Reblocking Efforts


Many informal settlements throughout South Africa are currently in a unique phase of upgrading. Informal residents are currently being relocated into new houses which are continuously being built with funding from the local government.  Although over two million homes have been constructed in the post-Apartheid era for this purpose, two million people still continue to live throughout a growing number of informal settlements (SDI 2012). Providing homes to this many people can take a significant amount of time which differs by community. Specifically, within the Municipality of Stellenbosch, approximately 20,000 houses must be built to suit the informal population. At the current rate of 300 homes a year, the municipality is simply unable to produce enough homes to accommodate the informal community in a reasonable amount of time (SDI 2012). As a result, a unique approach to upgrading informal settlements must be taken, a process known as re-blocking.

Re-blocking is a process of reconfiguring the current layout in order to use the limited space in the most effective manner (Bradlow 2011). This type of in situ upgrading focuses on the physical rearrangement of settlement, most of the time, into “clusters” consisting of around 15 shacks. During the implementation process, shacks are physically picked up and moved into a new location. The space opened up through this process can be used for community needs such as meeting spaces, playgrounds, or for essential services including roads, water, sanitation and electricity (Bradlow 2011). These services are vital towards the safety of the community, most notably in the prevention of natural disasters, such as fires, which can tear a community apart (Carolissen 2012). In the case of a shack fire, for example, without sufficient roads there may be no way for emergency vehicles to access the problem and prevent the fire from spreading. Through re-blocking, stronger social bonds within the community are also created as the community is brought together during the planning process and throughout the entire implementation processes (Bradlow 2011).

The challenge with re-blocking lies in the fact that this type of upgrading requires the participation of the entire community affected by the improvement process (Bradlow 2011). Looking at the Sheffield Road re-blocking case, which involved a community leadership guided by ISN and CORC to re-arrange shacks built on a road reserve, a number of difficulties can be seen. For one, the community was originally opposed to the new type of community leadership structure that the ISN organised. Effective organisation also posed a problem as the need for savings within each “block” was needed; however, enumeration within the community showed to be effective in jump-starting organisation efforts. If community participation seems to be lacking, as seen in the case of Slovo Park in Johannesburg, it may be necessary to organise at a block level by bringing the families within a specific block together to achieve their goals (Bradlow 2011).

Bradlow outlined a number of vital aspects shown to benefit the success of re-blocking projects:

  • Organized Community Leadership
    • Leadership down to block level
    • Regular community meetings
    • Community savings
    • Enumeration
    • Participation of women
  • Work directly with local governments
  • Incorporate the help of NGOs
    • Provide necessary support – should not become those in charge of actually implementing a project – job for the community
  • Focus on specific limitations of a community

Specifically within the community of Langrug, residents appear to be following these steps very well. Starting Novemeber 2010, the Municipality of Stellenbosch and the South African SDI Alliance have been partnered for the goal of upgrading. Since then, the strong bonds within the community have been growing. In February 2011, Langrug community members voluntarily conducted the first full enumeration of their settlement. Committee and leadership structures have been organised at the block level, responsible for planning, designing, and implementing various projects. A daily savings programme has also been organised within the community (Bradlow 2011). Based on the interview conducted with our liaison from the Municipality of Stellenbosch, David Carolissen, it is understood that the re-blocking process has begun in Langrug. A re-blocking team, made up of four community members, has been working directly with the community on creating models for the re-blocking of Section F within Langrug. As of right now, it is understood that the planning process for this re-blocking is almost complete and the next step is the implementation of the design (Carolissen 2012).



Back to “Key Areas of Focus”