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The government's decision to recognise progress in Cape Town's troubled N2 Gateway project – by awarding it the Govan Mbeki award for the best priority human settlements project of 2012 – is evidence of the advances that have been made in improving the quality of life for the thousands of people settled along the city's N2 highway. 

The award, handed over to project leaders by Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale , recognises the gains that have been made since national, provincial and local government negotiated a groundbreaking joint agreement two years ago on how to address the N2 Gateway’s challenges.

So what are the critical success factors which led to the N2 Gateway being restored to its former glory as a flagship human settlements project we can all be proud of?

Those involved in the initiative say they include: improved communications and ongoing engagement with communities; establishing project steering committees with community representation, councillors, contractors, and the HDA; community liaison officers; increased institutional ties, which is vital to the success of the project and all spheres of government are working together to ensure this; and expert project management capability.

Above all, the award recognises the tremendous patience and commitment of the community who has endured horrific living conditions, through countless cruel Cape Town winters, while government has battled to resolve its own issues.

The residents have shown tremendous patience and made great sacrifices while the various government-related issues around N2 Gateway have been resolved, and have been active partners in managing their own future.

This is the real lesson from the N2 Gateway project, and it is the residents of the informal settlements and the backyarders, soon to be residents and some who are already residents of the various projects making up the N2 Gateway – who are the real recipients of the Govan Mbeki award.