Housing, Environment and Community: The Case of Khutsong

Monday, 16 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Johan ZAAIMAN, North-West University, South Africa
Gift MUPAMBWA, North-West University, South Africa
This paper reports on research conducted in the Khutsong municipality, North-West Province, South Africa since 2013. In 2004 a presidential project was announced to resettle the Khutsong township because it was built on a dolomite hazardous area that causes sinkholes. For this purpose the biggest town redevelopment programme in South Africa was undertaken. As the project unfolded it was clear that different socio-political processes were running concurrently impacting on the outcome of the project. Town planners, local politicians, provincial government, national government, contractors and community members all had different perspectives and expectations of the project. In creative ways these different parties attempted to benefit from this major project and let it work to their advantage. Although the housing was provided the resettlement failed. The outcome of the project was therefore not necessarily in the best interest of any of the parties – it became a matter of each seizing what they can from the material opportunities presented to them. This case study demonstrates the dynamic relationship between a community and housing and environment and how poor households used this risk scenario as a tool to enhance their disadvantageous position by profiting with regard to housing. It illustrates how the parties in this project could constrain the choices of others through a multi-directional interplay of efforts to domination and secure thereby the compliance of others. Khutsong is thus a salient example of professional risk management clashing with political instincts and how inequality, exclusion and inclusion become complex concepts in such a material scenario due to the skills people have to exploit such major projects.