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Joe Slovo Redevelopment

Cape Town, South Africa

 
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Joe Slovo is one of the largest informal settlements in South Africa. It was established during the early 1980s in Cape Town’s oldest Black African township, Langa, and named after anti-apartheid activist and former minister of housing (1994-1995) Yossel Mashel Slovo. Its relatively good location with respect to transport and sources of jobs had made it one of the fastest growing informal settlements in the city, especially between 1994 and 2004. Its phased redevelopment since 2004 exemplifies the evolution of post-apartheid housing policy, showing how—after significant false starts—it is possible to overcome the legacy of segregating the non-white poor population into distantly located, low density, underserved, and environmentally fragile areas. The project, which started as any other top-down policy, reproducing the inherited authoritarian rationales from the apartheid era, has been transformed into a learning catalyst on how to best ensure the progressive realization of housing for lower income sectors. It also illustrates what Kahanovitz et al. (2009) call the “dynamic of risk” of informal settlements, to expose the dialectic relationship between social and environmental fragilities over a much contested territory. Finally, it demonstrates that different principles of housing (livelihood, safety, resilience, and self-governance) are so intrinsically related that they cannot work in isolation from each other (Vale et al. 2014).

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