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).
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.
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.)
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)