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Self-Reliance Archives - SASDI Alliance

How Lesotho is building an organised, urban poor movement

By FEDUP No Comments

“Saving is our heartbeat”, any member of South Africa’s Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) will tell you. “This is how we organise, how we build trust, open spaces to talk and share, find ways to support each other and change our lives. We don’t collect money, we collect people.” Over the last twenty five years the South African federation has grown from a handful of savings groups in the North West and Kwa Zulu Natal Provinces to 626 savings groups in eight provinces with 43 999 members.

Lesotho federation and Tshwarellang saving scheme members (Free State) after mobilising new savers

Lesotho federation and Tshwarellang saving scheme members (Free State) after mobilising new savers

What does it look like when savings groups multiply, and federate within their cities – how does an urban poor, country-wide federation emerge? Through horizontal learning exchanges, South Africa’s FEDUP has been supporting emerging savings groups in Lesotho to do just that. Within the SDI network, the definition of an “emerging” federation is a group that has started building savings collectives but has not yet federated nor achieved citywide scale and is yet to develop a critical engagement with state institutions and other development actors.

As a tool for building strong and organised movements of the urban poor, exchange visits between federations, enable savers to “learn by doing”. In particular, the exchange visits from Lesotho to South Africa have focused on strengthening the foundational aspects of a saving scheme. These included opening a new savings scheme and mobilising members, how to collect and record daily savings, how to engage local government authorities and how to facilitate a network meeting, in which several savings scheme in a region come together to report, organise and support each other.

Manana (left) and Nthabiseng (right) display their bedding (income generation) project for Tshwarellang saving scheme in Free State during the exchange.

Manana (left) and Nthabiseng (right) display their bedding (income generation) project for Tshwarellang saving scheme in Free State during the exchange.

Some of the challenges experienced by Lesotho Federation members included poor recording of savings books, complications with opening bank accounts, and challenges with compiling savings and project information from all districts. These were the focus of Lesotho’s last exchange to Free State province in South Africa in September 2016.

During a door-to-door, daily savings collection, Lesotho federation members shared:

“I realised that the daily collection was not just about collecting money from the members but also checking on their well-being. Some savers didn’t attend meetings because Elizabeth’s husband was seriously ill, Ntswaki just delivered a baby, Sero is not well in health and Dweni’s husband is in hospital. The groups then decided to make financial contributions other than daily savings to help with transport to hospital or medication.”

Federation members singing during the evaluation meeting of the exchange

Federation members singing during the evaluation meeting of the exchange

So how do savings groups multiply and federate? Through “learning by doing” as reflected in comments by Lesotho federation members at the end of the exchange:

The mobilisation experience taught us that we can approach totally random communities for saving scheme establishment.

We learnt about saving networks and their importance and that is something we do not have in Lesotho.

We saw that feedback to members on activities such as collection of money is crucial as it enhances transparency.

We realised your love for the organisation because some of you have even reached the stage of getting houses, but you are still active members and that shows us that you were not chasing after houses.

Jemina Nkoni (left) and Malefu Semonye (right) received a certificate and trophy for the third best performing saving network in the Free State

Jemina Nkoni (left) and Malefu Semonye (right) received a certificate and trophy for the third best performing saving network in the Free State

Spotlight on Mpumalanga: “Through FEDUP we support each other”

By FEDUP, uTshani Fund One Comment

By Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

“At Ellerines in Standerton, we need to collect Dolly, then its not far: continue straight over the crossing and turn left to get to Extension 6. We want to share what we are doing in our savings scheme. Some of us have houses, and some of us are starting small businesses”

(Togo Simelane, FEDUP member, Mpumalanga)

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Emelina Hlabati and Beauty Nkosi, long standing members of FEDUP’s Masakane savings scheme in Standerton

As Mama Dolly Moleme and Togo Simelane arrive at their home in Extension 6 in Standerton, they lead the way to Gogo Emelina Hlabati’s home. Together with Beauty Nkosi, the three ladies make up the steering committee of FEDUP’s PHP housing projects in Standerton. Apart from acting as FEDUP’s regional financial signatories, the group is involved in negotiating with the municipality and provincial government for direct access to housing subsidies through the People’s Housing Process (PHP). Read more about FEDUP’s engagement with PHP here.

Togo Simelane (front), Beauty Nkosi (left), Emelina Hlabati (right), Dolly Moleme (back)

Togo Simelane (front), Beauty Nkosi (left), Emelina Hlabati (right), Dolly Moleme (back)

Building first houses in Extension 6

FEDUP has been active in Extension 6 since 2001, with five savings schemes (Masakane, Lethukhanya, Vukuzenzele, Masihambisane and one income generation / loan group).

Dolly explains,

“We started building all the FEDUP houses in Extension 6 in 2005. uTshani Fund supported us with pre-financing the houses. We managed the construction of the houses through our Community Construction Management Teams (CCMTs). Houses should take one week to build but we waited for one month for the materials to deliver. The role of the government is to provide an inspector to check that the houses we build meet the appropriate standards.”

Beauty Nkosi infront of her Federation house

Beauty Nkosi infront of her Federation house

FEDUP self-financed its first three houses as “show houses” to negotiate for direct access to subsidy funds in 2001 and 2002. This enabled members to build houses with bigger dimensions than RDP houses. For the group of ladies it was clear,

“We’re not looking for municipality houses – we want Federation houses because they are much bigger and more beautiful”

Between 2005 and 2006 FEDUP has built 36 houses. Other members in the community are approved to receive a subsidy but Dolly explains that there has been little movement from the municipality. The group therefore contacts the municipality on a weekly basis to find out about proposed plans for the next subsidy houses. The likelihood of receiving subsidies in the near future, however, is small. This reflects the inability of South Africa’s provincial Departments of Human Settlements to adequately meet the country’s housing backlog. The backlog in Mpumalanga alone is close to 200 000.

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Beauty Nkosi with human settlements accredited photograph with Emelina Hlabati and Nomvula Mahlangu

FEDUP houses in Extension 6

FEDUP houses

 

Building Savings, Building Support

Through daily savings, however, FEDUP, has nurtured strong savings schemes and spaces in which members can support each other, regardless of the extent of municipal commitment and support.

Dolly explains,

“The Federation helped Gogo Emelina to such an extent that when she was born she was living in a shack. She started daily savings and luckily with the support of the Federation she was able to bury her husband in a dignified manner. When her husband passed away, the house was completed. Today she has a house and a chicken business. Otherwise she would be out in the open”

Dolly, Emelina and Beauty speak about their savings scheme:

“We are all part of Masakane savings scheme. Now we are about 30 members. Many of us received houses. Together we have a chicken project. We buy small chickens, we grow them and then we sell them when they have grown big. When we heard about the FEDUP loan group we decided to sell chickens because many people like to eat chickens.”

Read about FEDUP’s Income Generation Programme here.

Dolly Moleme and Emelina Hlabatis Chicken business

Dolly Moleme and Emelina Hlabatis Chicken business

Masakane savings scheme is also involved in other forms of saving such as saving towards groceries for the year-end. At the end of the year 60 members use the savings to buy a big load of groceries and one sheep each.

“Many people who live here live in shacks often don’t want to save. But when they see us building our houses they come running to us and ask how they can do this too. I like the Federation a lot! Even though I already have a house I would never dream of leaving the Federation. Many people are struggling. Through FEDUP we support each other even if the municipality doesn’t seem to want to help us”

(Dolly Moleme, FEDUP member, Standerton)

Togo Simelane in FEDUP office in Extension 6

Togo Simelane in FEDUP office in Extension 6

Tinasonke Community: Our show houses help us negotiate with Gauteng Province

By FEDUP, uTshani Fund No Comments

By Cynthia Ntombekhaya Yalezo and Philda Mmole * (on behalf of FEDUP)

This piece of land – where we now live – was not always called Tinasonke**. When we still stayed across the road – there in Tokoza township – as backyarders, it was called Caravan Park. There were only labour tenants living on this land because it was used to farm apple and apricot trees and mielies (maize).

**(Tinasonke township is located in Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, near Alberton in Gauteng. It was formally established in 2009).

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Tinasonke community leaders, Philda Mmole and Cynthia Ntombekhaya Yalezo

Walking through Tinasonke

View of Tinasonke

From Tokoza to Tinasonke

When we lived in Tokoza, about 1500 of us backyarders came together in 1997 to form the Zenzeleni Housing Savings Scheme as part of what we now call the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP). We wanted to improve our conditions by living on our own land and in our own houses. This is when we identified Caravan Park and negotiated with the owner of the land, who sold it to uTshani Fund on behalf of FEDUP in 1998 for R1.2 million. As a savings scheme we contributed R 260 000 of the cost which we used as a deposit for the land.

Each member of our savings scheme had to contribute R600 to cover the cost of the deposit. Some of us were working, others not. But we tried to help people. We lent money to Mama Msani to buy and resell bananas to earn the R600. There was a split and not everyone contributed to the cost of the deposit but we all moved away from Tokoza in 2003.

Philda and Cynthia outside FEDUP office in Tinasonke

Philda and Cynthia outside FEDUP office in Tinasonke

The beginning: our plans for houses

At this time we submitted our housing subsidy applications to the provincial government. Once they were approved we planned the site layout with the support of consultants who drew the layout professionally and submitted it for approval. We are now about 1200 people in Tinasonke, living on 514 sites. When we drew the layout plan – the municipality asked us to name our land.

We chose “Tinasonke” which means “all together”. We want everyone in FEDUP to get access to land together.

Since we moved here our savings group separated. Some members wanted RDP houses while the rest of us wanted FEDUP houses (Through the People’s Housing Process FEDUP members can directly access housing subsidies and construct larger houses through Community Construction Management Teams. FEDUP houses are generally 50m2 or larger, depending on the extent of additional savings. RDP houses are 40m2 in size.)

RDP house (left) , FEDUP show house (right)

RDP house (left) , FEDUP show house (right)

Far left: Lucky Khwidzili (uTshani Fund), Elias Matodzi (Owner of show house) Far Right: Philda Mmole, Cynthia Yalezo, Emily Mfundisi Mofokeng (Tinasonke Steering Committee members)

Far left: Lucky Khwidzili (uTshani Fund), Elias Matodzi (Owner of show house)
Far Right: Philda Mmole, Cynthia Yalezo, Emily Mfundisi Mofokeng (Tinasonke Steering Committee members)

Plan of Action: Building our show houses

Some community members have RDP houses. As FEDUP members our subsidies have been approved but we haven’t received them yet. We don’t want to fold our arms and wait for government to deliver houses. We want to do something ourselves – because when you wait for government you can wait 100 years. We try practice freedom, democracy.

We decided to build two show houses in Tinasonke to show government that we can do it ourselves. We used our own savings money from our Urban Poor Fund to pre-finance the two houses. In Tinasonke we have three savings schemes that meet every Saturday. Two are made up of FEDUP members in Tinasonke, and one is a savings scheme of landless people.

For the show houses we selected FEDUP members according to their age and participation. One of the show houses belongs to Nthathe Elias Matodzi. He has been a member of FEDUP since we moved to Tinasonke. FEDUP is in his blood. We like FEDUP because being part of this organisation gives us knowledge.

We want to negotiate with our show houses. We want government to see that we are doing things for our selves. We want government to match us with money so it can meet us half way and give our subsidies to us. Even now the rest of the community want FEDUP houses because they have seen our show houses. We want provincial government to see that we can do it for ourselves.

* Compiled by Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC) 

Elias Matodzi's 'two' homes, (showhouse on right)

Elias Matodzi’s ‘two’ homes, (showhouse on right)

Elias in his soon-to-be-completed house.

Elias in his soon-to-be-completed house.

Roof tiles delivered to Elias' showhouse.

Roof tiles delivered to Elias’ showhouse.