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2019/2020 Update Analysis

Isandla Institute | 2020-10-06 | 0 comments

The policy context for informal settlement upgrading is in constant flux, as policy-makers try to ensure that policy is evidence-based and informed by practice. The dynamic nature of informality is the reason why informal settlement upgrading is often referred to as a ‘moving target’. This has a bearing on annual metro municipalities’ plans and strategies.

The 2019/2020 financial year was notable in the context of local government strategic planning, particularly for urban development. It was the end of national government’s 4-year medium-term strategic framework (MTSF) to tackle poverty, unemployment and inequality. This meant that metros would be gearing up to meet the targets set in 2014.

2019/2020 was also the year that National Treasury introduced a new conditional UISP grant window, in preparation for the introduction of a new informal settlements upgrading grant. The new grant is intended to fast-track the backlogs in infrastructure delivery. These factors had a bearing on municipal planning and, consequently, our analysis of the 2019/2020 data update.

Grant window and municipal budgets

The new grant window ring-fenced a proportion of the USDG grant for upgrading to a total of R2.4billlion. The ring-fenced amount for the window is a minimum amount and municipalities could choose to spend a larger portion of their USDG allocation, granted that the projects are contained in their upgrading plan (Division of Revenue Bill, 2019). The following funds were ring-fenced for metropolitan municipalities:

• BCM – R163 million
• NMB – R193 million
• MAN – R161 million
• EKH – R420 million
• CoJ – R295 million
• TSH – R342 million
• ETH – R419 million
• CoCT – R316 million

While metros generally reported these figures quite clearly, our assessment looked at the proportion of these funds for the scale and extent of informal settlements. In previous years, cities allocated an average of 23% of their USDG budget to UISP projects (Planning for Informality). This year, our assessment looked at the proportion of the USDG that is ring-fenced for upgrading projects. If the ring-fenced amount in 2019/2020 was less than 20% of the total USDG allocation, this was weak evidence of a satisfactory alignment of an ISU strategy with municipal budgets.

2019 Targets – reached or deferred?

When the 2019 MTSF targets were set in 2014, the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP) and the Department of Human Settlements had completed the assessment of 450 informal settlements across the eight metros. 290 000 households had benefited from informal settlement upgrading, and the aim was to reach 750 000 by the end of 2019. To achieve this, each metro had planned to reach the following targets:

• BCM – 18 980 households
• NMB – 14 810 households
• MAN – 12 480 households
• ETK – 56 905 households
• CoJ – 95 225 households
• TSH – 62 515 households
• EKU – 83 195 households
• CoCT – 83 390 households

We found that metro municipalities were not explicit in their reporting against upgrading targets and annual serviced site delivery. Evidence of the likelihood of reaching these targets was weak. It is anticipated that figures will be reported on in annual reports. The implications of this lack of data is that there are not yet any baseline figures for the next MTSF period (Medium-Term Strategic Framework 2019 – 2014, 2019).

Observations and trends

As shown above, the changes to the grant framework and end of the MTSF period created a unique context for municipal planning, however, there are components of informal settlement upgrading plans that were not directly affected. Assessing the backyarder support, land release and community participation categories revealed some noteworthy observations across the metros:

  1. There is little evidence to suggest that metros are supporting backyard dwellers with access to services. The City of Cape Town Backyarder Support Plan came to a halt in 2018 amidst a number of implementation challenges.
  2. Most of the metros are still adopting a preventative land strategy in the context of informal settlement upgrading, aimed at protecting land from land occupiers.
  3. There is strong evidence to suggest that priority informal settlement upgrading projects are located in the city's urban network strategy. Infrastructure expenditure in the urban network targets spatial inequality in cities and can be a positive indication of progress towards integrating parts of the city.
  4. One of the conditions for the UISP grant window requires metros to establish a social compact as part of each individual informal settlement upgrading plan. This is intended to facilitate community participation in projects. However, there was little evidence referencing social compacts in municipal documents.

Given the characteristics of informal settlement upgrading, we can anticipate that metros will take some time to align their plans and strategies with national priorities in a meaningful way. The grant window provides a buffer for metros as they transition to the new conditional grant and 2019 – 2024 MTSF priorities. Planning for Informality will be paying attention to these developments in the forthcoming year, with some changes to the webtool lined up.

Written by Rebecca Matsie, Isandla Institute



Slum upgrading remains the most financially and socially appropriate approach to addressing the challenge of existing slums. UN Habitat (A Practical Guide to Designing, Planning, and Executing Citywide Slum Upgrading Programmes 2015 (PDF), page 15)

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