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

2. Identification of Strengths and Weaknesses

2.1 Community to Community Exchange


The major strengths of community to community exchange is the simplicity of the savings process and the fact that communities quickly relate to it. Due to this simplicity, increasingly communities set up savings schemes without the direct involvement or mobilization and motivation of the Federation leadership. There appear to be very few problems in the methodology of operating the schemes and the crisis and income loans associated with them.

Once the scheme is established, community exchange promotes the culture of the Federation regarding “building people before building a house” and the songs and slogans that unite people and give them dignity. Various ways of dealing with default and problems in the savings and loan process are also transferred without much difficulty from one community to the other. Some savings schemes, with which the evaluation team communicated, were of the opinion that community to community exchanges are the best way of learning since ideas are transferred from people who are similar to them and who have passed through a certain process, rather than being transferred through discussions with experts or professionals.

The same also applies to exchanges between communities regarding the house building process, layout of the settlement, choice of materials and technologies and problems in dealing with local government and developers. The “demonstration effect” and workshops and discussions around it, has played an important role in getting savings schemes to identify and seek solutions to their design and construction process.


The community to community exchange programme has not been able to develop problem-free procedures for developing plans, infrastructure and related design and documentation requirements of the local bodies or to change appropriately, except on a case to case basis, these requirements. As a result, communities still have to depend on PD professionals to fulfill these requirements.

Community to community exchange has also not succeeded in developing a system of manufacturing and supplying cheap locally available building materials or for sufficiently developing and sustaining building and building supervision related skills. Here again, there is dependence on the meager manpower resources of PD.

2.2 Central Participation of the Poor

The poor in the low income settlements in South Africa can be grouped into two: landless, and those who own land. The landless either live in squatter settlements which are unregularlizable in the vast majority of cases, or they live as renters in the backyards of those who own land. The other category of poor households is of those who own land and have built a shack on it. In most cases, such land owners live in planned settlements that have water, sewage and road infrastructure. Their houses, for the most part, are built of galvanized iron sheets or mud infill on a timber frame wall and a tin roof and are known as shacks.

The landless and back-shack dwellers live in humiliating conditions and are totally dependent for the use of water and toilet facilities on the shack dwellers. Their major need is to acquire land so that they can build a shack or a house on it. For these families it is not possible to acquire land because of the high cost of land and the inability of acquiring credit to purchase land on the open market. Also, the government programmes that can cater to them are far too small and do not meet even a fraction of the need. The only manner in which such households can acquire land is by invading it and then negotiating with government agencies for regularizing the invasion. Of the 11 invasions that the evaluation team was informed about, only one was successful. The Federation has difficulty in supporting land invasions. This is because the Federation is constantly negotiating with government agencies for promoting its house building programme and any support to land invasions (which naturally all government agencies are completely against) would weaken the negotiating position of the Federation. As such, the Federation has developed 24 steps that must be taken by the community, the Federation and the PD before the Federation can support land invasion (see Appendix ……). How soon these 24 steps can be taken depends on the attitude of the Federation leader who is dealing with such a case. If he is anti land invasion the 24 steps may never be completed and if he is pro-invasion they may be completed within no time.

As a result of the difficulties in promoting a programme for acquisition of land for the landless, most of the Federation’s housing schemes are of those who have land and live in shacks or have access to government subsidies and have acquired land (without houses) in new developer-built government schemes.

As a result of this situation the poorest and the neediest of households cannot be reached. The PD and the HPF realize this situation and as such, they have been discussing the creation of a Landless People’s Federation which would be affiliated with the HPF. Other possibilities are also being discussed and are dealt with later in the text. In this context it may be said that the municipalities in South Africa own large chunks of land which can be used for housing the poor if a pro-poor land use is put in place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

site design by iMedia
Mobile Menu
Responsive Menu Image Responsive Menu Clicked Image