Shelter and Services

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  • Summary

Shelter and Services: Rapporteur Report

Marie Huchzermeyer

Postgraduate Housing Programme, Wits University

Tel: 011-7177688,

Gauteng Department of Housing Conference “Urbanisation and Housing Challenges: Cities in Africa,” 6-8 October 2003


  1. Changes in programme

Programme was adhered to.

  1. Summary of papers, followed by responses and comments on suitability for the proposed book

    1. Good government: Lessons learned from self-help housing programmes in Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe – Richard Martin (Sigodi Marah Martin)


Martin avoids the word“good governance,” as he believes that there is a very important role for government, particularly local government, in housing. The concept of “governance” in turn grew out of a strong movement against a role for government.
The characteristics of good policy for self-help housing are simplicity, transparency, support and enablement (as opposed to being bureaucratic, obscure, oppressive and controlling). Such a policy must target those wishing or motivated to build their own houses (not everyone), but who are poor, and are likely to have little time. In terms of access to serviced plots, the policy must enable choice (size and locations), so that trade-offs can be made by the household. It must also enable access to information relating to the building process – much may be learnt here from the way potential middle income clients interact with private sector developers. But the policy must be targeted to the poor. It must make the use of public funds possible, though preventing exploitation by those that have their own resources, and by ruthless builders. Thus one can conceive of a policy triangle: freedom, support, control.
On the theme of support for self-help housing, Zambia is considered a pioneer, followed by Botswana and Zimbabwe. Friendly and helpful site offices are important. They should also enable application for loans. Contact must be maintained with the applicants. A series of meetings must be held with successful applicants, in groups of up to 25 people from the same area. Technical advisors play an important role and must be available on site at convenient times, also approving and coordinating the builders.
On the theme of control, beneficiaries should be requested to move onto site. This would require construction of a pit latrine and a temporary shelter, using the roofing material of the future house. Size of the initial house must be restricted, to ensure completion. Technical advisors ensure that minimum building regulations are adhered to. Control also serves to ensure safety, and protection of the wider good.
On the theme of freedom, first of all beneficiary responsibility must be emphasised. All unnecessary building regulations must be done away with. People should have the opportunity to design their own plan, sketched out on site, with input from the technical advisor, and to build themselves if they choose so.
The presenter then expanded on the concept of good government, emphasising that efficient implementation is important. Implementation agencies need to be responsive bottom-up organisations. This should be handled as in the case of Lusaka: each site had a field team consisting of staff, and assisting the beneficiary families. Their working hours included week-ends, and some evenings. This team dealt with grievances brought to them through local committees. The community monitored the team (this led to high standards of responsibility), and performance standards applied. A head office was responsible for material supply.
The concept of service to the community must be central in government. In South Africa, the funding system must make provision for local government to be brought back into housing delivery. Self-help housing, in this suggested form, has the chance of accelerating housing delivery in South Africa.

Was the Zambian experience replicable, and did the houses become tangible assets? Here the reply was that the PHP in South Africa is being reassessed, with regards to better facilitation by government. In Zambia funds dried up in the 1980s, due to economic stress. In Zimbabwe 40 000 units were constructed, but there are no more public resources flowing into this. Inflation in that country means people are not able to lend. Therefore housing finance no longer exists. At the time, though, the output was very good. The presenter has been back to Zambia 20 years after his work there, and it appears that the houses are now definitely an asset. The houses have been expanded subsequently. He also made the important point that the flexibility and responsiveness in the Zambian programme was due to a flexible funding mechanism. Although World Bank funding was used, this was not yet tied to strict project cycle and target requirements. This might be the main obstacle to effective enablement of self-help housing.

A further comment had to do with the local government functions in South Africa, and in the absence of accreditation, People’s Housing Process still have to happen through the provinces. It was therefore questioned whether the Zambian experience could be applied in South Africa.
A comment from Alioune Badiane was that it seems that in order for a system to be user-friendly, it has to break the rules.
Suitability for book:

This presentation is very suitable, particularly as it draws on experience in three countries. It certainly has a practical turn, and one should request the author to include a section giving some background to the projects he participated in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, also contextualising them briefly in their particular period. Also his critique of good governance (as opposed to good government) should be deepened, as this has considerable significance for housing delivery in Africa.

    1. Invasions, evictions and the law in South Africa – Marie Huchzermeyer (Co-ordinator: Postgraduate Housing Programme, University of the Witwatersrand)

On the theme of housing rights in South Africa: the South African Constitution (1996) rejects the status quo, sets out to transform society into one that has less inequality. Yet it also protects existing rights, making transformation very difficult. In relation to housing, the rights to equality, the qualified right to the progressive realisation of housing, children’s unqualified right to shelter, the right to protection of property, and the qualified right to progressive realisation of land reform need to be considered.

Legislation after 1996 has given meaning to the Constitution. The act that applies to the case studies in this paper is the PIE Act of 1998 (note the emphasis on “prevention of illegal eviction”, as opposed to the “prevention of illegal squatting, as per the 1951 act it replaced; note also the correct legal term for informal settlements: “unlawful occupation”). This act requires eviction procedures to be followed, and if occupation has extended 6 months, then the rights increase. The act gives differential rights to special needs groups (elderly, etc.). Urgent eviction orders can be granted on the grounds of health or other risks (the right to appeal still applies). In two of the case studies in this paper (Alex and Bredell), urgent eviction orders were granted.
It is important to note that interpretations vary in judgements. As yet, there has been no radical interpretation of the housing right, in a way that would lead to permanent rights to the unlawfully occupied land. Grootboom was a liberal judgement, for temporary rights. Most mainstream judgements are conservative. A further category is the tough judgements, of which the Bredell case is an example. This judgement was heavily weighted in favour of existing property rights and investor confidence.
In the Grootboom case a landmark high court ruling was made on the child’s right to shelter, ruling that temporary shelter be provided for some 900 people including children. This was appealed by the municipal and provincial government in Constitutional court, with the argument that this would dilute the limited resources for the housing delivery programme. The Constitutional court ruled that the government’s housing programme should not only provide for medium to long term housing delivery, but also fulfilment of immediate needs, and the management of crises. However, it was not prescribe how and by when. Three years later, a policy adjustment deals with emergency circumstances. However the need for an appropriate response to Grootboom remains a concern.
In the Alexandra Urban Renewal Programme evictions and relocation from the banks of the Jukskei River, a landmark appeal for compensation was made (Mrs Mqokomiso). The eviction in June was based on an urgent eviction order granted three months earlier. The risks to which the urgent eviction related (flooding and cholera), did not exist at the time. The relocation was to unserviced land at a distance of 30km. The appeal to high court was for compensation for loss of property as well as inconvenience. This was settled out of court. However, under pressure from the Human Rights Commission, a relocation package was introduced by the Alex Renewal Programme.
The Bredell case (July 2001) began with the gradual invasion of land, some occupying for longer than 6 months. This was followed by a rapid increase of invasion, up to 10 000 people. At the time there was international media attention on invasions in Zimbabwe, and what South Africa’s position was regarding the rule of law in the neighbouring country. When the first arrests were made at Bredell (using the Tresspass Act of 1959, not repealed since 1996 Constitution), the value of the rand dropped against the US$ considerably. Government’s perception was that South Africa needed to demonstrate the rule of law. A journalist however suggested that investor sentiment was affected by the human rights abuses presented in the media, not necessarily the unlawful occupation as such. On the day of the tough ruling, the rand dropped again. Bredell too was an urgent eviction order, but taking no consideration of the cold weather that evictees were to suffer from. The ruling did not differentiate between those with special needs, and those that had occupied for more than 6 months. With very limited analysis at the time, the otherwise radical National Land Committee, and the National Council of Churches, agreed with the ruling.
Through the intense media coverage of the Bredell case, a message was brought to all (post-Grootboom) that the courts are not the route to access to urban land for the poor. In conclusion, there is a need for greater civil society mobilisation around the right to housing. Interesting comparisons can be drawn with the subsequent Constitutional court case of the Treatment Action Campaign.

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