of a voice in their communities?

I’m not going to answer your question directly, but I will always come out with an explanation.

If you go to Mtshini Wam, there were people that were not having income, not even a cent—so they were vulnerable in the sense that they don’t receive anything— [while] other community members were working, and received income. When we started, there were people that were vulnerable, and you can see that their situation is very bad, but once we brought the re-blocking concept, where we manage to employ 45 people, those that were vulnerable earn something. It’s where they change their lives, you know. And now, there is no one—I can guarantee to you today—that is very vulnerable. Everyone is in the same level because of re-blocking. That’s why I’m saying, re-blocking, it brings a lot of things. It brings job opportunities, it brings basic services, it’s not only about changing the structure, it’s about what government can play in your community when you say, ‘I want re-blocking.’

A community where no one is working, and no one is receiving a grant—that is what I call a vulnerable community, because there is no income.

Community members at work in Mtshini Wam re-blocking

Community members at work in Mtshini Wam’s re-blocking process

How did communities and the City change through the process of re-blocking? What was that mutual learning process like?

What I can say is that, the city has changed through the system that the people brought… The government at that time would tell the community: ‘We are going to put the toilet here.’ But the challenge of that community is not a toilet. The community wants electricity. So, once we start engaging with the government, in 2010, it’s when the government started listening, now that the people know what they want. We are not fighting with their ideas, but we want them to listen to us. Because we are the ones who are residing in those conditions. We are the ones who are walking in the dark at night.

It shows that people learn a lot and the city learned, because the city put a lot of basic services in different communities. The communities that started before 1994, they’ve got basic services now. It shows that the city learned how to listen to the people. And the people know how to engage with the city now. Because the leadership—you will find different leadership going to see the mayor, you will find that the mayor is going to the communities—there is that engagement now. Re-blocking and engagement—having the ISN involved—changed a lot of people.

Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Ms. Kota-Fredericks, visits the newly re-blocked Mtshini Wam in 2012

Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Ms. Kota-Fredericks, visits the newly re-blocked Mtshini Wam in 2012

Know Your City: Why we need community collected data on informal settlements

By Community-led Data Collection, CORC, FEDUP, ISN One Comment

By Charlton Ziervogel (on behalf of CORC)

Urbanization and the growth of informal settlements

Urbanization in South Africa has not followed the usual patterns as witnessed in many other developing countries from the 1980’s through to present day. This was in large part due to government interventions in the process up to the 1990’s, which saw to a very controlled restriction of movement of people from rural to urban centres (Turok, 2012) that effectively slowed the process. With the fall of the Apartheid government and the abolishment of the laws of controlled movement into urban areas the post 1994 period in South Africa saw massive increases in urbanization. Looking at the period 1980, in which 42,5% of the population lived in urban areas (Giraut & Vacchiani-Marcuzzo, 2005), in which 60% of the population lived in urban areas (United Nations, 2011), we witness a jump in the urban population of 17,5%.

It is no coincidence that during the period 1994 to 2011 informal settlements in South Africa increased in number from approximately 300 [1] to around 2700 in 2011 (SACN, 2011) due to the inability of government to keep up with housing demand. This growth in informality has been focused in urban areas with Western Cape municipalities experiencing influx due to a number of factors, including better employment opportunities, access to services and perceived increases in quality of life. This growth has resulted in shacks in backyards and shacks not in backyards accommodating almost 20% of all households in the province (HDA Western Cape, 2013).


What we lack in current data on informal settlements

Engaging with the Western Cape Province, and the City of Cape Town in particular, the scale of informality as described by 2011 census statistics is thus apparent (almost 1 in every 5 households live in informal structures). Yet, this information is already 4 years old and the continued rapid influx of people and changing spatial configurations and distribution of informal settlements over relatively short periods of time, places the province and the City of Cape Town in the very vulnerable position of trying to address problems of informality with information that is no longer reliable and in need of updating.

To effectively implement any successful upgrading plan or strategy as posited in National Upgrade Support Programme (NUSP) and the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP), municipalities need far more nuanced information to inform upgrading strategies. Census data is not aggregated at settlement level (HDA RSA, 2013) further compounding the ability to take into account settlement specific needs and context. The National Development Plan (NDP) also emphasizes the general lack of adequate information about the nature and conditions of each of the informal settlements, further hampering the strategic use of resources or the development of settlement specific solutions (NDP, 2012).

The value of community data and how it is collected

It is within this data deficiency, that community led housing enumeration and GIS mapping projects need to be positioned to better equip municipalities and provinces with updated information on informal settlements, placing actors in municipalities and provinces in a position to adequately plan for future upgrading developments in these settlements.

Amongst the methodologies employed for information gathering is the tool of informal settlement enumerations and the detailed mapping of settlements using GIS technology.

Shack numbering in Nyanga

Shack numbering in Nyanga

Mapping shack numbers in Nyanga

These tools derive their origins from the Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI) network, where for more than 30 years the SDI network recognized the importance of accurate and reliable data on informal settlements to help urban poor communities engage their local authorities in building effective partnerships towards a city-wide approach to in-situ informal settlement upgrading strategies (Arputham, 2012). The key difference in the SDI approach is that critical focus is placed on a community driven process, which allows for greater scale of activities and interventions as well as higher success rates in terms of the implementation of upgrading projects.

Profiling in UT Gardens, Khayelitsha

Profiling in UT Gardens, Khayelitsha

Within the context of informal settlement enumerations and mapping, this participatory approach is even more valuable as it has proven time and time again in various developing countries that when a mobilized community understands the importance of accurate data and maps and participates in the collection of this data around their own settlement, far higher degrees of accuracy are achieved than any census or survey that might utilize “outsiders” as the sole enumerators (Baptist & Bolnick, 2012, Livengood & Kunte, 2012).

Community Based Data Collection in Cape Town: Joe Slovo, Mtshini Wam, Kuku Town, and Flamingo Crescent

As urban poor people’s networks, FEDUP and ISN, together with CORC, have gathered experience in gearing communities towards self-enumeration and mapping.

Community members capture enumeration data

Community members capture enumeration data

For example, information available to the City of Cape Town had estimated the population of Joe Slovo along the N2 (N2 Gateway project) to be way larger than reality with the proposal of only a percentage of the residents being part of the housing project causing real concerns amongst the community. An enumeration conducted in 2009 spearheaded by the SA SDI Alliance was able to ascertain a more accurate population size based on a participatory approach, which paved the way for the possibility of the housing development moving ahead with all the current residents at the time included.

Other examples in Cape Town include the re-blocking of Mtshini Wam, Kuku Town and Flamingo Crescent informal settlements which all utilized the community driven enumeration and mapping approach to set up accurate beneficiary lists. These enumeration and GIS databases developed by CORC, ISN and FEDUP have been utilized by the City of Cape Town in the provision of electricity connections, contract work through the Expanded Public Works Program (EPWP) as well as assisting in detailed layout plans for the re-configuration of the settlements.

The necessity of working relationships with government

All this is only achievable through the establishment of practical working relationships and partnerships with government. In addressing the data deficiency described above this approach is not merely to gather information but to create the added benefit of a very practical community and local authority partnership.

Participatory data collection is an approach built upon the successes and lessons learnt in over 2 decades of informal settlement enumerations by the SA SDI Alliance. The Alliance’s experience in the implementation of 144 informal settlement enumerations in South Africa over the past 6 years, covering approximately 65,400 households has shown that the approach of deep community participation, even at the level of the data gathering exercise, leads to stronger community networks with the ability to assist local governments in prioritizing upgrading initiatives within a broader strategic framework. Furthermore, this deep participatory approach mobilizes communities towards determining their own development agendas.

Community generated data informs community planning

Community generated data informs community planning


  • Arputham, 2012. How community-based enumerations started and developed in India, Environment and Urbanization 2012 24:27, Sage, IIED
  • Baptist, C and Bolnick, B. 2012. Participatory enumerations, in situ upgrading and mega events: The 2009 survey in Joe Slovo, Cape Town, Environment and Urbanization 2012 24:59, Sage, IIED
  • Giraut, F. and Vacchiani-Marcuzzo, C. 2009. Territories and Urbanisation in South Africa: Atlas and geo-historical information system. Institut de Recherche Pour le Developpement, Paris.
  • Housing Development Agency (HDA), Western Cape: Informal Settlements Status 2013. Research Report, HDA
  • Housing Development Agency (HDA), South Africa: Informal Settlements Status 2013. Research Report, HDA
  • Livengood, A and Kunte, K. 2012. Enabling participatory planning with GIS: a case study of settlement mapping in Cuttack, India, Environment and Urbanization 2012 24:77, Sage, IIED
  • SACN (South African Cities Network) 2011. 2011 State of SA Cities Report. SACN, Johannesburg.
  • South African Government Information. 2012. Our Future – make it work: National Development Plan 2030. 14 November 2012. http://www.gov.za/documents/national-development-plan-vision-2030
  • Turok 2012. Urbanisation and Development in South Africa: Economic Imperatives, Spatial Distortions and Strategic Responses. Urbanization and Emerging Population Issues Working Paper 8, International Institute for Environment and Development United Nations Population Fund
  • United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. 2012. World
  • Urbanization Prospects: The 2011 Revision

[1] Presentation made by NUSP at the Policy Consultative Workshop held on 5 September 2014 at the Town House Hotel (Cape Town)

From Nairobi to Cape Town: Learning about Upgrading and Partnerships with Local Government

By CORC, FEDUP, ISN, Learning Exchanges, SDI No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

From Ghetto informal settlement in Nairobi, the Kenyan SDI Alliance together with an official from the nearby Kiambu County Government visited the South African SDI Alliance on a learning exchange in Cape Town from 22 – 25 February 2016. Community leaders and an official from Ekurhuleni Municipality, near Johannesburg, also joined the group.

The purpose of the exchange was to share experiences regarding informal settlement upgrading, partnership formation between community movements and local governments, project planning, preparation and mobilisation processes. Kenya’s Federation, Muungano wa Wanavijiji has been supporting Ghetto community in obtaining tenure security and identifying housing beneficiaries. Currently the settlement is set for the final phase in a government-upgrading project that requires re-planning its public spaces and houses, a familiar process that the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) and Informal Settlement Network (ISN) call “reblocking”.


Priscilla, community leader in Sheffield Road speaks about reblocking

With introductions and an overview of the SA SDI Alliance on the first day, the visitors shared their key learning interests as relating to

  • Partnership Formation between communities themselves and between communities and local governments
  • Upgrading Processes – how communities organise themselves during upgrading, how technicalities in construction and implementation are dealt with, the role of project funding and community saving

Savings and Income Generation

With savings as the core practice of the SDI network, the afternoon visit took place at a FEDUP savings and income generation group in Samora Machel, Philippi. The group explained how its FEDUP membership enabled individuals to access small loans from the Federation Income Generation Program (FIGP). With a particular set of criteria for loan access, repayments and additional loan cycles, the group had established a number of small businesses such as beading, second hand clothing, fried chicken or locally tailored clothing.

The meeting sparked an animated discussion on how savers could maintain their momentum and interest in savings, especially after receiving a house or an informal settlement upgrade upgrading can be seen as fulfilling the “immediate savings purpose”. A loan group member explained that she viewed saving as valuable backup to draw on when problems arose. In Kenya, members became tired of “saving for nothing” – they therefore began using their savings in smaller projects while waiting for larger projects to occur. The Kenyan visitors further noted the value building trust between members through administering loans to small groups of five savers.


Mary Wambui (Kenya SDI Alliance) and John Mulia (Kenya Official) look at FEDUP savings book

FEDUP Income Generation businesses in Samora Machel

FEDUP Income Generation businesses in Samora Machel

Reblocking in the City of Cape Town

Over the next two days the group traced re-blocking projects and informal settlement upgrading projects in the municipalities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch.

In Cape Town the SA SDI Alliance used its first re-blocking projects in Joe Slovo and Sheffield Road settlements to build a partnership with the City of Cape Town to jointly pursue future upgrading and reblocking projects. As a result the City adopted reblocking as a policy, an indicator of increased intent to engage with community-led processes. In Sheffield Road the group saw how reblocking establishes access routes, courtyards, increased space for communal water and sanitation installation as well as safer public open spaces. Since reblocking, the community has successfully negotiated for electricity installation.

Courtyard in Sheffield Road after reblocking

Courtyard in Sheffield Road after reblocking

In Sheffield Road: Rashid and Samuel (Kenyan Federation) in discussion with Lulama (ISN leader for Philippi region)

In Sheffield Road: Rashid and Samuel (Kenyan Federation) in discussion with Lulama (ISN leader for Philippi region)

Mtshini Wam was the first settlement that was reblocked in partnership with the City of Cape Town in 2013. While walking through the settlement the group noticed the improved differences between the projects: the layout of Mtshini Wam enabled 2 households to share water and sanitation facilities. Noticeably, a number of residents had self-built a second storey on to their structure after having participated in a community design process for double storey units as further development after upgrading. Through persistent negotiations after reblocking, the community received municipal electricity and ground levelling to mitigate flooding. ISN National Coordinator, Mzwanele Zulu, explained that such incremental upgrading contributed to incremental tenure security.

Double storey structures in Mtshini Wam

Double storey structures in Mtshini Wam

In Flamingo Crescent, the most recently upgraded settlement (2014), community leader Maria Matthews introduced the group to the settlement’s reblocking experience: engaging fellow community members to save, planning meetings with the City and community participation during reconstruction. Due to its enumeration figures and the reblocked layout, the community succeeded in negotiating for individual service installation and electricity per re-blocked household (1:1 services). Flamingo’s site was levelled with all access roads paved and named before erecting the reblocked structures. The visitors saw that for the SA Alliance, upgrading / reblocking is a cumulative experience, with consistent improvements in new projects based on past project learning.

“Reblocking made a big difference, but upgrading is far from over,” Maria Matthews explained. “We have many social and health problems remaining here.”

(Maria Matthews, Flamingo Crescent Community Leader)

Arrival in Flamingo Crescent

Arrival in Flamingo Crescent

After reblocking in Flamingo. 1:1 Services per household.

After reblocking in Flamingo. 1:1 Services per household.

Upgrading in Stellenbosch Municipality

In Langrug the group encountered an example of partial reblocking in a settlement about ten times the population size of those in Cape Town, with about 4000 residents. Community leader, Trevor Masiy, traced the settlement’s partnership with the SA SDI Alliance and the joint partnership agreement with Stellenbosch Municipality, which informed the settlement’s upgrading initiatives in drainage and storm water projects and two Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Facilities. Trevor also highlighted the challenges experienced by disrepair of past upgrading projects. He therefore emphasised the value of community involvement not only in project planning and implementation but also in maintenance.

Walking through partially reblocked section of Langrug.

Walking through partially reblocked section of Langrug.

View on to Langrug

View on to Langrug

Water and Sanitation Facility in Zwelitsha section, Langrug

Water and Sanitation Facility in Zwelitsha section, Langrug

Partnership Meetings

Two separate partnership meetings with Stellenbosch Municipality and the City of Cape Town allowed the visitors and two visiting officials an insight into the practical workings of partnership building and project negotiations. The partnership meetings in Cape Town and Stellenbosch focussed on updating all gathered on current project progress and discussions on renewing and continuing the partnership relationships. Discussion highlights included:

Cape Town

  • Alliance emphasises that its partnership focus with the City is not only reblocking but also informal settlement and area-wide upgrading


  • The muincipality explained that reblocking is not just about structure upgrades but about enabling basic service provision
  • The municipality spoke about its partnership with Langrug and SA Alliance as fluid, moving towards different ways and means of reaching a common goal
Partnership Meeting with Stellenbosch Municipality in Franschoek

Partnership Meeting with Stellenbosch Municipality in Franschoek

Alliance begins Cape Town partnership meeting in song in Bosasa Community Hall, Mfuleni

Alliance begins Cape Town partnership meeting in song in Bosasa Community Hall, Mfuleni

Reflections and Learnings

On Upgrading:

  • “We have been focussing on permanent houses. This can become strenuous for communities because it demands resources and scaling up. But our thinking has changed when we saw how reblocking has attracted government attention. (Rashid Muka, Kenyan Federation Leader)
  • “In Kenya we always thought that upgrading means erecting permanent structures. I am learning about incremental upgrading – something I’d like to take home” (John Mulia, Kiambu County Government, Kenya)
  • “The value of an incremental approach is that you don’t start with the end product (a house) and impose it on a community. Upgrading is not only housing. You can be in a temporary shack and as long as you have opened up spaces to basic services, then that is upgrading.” (Mary Wambui, Kenyan SDI Alliance )

On Building Parternerships

  • “What is key in achieving a relationship with a municipality? Involving the community, drafting good plans and implementing precedent setting projects that can influence policy, especially if there is no policy yet” (Sizwe Mxobo, CORC Technical Support)
  • Strong social movements that know what they want are important in building partnerships. They can remind municipalities about their commitments” (Nkokheli Ncambele, ISN Coordinator Western Cape)
  • “We want to pull stakeholders together and understand how to journey together. We want to be able to say this exchange gave birth to some of the lessons we learnt. What has come out clearly is the value of learning by doing.” (Rashid Muka, Kenyan Federation Leader)
Group gathers in a courtyard in Sheffield Road

Group gathers in a courtyard in Sheffield Road

On Community-Led Engagement

  • In this exchange I understood a lot about talking with communities. Government needs to understand the value of partners coming on board. The government of Kenya has made many plans but the community needs to point out what they want and need, not us the government. A project becomes sustainable when it is community driven.” (John Mulia, Kiambu County Government, Kenya)

CORC planner honoured with SAPI Young Planner Award

By CORC, News No Comments
On site in Flamingo Crescent Informal Settlement

On site in Flamingo Crescent Informal Settlement

Sizwe Mxobo, a planner at the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) received  the South African Planning Institute’s (SAPI) Young Planner Award in October 2014. In speaking about his work as a planner with community movements affiliated to the SA SDI Alliance, Sizwe explains,

“An important aspect for me is exploring what public participation means in planning and informal settlement upgrading” (Sizwe Mxobo, CORC Planner).

In early 2014 SAPI released a call for nominations for successful young planners and announced its bi-annual summit in Durban titled “Planning Africa” from 19 – 22 October 2014. Nominations were submitted under various categories, one of which was the Young Planner award – to be made out to a “bright young planner (under the age of 35) for his/ her exemplary achievements and promising for the future in the planning profession as well as his/her contribution to the promotion of the planning profession” (SAPI).

The SAPI Awards

The SAPI National Planning Awards were established in 2008 to recognise and create a strong awareness of the valuable contributions and extraordinary performance in all aspects of the planning profession. The awards are an opportunity to appreciate the efforts and contributions of many planners in shaping the built environment, promoting sustainable development and maintaining the integrity of good planning practice amidst competing development interests and challenging situations.

Sizwe with Langrug commnuity leaders Trevor Masiy and Alfred Ratana

Sizwe with Langrug commnuity leaders Trevor Masiy and Alfred Ratana

Planning in the SA SDI Alliance

Sizwe has been working with CORC since 2011, providing technical support, often in informal settlement upgrading initiatives, ranging from community mobilization, capacity building, assisting settlements with preparing development plans or engaging City officials around service delivery issues.

In 2012, Sizwe project managed the upgrading and re-blocking of Mtshini Wam informal settlement in Cape Town. The project set a precedent for informal settlement upgrading, at local and national level whereby the City of Cape Town used it as a benchmark to deliver a reblocking policy. It was also awarded an Impumelelo Gold Award in 2013. Since then Sizwe has spearheaded 3 other upgrading and re-blocking projects in the City. Sizwe’s work has also focussed on Langrug informal settlement near Franschoek in the Western Cape. Through deep engagement with the community Sizwe assisted CORC and the community in devising a pallette of informal settlement upgrading strategies. The planning of Langrug was awarded the SAPI National Award in the Community Category.

Planning reblcoked Layout in Mtshini Wam informal settlement, Milnerton

Planning reblocked Layout in Mtshini Wam informal settlement, Milnerton

Why Planning?

When tracing his steps as a planner, Sizwe links his interest in participatory, community based planning to his roots.

“I was born and raised in an informal settlement and still live in one. I have always wondered what it would take to transform an informal settlement. When I saw the first housing developments in Samora and Delft I asked myself why people had to move away from their current locations and amenities. Why could changes not happen where people lived?”

Sizwe’s fascination with community development – particularly how informal communities could be transformed to formal settlements – inspired him to study Town and Regional Planning. He remembers that although informality was addressed by the curriculum it largely focussed on how to move from a shack to a house.

“My biggest attraction has always been how planning principles can be used in informal settlements. When I was planning chairperson we took students to Nyanga and explored what in-situ upgrading is about. I learnt that my interest in fighting for people who are generally not considered by planning institutions – landless people in urban areas – is called advocate planning. Others did not always understand my approach to planning. Through working at CORC I found my feet and understood what planning is for me. Winning this award has been a further confirmation. We are no longer talking the language of eradication of informal settlements but of upgrading”

In Nyanga, Cape Town

In Nyanga, Cape Town

In Kuku Town informal settlement with community leader Verona Joseph

In Kuku Town informal settlement with community leader Verona Joseph

A different approach to Planning

“In the ever-changing role of a planner, I think a key element for planners is to ensure the relationship between people and land. Public participation should be more than drawing up plans and asking for a community’s approval. It should be about supporting people to come up with their own development plans for their communities”

(Sizwe Mxobo)

As a profession planning is rapidly transforming. Most urban policies developed in South Africa focus extensively on community participation. Both the National Development Plan (NDP) and Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) talk about community participation as a central tenet for development. However, government has also identified this as a missing link and capacity both within the municipal and private sector. Most recently, the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP) has floated tenders in 49 different municipalities to develop community based plans. Clearly, community participation in the planning sector is the need of the hour.

SAPI Award Ceremony in Durban, Oct  2014

SAPI Award Ceremony in Durban, Oct 2014

Discussing Plans with Flamingo Crescent Community Steering Committee

Discussing Plans with Flamingo Crescent Community Steering Committee

With Kuku Town Steering Committee, Kensington

With Kuku Town Steering Committee, Kensington

Durban and Port Elizabeth Leaders on Sanitation Exchange

By CORC, iKhayalami, ISN, SDI No Comments

By Stefanie Holzwarth and Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

Over the past years, the communities of Midrand in Port Elizabeth and Havelock in Durban have been upgrading their settlements, step by step. Last week’s exchange (8-11 July 2014) – in which community leaders visited Cape Town settlements – formed the next step in activating solutions to their specific needs for water and sanitation upgrading.

Site visit in Kuku Town

Site visit in Kuku Town


Midrand and Havelock

Midrand is located on municipal land but is not yet listed on the municipality’s database and therefore experiences great difficulty in accessing services. The community consistently experiences severe flooding. Havelock, on the other hand, is built on privately owned land and has been earmarked for “interim services” by eThekwini Municipality, indicating a willingness to deliver basic services in the short term and habitation in the long term. It is built against a hill with high shack densities that have led to shack fires, flooding and torrents of water flushes in the rainy seasons. Read more background on Havelock and Midrand.

The exchange

During the four-day exchange about ten community leaders visited five settlements in and around Cape Town. The exchange was linked to the SHARE Program (Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity) linked to Shack Dwellers International (SDI). Read more about SHARE here. It was facilitated by the Informal Settlement Network (ISN), Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) and iKhayalami. It centrally focussed on how communities can use sanitation as a tool for upgrading and mobilisation, particularly in response to ever present and severe flooding.

Midrand community leaders, for example, spent time investigating the most suitable and relevant options for sanitation upgrading in their settlement:

  • Communal toilets and wash facility at the edge of the settlement (ablution blocks) without re-blocking
  • Sanitation and wash facility in the centre of the settlement with partial re-blocking
  • Individual sanitation facilities in courtyard (one-on-one sanitation) with settlement wide re-blocking

These would all require engagement with local government institutions.

Havelock’s central challenge is drainage. The settlement has already engaged with local government about constructing a sanitation unit as well as providing more sanitation units in the centre of the settlement. This would coincide with the communities’ already existing plans to re-block its settlement. Midrand and Havelock’s leaders therefore visited upgrading sites that provided an example of different options available to them.


Example of sanitation in a community-run Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) facility

One-on-One Sanitation in Kuku Town

The visitors spent the first day in Kuku Town where the community recently completed re-blocking with individual sanitation per upgraded structure. They were particularly interested in how Kuku Town managed to re-block without having to relocate people to other areas. Other questions focused on why the community chose individual toilets. Kuku Town’s leaders explained that

“single toilets are manageable because the owner is responsible for their own toilet and because there are no conflicts within the community with regards to hygiene.”

The leaders also reflected on Kuku Town’s successes and challenges throughout planning and implementation. The visitors learned how Kuku Town approached the municipality for support in terms of infrastructure services. Both Midrand and Havelock were impressed by the Council´s successful involvement in providing water and sanitation.

6. After reblocking 3

Sanitation and water services per upgraded structure in Kuku Town

Sanitation facility in Langrug, Stellenbosch & BM Section, Khayelitsha

In Langrug, Franschoek. the visitors saw an example of upgrading that included relocating 16 families, the construction of a second access road and grey-water and drainage channels, and a community designed, multi-purpose Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) Facility. The visit offered insight into the WaSH facility, the drainage project and the local playground. The subsequent discussion facilitated an exciting learning environment with questions about the maintenance of the WaSH facility and funding. They also discovered the opportunity of hot water provision via solar heating systems in summer. The afternoon centred on projects in BM section, Khayelitsha. Its similarity (due to an uneven slope) to Havelock made it an ideal site for the exchange and delivered an essential input for its visitors.


Interior view of Langrug’s WaSH facility



Courtyard in BM section

Shared Sanitation in Mtshini Wam & ongoing re-blocking in Flamingo

The visit to Mshini Wam provided valuable lessons for the visitors – particularly in the field of funding and engaging the local authority. The visitors took special interest in understanding how Mtshini Wam managed to convince some residents to share toilets on a cluster basis while others had single toilets. The challenges relating to communal toilets were thoroughly discussed.

“The main idea was to have single toilets but due to the number of shacks and the limited space, the plan was diverted in order to accommodate communal toilets. The maintenance and cleaning of the toilets depends on the cluster groups.”

The visitors concluded their site visits in Flamingo Crescent, an ongoing re-blocking project. During a walkabout the visitors observed how shacks were broken down, how ground works were installed and how the new structures were erected.

Site visit in Flamingo during re-blocking

Site visit in Flamingo during re-blocking

Midrand community discusses the way forward

On the last day, Midrand leaders and iKhayalami discussed the sanitation options available to the community and the future steps each would imply. Community leaders agreed that re-blocking with one-on-one services would be the most realistic and feasible option.

“The ablution block won´t work for us because there is lots of friction. No one wants to wait for a long time when using the facility. Community blocks won´t work because some of the people are not responsible. They leave it without taking care.” (Community Leader, Midrand)

Midrand’s leaders agreed to start saving to upgrade their structures instead of solely blocking out. They hoped to convince the municipality to come on board. Re-blocking would be conducted in phases – identifying clusters for incremental re-blocking.

One major challenge in Midrand is the lack of space. Part of the settlement land is still in private hands – which causes major tenure insecurity. Together with iKhayalami the leaders discussed various solutions. While the community leaders resolved their questions, the next step is to share these with the rest of their communities when they return.

The exchange not only offered a learning space but also enabled leaders to grow their ability in community-driven upgrading,

“I have learned a lot by being a community leader and by being part of this exchange. It has built up my confidence and my professional experience. I was a very shy person before – now I can stand up and work for our development goals.” (Midrand community leader)

Midrand Consultation

Andy Bolnick (iKhayalami) discusses sanitation options with Midrand community leaders

National Community Exchange – Durban to Cape Town (Part 2)

By CORC, iKhayalami, ISN No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

A four-day community exchange was underway from 29 April to 2 May 2014, during which community leaders from Durban visited informal settlements in and around Cape Town.  This blog continues to trace the experiences and reflections collected on the exchange, the first two days of which have been recorded here.

Day 3 in Langrug informal settlement – Sanitation, Drainage and ‘Greening’

View of Langrug informal settlement, Franschoek

View of Langrug informal settlement, Franschoek

Located in the affluent wine-farming area of Franschoek, Langrug informal settlement, home to about 4500 people, is characterised by extreme poverty, poor housing and sanitation. In the face of these challenges the community signed a precedent-setting Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the locally presiding Stellenbosch Municipality that channelled government funds to community-based upgrading initiatives. This translated into relocating 16 families, the construction of a second access road, the construction of grey-water and drainage channels and a community designed, multi-purpose Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) Facility. The facility includes a communal homework area for children, a hair salon, benches and laundry basins. Click here for a comprehensive profile of Langrug. Currently, Langrug is involved in the second phase of upgrading: ‘greening’ the existing WaSH facility with vertical vegetable gardens and developing a dry sanitation facility in Zwelitsha, an ‘informal’ section of Langrug without taps and toilets.

Existing WaSH Facility after 'greening'

Existing WaSH Facility after ‘greening’

KZN visitors taste Langrug's spinach

KZN visitors taste Langrug’s spinach

The exchange visitors were introduced to all these aspects on a detailed walk-about. Langrug community member, Alfred Ratana, indicated the differences in depth and purpose of the drainage and grey water channels and explained the processes accompanying relocation. He emphasised the uniqueness of Langrug in that it was a municipality-driven project which was not community financed.

“Langrug shows that municipalities can have a different approach to communities. Our experience shows that municipalities can include us in their plans and construct with us – not for us”

(Alfred Ratana, Langrug community member)

Langrug community member, Alfred Ratana, speaks about Langrug's grey water drainage

Langrug community member, Alfred Ratana, speaks about Langrug’s grey water drainage


Viewing a community-constructed drainage channel

Langrug community members also explained the breakthrough presented by Zwelitsha’s dry sanitation facility: due to its location on a steep mountain slope it has been impossible to provide water and sanitation services to around 600 families. The dry sanitation facility, however, is a step towards changing this. The vertical vegetable gardens in Langrug’s existing WaSH facility (developed in partnership with Touching the Earth Lightly) showed the visitors how the community secures food and generates income. By selling the spinach it grows, the community intends to generate income to sustain daily running costs of the facility.

The visitors were also impressed by a crèche facility that had been established between external partners and mothers in Langrug who wanted to provide an alternative, more affordable option for their children. The teachers of the crèche explained that,

“getting something started is not about presenting an idea to social services. You just need to start. Once the idea is happening, you can take the outcome to social services and get it registered”.

Once back at the WaSH facility Langrug’s steering committee shared details around the developments in their settlement. The group was also joined by Diana Mitlin and visiting colleagues from Manchester University. Read about their impressions here.

Sharing impressions after the walkabout

Sharing impressions after the walkabout

Langrug's steering committee explains the steps it took in the upgrading process

Langrug’s steering committee explains the steps it took in the upgrading process


Day 4 in Mtshini Wam – Reflections on how to continue

The final visit to Mtshini Wam showed the visitors what a large-scale re-blocking project could look like. During upgrading, the settlement also received one on one services, some in-structure toilets and public water points. More details on Mtshini Wam’s re-blocking are documented here.

Over four days the group had seen much, listened intently, exchanged questions and pondered how to take these impressions back home. Some key points:

  • Visiting Langrug presented a highlight for the visitors from Durban as the topography and accompanying challenges (steep inclines, drainage and flooding) are similar to the conditions in their own settlements.
  • Langrug’s drainage and sanitation facilities therefore presented relevant options for the Durban visitors
  • The visitors were inspired by the initiative and commitment they encountered in their fellow community leaders, something they wanted to take back in responding to circumstances in their own settlements
  • The exchange highlighted the importance of partnerships and the ever-present opportunity to form partnerships as a foundation for wielding large scale change
A street view of Mtshini Wam after re-blocking

A street view of Mtshini Wam after re-blocking

KZN leaders in conversation about securing service provision

KZN leaders in conversation about securing service provision

Durban’s Kenville and Foreman Road settlements will share their experiences of the exchange in mass meetings with their communities this weekend (16-18 May). Their next steps are to enumerate their settlements and establish a relationship with their councillors.

As the visitors embarked on the journey home, ISN community leader, Nkokheli Ncambele, reminded them that

“it is important not to impose everything you have seen on this exchange on your communities at home. Rather take what you have learnt and present it to the community as a suggestion. Then you can decide together what you want and how to make it work in your own settlement”

Exchanges certainly are the most important learning vehicle in the South African Alliance. They facilitate the direct exchange of information, experience and skills, thereby building a horizontal platform for learning between urban poor communities. Through sharing successes and failures in projects, giving and receiving advice on engaging government, sharing in work and life experiences and exchanging tactics and plans communities become central actors.

National Community Exchange – Durban to Cape Town (Part 1)

By CORC, iKhayalami, ISN No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

Informal settlement leaders from Kenville and Foreman Road in Durban are mobilising their communities to upgrade their settlements with better services and improved spatial layouts. Last week’s exchange to Cape Town (29 April – 2 May 2014) therefore presented a first-hand opportunity for them to draw insights from fellow community leaders.


Group picture in Kuku Town: Durban and Cape Town communities on exchange

Over the week the Durban visitors were hosted by Kuku Town, Flamingo Crescent, Langrug & Mtshini Wam communities in and around Cape Town. Each day was dedicated to an in-depth visit of each settlement. This included a detailed site visit, discussions on  collecting savings, enumerating and profiling settlements and contributing to planning and mapping. Besides bringing leaders together on a national level, the exchange also connected communities locally: for leaders from Kuku Town, Flamingo and Langrug the exchange comprised a first time visit to the other settlements. Exchanges are thus the most important learning vehicle in the South African Alliance, facilitating the direct exchange of information, experience and skills between urban poor communities.


Introductions and briefing on the week ahead at CORC office in Mowbray

Day one in Kuku Town: Upgrading & Savings 

Community leaders met in Kuku Town, a small settlement that recently completed re-blocking and in the process secured one-on-one water and sanitation services from the City of Cape Town. Read more about Kuku Town and re-blocking here. In the discussion community leaders took the visitors through a step-by-step picture of Kuku Town’s experiences. ISN representative, Melanie Manuel, explained that

“What we do in ISN is not only to beautify our settlements but to actually change the way we live. Savings and partnerships – like we had with Habitat for Humanity and the municipality – are an important part of this.”


Community leaders share their experiences around organising and upgrading in Kuku Town community hall

Yet, before partnerships can be formed, a community needs to know its settlement in terms of the number of (un)emloyed people, the number of structures and families and details on service provision (electricity, sanitation and water). This information is collected in enumerations. Kuku Town community used its enumeration data to plan its re-blocked layout and to negotiate the provision of one-on-one services and short-term employment opportunities through the City’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).  Community leaders explained that they organised themselves in clusters to be able to navigate the logistics around communication and construction during re-blocking.

Among a variety of questions, the visitors took special interest in understanding the connection between savings and upgrading, especially the role of community contributions. Melanie explained that

“Savings contributions enable us as communities to take ownership and responsibility of the changes and upgrading in our settlements. We want to move away from a ‘free for all mindset’ and restore dignity and pride to our communities”

Melanie Manuel, ISN representative

Melanie Manuel, ISN representative

But collecting savings poses a continuous challenge. How to go about motivating communities and responding to accusations? Flamingo Crescent’s community leader, Auntie Marie, shared her experience:

“Getting the community’s commitment for daily savings is difficult. People only want to act when they see that things are happening. You’ve got to be tough. If you’re not tough you won’t get anything right”

For Kuku Town community leader, Verona Joseph, the partnership with the City and its support in this regard, was crucial.  This became evident at Kuku Town’s official handover that afternoon which was attended by the ward councillor and City officials.  The handover and a site visit completed the first day of the exchange, demonstrating what a tangible community-government partnership can look like.


Exchange communities join Kuku Town handover ceremony

Inspecting the water and sanitation services provided by the City

Kuku Town site visit: inspecting water and sanitation services provided by the City

Day two in Flamingo Crescent: Re-blocking and Partnerships

Flamingo Crescent is about to begin re-blocking and – in partnership with the City of Cape Town – is set to receive one-on-one services. On a walkabout through the smoke and dust-filled pathways community leaders received a thorough impression of the settlement’s layout. Most structures – consisting of old cardboard, zinc, timber and plastic pieces – are situated around a broad, u-shaped pathway that is intersected by smaller, narrow footpaths. Flamingo’s population of about 450 people resides in 104 structures. The entire settlement makes use of only 2 taps and 14 chemical toilets that are emptied three times a week. The absence of electricity means that fire is used as a central source for cooking and warmth.

1. Overview 2

Flamingo – view from above

Site visit in Flamingo

Site visit in Flamingo

In a nearby community hall, Flamingo’s steering committee explained its relationship with ISN and the challenge of collecting savings contributions due to its high unemployment rate (50%). Flamingo’s enumeration acted as a powerful entry point to negotiating an improved layout and service provision with the City of Cape Town. Together with students from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (USA) the community designed the re-blocked layout and conceptualised plans for a crèche and a play park.  Later, the visitors joined the steering committee’s meeting with a Cape Town City official who provided an update on the City’s contribution to upgrading.  For the visitors this was of particular value as it emphasised the crucial role of partnerships and the number of actors involved in a given project. The question at the forefront of many minds was: how can we do this in our communities at home?

For Auntie Marie, Flamingo community leader, it is evident that

“If it wasn’t for ISN, I don’t know where we would be. Through ISN we were introduced to the City and we got a partnership. We started thinking, ‘Now something is going to happen’. Flamingo is going to be re-blocked!”

Continue reading Part 2 of the exchange here.

(Flamingo steering committee presents its partnerships

Flamingo steering committee presents its partnerships

Auntie Marie, Leader of Flamingo Community and Steering Committee

Auntie Marie, Leader of Flamingo Community and Steering Committee

Report back to Flamingo Community

Report back to Flamingo Community


Building Partnerships: Comic Relief vice chair and film director Richard Curtis visits SA Alliance

By CORC, News No Comments

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

DSCN5524 - Kopie

Richard Curtis, Melanie Manuel (ISN), Emma Freud, Bunita Kohler (Director of CORC), Marlene Don (FEDUP) and Bukiwe Marawu (CORC)

Last week, the South African Shack Dwellers Alliance welcomed Comic Relief vice-chair and film director/producer/writer Richard Curtis with his wife, Emma Freud, and family at the Cape Town office. Before arriving he told his children,

“Today I’m meeting the people I work for”.

As a renowned film-maker, Curtis is also co-founder of the UK based charity Comic Relief which has been one of the alliance’s principal development partners since 2011. Together, they spent a morning meeting the alliance partners, visiting Mtshini Wam informal settlement where community members explained the process of re-blocking and showed Curtis and his family what a re-blocked settlement can look like. They also visited the Solid Waste Network, one of the alliance’s income generation initiatives.


Mthsini Wam community members explain reblockingDSCN5542

Building Partnerships

To achieve the vision of more inclusive and pro poor cities it is critical to build partnerships with urban development actors who support this vision. The alliance’s association with Comic Relief as a development partner is a platform for organised communities to be at the core of building such cities. Communities are best positioned to contribute to design and to plan development solutions that have greater impact and sustainability than external development interventions. The alliance’s partnerships not only include the network of SDI affiliated countries or partnerships with government but also focus on partnerships with international aid agencies and donors, such as Comic Relief.

Founded in 1985, Comic Relief’s vision is of a “just world, free from poverty” (Reference). By raising funds through campaigns such as Red Nose Day and Sport Relief, Comic Relief spends these on projects that tackle the “root causes of poverty and social injustice in the UK and across the world” (Ibid). In particular Comic Relief supports projects “on the ground”, giving people a “leg up, not a hand out” (Ibid). Comic Relief displays a long term view of achieving this vision and therefore forms lasting partnerships with local organisations. Some projects are supported for up to six years whereby the progress of projects is tracked and funds are paid in phases.

Comic Relief and the South African Alliance

Comic Relief has been a core funding partner of the Alliance’s work since 2011 when uTshani Fund secured a grant for supporting the core activities of FEDUP housing development process. The grant is in its second year of operations and aims to support community lead projects in housing development and informal settlement upgrading (via the uTshani Fund housed funding facility Community Upgrading Finance Facility). uTshani Fund and CORC have formed a close working relationship in addressing the challenges of homelessness, landlessness and urban poverty.

The Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) has also been successful in applying to Comic Relief for grant funding. As part of its UK Aid Match scheme, Comic Relief formed a partnership with the Department for International Development (DFID). In December 2011 DFID agreed to provide a further £10m of funding for Comic Relief’s Urban Slums work. This sum would be matched by Comic Relief through funds raised during Sport Relief 2012, thereby totaling £20m. This new fund is intended to transform the lives of a million slum dwellers in a limited number of African cities through the strategic collaboration of agencies. The funding spans five years in total.

CORC and the South African alliance partners responded to the call for proposals and were successful in their application. The core of the funding proposal focussed on setting up a local city fund which will deliver informal settlement upgrading projects in the area of Khayelitsha in the City of Cape Town. The city fund is a responsive mechanism that aims to achieve a long term sustainable fund which could be replicated and/or recapitalised by City and Provincial government.

The beginning of Comic Relief funded projects in Khayelitsha


Community leaders plan and design in KhayelitshaDSCN5063

As part of the Comic Relief grant, the alliance has been engaging with several neighbouring communities in Khayelitsha that live in UT, TT and BT sections, Litha Park and UT Gardens. Since mid 2012 these communities have been forming a horizontal relationship with ISN structures. After community members living in UT Gardens profiled and enumerated their section, they expressed the need for a crèche / multi-purpose centre for the community on a nearby open field.  Since the start of 2014 community leaders have continuously met with each other and CORC’s technical support team.

The meetings have had two aspects: On the one hand the community leaders expressed some key issues to address such as drainage and managing waste disposal. On the other, they co-designed and co-conceptualised the first drafts of the crèche / multi-purpose centre and identified existing footpaths and transit spaces. As the discussions continue, community leaders are eager to see this project lift off the ground.

This, then, is one of the projects that the Comic Relief grant supports. On the surface, it looks entirely different from Mtshini Wam or the Solid Waste Network which Curtis and his family visited. Yet the similarity lies in the tools that each community uses to organise itself. It lies in communities who lead their own design and planning. The SA SDI Alliance values long term funding agreements with international development partners such as Comic Relief (and its associations and members) that recognise the imperatives of informal settlement upgrading, housing and land, and livelihoods development.





SA SDI Alliance 2013 in Review

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

Ayanda 20120209 212

Its that time of the year when we, the SA SDI Alliance, reflect on our achievements and work in progress. 2013 was a year of growth, maturation, and sharing knowledge and experiences. On the housing front, FEDUP was awarded with the Gauteng Provincial Goven Mbeki awards (runner up in North West), when the re-blocking of Mtshini Wam earned ISN and the community a Gold Impumelelo social innovation award.

The City of Cape Town’s adoption of the re-blocking policy has surpassed recognition and honor of the alliances work to realizing one of its main goals, which is creating precedent setting projects that have the ability to change policy and influence resource flows. Although the importance of upgrading of informal settlements has been recognised in the National Development Plan and actioned by the National Upgrading Support Programme (Department of Human Settlements), more needs to be done to promote community participation.

Creating partnerships with Government is one of the alliance’s aims of increasing the reach and impact of participatory development, and in this year we have spread our wings through sharing of knowledge and experiences by partnering with a number of stakeholders. These include the Santa Fe Institute, Habitat for Humanity, Touching the Earth Lightly and local and international universities (Worcester Polytechnic Institute, University of Cape Town and the University of Melbourne).

This year also marked a much closer working relationship between FEDUP and ISN, resulting in the signing of a joint charter. Such a review happens once in four years, and this year at the national forum the ISN/FEDUP charter was launched to strengthen and clarify the roles of each network. In 2014 we are looking forward to showcasing four of the Alliances projects that have been acknowledged by the World Design Capital 2014 committee and we will continue working with different stakeholders to make the voices of the poor heard.

We look back on the year past, and in anticipation, look forward to the coming year.

1: Policy transformation at the local government level

On the 5th of November 2013, Thandeka Gqada, Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements, City of Cape Town announced the adoption of the reblocking policy by The City of Cape Town. This policy has been influenced by the Mtshini Wam reblocking project, which is one of 22 pilot projects scheduled for re-blocking in the 2014.

Mtshini Wam before and after

Blocking-out” and “re-blocking” are interchangeable terms the South African SDI Alliance uses to refer to the reconfiguration and repositioning of shacks in very dense informal settlements in accordance to a community-drafted spatial framework. The aim is to better utilize the spaces in informal settlements to allow for better service provision. Moreover, re-blocking is done in “clusters” identified by the community, and after implementation, “courtyard” are created to ensure a safer environment for woman and children via neighborhood watches (all shacks face the courtyard), productive places (such as washing lines, food gardens), and generally provides space for local government to install better services. Read more on the City of Cape Town Adopts Reblocking policy.

2: Innovative projects nationally recognised

Dududza Project Wins Govan Mbeki award

On the 11th of April, FEDUP was nominated in the Gauteng Provincial Govan Mbeki awards. The award ceremony aims to showcase and demonstrate the partnerships with the department at both tiers and promotes best practices in meeting the delivery mandate of the Presidency’s Outcome 8, which is aligned with the vision of building sustainable human settlements and meeting the Millennium Development Goals. The Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) has been transforming the housing policy from the bottom up for the past two decades. Premised on the notions of social and political change through community savings. The Federation has built more than 12,000 houses since 1994, and continues to set a precedent in women’s led leadership and collaboration with government. The MEC of Human Settlements at the Provincial tier nominated projects in four specified categories 1) which displays exceptional quality 2) promotes best practice 3) collaboration of stakeholders 4) improving the quality of life for the beneficiary-partners. Read more: Duduza Wins Gauteng Govan Mbeki Award for ePHP and Mafikeng in the North West with the runner up prize

Mtshini Wam Reblocking Project Wins Impumelelo Award

Mtshni Wam was one of the 33 finalists that have been selected out of the 80 shortlisted projects. The finalist are from all over South Africa in a wide range of sectors such as Health, HIV/AIDS, ECD, Education, Skills Training, Environment, Agriculture, Infrastructure, Social Welfare, Community Development, Food Security, Job Creation, and Animal Welfare.  This project showcases community led planning and design, the use of innovative material and layout design to decrease the level of disasters such as fires, flooding and food security, and the collaboration of stakeholders.  Read more  on Mtshini Wam Reblocking Project wins a Gold Impumelelo award.


3:  Collaboration and Partnerships

SDI- Santa Fe Institute Partnership

SDI has collaboratively partnered with the Santa Fe Institute in testing new techniques in profiling informal settlements with the quest of improving data capture processes. The importance of this collaboration is to develop theoretical insights about cities that can inform quantitative analyses of their long-term sustainability in terms of the interplay between innovation and resource appropriation. At the grassroots level, the data helps communities understand their settlements better and use it as an engagement tool with government. Read more on the profiling of UT Section, Khayelitsha, Cape Town

Habitat for Humanity South Africa

The partnership between CORC/ISN and Habitat for Humanity South Africa centrally recognises that if a vision of change is not community centred, it will most likely yield less impact. Moreover, development, which is conceptualised and implemented by an external agency, will most likely not be able to scale up and reach a citywide impact. For this reason, the Alliance signed a partnership agreement with Habitat for Humanity South Africa around two key around: 1) collaboration around a to-be-determined schedule of projects, and 2) setting up a city-fund. Read more about this collaboration on: Alliance Signs MOU with Habitat for Humanity.

DSCN4071Touching the Earth Lightly

The partnership with Stephen Lamb and Andrew Lord of Touching the Earth Lightly resulted in a first pilot of the Green Shack, which drew a lot of attention at Design Indaba 2o13. This showcase of innovative and cost effective solutions for shack upgrading addressing the problems of fire, flooding and food security was well received.

The aim of growing food vertically is to use the limited spaces that communities have to decrease poverty and hunger in informal settlements. Due to the shift of poverty from rural areas to urban areas, food gardening is an alternative to providing food security in informal settlements, with the high unemployment rate in informal settlements it is difficult for households to provide nutritious meals for their families because food security in urban areas is tied to purchasing power.

The initiative to start a food gardening projects in communities in realizing food provision at a cheaper price in order to decrease household spending on food, increasing food security for poor households and creating livelihood opportunities. The broader idea is to have most of the community members growing gardens either for consumption at a household level or selling to the community to increase the household’s income. Touching the Earth lightly provides innovative ways of growing food in limited spaces such as the creation of vertical gardens, using crates and tyres.

4. SA SDI collaboration with Universities

University of Cape Town (Europe Community Studio)

Tanja Winkler, senior lecturer in Urban and Regional Planning, University of Cape Town, joined CORC staff and the Europe informal settlement leadership on a planning session at Europe, an informal settlement located in Gugulethu, just of the N2 national highway in Cape Town.  The purpose of the planning meeting was to align the 2014 UCT Urban Planning practical learnership with that of the Europe community leaderships’s agendas in a “planning studio”. This studio will form part of the Master Students in Urban and Regional Planning curriculum, and have direct interactions with the community.  The aim of the studio is to expose the students to alternative planning approaches when considering one of the most pressing challenges of our post-apartheid cities: urban informality in its various expressions. Moreover, the nature of the studio also means that technical support is given to the community’s plans for upgrading the settlements, and hence a two-way beneficial relationship is established from where new tools of engagement with the state can be created.  Read more on Community Studio|2014 UCT-Europe Studio’The Planning Session’ . 


Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA (Langrug WASH facility)

The construction of the WASH facility is a precedent setting partnership outlining that the provision of water and sanitation services in communities should be executed in a manner that does not simply add-up to the statistics of facilities, or a mere provision of basic utility services as a basic constitutional right. The government is currently the primary entity responsible for sanitation facilities provision in South Africa. However, too often, its top-down and subsidized approach has not been successful in meeting the imperatives of socio-economic sustainability. The facilities are typically undignified and mostly located in the peripherals where residents often find inconvenient to access and more so the facilities are poorly maintained. In addition, residents regularly vandalize them. The dilemma of how, where and which type of service level to provide in informal settlements is far off a challenge too great for the government to solve alone. In that regard, multi stakeholder approaches, with urban poor communities at the core, are needed. This is to enhance dignity-associated with the use of a communal toilet, contribute towards place making in communities, and create job opportunities in asset management, as well as impact policy and practice towards meaningful participatory urban development.

This innovative design, implementation and management of the WASH facility in Langrug is a ‘precedent’ setting for a multi-stakeholder co-production of infrastructure services, which triggered meaningful community engagement and consequently creating a sense of entitlement and redefining government-community relations. Read More on  The Langrug Wash Facility A new Common Space for the Community.

University of Melbourne (Planning studios in Mtshini Wam, Shuku Shukuma and Ruo Emoh)

In February a planning studio was organised between the communities of Mtshini Wam, Shuku Shukuma and Ruo Emoh and architecture and planning students from the University of Melbourne to investigate new solutions for informal settlement upgrading and housing development. In Shuku Shukuma, 80sqm plot size placeholders were cut to scale and laid out on an aerial photograph. The location of visible infrastrcuture was mapped, such as electricity poles, toilet blocks and water taps. The Mtshini Wam group looked at alternative typologies for densification and formalisation after re-blocking projects. A visual fly through model was created, building on the new layout of re-blocked settlement.

We also hosted Tim Budge, a PhD student at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. The PhD is focused on the topic of “The Legacy of Paulo Freire and Saul Alinsky for communities seeking change in sub-Saharan Africa”. As part of his studies, he is doing field research in Zambia and South Africa. The research is deliberatively focused on case studies, narratives of change and an appreciation of local context and of the way local people learn and act in their own worlds. In August he gave three communities (Siyahlala, Busasa and Langrug) cameras and diaries where they can record community stories /activities that relate to change.

5: Projects

CORC and Alliance partners was proud to present the publication Masikhase: The Community Upgrading Finance Facility. This publication articulates the spaces created by communities and local government to make decisions and work together towards the incremental improvement of informal settlements.  These new participatory spaces often create conditions for informal settlement upgrading to be more effective and sustainable. The Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) aims to enhance the agencies and practices of the organized poor by providing a platform and institutional support for communities to engage government more effectively around collaborative upgrading and livelihood projects. Please download the booklet here: CUFF Booklet.

6: World Capital Design Projects

World Design Capital Yellow Logo

The prestigious accolade of World Design Capital is awarded by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design every two years. It recognises that “the future success of each city is therefore largely reliant on those who plan, design and manage the shared spaces and functions of their city”.

The Alliance of community organisations and social networks Informal Settlement Network (ISN) andFederation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) and support organisations CORC, uTshani Fund and iKhayalami saw this as an opportunity to display, on a global stage, how communities go about designing, inhabiting and reproducing spaces that increase accessibility and productivity of poor people in the city. The WCD committee selected four of the Alliances projects namely Mtshini wam reblocking project, Langrug informal settlement upgrading project, Solid Waste management and Community led spatial design and reconfiguration of informal settlements both pre and post disaster. Read More on: Four Alliance Projects Recognised by World Design Capital 2014 Committee.

7: SA SDI Alliance national forum

This year national forum started from the 11th-14th November 2013, more than 200 members of the ISN and FEDUP regional facilitators from all the provinces of South Africa were present. They discussed and shared experiences on income generation programs, savings, enumeration, profiling, informal settlement upgrading, land ownership and partnerships.   The forum is an event where the alliance reports on its past achievements and challenges while the supporting NGO CORC (Community Organization Resource Center) uses this platform to understand the challenges faced by all regions on the ground.  The event also included the launch of the ISN/FEDUP charter. Read More on SA SDI National Forum and Charter Launch. 


2013 was a year marked by local and national recognition of the power and possibilities of collaboratively partnering with communities organisations. By building local community capacity, communities have built a bridge to local government officials. Partnerships are pending with the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality after the profiling and mapping of Midrand informal settlement and also in Moeggesukkel informal settlement. The power of exchanges were visible, considering the role of Gauteng ISN played in strenthening the emerging Eastern Cape ISN . In Midrand municipality, the community of Sicelo showcased alternative options when they demonstrated the effectiveness of community based enumeration. There are also a pending partnership in this local government.

These loose threads will be pursued next year, while implementation in the mature partnerships with City of Cape Town and Stellenbosch Municipality will be stepped up. We want to thank our partners, especially international donors Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Comic Relief, Ford Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and Misereor for funding these operations. Early next year our 2013/14 annual report will be ready, expounding on these experiences.

CUFF Project Report 2013

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By Thandeka Tshabalala (on behalf of CORC)

We live in the urban age where, for the first time the majority of the world population lives in cities.  Despite the overwhelming challenges encountered by the urban poor, the aspiration towards altering state-civil society relations, inclusive and integrated pro poor cities lies on the roles of networks organizations and agencies of the poor in bringing about social and political change. The national department of Human settlements aims to upgrade 400,000 well located households in-situ by 2014 and the National Development Plan “vision 2030” calls on government to stop building houses on poorly located land and shift more resources to upgrading informal settlements, provided that the areas are in great proximity to jobs.

 This publication articulates the spaces created by communities and local government to make decisions and work together towards the incremental improvement of informal settlements.  These new participatory spaces often create conditions for informal settlement upgrading to be more effective and sustainable.The Community Upgrading Finance Facility (CUFF) –Masikase- aims to enhance the agencies and practices of the organized poor by providing a platform and institutional support for communities to engage government more effectively around collaborative upgrading and livelihood projects.