Category Archives: slum eradication

Public Lecture by Ananya Roy in Johannesburg: Making Slum-Free Cities – Global Urbanism in the Asian Century

The School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand, invites you to attend the 2013 Rusty Bernstein Memorial Lecture.

Making Slum-Free Cities: Global Urbanism in the Asian Century

Delivered by Ananya Roy, Professor of City and Regional Planning and Distinguished Chair in Global Poverty and Practice at the University of California, Berkeley.

Date: 16 May 2013
Time: 17h30 for 18h00 to 20h30
Venue: Dorothy Susskind Auditorium, John Moffat Building, East Campus,
University of the Witwatersrand


– 18h00: Welcome and opening
– Commemoration: ‘Drawing inspiration from Rusty Bernstein’ by Toni Strasburg, award winning documentary filmmaker and writer, author of Fractured Lives, and daughter of Rusty Bernstein
– ‘Making Slum-Free Cities: Global Urbanism in the Asian Century’ by Professor Ananya Roy
– Discussion
– Vote of thanks
– 20h00: Snacks and drinks in the John Moffat Foyer

Abstract for Professor Ananya Roy’s Talk:

The Asian Century can be understood as a historical conjuncture marked by new formations of economic hegemony and bold claims of Asian ascendancy. This talk examines how, at such a historical moment, the urban question becomes the matter of government, and how in particular, the megacity of slums is transformed into the Asian world-class city. Taking up the example of India’s recent Slum-Free Cities policy, which marks a break with hitherto dominant modes of governing, the talk interrogates emerging paradigms of inclusive growth, those that seek to integrate the poor into market rule and capitalize the entrepreneurial slum. In this way, the talk tackles the broader question of postcolonial government and its frontiers of development, as well as the politics of poverty thus unleashed.

‘Slum Eradication’ is not the answer to the housing crisis in Durban

Click here to read the article published in The Mercury

‘Slum Eradication’ is not the answer to the housing crisis in Durban


In a recent interview in The Mercury the new City Manager in Durban, S’bu Sithole, declared that ‘slums’ would be ‘eradicated’ in the city by 2030. Sithole seems sincere and well intentioned and some of his comments on housing, such as those pertaining to private profiteering off public housing, and the low quality of public housing are most welcome. But the return to the language of ‘eradicating slums’ is cause for concern. We’ve been down this road before and it was a disaster.

In 2001 Thabo Mbeki announced that ‘slums’ would be ‘eradicated’ in South Africa by 2014 and in that same year the eThekweni Municipality launched its ‘slum clearance programme’. By 2006 officials and politicians in Durban, and in the province, were confidently declaring that there would be no shacks in KwaZulu-Natal by 2010. The date by which shacks were going to be ‘eradicated’ was then shifted to 2011, and then aligned with the national target date of 2014.

But the idea that shacks can be eradicated by a certain date because a politician or official has decided this is a fantasy and one that is predicated on a denial of the seriousness of our urban crisis. The reality is that we have an economy that makes it impossible for millions of people to access housing via the market and that the number of people who can’t access housing via the market is growing at a rate that far outstrips the state’s ability to provide houses. The situation is compounded by the fact that many of the houses built by the state are, as well as being tiny and very badly constructed, so far away from opportunities to access work, schooling and so on that living in state housing is simply not viable for many people. Many people are much better off in well located shacks than in housing developments in the middle of nowhere.

In recent years both the eThekweni Municipality and the new Minister of Housing, Tokyo Sexwale, have publicly admitted that there is no chance of ‘eradication’ by 2014 and the language of ‘eradication’ is no longer promoted at national level. This is a welcome development because it shifts the discussion about the housing crisis off the terrain of fantasy and back on to the terrain of reality. But the problem with the rhetoric around ‘slum clearance’ was not just that it is, under current realities, a fantasy and a form of denialism. It also led to all kinds of other problems most of which come down to the fact that progress was assessed by the statistical measure of how many shacks were knocked down and how many houses were erected rather than how the City’s approach to housing affected the lives of people.

People were often left homeless when their shacks were demolished. And the City often acted with violence and in systemic violation of the laws that protect people against arbitrary eviction when it demolished shacks. People were also often subject to forced removals to transit camps or government houses which were sometimes structurally worse than their shacks and which often took them far away from social networks and opportunities to sustain livelihoods and access to education. For some people ‘housing delivery’ was, in fact, a disaster. Moreover the fantasy that all shack settlements were now ‘temporary’ meant that very little support was provided to shack settlements in terms of essential, and at times life-saving, services. The results of this included regular fires, children dying of diarrhoea and women without access to toilets risking rape when finding a private place to go to relieve themselves at night.

Unsurprisingly the city’s ‘slum clearance’ programme led to international condemnation from human rights organisations and sustained popular opposition from shack dwellers. The response of the City often took the form of outright repression including unlawful bans on protests, violent police responses to peaceful protests and violent attacks on individual activists by both the police and party structures. And Mike Sutcliffe’s substitution of spin and authoritarian bluster for open and rational engagement was a corrosive force in our public sphere.

However many grassroots activists, as well as many people working in the City, felt that the appointment of James Nxumalo as the new mayor marked the real possibility that a new start could be made in Durban. Nxumalo was seen as someone who was willing to engage, who treated poor people with respect and who could shift the discussion of the problems that we confront in Durban on to the terrain of reason and into a mode of partnership, or at least productive engagement, between poor communities and poor people’s organisations and the City.

The reality is that most of the forces that are driving the growth in squatting around the country are global and national and are outside of the control of any Mayor, City Manager or Municipality. But there are valuable things, even within current budgetary and policy constraints, that the eThekwini Municipality can do, and do very quickly, to seriously improve the lives of shack dwellers in Durban.

For instance immediate steps can be taken to urgently provide services like adequate and properly maintained water, sanitation, foot paths, access roads for emergency vehicles, fire extinguishers as well as electricity to shack settlements. It’s also possible for officials to take immediate steps to stop the farce that consulting with local party structures, or in the case of Motala Heights a local businessman who is widely referred to as a ‘gangster’ and whose taste for thuggery is well known, is the same thing as consulting with the people that are actually effected by decisions around development.

The City could also take urgent action to provide subsidised transport from the peripheral housing developments in places like Parkgate, Welbedacht and Waterloo, to fix up the houses in these areas and to provide other facilities, like parks and libraries in these barren spaces. The return to the apartheid strategy of forcing people into transit camps can also be halted, immediately, and adequate housing sought, with urgency, for all people that have been pushed into these inhuman spaces. And of course decisive action can be taken against corruption. Poor people’s organisations can be brought into planning processes and there is also nothing stopping the City from making a serious commitment to operating within the law. Moreover a serious attempt could be made to access resources, provided for in the Breaking New Ground policy, that, where possible, encourages the progressive and participatory upgrading of shack settlements into formal houses where they are rather than forced removals to peripheral ghettos.

But the most important shift that has to take place is that our urban crisis needs to be seen through the lens of an urgent imperative for justice rather than, as so often happened under Sutcliffe’s brutal reign, in terms of the language of security or making Durban more attractive to investors and its wealthier residents. We need to oppose any attempt to present the urban poor as a threat to society and to recognise, as the shack dweller’s movement Abahlali baseMjondolo has always insisted, that the same history and the same economy that has made some of us rich has made others of us poor. The Municipality should, as an urgent priority, be offering maximum support to the city’s poorest residents in ways that will result in the maximum improvement to their lives. This is the commitment that we need to be hearing. A return to the ‘eradication’ agenda will take us back to the numbers game that has very little regard for the lives of the people behind the statistics.

The field of tension of informal settlements in the new millennium

The field of tension of informal settlements in the new millennium

Over the past decade, South Africa witnessed an upsurge in negative labelling of informal settlements in policies and programmes, the removal of informal settlements from strategic positions in the city, and legislative amendments to facilitate such ‘eradication’.

Why were South African politicians and different parts of the state so confident that their negative statements about ‘slums’ and their drives to evict and eradicate were legitimate and beyond question?

Why did they find it appropriate to resort to repealed apartheid era legislation, criminalising the formation of informal settlements and making it easier for municipalities to evict?

Informal settlements occupy a contradictory position in urban policy.

On the one hand, there is articulated concern about urban poverty, and acknowledgement of the need to increase access to water and sanitation and improve the lives of ‘slum’ dwellers. These concerns are captured in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

On the other hand, there is the encouragement to country governments for cities to strive for global economic competitiveness in order to better function as engines of economic growth.

One source of this encouragement has been the UN’s Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, in particular through its involvement in Cities Alliance’s ‘Cities Without Slums’ initiative. UN-Habitat uncritically internalised ‘Cities Without Slums’ as a slogan. The UN attached this slogan to MDG 7 Target 11 ‘to significantly improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020’.

The presence of unsightly ‘slums’, of visible poverty and squalor in strategic locations, frustrates states in their efforts to portray an investor-friendly image to the world. This dynamic differentiates MDG 7 Target 11 from the other MDG targets.

MDG 11 contains an un-resolvable contradiction. Improving the lives of ‘slum’ dwellers (rather than removing them from strategic locations in the city) sits at odds with efforts to make the city more investor friendly.

City authorities, in their attempts to attract and hold on to investors, encourage and protect stakes in the urban land market. The adoption of this approach is not to be questioned. It is not submitted to public and political debate.

In South Africa, preparation for the 2010 Fifa World Cup brought this into stark relief. The urgent expenditure of massive public funds remained unchallenged. They resulted in soccer precincts and the acceleration of world class transport improvements, all enhancing economic stakes in the urban land market.

Spin-offs were promised to all, unconvincingly also to informal settlement dwellers. The provision of water, sanitation and housing to a fraction of informal settlements in turn received much public political attention.

The N2 Gateway pilot project in Cape Town, South Africa’s flagship ‘slum’ redevelopment exercise from 2004 to 2010, symbolised a tendency to override policy and legislation, as did numerous cases in South Africa’s six largest cities to evict informal settlement residents from strategic locations without court order and without provision of alternative accommodation.

All these interventions amounted to attempts at exclusion of the poor from South African cities.

In the light of those attempts, urban informality needs to be reinterpreted. It can no longer be viewed merely as the extra-legal, nor as a continuum with blurred edges, as defying measurement, or an organising logic or idiom of planning. Informality needs to be recognised as a field of tension.

While households living in informal settlements often choose an urban life and many find themselves with no alternative, they are confronted with more than just the physical inadequacies and hardships of informality – the lack of basic services, the unregulated and often overcrowded conditions, the inadequacy and insecurity of the shelter.

Recognising the reality of informal settlements as a field of tension forces us to look beyond mere physical symptoms. It forces us to grapple with the underlying causes of informality and the underlying causes of non-improvement of people’s lives, such as top-down interventions.

It also forces us to depart from a normative framework that labels informal settlements as ‘slums’ and condemns every aspect of these residential setups.

It forces us to recognise the tension between creativity and adversity which shapes and often defines ingenious solutions, models of human co-existence that are largely lost in the formal city. Opportunities for such forms of urban living and survival are closed down through tightened anti-land invasion measures and ‘slum’ eradication drives.

City authorities often repressively dismiss demands from economically weak households for space within the city. Their assumption is that such demands stem from poor migrants entering the city in large numbers.

However, the population of many cities in Africa is growing more slowly than is generally assumed. Urban poverty is largely generated by shrinking formal employment. In many instances migration has remained circular, binding rural with urban livelihoods on an ongoing basis.

Poor people’s responses, alternatives and innovations have been homogenised and problematised. Global usage of the term ‘slum’ since 2000 forms part of this homogenisation and problematisation. `Slum’ justifies blanket eradication of poor people’s footholds in the city.

In 2010, something different began to happen. South Africa experienced an about-turn with a new target to improve the lives of 400 000 households by 2014 through in situ upgrading of informal settlements.

Now the government faces the difficult task of chiselling away at the deeply entrenched problematisation and homogenisation, which has long informed largely flawed re-housing programmes. This prejudice has also blocked any investigation of the feasibility of in situ upgrading rather eviction and eradication. Perhaps it’s time to respect rather than remove those who live in informal settlements.

Marie Huchzermeyer, marie.huchzermeyer [at] wits [dot] ac [dot] za

This article is based on the author’s book Cities with “Slums”: From informal settlement eradication to a right to the city in Africa, University of Cape Town Press, Cape Town, 2011.

Business Day: Eradication of shacks not possible by 2014, say officials

Eradication of shacks not possible by 2014, say officials
Published: 2009/07/14 07:03:41 AM

THE Gauteng housing department has admitted that its goal of eradicating shacks by 2014 is becoming impossible to reach.

Department head Manching Monana yesterday said that for this goal to be achieved the department would have to build 200000 houses a year. She said the department provided about 64000 houses last year — exceeding its target of 58000 — and this year planned to deliver 28000 units, but this may be cut to 12000 due to budget constraints.

Department chief operations officer Mongezi Mnyani said the department needed about R4bn extra (on top of its R3,6bn budget) to provide the 200000 houses a year that were required. “We do have the capacity as all big construction companies are back at housing. They could deliver more than 350000 units a year.”

Mnyani said the department had approached the national department for an extra R6bn this year. He said the Breaking New Ground housing project, which will include double- storey buildings as well as RDP houses, was more expensive to build.

In 2004, the department registered all informal settlements: 405 were “captured” and 395 were identified for eradication by 2014. This year, the department planned to eradicate 122 of these informal settlements. According to department officials, this is not possible because the department is underfunded.

The department appeared before the Gauteng standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) yesterday to answer to the auditor-general’s findings on its financial statements for the 2007-08 financial year.

Officials told Scopa the department had enough capacity to deliver the needed houses but was under- funded. The department was explaining why it had overspent by R68,5m on its programme of building houses.

In the 2007-08 financial year, the department built 64056 houses, exceeding its target of 58552. The department had a budget of R2,6bn and received additional funding of R350m that was taken away, unspent, from the Eastern Cape government.

The auditor-general said the over- expenditure was unauthorised. The department said it had notified the Gauteng treasury and the national Department of Housing of the overexpenditure before it occurred.

Monana said the department had had to reduce its targets to match the budget. “We have the capacity to deliver more than we receive money for,” she told the committee.

Meanwhile, local government and housing MEC Kgaogelo Lekgoro defended the payment of large performance bonuses to senior managers at the Gauteng Partnership Fund last year, saying these payments were in line with the government’s strategy to retain scarce skills.

KZN Slum Elimination Bill: A Step Back

KZN Slum Elimination Bill: A Step Back

Living in an informal settlement implies a constant struggle against forces working to eliminate one’s unauthorised and hazardous home. The most pervasive force is the constant threat of fire. It is an almost routine experience, one which residents collectively share in horror, but also with mutual assistance in the urgent rebuilding of shacks. Twelve days into the new year the Kennedy Road settlement in Durban lost 12 shacks.

Another force that shack dwellers have come to deal with routinely is violent eviction by the municipality. Here too, the response from the informal settlement residents is increasingly collective, with solidarity reaching beyond individual settlements. The experience of violence and destruction of homes has fuelled grassroots mobilisation, in particular the formation and expansion of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a Durban-based shack dwellers’ movement. In response to this mobilisation, the authorities appear to have devised a further routine, the ad hoc arrest of community leaders.

While residents understand that their poorly planned and constructed settlements are in their very nature out of balance with the forces of nature, they do not accept that they should be out of balance with a democratic dispensation, to the extent of state violence and destruction. This at a time when the national housing policy (Breaking New Ground, 2004) states the ‘need to shift the official response to informal settlements from one of conflict and neglect to one of integration and cooperation’, and has introduced a new funding mechanism for informal settlement upgrading which will ‘maintain fragile community networks, minimise disruption, and enhance participation in all aspects of the development’.

Why is national housing policy for informal settlements not being implemented in Durban? On the one hand, the eThekwini Municipality’s Integrated Housing Plan is outdated – it seeks to eliminate informal settlements by relocating shack owners who qualify for a housing subsidy to newly developed ‘RDP houses’. These are mostly in large estates nowhere near the informal settlement and are not developed in pace to address the scale of informal settlements. The approach also ignores the fact that many informal settlement residents either do not own their shacks or do not qualify for housing subsidies. This problem is redressed in Breaking New Ground: A Comprehensive Plan for Developing Sustainable Human Settlements, adopted by national Department of Housing in 2004. Its Informal Settlement Upgrading Programme seeks to improve informal settlements in situ rather than relocate to new housing developments, and does not require individual households in informal settlements to qualify for a housing subsidy.

On the other hand is the anti-poor approach of the KwaZulu-Natal Province. This attitude is captured in the Province’s Elimination and Prevention of Re-emergence of Slums Bill, 2006, a proposed piece of legislation that makes no reference to the cooperative and participatory approach to informal settlements contained in Breaking New Ground. The Slum Elimination Bill speaks of ‘control and elimination of slums’, language used in the 1951 Prevention of Squatting Act of the apartheid government. This was replaced by the Prevention of Illegal Eviction and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act of 1998, which instead focuses on establishing rights for informal occupiers, protecting them from forceful and undignified eviction.

With the emphasis on control, the Province’s proposed Slum Elimination Bill places onus on land owners to prevent informal occupation and in cases of existing informal occupation, to institute eviction procedures. Herein lies a worrying commonality with apartheid’s 1951 Prevention Squatting Act, which, also gave a role to landowners in the ‘elimination’ of informal settlements.

In the preparations for Breaking New Ground in 2004, the national Department of Housing conceptualised ‘informal settlement support’ – much of this concept is contained in its Informal Settlement Upgrading Programme, and is in tune with the state’s overall objective of addressing poverty, vulnerability and exclusion. Within this pro-poor framework, KwaZulu-Natal’s Slum Elimination Bill should not be approved. And within this framework, living in an informal settlement should not imply a struggle against forces of elimination. It should imply government support in households’ struggle against the forces of nature – fire and floods – and in the collective struggle to access secure tenure, basic services and housing in situ, without disruption to schooling and livelihoods.

Marie Huchzermeyer
School of Architecture and Planning
Wits University