TB community hall – A foundation for community organising

By Kwanda Lande (on behalf of CORC)

We would like a type of a hall that can accommodate a lot of activities, like church services, cultural activities and office space for the Informal Settlement Network (ISN). It will be a shared space with other communities, but this will depend on the kind of activities they plan to do. We want to encourage activities that are about community development, and activities that would impact people’s lives in a positive way.

Through these words, one community leader of TB Section in Khayelitsha’s Site B explains how the priority of the community was having a shared space for four different communities located in the area (TT, UT Litha park, UT and TB section). The community of TB section have, for some time relied on a community hall that was in a very bad condition, a community hall that was not able to take care of the many of the activities and needs of the community.

The building of a hall for us was very important because the one that we used to have, was in a very poor condition. It was difficult to have meetings when it is raining because of a hall that was leaking, and this prevented us from discussing community issues. We also have our youth that want to do a lot of things but they could not because we did not have a place for them to meet. We also wanted to use this hall as a place that people can be relocated to when it is raining – as a temporary shelter.

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Community members, ISN leadership and contractor for the TB community hall

On 24th of June 2017 the community of TB section had an inauguration event to launch the new structure, however the idea around this hall started in 2015 and the actual construction begun in February 2017. Between 2015 and 2017 the community of TB section spent time on mobilising other residents through saving and data collection, and engaging with the City of Cape Town. Thus, after community profiling and enumeration, TB residents used their data to identify that they want a public space that contributes to their activities and, as a consequence, to community building and strengthening.

We wanted to build the TB hall in 2015, but we had to explain to the community how the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) and ISN work, for example, we had to explain to people that they support communities that are prepared and committed to organising and building themselves through saving and contributing to their development. This was necessary since people in this community did not know much about ISN and FEDUP.   

We also had to engage with the City of Cape Town about building a partnership – not only for this project, but for long term planning and development of the community of TB section. This include engagements that we had with the city’s officials – about asking for permission to build the hall, installing electricity and other services. We also had engagements with our ward councillor who endorsed the building of this structure. 

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Community members with FEDUP and ISN leaders during inauguration event to launch the new structure

ISN has been working with the community of TB section since at least 2011, and the building of the hall came out of the process of mobilising through the tools of saving, collecting data, and partnership. The utmost achievement of this work by both ISN and FEDUP is that the community has begin to organise itself, identify priorities and established some sense of self-reliance. These are aspects which the community can hold onto and use long after the construction of the hall is complete.

The existence of this hall in an informal settlement like this also makes it easy for us to challenge the municipality and tell them that if we can do something like this with FEDUP and ISN what is stopping you from doing something of the same level like building houses for us?

People on the ground are really motivated and they now understand that you do not have to wait for government for your things to happen. We are now aware that community development only happen for people that work for themselves, if you are sitting at home you do not go out and demand things very limited chances that you will get those things.

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Community members working together with contractor to build their own hall.

This community hall represents a building block for the ‘formalisation’ of the whole sub-region over time. It is a space for this community and surrounding communities to start building themselves as organised communities and start discussing the next step for their community. The community is in a better position, it has developed confidence to confront public issues that have direct and indirect impact on their lives.

The community of TB section, in the process of building the hall – has also demonstrated that it has capacity to collectively confront obstacles and can with time be in a position to do things for themselves with no external assistance. The community was able – during the implementation phase – to manage community dynamic on their own and there was almost no need for external intervention. The community was also able to collectively convince the ward councillor to support the project. As a result through this project a foundation for community organising has been formed and the community is build on it. 

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