In Situ Settlement Upgrading of Mtshini Wam

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Focus Areas: Housing

Project activity involves the in situ upgrading and re-blocking of 250 structures in the Mtshini Wam settlement in Joe Slovo Park (in Milnerton), Cape Town. This is contrasted with projects that focus on housing construction.  Re-blocking involves the rearranging of settlements, opening up safer public spaces and making it easier for municipalities to provide services (as settlements can be too dense for water and electricity reticulation, etc) as well as upgrading of shack materials. To date more than 80% of the structures have been re-blocked. With the onset of the project, materials, engineering services, and short-term employment was given by the City of Cape Town. Relationships between the Alliance and City have improved, due to the City providing the groundwork materials for the re-blocking process. The Alliance reports the success of the project being largely due to the community’s interaction with local authorities. There are regular meetings between Community Organization Resource Centre’s (CORC) technical team, field officers from the Housing Department, town councilors, and project managers. Through the project the Alliance has been able to mobilize 23 informal settlements in partnership with the City of Cape Town. Success of the Mtshini Wam Upgrading project lead to it being the location for SDI’s Five Cities seminar in February 2013. The project has seen a shift from housing provision to in situ upgrading. Community involvement has been strong in this project, with residents volunteering to help officials and contractors deliver (e.g. on waste removal). Activity is also moving towards signing an MOU between the Federation and local government. This will enable residents to more directly influence policy. In order to ensure this and scale, the Alliance is increasing its interaction with other partners, including the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in the USA and a local Non-Profit Organisation working in sustainable design and livelihoods. Challenges for the project include reluctance from the City to utilize the process of upgrading, that involves residents and is initiated by them, in formal planning procedures. There is also little clarity on the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), the programme under which the short-term employment resides.

Location: Mtshini Wam, Cape Town, South Africa
Bunita Kohler (+27) 21 689 9408 View Website
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Project information updated: 20 March 2014

Project in depth

Detailed Information

Mshini Wam is a densely populated informal settlement located in what used to be an open space in between formal subsidised houses. The settlement is located on the intersections of Democracy Drive, Hlosi Driv,e and Ingwe Drive in the greater Joe Slovo Park in Milnerton, Cape Town. The South African Alliance of the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC), Informal Settlement Network (ISN), Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), and uTshani, the national urban poor fund, initiated activity for this project in 2010. The community and Alliance (including iKhayalami) worked alongside City of Cape Town officials, engineers, and field officers. The South African political context sees the Western Cape (and thus Cape Town) as the only region where the National ruling party has faced significant political oppositions. The Alliance term this as an explanation for the differences in policies in the Cape regarding informal settlement upgrading. Potential for partnerships between community and local authorities had been seized by community leaders and NGO professionals before this project meaning there was groundwork on which project activity could improve. This project is one of 11 pilot projects around Cape Town implemented by government and the Alliance. 
The financial sustainability of this project is largely dependant on whether the City of Cape Town will adopt re-blocking as an official policy, write by-laws for its implementation and approval, and provide funding for earthworks, top-structure, and service delivery. Communities contributed from savings to the project. Initially many residents rejected the idea of contributing to their own development through community-based savings. Community leaders found it difficult to maintain savings in clusters that have not seen improvements. The community wanted to witness how the project would roll out. Yet through the re-blocking and community mobilisation processes this issue was overcome. Additionally, 80 jobs were created through the project ensuring that many households had income and skills to continue employment after the project. Involvement of WPI and local NPOs means that relationships and support for the project have increased. 

Funding Information



Fully funded

Implementing Partners

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

South African SDI Alliance

Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Rockefeller Foundation