Kanana Land, Housing, and Infrastructure

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Focus Areas: Other Infrastructure | Housing

This project focuses on land tenure, provision of infrastructure for 48 houses, construction of a Building Information and Training (BIT) Centre, and 27 houses in Kanana settlement, Sedibeng in Gauteng province. Project activity was pre-financed by uTshani fund with costs recovered for the BIT Centre from the Department of Housing. Infrastructure costs were not recovered and beneficiaries took housing loans to pay for construction costs and were supposed to be repaid by the Department of Housing but was not. The Federation managed to use its links with Government to bring the Minister of Land Affairs to the settlement in 1995, for the launch of the BIT Centre and the digging of the foundations for the first house. This event focused on state engagement and saw positive outcomes in the Minister’s commitment to assist residents in securing title for their land. This relationship continued to strengthen with the Ministry of Land Affairs securing land for urban poor communities across the country - in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Johannesburg, and Durban. Both the Federation and the Department of Land Affairs made serious efforts to develop institutional arrangements, establishing protocol for redistribution of urban land. The Federation and Kanana community constructed an initial 10 houses to demonstrate their capacity for the project. Yet contracts were given to consultants to redesign the settlements - design changes amounting to the moving of 50 shacks built under electricity pylons. This meant that community members were not given jobs through the project. Despite impacts across the country through project activity it did not match the scale of need. Although positive steps include the use of political advocacy on part of the Alliance and strategic use of resources for housing, infrastructure, and public amenities to develop an entire formal neighbourhood for more than 2000 households. Communities in the Vaal region, Soweto, and Ekurhuleni got tenure security. Kanana is seen as a centre of learning for the Federation from which to replicate further projects, learnt through exchanges across the country. In 2006 Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu pledged 1000 subsidies per province to the Federation.  Activity in response to this was strongest in Gauteng.  

The project saw clear challenges in Government and local authority accepting community-led development as workable and cheap. There was conflict between residents wanting to build their own houses and councilors trying to impose contractor-driven solutions. This conflict stagnated development. There was also corruption within local authorities and finances were used for self-gain. Construction companies were able to take advantage of a subsidy-determined environment allowing private sector profit without risk. There was a clear campaign enacted by some politicians and private construction companies to undermine community-based development. This represents much of the stagnation and failure in housing delivery in the country. It has been reported that some politicians view democracy as a system that sees civil society forfeit its voice for the vote. Additionally, despite success in affecting redistributive dimensions of policy the Government did not complete their legal obligation.  

Location: Kanana, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa
Bunita Kohler sdi@courc.co.za (+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 Feburary 1996 and was supported by the Kanana Savings Scheme. The Kanana settlement was formed in 1994, when a backyard movement took occupation of vacant land next to areas where they lived as tenants. This took place before national elections and saw the movement block out entire neighbourboods every night for a week. On 27 April, Freedom Day (the day of the country’s first Democratic elections) 2 200 families moved onto the settlement onto demarcated sites under the guidance of the backyard movement leadership, leaving spaces for roads, schools, hospitals and playing fields. Members of this movement were the founder members of FEDUP. Due to Kanana's technical illegal status local authorities considered demolishing it and services were not provided by the Council. There was thus a great need in the settlement. In March 1995 ,962 families (4348 people) were surveyed – 60% of Kanana’s total population. Over half of the families depend on a single breadwinner, with the biggest family being 14 members.  
Funds for the BIT Centre were recovered in full from National Government yet funds for pilot infrastructure activity were not recovered. Through the project, every rand invested by the community with support from uTshani eventually translated into R1000 plus investment by the state and private sector. Between 1997 and 2001 the Federation built 1024 houses in the province. The Alliance took the pledge of 1000 subsidies and managed to ensure delivery on this. Since 2008 the Gauteng Department of Housing has been retiring outstanding subsidies which have then been revolved by the Federation into other projects. It has been through this mechanism that the R241 980 invested in Kanana has been recovered and invested in new housing construction in other settlements in Gauteng. 

Funding Information



Fully funded

Implementing Partners



South African SDI Alliance