Bosco Khoza, HDA operations manager for the N2 Gateway, made a presentation at the Vision 2030 Indaba about managing public participation in human settlements projects. He provided comparative experiences of the Joe Slovo and Boys Town projects within the context of the N2 Gateway.

He began by providing a background to the N2 Gateway and the role of the HDA in the project. He identified communities as groups of people living together in one place with a shared identity. The complexity of dealing with communities that each consist of numerous different groups was noted. This, he said, was intensified by the participation of other interest groups that champion the cause of such communities, as evidenced in Joe Slovo.

Bosco summarised the challenges common to both projects:

  • Demand for houses surpassing supply
  • Securing active participation from all parties within the project areas
  • Relocation of non-qualifiers

The key aspects of social contracting with the specific communities are achieved by means of social compacts. The interface with communities is conducted through monthly meetings with the public steering committees, regular public meetingsand monthly newsletters and pamphlets.

Bosco highlighted the emergence of other issuesthat have significant bearing on progress with the projects, ie the demand for employment opportunities and the advent of self-appointed political champions.

In his conclusion, Bosco raised a number of points. Inescapably, continual community engagement is essential – “there cannot be over engagement”, he said. The involvement of third parties or interest groups has to be well managed. It is clear that communities are not homogenous even in the same locale – there are communities within communities.

It is critical that housing projects strive to integrate other needs of communities. Community representatives cannot be relied upon solely. Even though strong political will is an essential cornerstone for informal settlement upgrading, it must be matched by an equally strong buy-in on the part of communities.

The audience recognised that community engagement is complex and dynamic. The involvement of third parties and elements that deliberately seek to divide communities must be managed. At the end of the day the desired outcome is social cohesion, and to this end it was noted that the formation of street committees and the use of voluntary structures have value.