Monwabisi Park

Monwabisi Park is a large informal settlement with very high unemployment which has resulted in the escalation of violent criminal activities. 80% of all the crime in the area is targeted towards women and children as the sector who are most at risk. As a result of the high unemployment rate and early school dropout young people coerced into joining gangs.

Youth plays a critical role in all engagements in the area. The activities which have been supported through SDF and by SNAC have largely been youth related. SNAC and the broader leadership has marketed the sporting fields, increasing activities around the container facility. MP strong and structured leadership provides basis for how community engagement should be attained.


VPUU would like to achieve “Universal access” of a high quality and comprehensive ECD in informal marginalized communities. Clinics, Schools, Home affairs, SASSA, counselling services, Legal Aid, Mosaic.

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 vision of Monwabisi Park Informal Settlement incremental upgrade is to build safe and integrated communities by upgrading the existing informal settlement Monwabisi Park (MP) in-situ without relocating people outside of the area.

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 route in 2 large informal settlements benefitting 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.
Within the Emthonjeni projects the individual spaces are part of an overall public space system in informal settlements that link key facilities with each other and thereby being part of a systemic approach.


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

Small monthly household surveys conducted by trained local residents to track community perceptions and opinions in relation to safety and public services. Large annual household surveys conducted by trained local residents to track changes in community perceptions and opinions in relation to safety and public services. Quarterly newsletters to inform residents about VPUU activities and opportunities happening in the SNA. Routine CitySpec Monitoring, reporting and repairs of public infrastructure (communal water taps and toilets). Community Register Office that aims to maintain 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: Khayalitsha
SNA: Monwabisi Park

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