The WaSH Team’s View

And it Begins

First day in Langrug 22/10/2012

Setting: Langrug Informal Settlement, inside the wendy house


From what we’ve learned during our prep phases, there is a great need for Water and Sanitation improvements in Langrug. From our studies of the ISN enumeration report, we understood the need for more toilets, water taps and greywater channels. We knew that we would be working with various partners throughout our project including ISN, CORC, the Municipality of Stellenbosch, the Langrug Working Team, community leaders and other members from the community of Langrug. Our initial expectations for our project were that we would be working closely with a Reblocking Team in order to create a cluster in F section and implement a WaSH Pod to serve these community members. This scene describes our first day in Langrug.

Cast of Characters

When we first arrived to Langrug, we met a number of important people in a small wendy house. We all sat in a circle within this building and briefly introduced ourselves.

  • Trevor – Trevor is a vital community leader. He is a member of the ISN and works within different settlement in Stellenbosch. His main responsibility is to represent the community of Langrug and bring up their hopes and needs to higher leadership.
  • Sizwe – Sizwe is a member of CORC and specifically works with Technical Support of informal settlements.
  • Joey – Joey works for the Municipality of Stellenbosch in the Department of Integrated Human Settlements. He is currently our link to David and reports to him with any decisions being made in the informal settlements.
  • Alfred – Alfred is another community leader who works alongside Trevor as the Secretary. He takes notes during meetings, relays this information to other organisations and serves as a link to the community.
  • Amanda – Amanda is a member of the Working Team in Langrug. Her role is organising general meetings within the community to discuss and plan current projects.
  • Victoria – Victoria’s main responsibility is mobilising the community in savings. She is also a part of the Langrug Leadership Committee.
  • Khungeka – Khungeka works to educate the community. She is specifically part of the HIV/AIDS education programme.
  • Kholeka – Kholeka works in mapping and profiling within Langrug.
  • WPI- 8 students, Scott Jiusto and Robert Hersh


When we first arrived in Langrug, it was a very powerful experience. It was tough to really understand how something so unfortunate could end up in such a beautiful place.  As we drove into the settlement, we were surrounded by the mountains and fields of Franschhoek. However, when you came back into perspective, there were hundreds of shacks surrounded by dirt roads with animals roaming them.  Children were playing in the streets and water channels unsupervised and women were doing laundry and making trips to water taps. It was extremely shocking seeing this in-person as opposed to just reading about it second-hand.



As we exited the bus, we were greeted by a group of community members. We had a brief meeting in a wendy house  to introduce ourselves to the community leaders and Langrug Working Team and to share our excitement about the upcoming months.  Both teams then took a tour of Langrug making periodic stops where Trevor showed us past projects and future initiatives.  After the tour, we returned to the wendy house and had a meeting with the various partners to talk about the upcoming projects.


We planned to have a short presentation about our goals and excitement for the project during the committee meeting. Instead, we came to a consensus about future plans and meetings to be confirmed tomorrow.


I) Initial Meetings

We began by meeting Sizwe as we picked him up on the way to Franschhoek, the town where Langrug is located. We were able to to talk a little with him about his role and what the current situation is like in Langrug.  When we exited the bus, we were greeted by 10 or so community members and they taught us to shake hands in a very different way than what we are used to. We then entered the wendy-house, the meeting place of the community and briefly introduced ourselves. We went around the room and the WPI students shared a little about ourselves and our excitements for the next couple months while the Langrug community members told us a little about their roles and the projects they are involved in.  As we concluded our initial meeting to begin the tour we spoke to the community members who were very inviting and excited to get to know us.

“Take Home” Observations

  1. They were very well dressed showing their excitement to begin working with us.
  2. English language proficiency among the working team is variable and communications can be challenging.
  3. Began to understand the dynamics between the Municipality and the community of Langrug (a lot worse than we expected).

II) The Tour

We were given a tour with the 10 or so members from the community and received really good insight into all of the innovative and community driven projects that have been in the works. We were given some leads as to projects we might take part in which include greywater management, reblocking of F section, toilet blocks in Zwelitsha, upgrading current toilet blocks or a multi-purpose centre (MPC).  Tim got a chance to talk a lot with Trevor and Alfred during the tour and got a good understanding of his priorities and major concerns for the future.  This gave us good insight into all of the community driven projects that will be taking place in the future and the depth in which the community has gotten into these projects. It was comforting to know that they aren’t just relying on WPI students to take the reins on all these projects.

“Take Home” Observations

  1. There are a lot more projects being thought of and planned than initially expected.
  2. There was a lot more trash within the settlement than we were expecting.
  3. We were not expecting there to be so many stray dogs throughout the entire settlement digging through the trash and drinking from the greywater channels.
  4. The working team members were very open when we initiated conversations and were interested in getting to know us just as much as we are interested in getting to know them.

III) Concluding Meeting

When the tour was over, we had the community meeting with the various partners with the impression that we would be presenting our views for the upcoming projects. Instead, we were given a first-hand look at the true tensions and communication challenges between the Municipality and the community. Trevor showed true emotion and stressed a lot of the problems and concerns with the Municipality that he has encountered over the past year while Joey refuted a lot of these and blamed them on the community.  At points throughout the meeting, we felt somewhat awkward, like we were in the crossfire between these arguments. Scott mediated the conversation really well and was able to get all of the partners to reach somewhat of a consensus. An agreement was reached to get the Municipality more involved over the upcoming months and that we would reach a consensus on the project by next Monday.  After the meeting concluded, we said our goodbyes and planned to work tomorrow afternoon with the working team and the Municipality to start creating cost evaluations of the various projects.

“Take Home” Observations

  1. Tensions are much stronger than anticipated between the community and the Municipality.
  2. People are much more open about grievances, and disagreements are much more confrontational than we are accustomed to.
  3. The men were the primary source of the conversation while the women didn’t speak (possibly cultural?).
  4. Trevor shows a lot of emotion when he speaks including disappointment and aggravation with the Municipality. There was almost a sense of desperation in his voice.

IV) The Ride Home

On the ride home, we drove Sizwe, Trevor and Alfred into Cape Town.  On this ride, we spoke more about the troubles with the Municipality and how we thought the projects were going to progress. This was another bright point because we truly got a sense of CORC and Langrug’s input without the Municipality’s counter arguments.  The true potential for the upgrading of Langrug was shown and turned out to be another bright point in our trip. We spoke about the difficulties in dealing with the Municipality and how they could be key players in the near future due to the consensus reached at the meeting.

“Take Home” Observations

  1. Langrug is in a difficult spot and needs the Municipality’s help in order to move forward.
  2. The Municipality has the funding and potential to help, yet the process is delaying implementation.

Reflection and Learning

The first day was an enormous learning experience for the Langrug teams. We were able to see first-hand the community of Langrug. For many of us, this contrasted the many different pictures we had in our minds of how the settlement would look. We were able to get to know the people we would be working with through personal interactions and group meetings, and we saw how they acted in dynamic situations. The day taught us a lot about how the different parties involved have varying priorities and concerns for Langrug. We had read so much over our prep phase about communication issues in informal settlements, but this day in Langrug really taught us what that means in reality. We got to see first-hand the tensions that arise between community leaders due to communication gaps and misunderstandings. On one hand, many of the community leaders were frustrated with the Municipality’s apparent lack of commitment to the project. They felt that the Municipality was not making their partnership meaningful. The Municipality was frustrated by a lack of information provided to them by the community which would allow them to move forward. In all, every party involved wants to implement something soon, but the major challenge is making that happen. There are so many issues that need to be addressed that make figuring out where to begin very confusing. Hopefully the WPI team can help these two parties come to agreements about the direction of the project and get it off the ground. As a third party, we are more detached and may be able to better facilitate progress.