Settlement Re-blocking in Mtshini Wam, Cape Town

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Focus Areas: Housing

This in-situ reblocking project of Mthsini Wam settlement (in Milnerton), Cape Town was undertaken in 2010. It was the first of twenty-two (22) pilot projects between the Federation and City of Cape Town.

Location: Mtshini Wam, Cape Town, South Africa


The in situ-reblocking of two hundred and fifty (250) shacks in Mtshini Wam settlement, Cape Town.

Community capacity:

There was considerable community buy-in as the project was done by community members. The community designed the layout plan, aimed at ensuring development of the settlement – due it being actioned from within. A local community project steering committee also oversaw the planning, savings, coordination, demolition, and construction activities. Community members contributed labour for the project. 

A local saving scheme, called Just Save, was established to facilitate the collection of community contributions for new top-structures, which came to 20% of the total cost. 


This project is one of twenty-two (22) pilot projects between the Federation and the City of Cape Town. The City of Cape Town is keen to extend the process to all areas of the metro if these pilot projects prove successful and a methodology can be consolidated. 


As a result of the project two hundred and fifty (250) households and four hundred and ninety-six (496) people have improved living conditions and greater access to services. Consequently, the project shows that given enough support urban poor communities can be a part of upgrading projects which improves living conditions for slum dwellers. The project paves the way for provision of adequate drainage and access to emergency services, which will decrease effects of fires and floods. The project is set to become a precedent and to influence government’s approach to in situ upgrading.


SDI Contributions:

SDI contributed US$75,000.00 to the project. 

Resources Leveraged:

The City of Cape Town contributed water and sanitiation services as well as electrificity infrastructure. Implementing partner Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) facilitated the initial technical drawing aspect of the project, and provided onsite technical support. iKhayalami, CORC's partner focusing on building technology, provided the top-structure material cut to size. 

Bunita Kohler (+27) 21 689 9408 View Website
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Project information updated: 18 January 2017

Project in depth

Detailed Information

The South African Alliance of the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), Informal Settlement Network (ISN), Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) and uTshani Fund, the national urban poor fund, embarked on the project in May 2012, being completed in March the following year. The project was a response from the community to eviction threats. ISN first interacted with Mtshini Wam in 2010 and began mobilizing for support for the process then. Mtshini Wam is an informal settlement next to an area where government subsidized houses are built. It was founded in 2006 as a result of many backyard dwellers in the broader Joe Slovo Park in Milnerton not being incorporated in housing developing in the early 1990s onwards. This project was the first collaboration between the Alliance and City of Cape Town after the signing of a MoU in April 2012.  

After linking with ISN and conducting an enumeration, the community found that four hundred and ninety-seven (497) people living in tw hundred and fifty (250) shacks only had access to six (6) chemical toilets and two (2) water taps. One of the limitations the City faced  in providing services to the area was the high densities and lack of access roads. The settlement was subject to major geographical challenges. The narrow pathways between shacks are subject to flooding, especially in the rainy seasons. The spread of water-borne illnesses are a daily reality. The community drafted a community constitution, which specifies that everyone must always use a bucket at the public tap areas so that no water is wasted and that the area is not flooded. 


The intention was to reblock Mtshini Wam, that is to rearrange the layout of two hundred and fifty (250) shacks in the settlement in order to open up access roads and spaces in which services could be installed. 

Community capacity:

The level of social organisation and cohesion within Mtshini Wam enabled this project to go forward. Community involvement in design, planning, savings, demolition ,and construction ensures social sustainability as members were involved in the process throughout. The relationship with the City of Cape Town and community leaders and Federation saw delivery of chemical toilets. The community members used their collective savings to upgrade the public taps area by building a concrete base so the freestanding taps are not easily broken.


The aim for CORC, Federation and ISN is to extend the experience and its lessons to several other cities in South Africa. The conditions for replication are there because of the status of the land ownership in the peripheries of South African cities and for the progressive opening to new approaches showed by the National Government, starting from the change of the name of the relevant Department from “Housing” to the less ambitious, but more pragmatic “Human Settlements”.


There has been a refinement of the way of proceeding which is acceptable to all stakeholders involved directly or in successive phases of the development initiatives undertaken, resulting in various departments and research centres of the University of Cape Town having joined the initiatives with different roles. The expectation is that several precedents will be set by this project as well as the other 21 pilot projects and they will be recognised as a foundation of new policies, or better of implementation guidelines of policies which already set agreeable principles.

Funding Information



Funding type:

Grant funding

Fully funded

Implementing Partners

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

South African SDI Alliance

Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Rockefeller Foundation