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Change by Design Joburg

A collaborative project on housing justice in inner-city Johannesburg.

Workshop 1 – Online Symposium

Workshop 1 – Online Symposium

To support the 2023 Change by Design workshop in Johannesburg, an online symposium was organised to bring together participants, partners and other stakeholders involved in the initiative. The goal was to facilitate wide participation by reaching out to as many people interested in the topic as possible. The symposium was conducted online to connect across places and accommodate different schedules and time zones.

The programme for the event was organised into two parts: a Workshop Participants Session and a Public Symposium. The Workshop Participants Session started with a welcome and round of introductions by the workshop team and participants, followed by introductions of ASF-UK, Change by Design, and 1to1 – Agency of Engagement introducing Johannesburg.

The Public Symposium began with a welcome and introduction by ASF-UK, providing an overview of the programme’s objectives and the team behind the workshop. The symposium consisted of two panels, both chaired by Alexandre Apsan Frediani of IIED and ASF-UK.

Panel 1

The first panel was titled: The Context of Informal Housing in Inner City Johannesburg and discussed the context of housing struggles in inner city Johannesburg with Jacqui Cuyler (1to1), Thando Mhlanga (IBP), Sello Mothotana (Joscho), Molefi Ndlovu (Inner City Resource Center), and Balangile Mntaka (Asivikalane), with comments from Ed Molopi (SERI).

The panel explored the challenges faced by people living in informal settlements in the inner city. The discussion highlighted the need for basic necessities such as clean water and sanitation. The panel also talked about the categorisation of inner city informal settlements and the challenges in defining them. It was pointed out that informal settlements are not just a housing issue, but also about access to basic services like water, sanitation, and electricity. The panel also discussed issues like eviction orders, lack of alternative accommodation, and the failure of the state and market to provide people access to work opportunities and clear tenure. The panelists emphasised the need for advocacy, research, and litigation to work towards securing homes for individuals, communities, and social movements. The discussion also touched on the challenges faced by domestic workers and informal traders, and the anti-foreign sentiment prevailing in the city.

Panel 2

The second panel conversation was titled: Ways Forward, and focussed on the community-led design and planning agenda in the context of inner-city housing. The panelists included Molefi Ndlovu (Inner City Resource Center), Shereza Sibanda (ICRC) with Mike Makwela (PlanAct), Mike Makwala (PlanAct), and Tebogo Ramatlo (Tshwane University of Technology), with comments from Heather Dodd (Savage Dodd Architects).

In this panel, it was discussed how there is currently no legislative framework for upgrading occupied buildings in Inner City Johannesburg. The lack of recognition of occupied buildings as informal settlements, in particular, is hindering interventions. The Trespass Act 6 of 1959 was discussed and its repeal was proposed. Legislation such as the “Prevention of Illegal Eviction” act protects the rights of people in informal settlements. Ongoing coalitions and alliances were mentioned as a means of protecting housing rights. The importance of documenting, visualising, and telling the stories, needs, conditions, etc. of people living in informal settlements was emphasised. There was a discussion on how to make more inclusive cities, and the role of imagination and speculation in pushing forward such an agenda. The idea of Wakanda, a ‘utopian’ image of a futuristic African city, was brought up as an example of the need for Afrocentric creativity and speculation. The need to recognise and preserve different forms of material and cultural heritage was also discussed. The panelists talked about how people living in informal settlements are seen more as numbers than as individuals who belong in the city and shape its identity. The panel also explored issues of affordability, particularly for the lowest-income groups; and importance of recognising different forms of formality/informality was also discussed. The lack of infrastructural support provided by the city to the inner city was mentioned. Lastly, the panelists discussed the need for destabilising key assumptions of what makes up ‘housing needs’ and injustice, and opening possibilities for the future.


Finally, the event concluded with closing remarks by the team and an exciting start for the CBD Joburg 2023 Programme!


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