Joe Slovo informal settlement and the N2 Gateway

Joe Slovo is an informal settlement adjacent to Langa in Cape Town which has been at the centre of the controversial N2 Gateway housing project. Phuhlisani was first commissioned in 2010 by Professor Vanessa Watson of the School of Architecture and Planning at UCT. Our brief was to review the self survey process which was carried out in 2009 by representatives of the Joe Slovo Informal Settlement Task Team with support from CORC.

Watson (2009) has contended that:

'The current and growing movement towards the use by poorer urban groups of local mapping and surveying (often with the help of an NGO) can maybe be seen as a practical example of engagement across the interface in order to secure state resources / recognition and appropriate them in a form which meshes with local needs. It needs to be seen a tactic and strategy of struggle, and the explicit appropriation of a tool or technology of governing (usually censuses, surveys, maps) in order to secure advantage.'

The study analysed  how the self survey process was used to support the demands of residents for housing that was well located and affordable as opposed to the costly N2 Gateway housing or removal to a peripheral area such as Delft. It involved interviews with local activists, CORC professionals and officials associated with the project.

The study entitled Self Survey: Appropriating technologies - Reshaping power? The case of Joe Slovo partially recast the thesis of conflicting rationalities in that it highlighted the 'messy and fragmented nature of the State and its confused interactions with an equally complex and dynamic set of community relations which are further mediated by a range of external development actors, each with their own approach and perspective'.

It concluded that:

While the appropriation of survey technologies can enable the poor to profile their situation and make use of the information to bargain for resources - an activity with the potential to contribute to a reshaping of the relations of power - it is less clear who is left holding that power once the information is made public, and to what ends that power will eventually be used.

The survey process creates winners and losers. Its potential to make visible the locally powerful as well as the poor and the marginal makes it a charged process. Such survey processes take place within the ‘complex micro-politics’ of informal settlements and can become the vehicle to advance the position of particular local groupings over others. Depending on how the survey is designed and administered it can conceal as much as it reveals. While it can argued that the majority of Joe Slovo residents will benefit from enumeration through the survey, it has also revealed ‘non-qualifiers’ who stand to be excluded from future development'.

We are now planning the second phase where we will engage more closely with a range of state actors who interacted with the project. In depth interviews will help us to examine the discourses of various organs and spheres of the State to identify the different ways in which policy makers and planners 'saw' the residents of Joe Slovo informal settlement and how these constructions influenced the planning of the N2 Gateway housing project.

The research contributes to a broader enquiry which will examine how development planning in the built environment contains complex ‘conflicts of rationalities’ which counterpose the logics of governing with those of the poor who seek both to survive and thrive in the city.

Picture: Courtesy
Picture: Courtesy
Posted: 6/8/2010 (5:51:54 AM)

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