Category Archives: Breaking New Ground

Here to work: the socioeconomic characteristics of informal dwellers in post-apartheid South Africa

Here to work: the socioeconomic characteristics of informal dwellers in post-apartheid South Africa

by Mark Hunter & Dorrit Posel

Government policy towards informal settlements in South Africa reflects a tension between two approaches: recognizing the legitimacy of informal settlements and aggressively removing these so-called “slums”. Drawing on nationally representative household survey data and interviews with 25 individuals relocated from an informal settlement to a “transit camp”, this paper argues that more detailed attention should be paid to the changing connection between housing, household formation and work. Whereas cities in the apartheid era were marked by relatively stable industrial labour and racially segregated family housing, today the location and nature of informal dwellings are consistent with two important trends: demographic shifts, including towards smaller more numerous households, and employment shifts, including a move from permanent to casual and from formal to informal work. This study is therefore able to substantiate in more detail a longstanding insistence by informal settlement residents that they live where they do for reasons vital to their everyday survival. The paper also highlights the limitations of relocations not only to urban peripheries but also to other parts of cities, and it underscoresthe importance of upgrading informal
settlements through in situ development.

Business Day: Making up lost ground in SA’s informal settlements

The report from this conference is online here.

Making up lost ground in SA’s informal settlements
Published: 2010/11/15 07:32:29 AM


IN THE midst of current debates about access to information and media freedom there are important political developments happening around another vital part of South African society. And no, it’s not the National Health Insurance or public sector wages (although these are critically important).

We’re talking about the upgrading of informal settlements.

According to Statistics SA, as of mid- 2009, 13,4% of households in SA lived in informal dwellings. There are more than 2700 informal settlements consisting of about 1,2-million households.

In spite of a progressive upgrading of informal settlements programme being in the National Housing Code since 2004, informal settlements have been characterised as sites of illegality, and shack dwellers treated in a heavy-handed and undignified manner. In recent months Hangberg residents, and members of the shack-dweller movements, Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Landless People’s Movement, have experienced this treatment in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

A far cry from the “eradication” discourse that has characterised informal settlement approaches in the past, the upgrading of informal settlements programme highlights the importance of assisting people with tenure security and access to services on site, and states that relocation is a last resort — to be undertaken only in exceptional circumstances on a voluntary, co-operative basis.

It’s about land and services first, houses later. This is the message the National Upgrading Support Programme — a partnership between the Department of Human Settlements and the Cities Alliance, set up to support the implementation of the informal settlement upgrading programme — is seeking to reinforce through, among others, the creation of a “community of practice”, a forum of public-sector practitioners in which lessons can be learnt and capacity-building can take place.

It is at the municipal level that pressures are most acutely felt, and where the planning for development takes place, including identifying informal settlements for upgrade and setting targets for delivery using municipal planning instruments — integrated development plans and their associated “housing chapters”, or housing-sector plans.

The accreditation of municipalities with the housing function is under consideration for the metropolitan municipalities and some of the secondary cities. Depending on the accreditation level, municipal autonomy over the application of the provincial housing subsidy is set to increase. This should give local planning in the housing sector more teeth and reinforce the municipal priorities.

As a result, however, communities living in informal settlements need to be “on the list” or “in the integrated development plan ” if they are to have any hope of upgrade in the foreseeable future (or at least the five-year term of office, which is the planning horizon of municipal plans). If they are not, then there are no other options, as they are excluded from the “normal” residential property market. Unless people register on the housing demand database (a new name for a housing waiting list) and wait patiently for houses to be built or their name to come up, they are identified as queue-jumpers at best, and very often as illegal. Clear, open and well- understood rules for inclusion on these lists are essential, as need far exceeds what the government is able to supply.

Reality, as always, is complex. Implementation of the upgrading of informal settlements programme has been slow or poorly conceived, and plagued by various obstacles, not least the lack of capacity at the local level as well as political will to do incremental settlement upgrading for poor people on what is often very well-located land. For some officials and politicians, this smacks too much of historical “site and service” schemes and does not have the immediate political clout that cutting ribbons on houses does.

Further, identifying informal settlements for upgrade is often the subject of much less obvious processes than the rational allocation of resources and participative planning methodologies envisaged in policy. This is a particular risk in a local government election year, when delivery promises are routinely made, sometimes to specific communities.

The question of access and inclusion — of being on the list, or in the integrated development plan — is not new but it was recently reinforced at a workshop in Johannesburg organised by LANDfirst, a network of civil society organisations advocating a pro-poor approach to land access that emphasises incremental settlement, together with the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA. This event brought together community-based organisations, social movements, nongovernmental organisations, think-tanks, lawyers and academics working on informal settlement upgrading and managed land settlement, as well as the Department of Human Settlements. The issue of informal settlement identification — of being on the list — was given a new emphasis because of a shift in our development context.

Earlier in the year we heard President Jacob Zuma and ministers Tokyo Sexwale and Edna Molewa talk about the government’s plan to provide tenure and services to 400000 households in well-located informal settlements by 2014. This is central to Zuma’s signature outcomes-based approach to service delivery.

Recently, the delivery agreement for outcome eight — sustainable human settlements and improved quality of household life — signed between Zuma and Sexwale has entrenched this objective. The next step is for Sexwale to sign agreements with provincial MECs, and for the identification of informal settlements for upgrading to be finalised.

As promising as the renewed emphasis on on-site upgrading appears to be, for those at the workshop a priority question was about how the process for the identification of informal settlements for upgrading is taking place. Transparency, flexibility and the involvement of community organisations, social movements and other civil society groups should be critical to this process, as with the upgrading process in general. The workshop identified the need to create a national platform for discussion on informal settlement and land-access issues, as well as the need to bridge the gap between community needs and technocratic “delivery”. A call for dialogue between all parties and enhanced collaboration between different role- players on the ground, was articulated.

We need to identify and learn from a range of “good practice” happening throughout the country, in order to replicate these at scale. The political space being created by current developments is welcomed by many who have consistently campaigned in various ways for the implementation of the upgrading programme over the years.

The creation of equitable towns and cities that provide dignity and quality of life for all inhabitants is not a pipe dream.

However, to become a reality, it requires the collective buy-in and energy of local government officials, communities, social movements, planners, engineers and nongovernmental organisations.

The right kind of policy instrument is in place. The political space appears to have opened. A programme of support has been established. The time is now, and we cannot afford to make the same mistakes again.

– Tissington is research and advocacy officer at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of SA. Royston is tenure theme co-ordinator at Urban LandMark.

Sunday Times: Plan flops to house poor next to rich

Plan flops to house poor next to rich
Progressive projects fail to get off the ground

Aug 1, 2010 12:00 AM | By BONGANI MTHETHWA
Controversial government plans to build low-cost housing next to plush suburbs has not changed South Africa’s housing landscape

The much-vaunted programme to end shack living, launched in 2004, was meant to integrate rich and poor communities to address a backlog of some 2.4 million homes.

Officially known as Breaking New Ground, the policy would result in apartments and multi-storey complexes built next to expensive suburbs and gated communities, with the not-so-well-heeled becoming neighbours of the wealthy.

But, six years later, some of the projects, meant to showcase the country’s progressive policy of promoting racially integrated cities, have either been shelved or failed to materialise.

This could seriously hamper state plans to speed up housing delivery to the poor and have all South Africans accommodated in formally planned settlements by 2014.

In Cape Town, plans to build about 750 houses and triple-storey flats for low- and middle-income families in upmarket Constantia have been shelved because of a land claim dispute.

In Durban, inclusionary housing in Westville, Chatsworth, Phoenix, KwaMashu and Newlands East has failed to get off the ground two years after it was launched.

ANC councillor Nigel Gumede, who heads the city’s housing committee, said no oversight role or monitoring system had been in place.

The N2 Gateway project next to the Joe Slovo shack settlement in Cape Town, intended to benefit 20000 shack dwellers, has also been beset with problems.

But Nathan Adriaanse, spokesman for the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements, said that despite this, 8186 families had been accommodated in new houses.

He said the greatest challenge over the past year had revolved around the closure of Thubelisha Homes, appointed to manage the project after the withdrawal of the City of Cape Town in 2006.

Professor Marie Huchzermeyer of Wits University said an inclusionary housing policy should never be viewed, implemented or assessed only on a project basis, as in South Africa.

“It’s a policy that has to be entrenched through zoning and municipal revenue systems. Yes, we do need innovative projects, but these will never come off the ground as long as there are only a few ‘inclusionary’ zones and the rest of the city may remain segregated,” she said.

Thabani Zulu, the director-general of the national Department of Human Settlements, said a major challenge was the lack of suitable and affordable land.

“Problems are being addressed and resolved. The not-in-my-backyard mentality of some middle- to high-income families has in many cases delayed and constrained the programme,” he said.

He said the N2 Gateway was never intended as an integrated development but targeted at low-income families. He said that Cosmo City in Randburg, Bendor in Limpopo, Zanemvula in Port Elizabeth, and Olievenhoutbosch in Centurion had yielded positive results.

A Progressive Policy Without Progressive Politics: Lessons from the failure to implement ‘Breaking New Ground’

The full article is attached, below, in pdf.

A Progressive Policy Without Progressive Politics: Lessons from the failure to implement ‘Breaking New Ground’

by Richard Pithouse

“Depoliticization is the oldest task of politics.”
– Jacques Rancière (2007: 19)

This article provides a brief overview of post-apartheid housing policy. It argues that, in principle, ‘Breaking New Ground’ (BNG) was a major advance over the subsidy system but that the failure to implement BNG, which has now been followed by more formal moves away from a rights based and towards a security based approach, lie in the failure to take a properly political approach to the urban crisis. It is suggested that a technocratic approach privileges elite interests and that there could be better results from an explicitly pro-poor political approach – which would include direct support for poor people’s organisations to challenge elite interests, including those in the state, and to undertake independent innovation on their own.

Cape Times: The Western Cape housing crisis can be solved

an emergency effort is needed
The Western Cape housing crisis can be solved

August 12, 2009 Edition 1

Martin Legassick

It is good news that Tokyo Sexwale and Helen Zille have decided to bury the hatchet on the petty squabbling between the ANC and DA (largely, let it be said, initiated by the ANC) over the N2 Gateway project and land allocation in the province.

The spat has hampered housing delivery in the province. We are now told “the three spheres of government are to sit around one table to decide on the future of the project.” (“Sexwale, Zille and city to decide on N2 Gateway,” August 10).

But Sexwale, Zille, Dan Plato and their officials would be making a big mistake if they believed the future could be settled without involving beneficiary communities, through their representative committees, at the decision-making table.

Unlike his predecessor as housing minister, Sexwale has at least already gone on walkabouts in N2 Gateway Phase 1 and the Joe Slovo informal settlement. But walk-abouts are not the same as meaningful involvement in decision-making.

In the past “consultation” or “negotiation” meant for officials merely informing beneficiaries of dogmatically set plans without any intention of altering them.

What needs to happen is that the past needs to be rectified and the future of N2 Gateway planned with the beneficiaries rather than over their heads.

There is a crisis in housing nationally and in the Western Cape. In Cape Town alone, there is a backlog of 400 000 houses, which is increasing by 18-20 000 a year, with only 8-9 000 houses built a year.

On that basis, the housing backlog will never disappear. It is time for some bold and imaginative thinking.

Let us recall that the Auditor-General’s special report on N2 Gateway found:

# Parliament still has not passed the legislation underlying the project, though it was started in 2004;

# The business plan for the project was not finalised before the start and was not available for audit;

# Sufficient land was not secured before the start;

# There was non-compliance with the prescribed requirement of listing the proposed beneficiaries in the final business plan;

# Documentation was not consistent on qualifying criteria for proposed beneficiaries, especially the monthly household income requirement;

# Affordable housing was not provided in Phase 1 for the target market identified (Joe Slovo informal settlement residents);

# There was considerable “fruitless and wasteful expenditure” on the project – Parliament’s Scopa estimates up to R2 billion;

# The initial building consortium (Cyberia Technologies) was sixth on the tender evaluation list, its appointment was not properly authorised and it had no contract;

# Thubelisha Homes was appointed in 2006 to replace Cyberia without proper tender procedures or a contract. (Thubelisha has since gone bankrupt, replaced by the National Housing Agency).

Deficiencies in construction of the Phase 1 flats mentioned in the Auditor-General’s report include:

# The certificate of completion for the building contract issued by the principal agent was issued erroneously;

# Compliance with registration and inspection procedures identified in various regulations could not be verified;

# Instances were identified where “as built” specifications did not comply with minimum specifications for social housing;

# There were deviations from contract specifications;

# The large public stormwater canal constituted a foul health hazard; and

# Site inspections revealed numerous cracks in the walls and floors, peeling paint, doors that were not fitted properly, loose fittings, uncovered drain pipes and blocked drains.

This amounts to a morass of officially committed illegality. The beneficiaries have borne the consequences and need redress.

For example, residents in Phase 1 have held a rent boycott for two years because of the defective housing and higher rates than they had been told to expect.

They are being asked to pay exorbitant rentals to make up for the cost overruns and corruption in the construction of the flats.

This is unfair. Recent Thubelisha head Prince Xanthi Sigcau has claimed that residents in the area were aware of the rentals when they moved in. But they moved in during a period of the transition in management from Cyberia to Thubelisha – well before Sigcau appeared on the scene.

The residents claim Cyberia announced a rental rise from R350-R500 to R650-R1 050 without explanation and pressured them to sign contracts without even reading them.

Phase 1 residents should have their rentals reduced to a mutually agreeable, affordable level.

There are reports that the management of Phase 1 is to be given to the Cape Town Community Housing Company (CTCHC), which since 1999 has been embroiled in complaints, about defective housing quality and exorbitant rentals, from tenants in nine villages.

Moreover, why must CTCHC, with its appalling record, manage these flats? Why can’t the tenants assume co-operative management?

In addition, why can’t some arrangement be made to transpose rents to reasonable bond payments, so that residents can eventually own their homes rather than rent for life?

These ideas have been considered by the representative committee.

They are the sort of ideas that Sexwale, Zille, Plato and their officials could consider implementing.

The same applies to the residents of the Joe Slovo informal settlement, still under threat of forced removal to Delft, from which barely 12 percent of them will be able to return on the existing N2 Gateway plans.

They are victims of the incompetence of Thubelisha.

The Breaking New Ground housing policy, conceived in 2004, was supposed to break with apartheid-style city planning (blacks to the periphery) and practise upgrading in situ. Both provisions are being violated in the case of the residents of Joe Slovo.

Two things need to be considered here – firstly, finding land in Langa, where they can be placed temporarily rather than in Delft (originally, in 2004/5 sites were identified in Langa/Epping but business owners threatened court action.

These owners could be persuaded otherwise by Sexwale and Zille.

Secondly. higher-density housing – even if this involves, as Plato has suggested, buildings that rise over several storeys.

Medium-density housing is being considered in other townships.

Both ideas have been considered by the representative committee in Joe Slovo, and they need to be brought into the planning process.

The failures of N2 Gateway are largely of an ANC government (the DA was excluded from N2 Gateway shortly after taking office in the City of Cape Town). But both the DA and the ANC need to reconsider their housing policies.

The occupation of N2 Gateway housing by Delft back yarders in December 2007 and the recent occupations of vacant municipal land in Macassar, Kraaifontein and elsewhere by equally desperate back yarders stems from the housing crisis in the city – with the backlog increasing every year.

The city is again threatening to evict Delft back yarders from the shacks they have built on Symphony Way, just as it tore down the shacks of the Macassar occupants – an illegal act, covered up by the city applying resources superior to those of the residents.

The Delft back yarders are all eligible for N2 Gateway houses, but when they submitted their applications Thubelisha lost them.

They engaged in a protest at a handover of N2 Gateway homes and Sigcau promised to deliver new forms but never did so. Now the city wants to condemn them to the prison-like temporary relocation area in Blikkiesdorp.

The ANC may be imagining, in vain, that all informal settlements can be eliminated by 2014. It is equally foolish for the DA to try to implement a policy of zero tolerance for land occupations.

Until sufficient housing can be provided, space must be allowed for the swelling urban population to build shacks on vacant land.

It is incumbent on public bodies to provide such space. Otherwise the city will face overcrowding, resulting in more crime, drug abuse, and the abuse of women and children – all of which are against the policies of the DA and ANC.

And while Sexwale, Zille, Plato and their officials are reconsidering housing policy – in conjunction with the beneficiaries of N2 Gateway and others – they might consider something else. 475 000 jobs have been lost this year due to the recession, adding to the more than 30 percent unemployment rate (including those discouraged from seeking work.)

Why not organise, through an expanded public works programme, emergency training for the unemployed (many have inadequate homes) men and women in bricklaying, carpentry, plumbing and so on so that they can be employed to build the much-needed houses?

Cosatu should put its weight behind such a plan.

The current housing budget is only 1.5 percent of GDP as opposed to the developing country norm of 5-6 percent.

With an emergency effort, spearheaded by the presidency, resourced through the treasury (Zuma has promised R2.4bn to retrain the retrenched), and motivated by the beneficiaries, the nationally needed 2.2m houses could be built quickly.

# Legassick is Emeritus Professor at the University of the Western Cape and is active in the field of housing.