Last Updated
Thursday 18 December 2014, 14:58 pm.
Upgraded to crowdedness?

Veteran Town Planner JAN WAREUS ponders the complex problems besetting Gaborone's low-income settlement, Old Naledi.
By Staff Writer Fri 19 Dec 2014, 13:55 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Upgraded to crowdedness?








When I arrived in Botswana in January 1979, the first upgrading project for Old Naledi was well under way.Canadian CIDA funded the project consultants. In charge was a team headed by John van Nostrand from Canada. The project started around 1977/78 and by 1980 it had been concluded.

In the early '80s I got the idea of taking some photos from this successful upgrading project - making headlines in Habitat circles. First a story from my photo session that over years has become a kind of homemade metaphor of the Old Naledi development up to date!  I brushed the dust off my new motorbike and put a film in my old Nikkon. It was a Saturday and I headed for the new Sports Area that was created on the project. Of course, a football game was underway on the dusty field - in those days, I think not even the National Stadium had grass to play on. When I arrived there was about 10 minutes left of a tight game between Old Naledi 14-17 boys and Ramotswa boys - I think it was. The situation was a draw 5-5 the many goals probably a product of the dust that made it hard for goalkeepers to see the ball coming out of a cloud of dust all of a sudden.

A big cloud of dust appeared in the Ramotswa penalty area and the referee's whistle went hot. When the sight cleared we could see the Naledi libero on his back in pains. Why he fell and scraped his knees was not clear to spectators, but the referee pointed to the penalty spot. A big fuss ensued on the Ramotswa side and more dust bellowed. Calmly, the fallen guy rose up, waived to the coach who came running with a shoe. It was one of those formal shoes, black evening shoe that the penalty-taker started to fit on his right foot. More dust bellowed from the group players! The libero starts a long stance and the goalkeeper loses his nerve and throws himself to the left long before the shot comes.

A rather loose ball to the right and 6-5 to the Naledi team! More protests from the other team and soon the referee's whistle concluded the match. The many spectators from the shebeens nearby and I loved the outcomeOld Naledi was a happy place in those times right after the Canadian Upgrading.

It was a very unique and successful project by the Canadian team. The somewhat overcrowded area of 120 hectares with 10,019 people was divided into 2,344 separate households occupying 2,003 plots, meaning that there were about five persons on each plot (32 percent children). Quite close to the average for Gaborone of that time if we include all servants quarters at the back of the High-Cost plots. People were from all over the country, attracted to Gaborone mostly because of the intensive building activities upon the Independence in 1966.

The average plot size according to the project report by John van Nostrand ("OLD NALEDI - the village becomes a town" from 1982 - see picture 1 of the report and, please read it - it is a very important historical document about Gaborone) was 320 msq, close to the urban standard by then of 400 msq. But the variation was great - from 66 to 1,200 and 50 percent had plots of less than 250 msq. Statistics do not always give us the real social picture.

The danger of using average statistical figures in planning is clear when the report indicates that, while 52 percent accommodated between four to eight persons, the actual range ran from one to over eleven persons per plot. Old Naledi was even then quite crowded here and there and part of the project was to lessen this by offering plots elsewhere (in Broadhurst and southern Old Naledi).

This is mentioned later and note and compare with the figures that came out of the 2001 upgrading exercise. As a conclusion of the first upgrading, people were given Certificate of Rights and became "owners" as long as they paid very modest monthly rentals. Included was a subsidised 2-hole "earth toilets", water standpipes and better roads plus a Sports Ground in the heart of the neighborhoods.

Almost over a night, things changed - proper building started as loans were given (though the majority paid right out of pocket, being afraid of loans). In the beginning of 1979 there was intensive home-building taking place and many structures for letting were also built (to pay for building costs). The slight overcrowding went down from more than 10,000 people to about 8,600 with standpipes for water, a working road system and proper toilets of an approved design (the so called ROEC type). And more - a few open spaces for the kids to use for play!

The success of the project has naturally to do with the skill of the Canadian consultants but also the Government setup of experienced supervisors and here I have to mention the UDC - Urban Development Coordinator - Joe Trigg. For some time, the project was hailed by Habitat as the first "shanty town upgrading" of importance in Southern Africa and Government got a well-deserved pat on the back.

The concept of upgrading was soon followed by Selebi-Phikwe (Botshabelo) led by another experienced UDC, Mr Jim Holland. I'm sure that much of the high grades for Botswana democracy and efficiency are based on these projects!However, to me this is also the end of successful projects in Botswana - an accelerated localisation scheme came into operation all too soon. Inexperienced students with hardly a day of work in the field were appointed as Head of Departments (and Principals) and expatriates left en masse without proper handover time.

A generalised comment but, believe me, it is quite true. I left the Department of Town and Regional Planning in the middle of 1986 as the second last expatriate. I returned for a holiday in 1987 and found DTRP in shambles. A new scheme had been approved - the ALSP (Accelerated Land Servicing Project) but no plans had been produced and Ministry of Local Government and Housing (as it was called then) was in limbo. So the Swedish SIDA approved a support programme and plans were produced within a short period. The returned local students had never learnt how to produce a layout and realising this - having no actual experience of producing layouts needed - they managed to hire central African planners with the same problems! So there were no plans for ALSP!

Meanwhile, and naturally, the ALSP was severely delayed which was a God-sent gift for the real estate people (at Surveys and Lands) that deliberately wanted the land values to increase as the private developments on various free-hold farms were taking the "cream" out of the cake (the high-cost and medium-cost development), resulting in no cross subsidies for mixed urban development in Gaborone). Things didn't go as planned, any longer and even worse, there were no plans!

This might sound harsh but it is well known that inexperienced professionals most often try to come up with regulations and standards as some global catechism, instead of needed plans, hoping that consultants will do the job (following the catechism). Now, back to Old Naledi - in the early '80s there was a drive to improve the building standards as a result of residents now having ownership of plots instead of just being "squatters". This resulted, as I have mentioned above, in that many homebuilders made "rooms for rental". And within a few years, the owner could move to a "proper" plot paid by this income. But with decent supervision (by GCC and SHHA staff) this could easily have been avoided.

An upgrading and tarring of roads and reducing of dust - a big problem for the inhabitants happened in the late '80s. Then in the beginning of the new millennium a second upgrading project was initiated by GCC to introduce on site water, waterborne sanitation and electricity as well as an upgraded road system. First steps were to find out the current population and the socio-economic situation as well as the preferences of the people.The 1991 census indicated that the population had grown to 21,000 from about 8,600 at the end of the '70s. Very shocking, indeed! Some action should have been taken then, but the GCC was now in the hands of an opposition party and nothing happened and no whistles were blown. I suspect that the majority of the councillors were deliberately creating an embarrassing situation for government but I don't know Botswana opposition politics/social policies, very well. It's a mystery that BDP missed this opportunity to wipe out BNF. Some blame must be on them, too! A new project for Old Naledi had quite easily sorted out this in the '90s as areas were available through the Accelerated Land Servicing Project (ALSP) - that was more or less dormant with regards to allocations between 1987 and 1996.

To make it worse, the 2001 census that arrived during the project indicated 34000 inhabitants in Old Naledi. About that time when I was involved in the new upgrading exercise the socio-economic expert indicated that Old Naledi had 46000 people (including "illegal" tenants and people counted elsewhere) and the Terms of Reference was hoping that it was to become at pair (meaning comparable) to other parts of Gaborone. A conundrum, to say the least! Let me point out some survey results:

Only 43 percent of plot owners were living on the plot. Old Naledi had become a large lodge area! The average households per plot were 3 with 9 members each. Where are the taxes paid for this kind of business?Plots are relatively small and many have up to 40 people and only one standpipe and one pit latrine. Naturally this is a social and hygienic problem. So the bush near the dam has become the answer. As a matter of fact, at the time of the study, many had no toilets at all. Can a capital of a proud country accept this or is the hope that one flushing toilet that the landlord often refuse to pay the water for will solve the problem of morning congestion?

Replacing pit latrines with flushing toilets doesn't solve this hygienic and social problem. When water is cut the problem is greater than when the pit latrines were there. People pointed out water, sanitation and lack of privacy in interviews. Especially the interference from shebeens for young ones trying to study was a problem and this problem remains even after upgrading.

Conclusion on "at pair" - in areas outside SHHA we have about 67 people per hectare. In Old Naledi there is more than 400. In some SHHA areas (e.g. extension 32 in Broadhurst) there are 193 per hectare. How can this maths be brought together - meaning bringing Old Naledi at a pair with other SHHA areas when we know that it will need at least another 7,500 new plots to bring the situation to a decent level (i.e still below the standards of today for other areas and not at par).

In fact, to bring all existing low income and SHHA areas at par with our modern, acceptable standards will need more than another 1/2 of Gaborone West! But, as government always says, this city does not have any more land. Since my early impression of Old Naledi, things have gone bad, really bad! Socio- economical matters are totally out of decent urban standards! We all know that extreme crowdedness results in a breakdown of ethics and morals and we are all experiencing the consequences.  It is my view and many others that increased policing will not solve the problem especially in times of fiscal austerity. Not even our judicial system can cope with it, that's a fact. So what's the remedy for the problem? Relocate the people that are not original inhabitants? Force the absent landlords to take responsibility (taxes are a help) and use the rules we have, for a start (e.g. only one residence in town per family)? Probably a bit of all, in my view.

The lessening of the over crowdedness will possibly have only one solution. And that is a regional study for the establishment of satellite towns. Satellite towns would have dwelling units with affordable prices and (small scale) industry for employment. This concept has worked in other countries and should be possible here with the right concepts used.

I have frequently advised on this and with or without the Old Naledi problem we have to study this solution - but it will take a brave decision on Public Transport, for a start something that all people in peri-urban areas need for a decent future with less private transport!Maybe, you now understand the metaphorical power of the football match.In the thick dust the "invisible" teams have acted unnoticed or been ignored by the Council and its staff. A magic shoe must be found!



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