Greenfield Services and Housing in Gcinulwazi

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Focus Areas: Other Infrastructure | Housing

This is a Greenfields development project, involving the installation of services and construction of 108 houses in Gcinulwazi in Newlands East in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Project activity focused on benefitting backyarders and evictees and was pre-financed by uTshani fund, to be paid back by Provincial Government. Pressure from local politicians meant that some of the beneficiaries were people who were not Federation members, but joined the Federation in order to access the land. Land tenure arrangements were such that once title was transferred from the council, land would go to a communal property association made up of 150 residents from the settlement. All families involved received individual title.  Houses were constructed by 2002 (by Community Construction Management teams over a two-year period) and shallow sewer infrastructure (the first in South Africa’s SDI projects) and narrow roads installed in 2003/4, with help from city engineers. Subsidies were to be paid out collectively by the Provincial Government to the communal property association yet new community leadership rejected this and subsidies were returned to the Province – halting project progress. 

Activity involved interaction with the local authority of Durban Metro Wastewater Services and various other stakeholders including the Department of Housing, Environmental Health, and Metro Housing. After the project started male dominated leadership took over from women’s savings collectives, reversing the progress made by the women. The project thus affirmed the capacity for innovation and accountability in these savings collectives. Gcinulwazi and its housing project is an example of the failure of formally driven, top-down housing solutions as the male dominated demands focused on state intervention which was anti-poor and unsustainable. Positive impacts include steps being taken towards more environmentally sustainable water and sanitation technologies and some job creation and skills transfer in the community. Challenges for project success include the community leadership’s rejection of subsidies based on communal land titles, which meant subsidies were returned to Government. This was prompted by the predominantly male leadership's rejection of communal ownership, discussed above.

Location: Gcinulwazi, Durban, South Africa
Bunita Kohler (+27) 21 689 9408 View Website
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Project information updated: 15 May 2014

Project in depth

Detailed Information

The project was launched by the South African Alliance of the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) and uTshani, the national urban poor fund in March 1999. Newlands East is located between the industrial areas of Durban and the dormitory towns of Ntuzuma and Kwa Mashu. Surveying of the settlement showed that average income for households is less than R800/month. Project activity was planned in a cost effective manner and was included under the Federation 24 point land tenure plan which included land invasions across the country (Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Johannesburg). The invasion in Newlands West in 1996 lead to a hostile response from political leadership in the settlement and the murder of the savings scheme founder. Violent confrontation between slum dweller groups and squatter control squads eventually turned into negotiations for one group who had been living near a sewerage plant in a suburb known as Kenville. The negotiated solution resulted in a formal partnership between the Durban Federation and the Durban Metropolitan Council. The Gcinulwazi project in Newlands East was to be a joint development in which the City and the Federation were to explore innovations in regard to tenure arrangements, infrastructure development, and housing construction.
A few of the loans have been recovered and the project remains open as long as the Federation lobbies Government for further subsidy funds owed for development. Skills were transferred and some employment was provided for the project through the CCMT construction of the shallow sewers and narrow roads. This part of the project was considered a major breakthrough in terms of cost reduction, more sustainable technical solutions and more appropriate layout planning for settlements in which private vehicle ownership is negligible. The precedent for community savings was set early in the project aiding sustainable development.

Funding Information



Fully funded

Implementing Partners

Ford Foundation


South African SDI Alliance