Safety and Peace through Urban Upgrading

Safety and Peace through Urban Upgrading – Be inspired

In a nutshell

The Mandela Bay Development Agency is working with the community of Helenvale in Port Elizabeth to address the socio-economic causes of crime and violence. 

What we do

The Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) is a municipal entity and special-purpose vehicle established in 2003 by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. The agency falls under the municipality but operates as a separate entity. It works closely with the relevant municipal directorates and drives catalytic projects to transform the urban environment.

Urban regeneration to promote economic development and tourism forms a key part of the organisation’s mandate. Since its inception the agency has facilitated a wide range of urban regeneration improvements. The agency entered into a partnership with the German Development Bank (KfW) for the Safety and Peace through Urban Upgrading of Helenvale (SPUU). 

Helenvale is a suburb in the north of Port Elizabeth. It was established in the 1950s when the apartheid Group Areas Act was implemented, resulting in the forced removal of families living in the established communities of South End, Fairview and Willowdene. Helenvale was originally developed to accommodate 6 000 people, but is now home to approximately 30 000. 

The dense concentration of people in the area – in very small dwellings of between 25 and 30 square metres, which often house several generations in one home – has contributed to a poor quality of life for the residents of Helenvale. Over the years the area has become increasingly dangerous and violent. 

The social fabric of the area has also been eroded by unemployment, substance abuse, gangsterism and teen pregnancy. But in spite of the difficulties, there are parts of the community with high levels of social cohesion which manifests in various ways, including volunteerism in community-driven projects from street patrols to cleaning cooperatives.

Following a presidential visit in 2006, Helenvale became a designated “urban renewal node” and was incorporated into the national urban renewal programme. This triggered national and provincial investment of R78 million in the area for infrastructure, skills development and job creation.

In 2011 an agreement was reached with the German Development Bank (KfW) to build on these investments. In the same year, the council of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality resolved to move the Helenvale Urban Renewal Programme to the MDBA. KfW committed R50 million to the SPUU, which will be implemented by the MBDA. The new programme aims to invest in interventions that will create a safer Helenvale through improvements in physical and social infrastructure.

How we do it

The programme recognises that the involvement of the Helenvale community is key to the project’s success. The MBDA has worked with the community at grassroots level and, through a transparent process, has facilitated in getting a programme advisory committee elected from within the community. 

In terms of the agreement with KfW, the programme will run for four years and includes five component areas. 

Component 1: Improved safety of public spaces and community facilities

This component aims to facilitate the intensive and safe use of public space and community facilities. This includes working with residents to maintain public spaces and facilities, ensuring that sidewalks and upgraded public facilities are kept clean and that parks are extensively used. Community capacity-building in operating and maintaining public space and community facilities are key activities of this component. This component will also focus on construction, waste management, safety and maintenance.

Component 2: Safer schools, in partnership with the community

This component aims to establish violence prevention and conflict management systems in the four Helenvale schools. The aim is to foster safe school environments that are conducive to teaching and learning and that promote the growth, development and well-being of learners and the wider school community.

Component 3: Domestic violence prevention

This component addresses various types of domestic violence and provides access to information regarding legal and criminal justice frameworks available to victims. It will also strengthen and extend victim support services and facilities, promote networks to prevent domestic violence and provide support for victims. 

Component 4: Improved housing

This component promotes sustainable and safe housing solutions in Helenvale. A housing strategy for has been developed for the area in consultation with the municipality and a national government grant funding application is being prepared. The improved housing component aims to ensure that existing and planned housing projects are integrated with community-centred approaches. 

Component 5: Improved employment opportunities for youth

This component aims to offer specialised services to improve employment prospects for young men and women aged between16 and 30 who are under-skilled, under-employed or unemployed. Services include counselling, career guidance, vocational skills training and business support. 

What we have achieved

The programme is still in the inception stages, with a master plan being developed and an implementing agent being appointed.

What we have learned

Governance and leadership at Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality presents a challenge. There has been a high turnover of senior management and political leadership in recent years. This has impacted negatively on the municipality’s ability to carry out its responsibilities. 

In Helenvale the inadequate provision of municipal services, such as refuse removal, impacts negatively on community life and contributes to the social challenges that the SPUU intervention seeks to address.

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Safety and Peace through Urban Upgrading

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