The role of participatory planning during the upgrading of informal settlements : a case study of Briardale, Newlands West in eThekwini Municipality.
Mbuthu, Noluthando Samukelisiwe.
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In line with its commitment to deepen the democratic processes enshrined in the Constitution, the post-apartheid government in South Africa adopted the concept of participatory planning. This was done to ensure that community members became part of the planning processes taking place in their areas. Planning has always been technical, its focus neglected the needs of the people, especially those living in poor urban environments. This study looks at participatory planning efforts and how they can be used during informal settlement upgrading processes, to make development more people centred. A study into the Briardale, Newlands West area in the eThekwini Municipality was conducted, with the objective of examining the role of participatory planning in the in-situ upgrading of informal settlements in South Africa. The qualitative research method was used as a method of data collection during the study. The study found that participatory planning largely remains a paper commitment that is confined to policy documents, theoretical debates and municipal business plans. Its implementation, which should lead to empowerment is barely realised. There is therefore a need to identify ways to make this concept a reality, particularly in addressing developmental needs. In 2004 the Department of Human Settlements announced its intention to eradicate informal settlements in South Africa by 2014. These informal settlements are a result of the high rate of urbanisation, increasing housing backlogs, social exclusion, and local governments’ inability to provide basic infrastructure to the urban poor. However, planning professionals’ failure to engage with communities in an integrated and inclusionary manner has made things even worse when it comes to community empowerment initiatives. The proliferation of informal settlements has deepened poverty and unemployment levels, prevented empowerment and increasing inequality. Theories such as advocacy planning, collaboration planning, communicative reality, and empowerment theory, were used to support the hypothesis of the study. Both local and international case studies were also used to justify this hypothesis, while answering part of the research question. The background information of the study area was provided, where it helped in terms of understanding the educational, socio-economic, geographical location and survival strategies of the people being studied. The study came up with interesting findings with regards to the implementation of participatory planning by the eThekwini Municipality. One of the discoveries was that the community was no longer able to communicate effectively with the committee to solve internal issues. Mass meetings that were set to solve beneficiary problems did not produce resolutions, instead they led to further conflict and confusion among stakeholders. The Municipality attempted to engage with beneficiaries, however, this interaction did not bear the desired outcomes. Therefore, the recommendations put forward by the findings of the study, were to face challenges by opening the line of communication between stakeholders; engaging adequate measures for participation; and developing mechanisms for conflict resolution.