CITY DESIRED BLOG

In Response to Your Request: A Map of Institutional Circumnavigation
Ashley Buchalter
20 August 2015
This map is an illustration of the formal path that SJC had to walk in order to work with City officials, and the ‘informal’ maneuvers that were made in order to pressure the government to keep that path open.

“This ensures that, for all the inequalities within civil society, the most important divide between who is heard and who is ignored is not within civil society but between it and the rest of a society in which many have the formal citizenship rights which allow them a say, but not the means and the contacts to use them. Participation in civil society requires a range of capacities and resources – including the ability to gain access to government institutions. Successive studies have found that the poor continue to remain outside civil society, ensuring that civil society organisations which champion the poor have weak roots among them. This is best illustrated by a discussion of poverty reduction, clearly the area in which the voices of the grassroots need most urgently to be heard.”
— Steven Friedman

This map is an illustration of the interactions between a civil society organization, the Social Justice Coalition, and the City of Cape Town government. It recounts the steps that have been taken by residents and organizations representing the neighborhood of Khayelitsha while advocating for the provision of sanitation services in their community. 

The South African Constitution is lauded for being one of the most progressively minded governmental frameworks to date. The notion of public participation and civic engagement is embedded within the document and numerous departments and policy initiatives have been established purposefully to enhance citizen-to-state cooperation. Among other stipulations listed in the Municipal Systems Act, “The council of a municipality ... has the duty to: a) exercise the municipality’s executive and legislative authority and use the resources of the municipality in the best interests of the local community; b) provide, without favour or prejudice, democratic and accountable government; c) encourage the involvement of the local community; d) strive to ensure municipal services are provided to the local community; e) consult the local community about … services provided; i) promote a safe and healthy environment.

Beginning in 2011, the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) began a campaign to improve safety and sanitation within the neighborhood of Khayelitsha. Residents felt their rights to a safe and healthy environment were not being honored by municipal officials or policy. The community recognized that some of their biggest challenges arose when attempting to carry out the most basic day-to-day activities. Activities which many people in Cape Town take for granted, such as washing their hands with clean tap water, or the ability to use a clean and functioning toilet. Because there are far too few communal toilets in Khayelitsha, residents often must walk long distances to access a clean running toilet, exposing themselves to the possibility of a violent encounter. The lack of attention paid to the facilities also means that broken toilets leak and people are forced to relieve themselves elsewhere, creating breeding grounds for disease. 

The Clean and Safe Sanitation Campaign advocates for greater access to clean toilets and for the City of Cape Town (CoCT) to consult and partner with the people whom they serve when creating plans and budgets to meet their needs. The toilets in Khayelitsha are serviced by the CoCT through subcontracted private companies, who are supposed to ensure the toilets are maintained and cleaned regularly according to their contractual obligations. Noting that these services were clearly not being provided, the SJC, Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) and other civil society organizations began using formal legislative channels to lobby for their rights. The map is an illustration of the formal path that they had to walk in order to work with City officials, and the ‘informal’ maneuvers that were made in order to pressure the government to keep that path open. 

The map is loosely modeled after the board game, Chutes and Ladders, where players move through the board by walking a formal path, sometimes using ladders to progress faster and sometimes being forced to move back a few steps when landing on a chute. 

On this ‘game board’ however, the path represents the formal institutional steps that are said to support civic engagement and integrated planning opportunities, like open channels of communication between citizen and state. The ladders represent the connections between two events - actions taken during these events are sometimes formal and sometimes informal. This map does not contain chutes, but there are times when players could be delayed for indeterminate amounts of time. 

When mapping the interactions between the SJC and the CoCT during the Clean and Safe Sanitation Campaign on to the game board map we see the  back and forth nature on the journey to safer, cleaner facilities. Formal institutional steps that were attempted to no avail, i.e. a request to review documents prescribed as public, are often followed by more ‘informal’ steps in order to pressurize government officials. News reports, official CoCT press releases, and labour disputes are also a powerful component to the way the story has unfolded, and are captured on the board. It was important to note when third party ‘players’ - such as the South African Human Rights Council - became involved, as they provided a national and sometimes international perspective on the campaign and further pressurized the CoCT.  The map is chronological, starting in 2011 and ending in July 2014, although the story continues to unfold. There have been successes along the way, such as the installation of ----- additional toilets and official recognition on behalf of the CoCT that sanitation service plans have not been implemented effectively due to lack of oversight. However, the situation in Khayelitsha and other informal settlement neighborhoods is still one in severe need of attention. The SJC, NU and the International Budget Partnership have teamed together to continue to monitor sanitation services and to keep pressure on the municipal government to incorporate them when drafting plans designed for their benefit.

By Ashley Buchalter | Illustration by Gaelen Pinnock

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