By Kwanele Sibanda (on behalf of CORC)
For more than twenty years, the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) has pioneered a collaborative solution that can transform our cities: empowering poor people to help themselves. FEDUP has empowered hundreds of communities to start saving schemes, develop their own knowledge and capacities, build houses, and acquire land. FEDUP has been the driving force behind the internationally recognised global alliance of 38 country-level federations, Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI). In the South African context, Vukuzenzele Mbokodo Saving Scheme is one amongst hundreds of FEDUP’s organized groups that have a story to tell about the successful methodologies designed by the poor themselves to tackle their challenges.
History of vukuzenzele Mbokodo Saving Scheme
The saving scheme members started as backyarders in the 1980s in a location called Duduza. Unpleasant living conditions defined by exorbitant rentals and strict rules from landlords forced them to seek land of their own, hence they invaded Dunusa (Nearby piece of land owned by the municipality). They allocated sites for each other using white stones. The name Dunusa means bend-over and it was given to them by Municipality officials who found them bending over, busy pegging their sites. Shacks were put up and an informal settlement was established. As one challenge was addressed, another emerged, said ‘Thandi Nthlapho’ one of the invaders. “We no longer had to pay rent to anyone, but we now found ourselves in a water locked area”, she explained. In 1990, the municipality of Ekurhuleni allocated serviced stands for the Dunusa residents in Blue-Gum. In 1996, a saving scheme was established after a group of women were mobilized by a group of Federation members led by Richman Mbobo from Siphamandla community (Kopanang Saving Scheme). ‘The mobilization came at a time when we had lost all hope of ever getting houses’, she continued. With assistance from Utshani Fund, the group managed to build its first 56 houses between 1998 and 2000 under the 1025 project. The project formed part of the 10million pledge that had been given by the then Minister of Housing; Joe Slovo.
Federation Land Component
The former support organization ‘People’s Dialogue’ was established to focus on landlessness and homelessness. The leaders that came together to establish the federation came from informal settlements that mainly had land tenure challenges and often faced eviction threats. With a vision of building houses, it was apparent that land had to be acquired first. The land unit had to be setup as one of the major components after savings. After the country’s liberation, the first government departments to support the initiatives of the federation were: The department of Housing and The Department of Land Affairs. The Land Affairs support was in line with purchase of land in areas such as Joe Slovo in the Eastern Cape and Derrick Hannekom in Cape Town. The federation continued to strengthen savings for land as well as negotiations. The federation has also been negotiating with land owners and purchasing land from its own savings with support from Utshani Fund. The federation also has an M.O.U on land with the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.
Duduza pledge project
In 2006, an M.O.U was signed between the National Department of Housing, the Federation and SDI. Gauteng pledged R50 million and out of that amount amongst other activities three housing projects were identified by the federation namely: Duduza, Doornkop and Orange Farm. The subsidy allocation for the federation members was 150, 250 and 180 respectively.
Federation Members testimonies
Gogo Betty Nkonyana was born on the 15th of May in 1930. Besides the federation’s key principles of prioritizing the elderly in development, it was Gogo Betty’s commitment to attend meetings and save regularly that made her to be amongst the first ten to get a house out of a total of 150 beneficiaries. As part of her contribution towards the development of her house she used part of her savings to buy burglar bars, lentils, window seals and the electrification of the house.
Gogo Christina Motloung
Gogo Christina Motloung is 95 years old. In the 80s she was employed as a maid at a farm in Piet Van Wyk (Nigel). When she heard about site allocation, she decided to move to Duduza where she got a stand and started to seek new employment. She built herself a shack and immediately started saving some money to build herself a house. She slowly started building her house when it was at window level she lost her job and could not complete it. As Vukuzenzele Mbokodo saving scheme members were mobilizing more community members, she liked the idea and immediately joined. “Ngiyayithanda leFederation yethu ” (I love our federation) said Gogo Christina as she was being interviewed. Whenever she had an emergency, she would withdraw money from her savings under the saving scheme and in other instances; she took loans from the savings scheme. When the Duduza pledge project started, she was amongst the first ten beneficiaries to get a house.