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In partnership with the National Department of Human Settlements National Upgrade Support Programme (NUSP) technical team, the City of Johannesburg and the Northern Cape Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs (CoGHSTA), the HDA facilitated three workshops in Johannesburg in September and October 2013.

Roughly 30 officials who work in housing and play a role in the upgrading of informal settlements in various regions attended the first workshop, which was held on 11 and 12 September. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the challenges of informal settlements and highlight policy intentions as well as share the lessons drawn from upgrading.

Steve Topham and Monty Narsoo from the national team started by presenting the policy context and other fiscal and financial policies relating to upgrading. Maki Thellane presented the HDA experience in informal settlements upgrading. The presentation was based on the work that the HDA is doing in the North West, Limpopo and Northern Cape.

Maki highlighted the importance of the incremental upgrading approach if we are to achieve the scale, complexity and change needed to improve the quality of life for households in informal settlements. The discussion and lessons from these projects demonstrated the importance of:

  • Community participation
  • Working with informality
  • Approaching informal settlements as part of the city
  • Understanding that upgrading may take a long time, and
  • Working on community priorities, i.e. the provision of basic services and alternative forms of tenure, in the interim

Held on 9 and 10 October 2013, the second workshop was an introductory one for councillors from the City of Johannesburg’s portfolio committee and was aimed at equipping political and community representatives with the relevant concepts, information and analysis in order to understand the need for adopting upgrading as an effective strategy to respond to the challenge of informal settlements.

Thando Madonsela presented the HDA’s approach to informal settlements through sharing the profiling and enumeration methodology and other key learnings and observations on the development of community upgrading plans from current activities undertaken in the Limpopo and North West provinces. The significance of this presentation was to highlight the key lessons learnt from our work in the different provinces.

Another workshop was held on 23 and 24 September 2013 in the Northern Cape, where the HDA shared its practical experience and lessons on upgrading. The HDA’s methodology and approach was widely accepted and there were requests for a similar approach in other municipalities.

Some of the emerging issues emanating from the discussions were matters such as land and tenure (land under restitution/community property associations); and the definition of informal settlements – which remains a challenge and has some implications for the provision of bulk infrastructure services.

A provincial capacity-building workshop was held jointly with the national NUSP team on 26 November 2013 for North West officials and practitioners. The HDA presented its informal settlement upgrading (ISU) methodology and approach, and highlighted implementation challenges. The discussion on HDA ISU support in the North West highlighted the need for further engagement on land issues for unblocking ISU projects.