Envisioning a Multi-purpose Centre


Another group went outside to discuss the Multi-Purpose Centre (MPC). The MPC has been in the planning stages for the past two years. A cardboard model was used to describe the MPC’s proposed features and layout.


Alfred, Bob, Ralle, Michaella, Phumelisa, Zodwa, Khungeka


Outside of the wendy house on the concrete on the afternoon of 23 October 2012


The facility’s design had a common meeting room area adjoined to a WaSH space that sat over the greywater channel which spans the area. On the other side of the WaSH station was another meeting area that could be divided (using partitions) into multiple rooms for multiple purposes: HIV/AIDS support, health education, showers, shabeens, reading club and a play area for children. The one condition that the Municipality has put in place is that the MPC must not be a permanent structure, meaning zinc and tin will be used instead of stone. According to Alfred, this is because the city plans to rezone the area during the reblocking process, and having a large permanent structure would hinder that process.

In this discussion, the idea of using part of the space to generate revenue was brought up. The revenue would be used to maintain and run the MPC to keep it sustainable and useful for the community. The following were some ideas that could be incorporated to generate revenue:

-shower areas

-renting out space to business owners (shabeens, shops)

-renting out space for performances (Phumelisa used to teach a traditional Xhosa dance class)

According to Alfred, the design of the MPC has been agreed upon by the community after many discussions. Alfred seemed fairly dejected about the project, however. He said that the implementation of the MPC has been “promised” for the last three years now with nothing to show for it. He is concerned about how the community views him and Trevor, as they keep “promising” the MPC to the community during meetings, but do not have a physical product to present. Alfred mentioned that an election is coming up and that he is suspicious of promises made by the Municipality. He feels those promises could only be made to influence voters and will not be followed through.

Bob asked what was left to do before the implementation could begin, and it seems like the only things preventing the MPC from being built is the lack of a cost analysis and possibly the approval from the Municipality. Other than that, it seemed like there were few factors standing in the way of the MPC being built, and there is definitely a need for it and a want for it in the community. A savings scheme and management/maintenance system will have to be agreed upon by the community as well. It is not known who exactly will have ownership of the MPC.

After the business part of our discussion concluded, Alfred left and the girls started to talk more. Bob asked them about what kind of music they listened to, which led to a very good discussion that helped alleviate some of the awkwardness. The girls seemed more willing to talk in this sort of set up than in the larger meetings, even though they still struggled with their English. We casually joked and laughed which was a good ice breaker. Phumelisa talked about her old dance class, and said that she had to stop because she did not have the space to practice and perform, and there were not enough funds to buy costumes for the kids. Both Phumelisa and Zodwa talked about their favorite gospel singers, and Zodwa playfully added that she likes house (electro) music as well. Khungeka did not contribute much to the conversation, and when Michaella attempted to ask her a few questions about the coming general meeting, she had to ask Phumelisa to help. Occasionally, she talked with Alfred in Xhosa, but he never translated for us and only seemed to be asking questions about what we were saying.


This group dynamic was really fascinating because we got to see Alfred’s side of the story as the concerned leader versus the hopeful outlook of the working group women. Alfred’s mention of political views was particularly insightful, since that was something we had tried to include in our research during the prep term but never fully understood. The women opened up much more after Alfred was gone when Bob asked about their music tastes. This strengthened our connection to them and brought us a little closer in our social relationship.