Redevelopment Process

Documenting community member thoughts on the redevelopment process

After several meetings with project sponsors and project advisers we became curious about community members’ involvement in the redevelopment effort. Some project sponsors claimed that community members were unwilling to help in the redevelopment process. Because the community’s help is a key aspect of our project, we began doing video interviews to better understand community members’ views on redevelopment issues. The main theme we explored was the sandbag housing plan. Our questions included “What do you think of sandbag housing?”, “Would you help fill sandbags for your house?” and “Would you house a neighbor while their house was being built?”. The information gathered proved valuable in itself, but also the underlying themes of the perception of community apathy were addressed. The complete set of questions asked and preamble can be found here.


Our interviews obtained varied responses on the settlement topics raised. Almost all of the individuals were aware of the Shaster Foundation and what they were doing in Monwabisi Park. Approximately half of the people had used the facilities before, either through the clinic before the fire or the soup kitchen. Many expressed interest in the clinic, which is schedule to re-open in the next couple months. Additionally, although all the people brought by the co-researchers did participate in the interview, some did so with apprehension, agreeing after watching a friend or requesting the interview be audio only (which we gladly granted).

One topic repeatedly brought up by all the interviewees was Shaster’s plan for the future. Our own interviewers were also unsure of the answer to this question, resulting in a member of the communications team answering the question mid-interview. We found the majority of people were willing to fill sandbags for their own houses and approved of eco-beam housing in general. About half of the participants said that they would allow people displaced by new house construction to stay in their homes during that construction. As expected, few people said that they would help build someone else’s house before theirs was built.

Analysis and Conclusions

Several interesting points were drawn from our interviews. First, some community members in Monwabisi Park are not informed about the services and plans of Indlovu Project are not very well distributed among Monwabisi Park.  We believe that a better flow of information to the community could help show Shaster’s plan and their hard work to implement it. Many of the people interviewed were surprised to learn of the plans to include other sections of Monwabisi Park in future redevelopment plans. Distributing facts like these might go far to help alleviate some of the existing tensions.

Another piece of information we found was the  willingness of those interviewed to participate in building their own houses within the redevelopment effort. However, before people are going to start building, or help in the building process, they must see a proof of concept combined with the belief that the effort will continue. Once Shaster starts building in a way that allows for individual and communal contributions to building sand bag houses,  we believe that people will support it.


There is much to be learned from the Monwabisi Park community through interviews, and we highly suggest next year’s team spend some time in this area. We initially tried to tackle redevelopment issues directly through interviews instead of using housing as a topic to help ground discussion.  This method could be improved and expanded upon, both as a way of giving the community information, but also providing a way for other agencies, such as Shaster, WPI and the City of Cape Town, to learn about difficult and complex topics. Interview questions should not deal with generalities, but specifics. Instead of housing, future interviews could use energy, water or political topics to determine similar redevelopment difficulties and help avoid them.