Visiting Other Communities

                We visited a number of different informal settlements over the course of our project, each of which gave us valuable insight into the successes and failures of reblocking in the past and the variety of conditions in informal settlements in and around Cape Town. Each settlement was very different in terms of physical space, social characteristics, and project status. Some, such as Mtshini Wam, also gave insight into previously completed initiatives like the Litre of Light project.

City Mission

                City Mission was another one of the original communities that we had planned to work in. With only 15 structures the team was at first intimidated by the concrete structures in the area. With a heavy influence from Masincedane, City Mission had a very negative connotation on reblocking. This community was not very welcoming or organized when the team interviewed community members. From this area, we learned that having strong leaders within the community is key, when trying to start the reblocking process.

Plot 9

                Plot 9 was a much different sight than the team had ever been to. Only made up of 3 structures the community distanced themselves from 7de Laan and Mascidane, because they didn’t like the way the violence was disturbing the community. In Plot 9, the team noticed how arcitectutrally sound the shacks were. Later we discovered that on man in the community helped build all three shacks. Not only were they well constructed, they also had a nice layout inside with defined rooms, and were also kept very clean. Even though there was no community leader, the residents of Plot 9 were very close and made all decisions together. They had no electricity, 2 chemical toilets; one of which wasn’t working, and had no defined area for gardening, play, or even a road. Even though there was not much to learn from this community, we did learn that smaller communities work better together, and are more responsible for maintain their area.

Red Hill

                Red hill was one community that we visited that put the team in complete awe. Its beautiful landscape, organization, and cleanliness made it very welcoming for the team. This was a rather small community that has taken their own initiative after a fire that burnt down the entire community. Not only did they create their own greywater management system, but they also designated an area for trash pickup and were constantly holding each other responsible for keeping the community clean. The team took notes that the community was largely agriculturally based; there were chickens everywhere, and gardens that grew crops for the community. They took a small space and created a successful arrangement without the help of the city. Since this was a primarily working community, we were only able to talk to once couple, which explained after the fire the community, started to work together to beautify the area. With personalization all around, we realized that we could learn a lot from Red Hill about community members taking their own initiative. Although it would not be a feasible option for Flamingo we took some ideas to attempt to bring the community together and work as one.

Springfield Road

                Springfield Road was one community that the team got to spend some time in. We interviewed community leaders, and found out what the pros and cons were in the community. This community is a medium size, and lives on farmland. They have taken pride in their community, because although they have not received much government aid they have used their local resources, and created their own initiatives. One of the cleaner communities that we visited, Springfield Road had created their own roads, gutter system, and a makeshift sewage system. The homes were colorful and gardens all around the community bloomed with flowers and vegetables. This was a good community for the team to see, because in Springfield Road we were able to see a community come together and make their ideas into reality.

Imizamu Yethu

                When we briefly visited this community, we could quickly see the chaos within. Shacks were crammed into a small area and pushed against the road. There was no area for the kids to play or even laundry to be hung. The community consisted of multiple spaza shops, one for anything you could think of. As a team we realized that although the shacks were overcrowded and the area was overpopulated, the community was taking an opportunity to create business and generate money. Some of this money would hopefully be saved for the reblocking process that would occur within a few years.


                Bonnytoun was another community that we looked into reblocking after our project was rejected in 7de Laan. In the early stages of reblocking, we were introduced to community leaders as they gave us a tour of the area. Not only did this community create their own multipurpose center with a recycling area and soup kitchen, but also they were in the process of building the new flush toilets. Even though this community was rather small, community members within Bonnytoun seemed to be very eager and motivated to start the reblocking process.

Freedom Park

                Freedom Park was the saddest out of the communities we had visited. This community had a handout mentality, and when the community leader gave us a tour, he was only talking about the negative aspects of the community. This community was rather large, but it was poorly structured. There were not defined roads, and it was difficult to handle the smell of the community, because there was trash everywhere. Our first impression of the community was even depressing as we saw a play ground with only a few kids on it. The playground was completely dilapidated and was unsafe for the children to play in. Even though the community leaders said that the government had failed them, it seemed as if the community was not doing anything to help further the process. Many were not employed, and there was a strong history of gang violence in the area. This community was important for us to see as a team, because we would see the lack of leadership and community involvement with the upgrading process. This was a crucial point for our project, because from there on out we really understood the importance of getting the community involved, and acting as facilitators instead of leaders.

Mtshini Wam

                When the team visited Mtshini Wam we could immediately see the positive impact that reblocking process gave the community. Since the community was large, and it was the first major reblocking project, the process took longer than expected. The project has since then become a model for CORC, ISN, and the city on how to reblock.

                The five community members, who were nominated and elected to be a part of the Project Steering Committee (PSC), gave us a tour of the community along with project manager, Leon.  They explained to the team some of the pros and cons of the process, and answered any questions we had about the project. The co- researchers we had brought along from Flamingo seemed thrilled about the progress that had been made, but questioned a few important details.

Since the project was in the final stages of reblocking, we could already see the designated areas for play, toilets, and the community gardens. The only thing that was missing from the community was electricity and utilities. The PSC committee, explained that even thought there was no electricity, the previous WPI project team created the Litre of Light. This temporary solution has created light during the day for families. Another interesting detail that was picked up from our co-researchers was that there were no windows. When the team asked about why there were no windows, members of the PSC replied that they were too expensive. Interestingly enough in many of the shacks without windows there were flat screen TVs and huge speaker systems. This helped our team realize that it may be beneficial to discuss financing and budgeting with Flamingo community members to help them get the most out of the reblocking process. Other negative feedback was expressed from the PSC about the chemical toilets that were organized in rows, located in areas around the outside of the community. They explained to us that it was just a temporary fix, until the city comes in with flush toilets.

On a positive side the co-researchers loved the building materials that were used, and also the gardening project that was continued after WPI left. They were thrilled by the idea, and started to imagine more plans in their head on how we could implement a community garden in Flamingo.

Mtshini Wam was a very good opportunity for the team to see an almost completed reblocked community. We were able to weigh in the co-researchers opinions and see what they liked and disliked. From this process we were able to learn a lot and speed up the reblocking project in Flamingo.