9 February 2007

The Inner City Summit - Social (Community) Development Stakeholder’s Working Group and Lessons from South America.

The first of the Social or Community Development  Stakeholders’ Working Group (SWG) met at the beginning of this week in preparation for the Executive Mayor’s Inner City Summit and Charter to be held on the 5th May. 

Just as a reminder – there are six SWGs - Transportation; Residential; Economic; Public Space, Arts Culture & Heritage; Urban Management & Safety & Security and Social Development. Each SWG will meet four times between when the process started in December last year and the Summit in May this year. Each SWG session has a different objective. The first is to give everyone the opportunity of getting issues off their chest, collating them and clustering like issues. The second SWG session will identify the most critical of the issues raised and investigate possible solutions; the third will be to firm up the solutions and the final session will be to agree the wording of the Charter relative to that SWG.

The Social Development SWG was well attended by a very divergent group of people representing organizations ranging from social housing, shelter and community health to refugee and migrant/immigrant groups. The following are the issues that emerged clustered into like groups. 

1. Communications

1.1 Social package –many people live in rented premises and are unaware that certain subsidies are available to them. In some instances subsidies are given but landlords are not passing these on to their tenants. We need a creative plan to ensure that all grants are known and claimed.

1.2 Difficulty for NGOs and Service Providers to know where to direct their queries – there should be a single point of contact for social related issues and/or updated contact information. Clarity is needed regarding the most practical point of contact.

1.3 There appears to be poor or no communication between certain Council Departments but also between Council, Province and Central Government in relation to social issues. The fact that they don’t talk to each other has negative impacts on a whole range of issues.

1.4 When decisions are taken about initiatives, the department to be responsible must be identified and then its resources checked to ensure that it has the ability to implement or be supplemented to enable them to implement. 

2. NGOs, CBOs and FBOs  

2.1 Identification of NGOs – there is a need for a comprehensive data base of these organizations, publicly available, for contact and referral purposes but also to ensure that the City knows who is operating and what they are doing.

2.2 A specific data base is also required listing all NGOs, clubs etc for Sports and Recreation including Provincial and City departments. 

2.3 Support - it appears that many of these organisations do not get any support from the City. 

2.4 Accommodation for NGOs and Service Providers  - a major problem for the administration of many of these organizations is lack of appropriate accommodation. Can the City help by identifying and possibly providing suitable buildings through the Better Buildings programme?  

2.5 There is a concern that the numbers of organizations dealing with two of the major inner city social problems, alcohol and drug abuse, are inadequate given the size of the problem. 

3. Groups that need recognition and research to provide an understanding of size and needs 

3.1 Street children – there doesn’t appear to be a coherent strategy for dealing with street children. There is also a growing problem of homeless children who are HIV/Aids orphans - including foreign HIV/Aids orphans – where to access funding and how to ‘legalise’  the foreign children?

3.2 The Aged – not being considered and often exploited by family and community.

3.3 South African urban poor already in the city and new arrivals to it.

3.4 Single mothers - the Inner City appears to house a lot of unmarried mothers with very little in the way of early childhood development facilities. Some crèches aren’t registered with Province and therefore can’t access the subsidy. 

4. Foreigners, migrants, refugees

4.1 Xenophobia is a major issue that requires a change of mindset – instead of labeling local attitudes under the term ’xenophobia’ we should be seeking to stabilize the whole inner city population and making everyone feel part of the city and the country. This requires recognition of refugees and acceptance that they and migrants/immigrants are part and parcel of the life of the city and the Joburg Community. A fear of arrest and xenophobic reaction keeps many foreigners away from good programmes that would benefit them but, more important, denies health groups and NGOs  from checking for HIV/Aids, bird flu and tuberculosis and thus from controlling their spread.  

5.2 ‘Unconstituted marriages’ are evidently a growing problem. Evidently some refugees marry local South African girls. However, when they receive their work or other enabling permits, they bring their ’real’ wives from their home countries and desert their local ‘wives’ leaving them penniless and homeless.  

5.3  Much comment was made about the lack of service from the Department of Home Affairs and how this negatively impacted on many peoples’ lives.

6. Sports and Recreation 

6.1 Facilities and programmes – many City facilities appear to be badly run down, closed or just opened intermittently.

Apart from the above there were also issues raised that would be referred to the other SWGs such as safety and security issues; the Judicial system; waste removal; the Better Buildings Programme and problems related to Council service charges.

Whilst the first meeting of the SWGs usually results in what I call ‘dumping’, there was a positive suggestion made in this session that could impact on many social related issues in one fell swoop. That is adopting a city-wide policy that would ensure that within, say 1 square kilometer of each person’s living place, we create a sports and social facility. The idea is to attract kids and adults off the streets and away from drugs and criminal activities into healthy active and interactive lives. Basket- and volley- ball courts, music, dance, ballet. The things that Community Centres should provide but our Community Centres tend to be large add-ons that are often fairly inaccessible. These would be very localised and compact. 

Impractical? Not at all. In fact a number of Mayors of South American developing cities have been responsible for similar interventions. Jaime Lerner, when he was Mayor of Curitiba in Brazil, introduced a range of major interventions that dramatically changed the city and the lives of its communities. One such initiative was the establishment of the "Faróis de Saber" (Lighthouses of Knowledge). These ‘Lighthouses’ are free educational centers that include libraries, Internet access and other cultural resources. “Lighthouses” were built in every community. They were in fact designed to look like lighthouses so that they were very visible, standing out in the communities as beacons of learning. I went to a number of such ‘Lighthouses’ some years back and they were always busy with activities for every age group and just exciting places to be. 

Another ex-Mayor who had a profound impact on his city and its inhabitants was Enrique Peñalosa, the previous Mayor of Bogota, who looked to real democritisation of the city and its peoples. He promoted a city model giving priority to children and public spaces and restricting private car use, building hundreds of kilometers of pavements or footways, bicycle paths, pedestrian streets, greenways, and parks. He led efforts to improve Bogotá's marginal neighborhoods through citizen involvement; planted more than 100,000 trees; created a new, highly successful bus-based transit system; and turned a deteriorated downtown avenue into a dynamic pedestrian public space. He helped transform the city's attitude from one of negative hopelessness to one of pride and hope, developing a model for urban improvement based on the equal rights of all people to transportation, education, and public spaces.

While I’m ‘going on’ about South America, let’s turn to Chile, a country with many similarities historically to our own. Michelle Bachelet was at the forefront in the battle to restore democracy to that country in the late 1980s. She was imprisoned by the previous regime followed by years in exile. . A medical doctor, she was subsequently Minister of Health and later Minister of Defence and now the country’s President. Described as a ‘moderate socialist’ this is her vision for her country as reported in The McKinsey Quarterly: “I would love Chile to be regarded as a modern society with a modern system of social protection and an open economy, both regionally and internationally, and also to be seen as a player on the world stage. Not, of course, in the sense of throwing its weight around, but rather as a contributor to the task of global development. We want Chile to be a country where you can find all the conditions needed to create wealth and innovate, but at the same time one that protects the vulnerable and looks after those with liabilities or those who started too far behind to benefit from the opportunities and possibilities we have here…..In addition to social justice, everything we do is intended to promote a better quality of life and greater dignity for our people. You cannot have winners and losers – everyone has to win……In our opinion there is no incompatibility between growth and a more equal distribution of wealth. Indeed, we are convinced there is a virtuous relationship between the two. International experience shows that extreme inequality is not just unfair and a source of social tension, but also reduces the dynamism of the economy.”    

Nothing wrong with those sentiments for a city either! Ciao,neil.

Walking Tours by the Parktown & Westcliff Heritage Trust:- costs below are members/non-members. Bookings at Computicket 011-340 8000 or  any queries phone 011-482 3349  mornings only

Saturday 10th February – “Langlaagte & Paarlshoop” – explore the original Voortrekker farm and the mining camp that were to be the reason and the site for the establishment of Joburg. Meet at 14h00 at the church square off Marais Street in Paarlshoop. Approx 3 hours R50/R70.00

Saturday 17th February – “Drill Hall” – the extraordinary story of this amazing building. Meet at Sunnyside Park Hotel at 14h00. Approx 2.5 hours. R75.00/R95.00

Wednesday 21st February – “Alexandra  Bus Tour” – an absolute MUST .  Hear the history from 1904 to date – poignant, painful, tumultuous and victorious – visit the inspiring African Ballet Theatre’s programme for the aspiring dancers of Alex. This ballet outreach is unique AND the CEO and prime dancers Iain MacDonald and Karen Beukes will be present.  

Bus leaves Sunnyside Park Hotel at 12 noon, bring your own packed lunch, approx 4.5 hours, Limited numbers.  R180.00/R200.00 

Neil Fraser is a partner in Neil Fraser & Associates which trades as ‘Urban Inc.’ an urban consultancy dedicated to the revitalisation and regeneration of cities and of the inner city of Johannesburg in particular. He can be contacted at (083) 456 0242 or (011) 444-4895 or by e-mail at   Views and opinions expressed in Citichat are not necessarily those of Urban Inc.

Citichat is a free weekly publication concerning cities generally and Johannesburg specifically. Please forward Citichat to your colleagues who may wish to be placed on the subscription list. To subscribe please contact us at

Urban Inc. - 90 Market Street, Johannesburg, 2000, South Africa 

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