NGOs aim to rescue informal residents

2015-09-22 06:00

NGOs and NPOs are hoping to work in partnership to upgrade informal settlements across the country after the Isandla Institute recently held their national roundtable.

There are approximately 2 700 informal settlements in the country, which translates to around 11% of South Africans living in them.

According to Mirjam van Donk, director at Isandla Institute, “spatial injustice” has limited residents to land, shelter and basic services.

The roundtable was attended by local, provincial and national government, civil society and the private sector.

“We want to promote a participatory approach towards informal settlement upgrading,” said Van Donk.

Bonginkosi Madikizela, Western Cape MEC for human settlements, said that upgrading informal settlements was his top priority, given that the government could never completely rid itself of the housing backlog. Currently the backlog stands at around 2,3 million households that are waiting for free government housing.

“Even though we are a leading province in providing access to basic services, there is much work that remains to be done. What is on paper versus the reality on the ground, are two different things.

“Just because an informal settlement has access to ablution facilities doesn’t mean they are of decent quality. One toilet for five families means that 20 people are all using the same toilet,” said Madikizela.

“So many officials are only interested in obtaining clean audits that they go for low-hanging fruit in order to achieve their goals. We are spending all the money in our budget, but on the wrong things,” he said.

Rather than tackling the easy problems, he said his department was focusing on three pressing challenges: upgrading informal settlements, accelerating the provision of formal houses, and prioritising deserving candidates on the provincial housing waiting list.

“There are 119 informal settlements that have been in the Western Cape for more than 20 years, and it’s time that we work to improve the quality of people’s lives in these areas.”

Madikizela praised the work of NGOs who often act as mediators between the government and communities.

Melanie Manuel of the Informal Settlement Network said that residents’ mindset regarding upgrading needed to change.

“When we talk about upgrading, people say they’re not interested because they are waiting for their free houses. But we say to them, ‘While you wait, let’s change your reality now’.”

Van Donk said in order to collaborate more effectively, Isandla Institute has partnered with other Cape Town-based NGOs to form a “community of practice” to promote participatory informal settlement upgrading through knowledge sharing, collaboration and experimentation.

Manuel said that when approaching a community about upgrading, it was important to “go with a blank page and a willingness to collaborate”, rather than a set agenda. She emphasised the need for a “political champion” within the city council to enable the upgrading to take place.

During the discussions, various Western Cape case studies were referred to as good examples of informal settlement upgrades.

In concluding the roundtable, Van Donk encouraged role players to work together, be bold in their actions and make “responsible” mistakes in driving the process of transforming the urban landscape. “Informal settlement upgrading is a parallel process that improves the physical environment while also paying attention to the role of urban residents in determining their own lives,” she said.

NGOs and NPOs are hoping to work in partnership to upgrade informal settlements across the country after the Isandla Institute recently held their national roundtable.

There are approximately 2 700 informal settlements in the country, which translates to around 11% of South Africans living in them.

According to Mirjam van Donk, director at Isandla Institute, “spatial injustice” has limited residents to land, shelter and basic services.

The roundtable was attended by local, provincial and national government, civil society and the private sector.

“We want to promote a participatory approach towards informal settlement upgrading,” said Van Donk.

Bonginkosi Madikizela, Western Cape MEC for human settlements, said that upgrading informal settlements was his top priority, given that the government could never completely rid itself of the housing backlog.

Currently the backlog stands at around 2,3 million households that are waiting for free government housing.

“Even though we are a leading province in providing access to basic services, there is much work that remains to be done. What is on paper versus the reality on the ground, are two different things.

“Just because an informal settlement has access to ablution facilities doesn’t mean they are of decent quality. One toilet for five families means that 20 people are all using the same toilet,” said Madikizela.

“So many officials are only interested in obtaining clean audits that they go for low-hanging fruit in order to achieve their goals.

“We are spending all the money in our budget, but on the wrong things,” he said.

Rather than tackling the easy problems, he said his department was focusing on three pressing challenges: upgrading informal settlements, accelerating the provision of formal houses, and prioritising deserving candidates on the provincial housing waiting list.

“There are 119 informal settlements that have been in the Western Cape for more than 20 years, and it’s time that we work to improve the quality of people’s lives in these areas.”

Madikizela praised the work of NGOs who often act as mediators between the government and communities.

Melanie Manuel of the Informal Settlement Network said that residents’ mindset regarding upgrading needed to change.

“When we talk about upgrading, people say they’re not interested because they are waiting for their free houses. But we say to them, ‘While you wait, let’s change your reality now’.”

Van Donk said in order to collaborate more effectively, Isandla Institute has partnered with other Cape Town-based NGOs to form a “community of practice” to promote participatory informal settlement upgrading through knowledge sharing, collaboration and experimentation.

Manuel said that when approaching a community about upgrading, it was important to “go with a blank page and a willingness to collaborate”, rather than a set agenda. She emphasised the need for a “political champion” within the city council to enable the upgrading to take place.

During the discussions, various Western Cape case studies were referred to as good examples of informal settlement upgrades.

In concluding the roundtable, Van Donk encouraged role players to work together, be bold in their actions and make “responsible” mistakes in driving the process of transforming the urban landscape.

“Informal settlement upgrading is a parallel process that improves the physical environment while also paying attention to the role of urban residents in determining their own lives,” she said.

NGOs and NPOs are hoping to work in partnership to upgrade informal settlements across the country after the Isandla Institute recently held their national roundtable.

There are approximately 2 700 informal settlements in the country, which translates to around 11% of South Africans living in them. According to Mirjam van Donk, director at Isandla Institute, “spatial injustice” has limited residents to land, shelter and basic services.

The roundtable was attended by local, provincial and national government, civil society and the private sector.

“We want to promote a participatory approach towards informal settlement upgrading,” said Van Donk.

Bonginkosi Madikizela, Western Cape MEC for human settlements, said that upgrading informal settlements was his top priority, given that the government could never completely rid itself of the housing backlog. Currently the backlog stands at around 2,3 million households that are waiting for free government housing. Even though we are a leading province in providing access to basic services, there is much work that remains to be done. What is on paper versus the reality on the ground, are two different things.

“Just because an informal settlement has access to ablution facilities doesn’t mean they are of decent quality. One toilet for five families means that 20 people are all using the same toilet,” said Madikizela.

“So many officials are only interested in obtaining clean audits that they go for low-hanging fruit in order to achieve their goals. We are spending all the money in our budget, but on the wrong things,” he said.

Rather than tackling the easy problems, he said his department was focusing on three pressing challenges: upgrading informal settlements, accelerating the provision of formal houses, and prioritising deserving candidates on the provincial housing waiting list. “There are 119 informal settlements that have been in the Western Cape for more than 20 years, and it’s time that we work to improve the quality of people’s lives in these areas.” Madikizela praised the work of NGOs who often act as mediators between the government and communities.

Melanie Manuel of the Informal Settlement Network said that residents’ mindset regarding upgrading needed to change. “When we talk about upgrading, people say they’re not interested because they are waiting for their free houses. But we say to them, ‘While you wait, let’s change your reality now’.”

Van Donk said in order to collaborate more effectively, Isandla Institute has partnered with other Cape Town-based NGOs to form a “community of practice” to promote participatory informal settlement upgrading through knowledge sharing, collaboration and experimentation.

Manuel said that when approaching a community about upgrading, it was important to “go with a blank page and a willingness to collaborate”, rather than a set agenda. She emphasised the need for a “political champion” within the city council to enable the upgrading to take place.

Various Western Cape case studies were referred to as good examples of informal settlement upgrades. In concluding the roundtable, Van Donk encouraged role players to work together, be bold in their actions and make “responsible” mistakes in driving the process of transforming the urban landscape

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