Cape Town: Many Cities in One

Our work in Cape Town engages students in the hopes and challenges of fostering sustainable development in Africa that this city so dramatically symbolizes. On the one hand, Cape Town is an exciting, cosmopolitan, culturally diverse and vibrant city of astonishing natural beauty that has flourished since 1994 when South Africa achieved its inspirational transition to democracy from a society long dominated by colonialism and racial apartheid.

On the other hand, beyond its prosperous urban core and the area’s natural wonders, the legacy of apartheid and uneven development remains starkly evident in the impoverished communities where most city residents live, many in improvised shacks in informal settlements that lack adequate sanitation, employment, health, education, and other basic necessities.

Informal settlements (shantytowns) are a global urban phenomenon, as migrants move to cities in search of new economic and social opportunities, establishing “temporary” communities where large numbers of people live in unhealthy and often dispiriting shack homes with inadequate access to water, sanitation, jobs, health and educational services, and many essential household and community amenities. Despite challenges, informal settlements are also often vibrant, culturally rich, lively places with many people working toward better futures.

For more about the people and places of our work, see:

  • Monwabisi-Park-2010-Profile-of-Assets.pdf: This booklet was prepared by students and co-researchers to document, celebrate and ultimately encourage strengthening of community “assets” in this community of 20,000+ people. Assets include people and organizations, as well as buildings, natural features, and other potentially valuable resources that local people can draw upon to improve living conditions. This kind of profiling is theoretically informed by an “asset-based community development” (ABCD) perspective.
  • Welcome to Mtshini Wam: This link takes you to a snapshot overview of this small informal settlement that a 2012 student project team worked with on reblocking and a number of other improvements. To learn about the people they worked with, click on “Meet the Reblocking Team” and see the “Profiles” link at the bottom of the page.
  • To get a sense of how CTPC students perceive life and collaborative project work in “their” community, see the Acts and Scenes section of each team’s websites since 2012, which are narrative discussions of project development as they play out over two months. See for example this particularly detailed narrative from our Langrug 2012 group.
  • Many similar examples exist throughout the project websites.