Act 4 Scene 3

“Poison in the Group”


The WaSH Facility in Mandela Park, on a bright, warm, sunny day. The smell of grey water permeates strongly due to recent attempts to clear out the grey water channel outside the facility.


After a very frustrating day of trying to work through team dynamics issues in the Langrug community on Tuesday, the team is anxious to see how the day will go. We are open to trying to work through more of the underlying issues preventing the community from working together, but we are also nervous because the issues are very complex and preventing our projects from reaching success.  We have limited time left in the community so we hope to resolve some of these issues so we can fulfill our project goals.

Cast of Characters


The van pulls up to the facility, and initially we are very nervous because it appears no one is in the facility. As we move inside though, it turns out some of the ladies are working together to clean out the grey water channel behind the facility. When everyone finally gathers inside after a couple minutes, we begin by asking what happened on Tuesday after we left. The women say they were able to talk through all their problems and that everything is now fine. However, we are not convinced because only Khungeka is speaking while the others remain unresponsive and still seem upset. After persuading the women to describe Tuesday to Kostas in order to update him since he was sick, the whole story eventually comes out. They describe the day when we were there, and then finally admit that after we left they did not write down or talk about their problems like they promised they would. Instead they all went their separate directions.

Digging Deeper: What is the root of the problem?

The discussion continues as we begin to talk about the deeper issues of why group members do not communicate openly and honestly with each other. Money consistently comes up as a cause of many problems, aiding in the division between the Savings Group and the non-Savings Group members. It seems that money causes drama about who is allowed to be a caretaker for the facility (even though they are not always paid), as well as an ongoing fight between people who live in Zwelitsha and people in other parts of the community. However, Sizwe disagrees that money is the only issue and pushes further, in his typical philosophical way, to get to the root of the problem. Community members agree that there is a “poison” in the group, which might be from lack of communication, lack of trust, or something yet to be identified. It is hard to keep them talking during this discussion, but we push forward and try to engage everyone. Eventually the group is frustrated, tired, and in need of a five-minute break.

Making a Game Plan

Both WaSH teams move outside and converge to develop a game plan for the rest of the day. Nathan and Kostas leave to play some soccer with kids on the nearby field. Danielle goes to give the toys to the kids who have gathered outside the facility and want to participate in the aftercare programme. The remaining members brainstorm some different approaches to the meeting including small-group discussions to give everyone an opportunity to speak more, or possibly centering the discussion on something specific like the Savings Group and why that is not working.

A Lost Purpose

When we return to the WaSH Facility, we begin the discussion about the Savings Group. Nicole from WaSH-Biz leads the talk and is supported primarily by WaSH-Biz because they know the most about the Savings Group dynamics. However, when Nicole and Stephanie begin asking questions about the constitution, why people are not joining the group, and what the purpose of the group is, it becomes apparent that there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about the group. Many of the original Savings Group members cannot even remember the purpose of their group. Many were confused about the difference between personal savings and personal loans. Some members want personal savings, others want community savings, and some want both.

Additionally, the constitution does not reflect what the community wants and makes it very difficult for members to join. We talk for a long time about the logistics of joining the Savings Group, but it is apparent that the women are confused themselves, even though they created the constitution. There is a lot of disagreement about what to do and eventually we break for the community to get some lunch. While they are gone, we talk with Lulu from the salon and she explains that she does not like the conflict going on in the group. She also shares with us a funny nickname she has for a donut-like snack.

A Happy Ending

When the community returns, we quickly realize productivity is low, so we end the day on a happy note. We dance with children from the community and with each other and have a good time laughing at each other’s silly dance moves.


Overall the day was very frustrating for all WaSH members, but especially for us. A lot of the team dynamics issues relate to money and the Savings Group, so tackling it from that angle seems to be working well, but unfortunately it means that we do not have as many opportunities to spend time working with our co-researchers on the aftercare programme or the library. We are very worried for the future of our project considering these community dynamic issues hinder any sort of progress or development. However, we feel that we can at least keep trying for a Langrug team that will work together and open up instead of just giving up. Finally, we are happy that even after everything, we can still come together and dance and have fun with each other.

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