“The National Housing Code states that the UISP is “one of the most important programmes of government” which seeks to upgrade the living conditions of millions of poor people by providing secure tenure and access to basic services. It is a priority development initiative for the DHS and national government.” (A Resource Guide to Housing in South Africa 1994 – 2020)
When implementing projects that utilise government funding (grants and subsidies), in this case the informal settlement upgrading project of the Mossel Bay Municipality, funded by the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements, making difficult decisions requires effective community participation for the beneficiary communities in making informed decisions.
To make a tangible, positive difference in practice, an implementing approach is encouraged that is based on partnerships between role players and active beneficiary communities, rather than mere passive recipients. The success of a UISP development project is dependent on the degree to which the beneficiary communities actively participate in the planning process. The best way to have a clear understanding of the process that needs to be followed is to involve the community and stakeholders to see the benefit.
Community participation means that the grassroots beneficiary communities, through their appointed BLC’s, are active partners in the decision-making process, and that it provides the beneficiary community with an opportunity to contribute, exposes them to challenges faced, and lets them share the responsibility of co-developing practical responses to deal with challenges. Participatory process assists in changing perceptions, empowering the BLC’s and the beneficiary community, building trusting relationships and developing a common understanding.
The Mossel Bay UISP is currently working closely with the BLC’s of the four beneficiary communities of Phase 1, which are Asla Park C, Asla Park E, Transand and Emfuleni. The community participation process is complex and time intensive. The Mossel Bay Municipality, the Implementing Agent, Zutari and the NGO supporting partner, DAG have scheduled a series of workshops with the the BLC’s to prepare them for the implementation of Phase 1 and ensure that community participation are embraced.
“We had a run up of events to constitute the elected BLC volunteer members of Phase 1 and we are now beginning a series of participatory workshops to empower and capacitate the leaders”, says Anne Timms, the Community and Stakeholder engagement specialist of Zutari. The workshop held on Saturday, the 3rd of October at the KwaNonqaba Community Hall is the first in a series of community participation interventions. The workshop was a huge success. The focus of the workshop was on the development of an MoU between the BLC’s and the Mossel Bay Municipality that will guide the communication, roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders in the implementation of UISP at grassroots level. Rudolf Schröder, Anne Timms and Lynette Herbst and Ian Booi (Zutari’s Team), with the assistance of Brian Adams (DAG) and Lucky Nonyathi facilitated the sessions.
The next workshops for Phase 1 will commence on the 10th of October and 17th October, with the focus on preparing the BLC Volunteers for the verification process in their areas.
Communication is key. Here is a simplified illustration of the communication and stakeholder engagement structure for the UISP to engage all stakeholders.
Illustration | The BLCs are constituted by elected members from the informal settlement beneficiary communities. The BLC’s will report any interventions back to the beneficiary communities. From the BLCs, an Informal Settlement Forum (ISF) is constituted by representatives of the respective BLC’s in Kwanonqaba. From the ISF, members are elected to represent the communities/BLC’s at the Sub-committees and at a representative from ISF at the Project Steering Committee (PSC), to represent the interests of the BLCs at PSC-level.