Communities, Conflict and Negotiated Development

Communities, Conflict and Negotiated Development

Baskin, J. (1993). Communities, Conflict and Negotiated Development. Paper presented at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Seminar No. 4, 23 June.


Seminar No. 4, 1993

Presenter: Julian Baskin

Julian Baskin is the former Project Manager at Planact.

Whilst the author takes responsibility for the paper, the content is a result of ideas generated within Planact.

Date: 23 June 1993

Venue: Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Johannesburg, South Africa


Since the beginning of the negotiation process in South Africa, the Civic movement has moved away from a culture of resistance towards one of development. The belief within the civic movement has been that development projects are one of the best means by which community organisations can be strengthened. The objective for engaging in development projects has been that of community control and maximum participation.

This paper argues two key points. Firstly that development projects, even in coherent communities can serve as a catalyst for a great deal of internal conflict. Secondly that the way forward is to recognise the conflictual nature of development, and to negotiate within the "community" on this basis.

The case studies of Phola Park, an informal settlement on the East Rand, and Mohlakeng a hostel on the West Rand, are used to argue these points. The examples are thus specific to the PWV region but may have some relevance to other parts of the country.

Planact, (a funded non-profit organisation, working with mass-based democratic organisations in the field of housing, local government and urban development) has been involved with the people of Phola Park since the first residents invaded the land owned by the Thokoza Town Council in 1987. Planact's initial involvement was centred around the question of the payment of service charges and the ending of the rent boycott in Thokoza. This engagement intensified dramatically with the successful application to the IDT for resources to upgrade the settlement in June 1991.

This paper looks at the development project critically in an attempt to build an understanding of the forces at play that led to the inability to make the leap from planning into implementation despite the substantial resources allocated to the project. Phola Park is one of the few communities to have been through such an intensive community planning process. It is highly likely that a great deal of the tensions that emerged during the process, are hidden in other development projects and will come to the fore at some point.

The planning processes presently unfolding in the Mohlakeng hostel, enables points of conflict to be identified and processes to be put in place that facilitate compromises through the provision of information around which alternatives can be negotiated.

It is hoped that the observations from these two projects will feed productively into future project work and serve to enhance the capacity of both community and service organisations to embark on successful development projects in the PWV region.

The ideas in this paper are a part of an ongoing process within Planact, that aims at developing Planning methodologies that bring people together around the common concerns of urban development.

Phola Park

To understand Phola Park one has to understand the nature of the South African city. Phola Park is located within the Township of Thokoza on the East Rand. Which by virtue of its location is relatively accessible to the few work opportunities that exist in the East Rand. The high costs of transport and the distance of other peri-urban areas from work opportunities makes Thokoza a relatively attractive place to live. It is primarily for this reason that a broad cross section of people come to Thokoza in a desperate attempt to find a place to live and survive. These dynamics are similar to those found in Alexandra Township near Johannesburg.

A recent independent social survey commissioned by the original Phola Park residents committee indicated that some 75% of the people in Phola Park were previously back yard shack dwellers in Thokoza. After several years of paying exploitative rents and with little prospect of gaining access to housing and land, groups of back yard shack dwellers invaded the land they presently occupy. They had found it hard to accept living in such conditions when land in close proximity was lying vacant. Soon after, others looking for a place to live found the residents of Phola Park hospitable and ready to accept them.

It is possible that the proposed Industrial zoning of the invaded land played some part in the conflict over Phola Park. Thokoza is officially an independent municipality. In post-apartheid South Africa there would be few rational reasons for its city status if it does not at the very least have a limited independent tax base for a measure of economic viability. Whilst the invaded land was undeveloped it was zoned on the Town Planning schemes as industrial. Recognition of Phola Park would have essentially left Thokoza with no industrial land and thus little reason to exist as a separate city.

Whilst the Thokoza Local Authority claimed that the land was industrial, the people of Phola Park claimed that no industrial strategy existed and that no prospect of industrial investment could realistically be expected to occur. The solution to the industrial problem lay either in a one city agreement with the adjacent white town of Alberton or in some form of sub-regional initiative. Groupings with vested interests in the continuation of the apartheid structures were threatened by such an implication, and used all the power at their disposal to evict the people. Today the inviability of the Black Townships has been conceded by the central government itself but only after a long and bitter struggle in which the "community" refused to move.

The enormous tenacity that the people of Phola Park demonstrated in defending their right to survival in the city received a great deal of local press coverage. The cohesion of the people and their ability to defend themselves in the face of both violence and the threat of removal eventually won them recognition, both locally and nationally.

It was this cohesion and levels of organisation that led experienced development planners and sociologists to talk in terms of the Phola Park "community". The planners argued that the high levels of organisation could be effectively channelled from defensive strategies into development. It was argued that the chances of a successful community driven development were high for the following reasons:

  • the scale was appropriate – approx 3000 households;
  • residents had a common purpose; and
  • there was little social stratification.

On this basis, an ambitious integrated development programme was initiated with the aim of developing community institutions, creating work opportunities, and physically consolidating and developing Phola Park.

This process entailed the Residents committee setting up a development committee, comprising 4 working groups:

  • physical development;
  • job creation and community finance;
  • community facilities and environment; and
  • community education and liaison.

Each of these groups developed it's own programme of action supported by various outside agencies such as Trees for Africa, COPE, the Woman's Development Bank and the Legal Resources Centre.

In May 1991 a development proposal was submitted to the Independent Development Trust (IDT) which agreed to finance the project. The IDT funding was based on a one off capital grant to individual households to be used for private ownership of individual serviced sites. Other resources were found to finance other projects emanating from the sub-committees.

The integrated nature of the development and the available resources generated a great deal of interest by people engaged in urban planning and development. Phola Park had the capacity to show a new way forward. Many new creative ideas were formulated primarily around the issue of appropriate densities and standards.

Over time however the community planning process was to bring to the fore a range of problems that served to illustrate the enormous complexities of South African cities and the clear lack of a coherent national urban development policy.

Whilst every one in Phola Park was united in defending their right to the city , this common interest became blurred when development issues had to be tackled. The social coherence that was forged as part of necessary defence mechanisms was distorted when challenged by the introduction of resources and development, especially in the context of an extremely poor community with little capacity to absorb the consequences of risk and further marginalisation. The constant and ferocious attacks against Phola Park in which a great number of people were killed had the effect of galvanising a strong and well organised self defence unit. For example in September 1990, Phola Park was subjected to extremely heavy and coordinated attacks and hundreds of shacks were destroyed. Over one hundred and fifty people were killed within four days.

Violent clashes in and around Phola Park continued throughout the course of 1991. The level of violence and death finally forced the hand of the authorities. The community was determined to stay in the area and it was impossible to move them. The Cabinet decided that Phola Park should be developed and the appropriate minister paid a public visited to the settlement in December 1991. This decision coupled with the resources from the IDT made it seem that Phola Park had emerged victorious from its battles to survive. The time was ripe for development.

One of the legacies of the violence was the prominence of men in the community who had excelled in the defence of the settlement. Whilst there was a formal distinction between the residents committee and the self defence units there was a cross over of leadership centred on military capacity. When it came to forming the development committee, amongst the people chosen were those with defence unit backgrounds. It became quickly apparent that these skilled "soldiers" lacked the type of conceptual and organisational skills that a grass roots development required. It was only as a result of the energy, commitment and enormous capacity of the coordinator of the advice office in Phola Park that slowly a team of appropriate people was assembled, that gained the legitimacy to form an active development committee.

After many months of dedicated service, the Development Committee (made up principally of unemployed people facing economic hardship) decided to recommend that they be compensated for the hours put into a development that benefited others. This principle was agreed to by the Residents Committee to whom they were accountable. In a context of high unemployment the prospect of a paying job soon led to the most powerful people in the community replacing those who were on the development committee.

Whilst the development committee was based on people who had an essential interest in the development and were closely linked to the broader resident committee campaigns, the new people were part of a powerful but invisible grouping based on conservative rural traditional leadership.

The payment question became a heated issue and difficult to resolve. As a result, it was not long before people lost interest and the previous committed people continued in spite of the lack of compensation.

The Residents Committee had a strong belief that they represented the community of Phola Park. This was argued on the grounds that the settlement was divided into zones and each zone had elected representatives. Furthermore decisions taken by the Development Committee were referred back to mass meetings for mandates. Whilst the mass meetings were impressive in size and frequency, ultimately only those interested in such meetings attended. Decisions taken therefore represented the outcome of a particular constituency.

Many key planning decisions were taken in this way and a development plan was formulated for the settlement. At the point of implementation, it became apparent that the planning process had not captured all the divergent interests in the community.

Whilst the process captured families who wished to urbanise, three broad groupings with different interests emerged to ultimately block the development. These included single men who have their base in the rural areas, non-South Africans and criminals.

The Phola Park development, was based on the IDT policy of a privately owned serviced plot. The starting assumption is that such ownership will enable people to get a foothold in the city which they can then consolidate as they choose. Linked to a development process based on independent registered serviced plots is the principle that people agree to pay for services. This simple apparently innocent statement lay at the heart of a conflict that put in jeopardy the very development itself. It became clear that such a development had different implications for the different groupings.

Families who wish to urbanise

This was the largest grouping in Phola Park, some 75% of total households. These families were the original back yard shack dwellers who had been in the Thokoza area for many years.

This grouping has a desperate desire and enthusiasm for a development process. These people tended to be the most active in civic structures and in attending community meetings and planning workshops. It was this settled or settling urban constituency that was the natural base of the civic movement and consequently, of any development process.

The residents committee, in consultation with its constituency, agreed in principal to pay for services that were adequate and affordable. Workshops centred around the most appropriate level of services, cost implications and community finance options.

Circulatory Migrants

This is the second largest grouping within the settlement. This group is desperate for access to the city but want to live as cheaply as possible. The large number of overloaded buses leaving Phola Park on Friday afternoons bears testimony to the goods these people send back to the rural areas. Loaded on top of the buses are doors, chairs and other items that would serve to consolidate life in the urban areas but get sent out to the rural base.

This group made up predominantly of men, showed little interest in the workshops, walkabouts or mass meetings as they are dedicated to consolidating their lives in the rural areas. Their main goal is to find a job and to save money for remittance. Anything that costs money is a threat to that mission, and they resisted an upgrading that would have cost them money. The circulatory migrants realised that paying for new services, coupled with the daily basic costs of survival, would bite deep into what is available for remittance to rural areas. They are forced into a situation where the lower the costs the more viable the rural base situation. The quality of life criteria against which development is often evaluated has become a secondary priority to this grouping.

Non-South African Citizens

The difficult economic situation in the neighbouring countries forces many people to seek opportunities in South Africa. The informal settlements provide a place where such people can access the opportunities and hide as "illegal" within the system.

Observations suggest that "illegals" run a significant part of the informal economy. This can partly be explained by the assumptions that only the most enterprising people take the risks of coming to the PWV. Secondly formal job prospects are limited and could lead to expulsion from the country.

This group is threatened by a development process that entails registered title (and thus "legality"). They probably would not qualify and in the process would be squeezed out. In the desperate situation they find themselves, exclusion from the informal settlements leaves them with few remaining options.


Most people come to the city in the hope of finding work to survive, yet formal work opportunities or possibilities in the informal economy are hopelessly inadequate. Internationally it is recognised that people will turn to crime rather than starve. A place like Phola Park which is geared towards keeping the perceived enemy out, coupled with unregistered and informal land tenure, creates a favourable urban form in which crime can operate. A development project that aims to change these factors threatens criminal activity and survival.

It is clear that the development process in Phola Park brought out very complex problems that fundamentally threatened those affected.

In Phola Park, it was precisely the capacity of the Residents Committee to deliver to its primary constituency that brought forward these conflicting interests. It is highly probable that as other development programmes get closer to the implementation stage similar conflicts will emerge. It is apparent that the failure to start the development with a thorough understanding of the community profile meant that the differing interests only came apparent in negative response to plans that were already formulated and waiting for implementation.

In March 1992 a group of heavily armed men from the self defence unit raided the shack that housed the development committee. They shot dead two of the committee members and evicted the others from the settlement. During the coup, and in the events that surrounded it, two other members of the committee were murdered, including the driving force Prince Mhlambi. As a result of the destruction of the development committee, and the inability of the community to elect a new one, the project was put on hold indefinitely until an appropriate community structure could be reestablished.

Lessons From Phola Park

It is vital that any development process starts with a detailed community profile. This has serious implications for how the civics or community organisations define their role. It implies an upfront recognition by the community organisation that it only represents those who are interested in its programme.

In situ development projects effect everyone and groups that may not normally be interested in civic politics must be brought into the planning process. This further implies that the present methods off feed back and mandate gathering are inadequate. They must be adjusted to incorporate an outreach programme aimed at bringing in the different interests. Thus the role of the civic changes from representing the community to facilitating and mediating community interests and conflicts. It is more an enabling role than a controlling one. If the civic succeeds in this role, it could gain strength in the community.

It is precisely because many interest groupings find it impossible or inappropriate to organise themselves formally or to engage in open debate that they are forced to use random violence to stop a development perceived to be threatening. Mozambicans for example will not formally organise to keep their visibility low, yet they will come together informally if forced to protect their interests.

By defining such interests beforehand, the opportunity exists to engage with groupings which normally are invisible but have the capacity to destroy. Such engagements will help to define the conflicts early in the process so that creative ways can be found to accommodate them. This can only be done if the civic actively seeks out and gains the confidence of such groupings.

Community Institutions

The demand that communities control development has a set of consequences that go beyond that associated with lack of training and capacity. One of these is that new and often unsettled communities are left to deal with complex issues with little support and recognition.

Internationally, community development institutions are the mechanism used to focus in on particular problems. They exist however within a framework of relatively coherent state policy and have a dynamic relationship with local and other state structures. This is demonstrably not yet the case in South Africa, especially in the context of a local and national government system that is considered illegitimate by large sections of the community.

This situation was exaggerated in the case of Phola Park where the community was engaged in a development programme in a context in which the necessary development alliances had not been cemented. It is doubtful that urban development projects can succeed without the active participation of the key actors. This would include the local and provincial state structures. The extent that the state interests and the project coincided enabled a measure of progress. This progress however was tempered by the intrinsic bad faith and mistrust between the players. The only real power the community had was access to the IDT resources. The local state knew that this power depended on their capacity to deliver, and so had a vested interest in stalling. It is vital that a range of strategic alliances are built up in the course of a development not least to act as mediators between the different levels of the state and community.

Community structures in South Africa are also being called upon to resolve conflicting interests in a political climate of incoherent urban policy and illegitimate local government structures. This mitigates against the possibilities of successful development processes.

For example how are civics to deal with the question of the tenure rights of non-South African citizens when such people have often fled untenable situations caused by wars that have ravaged Southern Africa. This is compounded by the fact that these immigrants are filling a gap caused by the denial of basic skills to South Africans to engage effectively in the informal economy.

Similarly how are civics to deal with migrant workers issues when the question of hostels has become so politicised that the mere mention of the word spreads fear?

Clearly these questions are associated with the legacy of apartheid and desperate communities are being forced to tackle them in isolation. Communities taking on this challenge, do so in an environment that includes:

  • government structures who feel their authority threatened and do little to actively promote civic structures, but much to actively undermine and discredit them;
  • political organisations who feel threatened by the capacity of civics to deal with community level concerns, and who feel they should control such developments to win future support; and
  • unsubstantiated rumours, and targeted violence often from unknown sources.

Within this difficult political terrain community structures have to deal with complex issues around urban development often with basic literacy levels and no pay. Furthermore the pace of a development project requires that civic leaders are constantly at meetings and forced to make decisions. It does not take long before serious allegations of a lack of mandate emerge. This is the precise phenomenon that has occurred in Phola Park.

Security and Urban Form

Throughout the planning process questions of physical safety were paramount. Considering Phola Park's history, a well founded and deep seated fear exists of outside attack. Planners deal with the present and its relationship with the future. An urban development plan is a tool that enables present actions to be reconciled with longer term goals and objectives.

The longer term premise is one of a relatively stable society where fear of outside attack no longer exists. Clearly any sensible low income settlement plan works towards internal surveillance supported by the community and in the interest of the community as a means of helping combat social crime. This however is fundamentally different from the fear of external attack. The one is based on creating defensible spaces, the other on densifying the core and fortifying the edges. The implications of such a deep seated present fear has enormous consequences on urban form and development. A consequence that is unacceptable for the long term urban vision. A conflict of vision emerged over the future of the settlement. The one vision predominant in the community was based on the fear of outside attack, the other encouraged by development workers based on linking Phola Park to the broader urban community.

The expressed need for a mini-bus route was interpreted by some as enabling enemy vehicles in. De-densifying present urban form onto adjacent land was interpreted as making people vulnerable to attack. No-one was happy to live on the periphery. On the contrary the tighter and closer the community the more secure people felt.

Paranoia and fear whether real or imagined have a profound effect on the community today. A consequence that is unacceptable for the formation of a healthy long term urban vision.

Yet people talk openly of the enormous social problems attached to such high density living and the need to raise their children in a decent and clean urban environment.

It is clear that whatever the causes of such attacks the fear is real and will if not checked through real changes in their lives and safety, have a negative long term impact on the future shape of our cities.

Informal Settlements and Development Objectives

From the very outset the development was seen as an integrated one. The assumption made was that the informal should be made part of the formal – what was an informal settlement was planned to become a model, affordable housing neighbourhood. People denied access to the city were to be incorporated into it through access to land tenure, housing schemes and the like. Phola Park was to be developed as a unit. A basic precondition of the development was that nobody would be displaced. This was seen as indicative of the solidarity of the community cemented together in struggle.

It can perhaps now be argued that this approach misunderstood the nature and role of informal settlements. Informal settlements are not only places where people denied housing and land are forced to live, they are also part and parcel of the very functioning of the city. In much the same way that a CBD might take a certain form to suit the particular milieu in which it operates, so too are the informal settlements the spacial reflection of the informal survival networks of the city.

The failure to recognise what the informal settlements are, and the important role they play in a sub-region where personal security is limited and economic opportunities scarce, that creates tension when development threatens to change these relations. People survive in the informal settlements where they would have less chance elsewhere. The demand to stay together as a community is not so much a reflection of community bonding as it is recognition of the coherence of the survival network.

A development programme that aims at formalising an informal settlement runs the risk of generating more problems than it resolves. The role of the informal settlements should be recognised and basic services provided in the first instance. Such services should be provided to meet environmental health needs, including adequate communal water supplies and access to appropriate urban sanitation technologies. Such technologies would include the possibility of ventilated pit latrines. Central to such an approach is that land is not owned or registered.

Thereafter a range of tenure options should be made available to people with a corresponding range of service level choices. This approach goes a long way in recognising that people need options and that the informal is a vital option for many whilst not denying access to the formal who so wish.

The Phola Park project demonstrated that even in strong communities, initiatives that have the effect of changing social relations can cause considerable conflict. Furthermore the project illustrated that most of these conflicts were centred around the lack of options available to people, so that different interests could be accommodated. It is around the themes of different community interests and options that a new planning framework has to emerge.

Towards a Workable Solution – The Mohlakeng Hostel Project

The Mohlakeng Hostel Dwellers Association (MHDA) was formed in 1987. Its original brief was to:

  • challenge the large tariff increases of 1987;
  • contest the proposed privatisation of the hostel;
  • improve relations between the township and the hostel;
  • campaign for the improvement of living conditions of the hostel dwellers.

In October 1990 the MHDA was legally formalised with a constitution. The MHDA has been effective in its campaigns against tariff increases, but most of all in setting up mechanisms to break down hostility between the hostel and the township. Nonetheless the conditions in which people live have continued to decline and it is towards the resolution of this problem that all attention is now being directed.

The Mohlakeng Hostel

The hostel was first built in 1948. Since then the hostel complex has grown to its present size of 3892 beds. It is a single sex male hostel comprised of a mixture of company, private developer and municipal owned beds. The hostel is owned by a range of interests including companies (Albany, Delmas, Nola, SA Oil) mining(HLH), a private developer, Council and Police. The largest section is owned by a private individual and is in a state of total disrepair. In taking the decision to actively pursue the improvement of living conditions in the hostel. The MHDA has formulated the following mission statement:

The Mohlakeng Hostel Dwellers Association (MHDA) exists:

  • to represent the interests of all hostel dwellers in the Mohlakeng hostel;
  • to continuously improve the living conditions of all hostel residents;
  • to transform the hostel into a decent living environment and to integrate the hostel into the broader community;
  • to break down the barriers created by apartheid between hostel dwellers and township residents; and
  • to contribute to the problems facing other hostel dwellers nationally.

We oppose the privatisation of the hostel and will organise to ensure their return to state ownership and their transformation to social housing.

We aim to build a strong accountable community organisation to enable us to fulfil our mission.

Our mission will be guided by the following principles:

  • to move with and listen to the people we represent;
  • to provide information and share skills to enable the people we represent to take control over the developments which effect their lives;
  • to recognise that there are different social interests within the hostels and to negotiate the future of the hostels with the aim of achieving sufficient consensus amongst them.

To achieve the stated mission a development process has been put into motion. The process is not a static one, it has backward, forward and lateral linkages.

The Hostel Dwellers Association meets in a regular joint forum with the Mohlakeng township civic representatives to take forward the mission statement. This structure enables maximum township monitoring of the development and serves to both minimise mistrust and build positive relationships between the hostel dwellers and the township residents.

On the basis of intensive discussions within the MHDA, a community profile has been developed. The following groups make up the hostel community:

  • workers who want to bring their families to stay with them permanently;
  • workers who want their families to stay in the rural areas but be able to visit them in the hostels;
  • single migrants who are unmarried and want bachelor accommodation;
  • low paid workers who can not afford the increased charges which would result from upgrading;
  • unemployed people who are staying in the hostel without paying money;
  • illegal migrants from countries like Mozambique and Zimbabwe who are living illegally in South Africa and who are renting beds in the hostel;
  • business people like taxi owners, spaza shop owners and self employed mechanics, barbers and tailors;
  • woman already living in the hostels;
  • children already living in the hostels;
  • old people/retired migrants who no longer have homes to return to in the rural areas.

On the basis of this profile a series of open ended interviews were undertaken in the hostel. The interviews were undertaken in the hostel at all times both night and day and in all geographic areas of the hostel. The interviews were undertaken privately and in the language of choice. On the basis of some 70 interviews the following first principles have clearly emerged. These principles include:

  • accommodation for all hostel residents including migrants and unemployed;
  • alternative land and housing options for people leaving hostel due to implementation;
  • decent and affordable minimum standard of services and accommodation;
  • privacy and space for immediate family;
  • safe environment for woman and children;
  • provision and integration of social and commercial facilities;
  • permanent and temporary tenancy options, with non-mandatory option to buy;
  • community control, with negotiated consultation with all interested parties;
  • upgradeability.

Again the interviews suggest a range of accommodation types including:

  • Private room with space for family who visit. Affordable so as to keep rural base.
  • Family Unit:
    • private facilities;
    • shared facilities/upgradeable;
    • big families;
    • small families.
  • Bachelor:
    • privacy but shared facilities;
    • private facilities;
    • upgradeable into family units;
  • Accommodation for old people
  • Upgraded hostel
  • Accommodation for single women

The full range of facilities including: Church, Health, Sport, Library, Schools , Play grounds, Public lighting, Boarding house, Business sites, Recreation, Adult education.

The results of the interviews clearly illustrated that the needs of the hostel dwellers could not be met by simply converting the hostel into family units. The needs are varied and require a range of accommodation options to meet them. Both the accommodation options and the principles have an immediate impact on the neighbouring community as well as on the hostel dwellers themselves.

On the basis of the first principles a forum of hostel dwellers constituting people from each grouping identified in the community profile stage was held. The aim of the forum was to ensure that the principles capture the concerns of all interest groups and that a consensus set of principles emerges. These principles coupled with the identified accommodation types will then be translated into the appropriate spatial form. The spatial translation of the principles will serve as a hostel dwellers consensus plan.

During the process conflict points were identified, and the necessary information has been commissioned to resolve these potential conflicts. Amongst the points of conflict are:

  • if the development displaces people where do they go;
  • if the hostels are integrated into the broader community what happens to hostel businesses?;
  • what happens to non-South Africans?;
  • how do we decide who stays and who goes?;
  • what rights do unemployed people have to housing?.

The hostel consensus plan will then be taken to a joint forum of the hostel and township formations hosted by the MHDA. This forum will negotiate points of concern to the township dwellers and talks will continue until a consensus position is reached. The results of this consensus will form the basis of the Mohlakeng Hostel Consensus Plan.

On the basis of the Mohlakeng Hostel Consensus Plan, the MHDA will invite all interested parties to a Joint Venture. The aims of the venture will be:

  • to negotiate a final consensus hostel development plan on the basis of the Mohlakeng Hostel Consensus Plan;
  • to implement the final consensus plan.

The Need for a Short Term Strategy

A great deal of concern was expressed in the community about the constant talking without delivery. It became clear that the complexities of the problems confronting a hostel transformation project will take time to resolve, if conflict is to be avoided. A short term repair strategy was urgently needed to create an environment of optimism in which the longer term process could occur. A short term strategy was however at first rejected by the Hostel dwellers on the ground that there was no guarantee that the short term would lead into the long term, and that it might simply legitimise the hostel system. It was only through embarking on the planning process that the political need for a short term strategy became apparent and could be put in a longer term framework.


It is believed that this process goes a long way in recognising that conflicts exist around development and that mechanisms need to be developed that can ensure maximum participation and consensus. The process of identifying different interests and bringing them into the process enables a greater degree of interest group participation than is normally the case.

However consensus can only be reached if time and resources are available to investigate viable alternatives around which consensus can be developed. Any development that is based on a single option such as the IDT capital subsidy scheme does not enable the range of options needed to accommodate the different vested interests. Too often large capital resources are allocated to projects before the projects are ready to receive these resources. In the case of the IDT the "Time is money" contradiction comes into effect, placing pressure on the delicate planning and institutional building aspects of the development.

It is imperative that within a negotiated development project, a separate budget is allocated aimed at both facilitating the process and providing the necessary information and alternatives around which consensus can be built. It is important that the process budget is separated out from the implementation budget. Put crudely the time is money dilemma does not enable negotiated consensus development to occur.

The relationship between time and money also implies that the private sector professionals are not in an ideal position to do justice to complex planning processes. Thus the importance of the NGOs and CBOs. It is however imperative that development does not become an arena in which professionals protect there own interests and local governments there own agendas. If development is to succeed it must become a process whereby all the different actors work in a dynamic alliance towards a common goal.

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