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Amakhaya ngoku – Homes now

This is a community based housing project in an informal settlement in Masiphumele, a township just outside of Cape Town. The informal settlement known as the School Site was made up of 400 shacks with residents living in poverty and few facilities, 40 toilets for 1200 residents. In 2006 a fire destroyed nearly all the shacks. Another blow for people who were already living in poverty, they lost their few possessions. The community decided they would pull together to establish formal housing. (Fires are commonplace in informal settlements and due to their informal nature there is usually little or no access for fire-engines and so fires spread quickly). The residents did not want to re-erect more informal housing that could lead to another disaster. Pulling together the community decided to make the move to formal housing for all the residents that wanted this.

A member of the community donates a room in her shack as the Amakhaya nogoku office

This was a massive undertaking by the community. The project had to involve building formal housing for 1200 people. This also meant the community had to set up a formal community based organisation (CBO) registered with the authorities. There were other formalities and regulations that had to be adhered to to allow the project to go forward. Architects plans, meetings with local authorities, registration of all the inhabitants along with this as well as trying to raise the money to cover part of the cost of the build.

Undaunted the community set about recording all the inhabitants, securing the help of an architect to plan the new homes and the help and expertise of a local NGO, Hokisa.

A view of table mountain in May 2009.

The community also had to make hard decisions, if they built houses under the RDP (Reconstruction and Development Plan) guidelines only 69 families would be accommodated, so the community decided to a plan to build flats which would allow all the families to be accommodated.

In October 2007, Community H.E.A.R.T. was able to contribute to the funding they required through a donation from a trust fund in the UK. This £202,000 was the first major donation to the project and in June 2008 we were able to top this up by a further £228,500 from a trust and a company foundation. The £430,000 was enough to secure other major funding and has brought them close enough to the match funding for the Government to make it’s contribution.
The same view of table mountain in April 2010.

There have been a number of bureaucratic hurdles to overcome but the people of Amakhaya ngoku have worked tirelessly to see the estabishment of formal housing for the community. Community H.E.A.R.T. have also supported the organisation in this with both Denis Goldberg, our President, writing to support their application and our Vice Chair, Nat Perez, visiting the School Site.

From Shacks to Homes

A family enjoy their first home. Copyright Amakhaya ngoku/John Shaw

The first 33 homes were handed over to residents in September  2009, a further 70 in December 2009 and yet another 69 in October 2010. It is hoped that spring 2011 the remaining homes will be completed and handed over. The difference to the lives of residents is immeasurable, for the first time, they have proper cooking facilities, a solar powered shower and a proper home for the very first time.

Perhaps the most important voices in whether this is a successful initiative are the residents themselves, one of the new residents Nonyameko Njaxa said, “The night before (moving in) I couldn’t sleep, I was so excited. This is the culmination of dreams I have had for a very long time.”

Why we believe this is an important project

With 400,000 families on the official housing waiting list in the Cape Town area and the capacity for building only 15,000 homes a year, Community H.E.A.R.T. hope that similar projects can be funded to change around the lives of the most disadvantaged in South Africa. The funds needed will be substantial but if you believe you could contribute to a fund to help Amakhaya ngoku or similar projects please email our Director, Isobel McVicar .