Monwabisi Park- An informal settlementBackground

In Cape Town, there are some 220 informal settlements, many of which, like Monwabiwi Park, are populated by migrants from the Eastern Cape, a province of South Africa.  The main reason for this large movement was a search for better jobs. Lack of resources forced the migrants to set up temporary housing.  Since so many people migrated at the same time, the city was not able to keep up with the demand for jobs, and the unemployment rate in these settlements grew quite high. As a result, the temporary housing has become permanent.



Monwabisi Park is an informal settlement located in Khayelitsha on the outskirts of Cape Town. This settlement is home to over twenty thousand people with a very low standard of living. The community lacks proper housing, universal electric service, and substandard water and sanitiation conditions. To help alleviate these problems the Shaster Foundation started the Indlovu Project in 2005 to envision and implement a sustainable “eco-village” in situ upgrading strategy.  An “eco-village” is defined as a socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable community. The Indlovu Project started as a small crèche in C section of Monwabisi Park and grew to include a soup kitchen, health centre, backpackers lodge, and a community and youth centre.


Informal housing in Monwabisi Park

With all areas undergoing redevelopment efforts, there are tensions that arise. The tensions are a product of the fact that the redevelopment does not have a precise definition, and many different groups have different ideas on how to proceed (Abbott, 2000). There is not a documented and accepted way to deal with redevelopment of an informal settlement (Huchzermeyer, 1999). Huchzermeyer brings up the two main ways to head and approach redevelopment. The first and alleged inferior way according to Huchzermeyer is having the government have sole control over redevelopment. The externally designed and comprehensive upgrading made it an unsuitable model to follow in the future. The preferred way is a “support-based intervention.” This is an NGO-driven and community based support approach. This approach is not constant throughout every redevelopment effort, but based on the same ideas and principles to “not to provide for the poor, but to increase the options open for them” (Huchzermeyer, 1999).



Indlovu Project, Monwabisi ParkThe question now becomes how is the best way to better involve the community in redevelopment efforts. the community in redevelopment efforts. There  are a number of obstacles that must be overcome to do this. For example, redevelopment efforts are often led bv outsiders who have little first-hand experience or knowledge of the community. There can be a misreporting of redevelopment success, which could discourage or betray the trust of community members. There can also be a selective decision to what groups are invited to be involved in the redevelopment process (Botes and van Rensburg, 2000). The best way to engage the community in any environment is not easily agreed upon, so options need to be explored (Abbott, 2000).



In 2008, a group of community members who could speak English called co-researchers was hired by the WPI Cape Town Project Centre to mediate interactions between the WPI student project teams and the community. Interactions between students and co-researchers proved to be extremely valuable because of the co-researcher’s knowledge of the community and their abilities as translators. They were instrumental in facilitating meaningful research for the redevelopment of Monwabisi Park. The link was important not only for the research outcomes, but also for its demonstration of community participation in the redevelopment efforts. The WPI communications team worked directly with the co-researchers.  The team created a television programme called Endlovini TV in which the co-researchers filmed talk-show style episodes focused on issues within the community.  This method of video representation aimed to spark community discussion and awareness.

In the seven weeks before traveling to Cape Town, and subsequently on-site, we researched the following themes, which all bear on the challenge of promoting effective communication for participatory redevelopment efforts.

Redevelopment Tensions

Communications breakdowns don’t only occur in Monwabisi Park. The issue is common over most informal settlement upgrading. Our team did research into the reasons there are communication breakdowns during redevelopment, why a community is not involved in redevelopment, and a fundamental guidelines to follow to get them involved.

Tall Poppy Syndrome

A source of tension poverty-stricken communities stems from “tall poppy syndrome,” which sparks jealousy for those who have more than others.

Participatory Media Outlets

We did significant background research related to participatory media outlets as a way to encourage community involvement in the Indlovu Project.We decided to further explore participatory video and participatory photography. They can exist separately or jointly to complement one another.

2008 Communications Team [PDF 2MB]

The 2008 Communications Team gave us a good insight into the co-researcher programme and pioneered Endlovini TV.

Project Resources