Evaluation of the work of the People’s Dialogue and South African Homeless People’s Federation

1.2 Development and Transfer of Skills

Book Keeping and Exchanges

Book and account keeping, selection of treasurers, arrangement for meetings and the management required for these activities are well-established and since they are simple, groups can learn from each other easily. However, some groups met by the evaluation team felt that they had encountered problems of coordination and communication. But there is a feeling in all groups that once the uFunde Zufe concept was properly institutionalized, these problems would be overcome.

Dealing with Land and Developer’s Issues

To deal with land issues, local bodies and developers, groups feel that they need the support of the PD and the HPF. They need the support to identify, negotiate and acquire land from owners and government agencies and for fulfilling local government requirements related to it. Similar support is required for regularizing the results of land invasion.

Dealings with local government become difficult for communities to manage because most councilors consider the Federation Housing Process as detrimental to their interests which are invariably linked to the interests of the developers. The professionals in local government and land department officials also do not think that communities are capable of making plans, carrying out enumeration surveys, designing or building infrastructure or making estimates. As such, they do not accept the work communities to do in these spheres. In all these matters they prefer to deal with professionals. Such professionals are available with the PD or through them and as such the role of the PD becomes crucial. Savings schemes are learning how and when to access these professionals. However, as work expands, the PD professionals find it very difficult to service these needs of the communities.

Then there is another problem. The scale of the government schemes is enormous as compared to that of the Federation schemes which cannot possibly meet even a small fraction of the housing demand. As such people are forced to acquire developer built houses. There is in the new schemes therefore a conflict between those who wish to build Federation houses and those who wish to live in developer built houses. This is a serious conflict especially where the Federation members wish to build their own infrastructure. Federation members in such a situation complain, “wide roads are eating up all are money”. Or again, “our enemy is only the person who lives in a match-box (developer built house)”. For example, in a government scheme in Kananana, there are 2,200 houses of which only 800 are Federation houses. The cost of developer built infrastructure is between 7,500-9,500 Rands. 26 Federation houses built their infrastructure at 2,000 Rands per house and as a result the developer had to reduce the cost of infrastructure to 6,500 Rands. This conflict weakens the movement as it divides the poor.

House Building and Related Issues

Through technical support and training house building skills have been generated within savings schemes. This is done by different savings schemes helping each other; identifying available skills within the schemes and supporting them with training at government Skill Training Centres or at or through the UFunde Zufe; and sometimes by individual house builders employing masons and carpenters who sometimes train other semi-skilled persons. However, there is a general view among house builders that skilled masons hired from outside are usually more efficient than skilled persons available within communities. The effectiveness of this whole process of learning so far can be judged by the fact that the number of houses being built is rapidly increasing.

Other house building problems are related to the manufacture of building components. If components, such as concrete blocks, are manufactured on-site by the house builders, their cost can be lowered by 30 to 50 per cent as compared to blocks available from the market. In spite of this people prefer to purchase material from the market since it is easier and hassle-free. On-site manufacture also requires supervision for which PD support is needed and this again over-extends PD capacity.

Again, for the preparation of layout and building plans of the houses and for construction supervision, most local governments have complex requirements which they would like professionals to fulfill. Here again, PD’s meager professional resources have to be used. As the scale of the programme expands the People’s Dialogue professionals will not be able to deal with it. And then, is this what the PD professionals should be doing in the first place should they be involved in developing the means to influence policy which can consolidate the Federations work and thus “Capture” the political space that has opened?

1.3 Impact on Housing, Infrastructure and Services

Wherever the evaluation team visited, new houses were being built. The Federation houses stood out as far superior to the developer built houses. Everybody agrees, including local government officials, that the Federation has given savings schemes the confidence, skills and resources to build. In addition, people who are not members of the savings schemes have also started to build as a result of the house building demonstration and skill development initiated by the Federation. According to one member, the Federation initiative has resulted in three similar houses being built for each house that the Federation initiative has put up.

People replacing their shacks with Federation houses invariably build a toilet and a kitchen with their house. For this they acquire a sewage and water connection. In the green field settlements there is a major struggle for building infrastructure. Most local governments still have difficulty in accepting that communities can develop their own neighbourhood infrastructure and insist that this be planned by professionals and developed by contractors. Where communities have been permitted to build themselves they have done this at a much lower cost than contractors.

Because of the Federation struggle against high costs of developer built housing and infrastructure, developers have been forced to reduce their costs, and in some cases the cost of infrastructure has fallen to less than half of what it was previously.

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