Monwabisi Park

Monwabisi Park is a large informal settlement (6900 households in January,2017) with around 26,000 people living across the road from Harare suburb in Khayelitsha.  Currently most households have formal electricity connections following infills by ESKOM in 2013.  Also most households are in possession of Tenure Certificates issued by the City of Cape Town in 2012/3 based on VPUU’s Enumeration Survey in 2011/2.  There are currently 350 pour-flush communal toilets and 866 porta portas in use.  Residents have access to water from 370 communal taps distributed across the settlement and maintained by CoCT.  There are high levels of dissatisfaction with the quality and quantity of taps and toilets although they are well maintained by the CoCT in their current state.

The real challenge for residents is high levels of contact crime and low levels of formal employment.  VPUU started engaging with the Monwabisi Park community and the City of Cape Town in 2009 and has been actively supporting the community with their challenges since that time.  The vision of Monwabisi Park Informal Settlement incremental upgrade is to build a safe and integrated community by upgrading the existing informal settlement in-situ without relocating people outside of the area.


VPUU’s Youth mandate in Monwabisi Park is to support social, cultural and academic youth activities as well as Youth Sport development. Over the past years, we have funded various groups through the Social Development Fund, such as the Monwabisi Park Football Association. They ensure maximum utilisation of the Soccer pitch next to Container facility at C-Section, and especially on Saturdays the whole community cheers their favourite team during the weekly tournaments. Soccer is amongst the most favourite sport, but just recently have we supported an up- and coming Netball group from the community. We are also starting to join hands with Waves4Change, an organisation offering Life skill and surf lessons at the nearby Monwabisi Beach.

Placemakers also support local groups working with children and Youth in Monwabisi Park. They organise weekly academic support sessions and poetry jamming in the container at C-Section as well as holiday programmes in June and December. At Youth Day in June and Heritage Day in September special events take place in Monwabisi Park. Placemakers, local Youth and engaged community members are organising activities for all ages, sport tournaments, cultural dances and open mic sessions.


The Emthonjeni project forms part of VPUU’s greater mission to upgrade public spaces in informal settlements to reduce violence and inequality and thus improve greater quality of life for residents living in informal settlements. The isiXhosa word Emthonjeni is referring to ‘being at the fountain’ – a place by the water. Traditionally, communities gather around an Emthonjeni to fetch water, do washing or simply spend time catching up on latest news and chatter. Such a place also exists in informal settlements: public taps.

Residents in urban-context informal settlements do not have access to running water in their homes. Typically 25-50 households share a public tap. This is the only place people can get water for drinking, washing and cooking. Public spaces play an important role in everyday life – it is seen as a ‘breathing’ space in between the dense housing setting. The goal of the Emthonjeni project is to drive social cohesion, improve safety and access to specific basic services by optimising the use and functionality of the existing spaces in between the dense houses. While the Emthonjeni can be used as a multi-functional place, in our work it is mostly promoted as a space for Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes and water collection point. Safe walkways link the space to other nodal points, such as ECD centres.

Following a participatory approach, the community and the VPUU NPC as project partner identify public spaces at water taps. These spaces are mapped on a spatial ma of the overall settlement. Through a participatory discussion and design process specific spaces are prioritised and designed with the community members to function as Emthonjeni’s. Local members construct and landscape the Emthonjeni under professional supervision. Once the Emthonjeni is completed, opportunities for activation are vast: space for vaccinations, health awareness, safety meetings, youth programmes, training ground. We encourage local ECD centres to use it as an outreach space.

The Emthonjeni project has taken root in 2 large informal settlements benefiting over 30,000 residents. To date more than 20 emthonjenis/ public spaces have been implemented in those settlements. The concept has been replicated by a number of organisations and municipalities, primarily as an upgrade of the function of water collection and washing point.


Participatory conceptualization, design, implementation, operation and maintenance are key success factors that lead to community ownership. A high degree of transparency, integrity, promotion of voluntarism and accountability are factors that have contributed to the high acceptance in the communities we work in. Implementation is measureable and accountable to the funding partners and the community. Employment of local labour whilst at the same time working with local volunteers, who gain access to skills development is important to ensure sustainability and long-term community ownership.

Research and Development

Quarterly household surveys are conducted by trained local residents to track changes in community perceptions and opinions in relation to safety and public services. Quarterly newsletters inform residents about VPUU activities and opportunities in the SNA.  Routine CitySpec monitoring of public infrastructure (communal water taps and toilets) has resulted in much higher functional service levels across the settlement. The Community Register Office maintains an up-to-date community register of all residents living in the SNA.

The complement of local partners, strategic and research partners, combined with an integrated VPUU Team provides a holistic and participative process of design, active decision-making and practical problem solving. Joint learning is intended at all levels of engagement with community, state, partners and VPUU Team. The collaborating partners are the community, specifically, neighbours around the existing public space, Early Childhood Development (ECD) partners and forums, Neighbourhood Watch representatives, Safe Node Area Committee (local project leadership), Municipal Line Departments and VPUU NPC as the intermediary organisation, funders and interested and strategic stakeholders.


Location: Khayelitsha
SNA: Monwabisi Park
Timeline: 2010 - Current

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