Scene 5: A Visit to Flamingo

Friday, November 14th
Our team has been working on creating a pictorial energy savings advertisement to market the Wonderbags. In order to calculate the potential savings from energy products, we needed to know the current energy usages and costs in different communities. We used the connections the Cape Town Project Centre already has to begin our research into energy practices. We began Thursday night by interviewing Sizwe, a co-researcher for two of our project groups. He lives in the Nyanga informal settlement and shared what electricity, cooking, and heating is like for him: A summary of his interview can be found here.

On Friday, we had the chance to accompany another WPI group who was working in Flamingo Crescent. This informal settlement is in the process of getting electricity. The WPI Flamingo Team’s connections with community members allowed us the opportunity to interview community members and see the improvements over the last three years from reblocking.

Cast of Characters
Auntie Marie is a community leader who led the reblocking effort. She spoke to us in-depth about her energy uses, electricity, and the community as a whole.

Yolanda, a community member, spoke with us about her energy uses. She will be a cook at the crèche after it is finished.

Steve is our advisor. Today he provided us with assistance with the interview process. His expertise and prior help allowed us to gain much more insightful information.

We went to Flamingo Crescent, an informal settlement in Landstown. In the past three years, the community has been reblocked. This reblocking process involved upgrading the informal shacks and community space. These improvements allow for increased access to services including electricity, water, sanitation facilities, and emergency vehicles. This means that there are streets paved with cement blocks. Also, the houses are semi permanent; they are made of galvanized aluminum. There is also one cement toilet for each shack and one water tap for every two shacks. Approximately  350 people live in the 100 shacks. The community is in the process of receiving electricity from the grid. There are electrical poles and workers are in the process of connecting the wires as electricity is supposed to be turned on next week.


Energy Team in Flamingo

The Energy Team in Flamingo

We left on the bus with the Safe House team and Flamingo team shortly after 8:30. After a short ride we were dropped off right outside the informal settlement and walked to the center where the crèche is being built.

After a short time, Yolanda came over to talk to us. She shared about how people cook, light their homes, and the community’s excitement for electricity. Also, she told us about gulleys; these are metal shells used to contain a fire. Community members walk to a nearby factory to get scrap wood, then they burn the wood inside the gully. Across the top of the metal shell is a grate that allows a pot or kettle to be placed on to cook food or boil water. Plastic jugs are also placed around the gully to heat water. The picture below shows Tati with Yolanda. Below that is a picture of a gulley. A more detailed record of the interview with Yolanda can be found here.

Tati and Eulanda

Tati and Eulanda


Boiling water on a gulley

After about half an hour, Auntie Marie came over to speak with us. She took us on a tour of Flamingo while discussing the energy situation, hopes for electricity, and struggles the residents face. She expressed her excitement for the added safety electricity will bring to the community. She believes that the streetlights and lights in homes will decrease the acts of vandalism and theft which currently occur. Also she described how some people already use generators to power their homes, as shown below. An in depth chronicle of the interview can be found here.


One of the generators in Flamingo

We also had the chance to talk to the workers installing the electricity meters in the shacks. They explained that the standard box came with a light, three sockets, and three replaceable fuses. These were being installed in each shack so when the community member buys the electricity, they can punch the number in and the units of electricity will be delivered straight to their shack. The electricity box is shown below. Underneath that is a picture of city workers installing the electrical connections.

Energy Box

The Energy Box

Electrical Grid work

Working on the electrical grid

During the course of the day, two kids followed us around. They were very playful and greatly enjoyed being carried. The team took turns holding them as we toured the community.

Reflection and Learning
This trip was highly informative, and demonstrated how each informal settlement is unique. Flamingo Crescent was very different from both Philippi and Langrug. Although the community was considered “upgraded” with more uniform, sturdier houses and cement-block roads, the community did not have electricity. Although we knew this before we arrived, it was still interesting to see the contrasting communities. What was most surprising, and worrying, was that the Eskom supplied electricity box will not be high enough voltage to power a stove. Both women we spoke with were looking forward to cooking on an electric stove as soon as they had electricity, however they will need to purchase additional fuses before this can be safely set up. Overall today was an informative and educational day.


Scene 6: Just Do It: Three Crèche Visits