Struggle for urban citizenship in South Africa: Agency and politics in the Enkanini upgrading project, Stellenbosch

Zibagwe, Scelo (2016-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: As the world becomes increasingly urban and urban conditions carry promises of a better life, significant categories of urban residents inhabit urban centres in cumulative insurgent processes of gaining a foothold in the governance contexts that are experienced as being indifferent to their living conditions. Through utilising an ethnographic immersion into Enkanini informal settlement (Kayamandi, Stellenbosch) and analysing the resultant qualitative data, the study identifies, describes, interprets and explains the mobilisation of shack dwellers to access the axes of urban citizenship: land and services. The core argument of this study is that, despite the constraints put on Enkanini residents by the municipality and by those best described as ‘former patrons’ to achieve their goals, the residents did make some gains – particularly by establishing a sense of their urban citizenship for themselves and by engaging autonomously in a struggle towards that end. An understanding of these shack dwellers’ struggle for urban citizenship was gained from social and planning processes that were observed in and around Enkanini settlement, including: perceptions of improving lives, processes of articulating claims and engaging with the municipality, and activities that portrayed patterns of engagement (meetings and protests). In particular, the process of how Enkanini obtained its existing services and residents’ pursuit of expanding them was closely studied. What emerged from the story of Enkanini and is important in contributing to the understanding of urban citizenship are the processes and discourses through which shack dwellers position themselves as (un)worthy claimants of urban citizenship. In this dissertation, I present contexts of exception and neglect that are contested by shack dwellers, initially through clientelistic relations that are initially weakened, but later perceived to be strong by the state. Patronage is positioned as a (de)mobilising element in the genealogy of informal settlements within the context of the polarised electoral politics of the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the African National Congress (ANC). Enkanini residents’ recent demands are read by the DA-led municipal leadership as a mere façade for ANC patronage and the politicisation of service delivery. The study identifies and explains the current articulation of ‘improved life’ by Enkanini residents who were haunted by historical legacies of neglect and the logics of patronage that displaced their demands. The innovations in solar energy solutions for shack settlements by Stellenbosch University are analysed with reference to the Stellenbosch University https://scholar.sun.ac.za iv displacing processes that perpetuated the exclusion of shack settlements from service provision. The solar energy initiatives were perceived by shack dwellers as a dispossession of their upgrading discourse as well as a palliative response to their envisioned improved lives that were woven around connection to the national electricity grid. The study identifies a municipality perceived to be indifferent based on how it responded to the demands of shack dwellers by positioning the latter as urban outsiders whose settlement was seen as temporary, illegitimate or nonexistent. This attitude is explained as being sustained by political attitudes that led to a discourse on upgrading by the municipality that not only translated into maintenance of the prevailing status quo of neglect but that also fostered abandonment. The study then provides an analysis of shack dwellers’ engagement with the local state to counter and disrupt processes of neglect by exposing perceived dishonesty of the local state, visibilising their true conditions through self-survey, rebutting the political prejudices of municipal leadership that viewed their mobilisation as a Trojan Horse of political rivals, and articulating and asserting their own discourse on upgrading that was built upon dignity. In its analysis of these engagements with the local state, the study portrays the practices and acts of Enkanini shack dwellers as those of citizens who have the right to voice deficits in their substantive citizenship. Without falling into the trap of romanticising the insurgent practices of shack dwellers, the study also presents the influence of and reaction to local politicians who punished the emerging autonomous mobilisation that bypassed them as brokers by endorsing the solar energy project in ways that were experienced as divisive by Enkanini residents and that deflated their mobilisation. The study site was unique in the sense that shack dwellers lacked the presence of advocates and supporters such as nongovernmental organisations and activists that have aided similar struggles elsewhere in the country.

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: Aangesien die wêreld al meer verstedelik en omstandighede in stede beloftes van ’n beter lewensgehalte inhou, leef ʼn beduidende sektor van die samelewing in stedelike gebiede in toenemende indringingsprosesse om ʼn aandeel te kry in regeringskontekste wat skynbaar onverskillig teenoor hulle lewensomstandighede staan. Op grond van diepgaande etnografiese betrokkenheid in die Enkaniniinformele woonbuurt (Kayamandi, Stellenbosch) en ontleding van die kwalitatiewe data wat dit opgelewer het, identifiseer, beskryf, vertolk en verduidelik dit hoe plakkershutbewoners gemobiliseer is om toegang tot die dimensies van stedelike burgerskap te kry: grond en dienste. Die hoofargument van hierdie studie is dat ten spyte van die beperkings wat deur die munisipaliteit en ‘vroeëre beskermhere’ op die bereiking van die doelwitte van die inwoners van Enkanini geplaas is, die inwoners tog ʼn aantal suksesse aangeteken het – veral deur vir hulself ʼn bewussyn van stedelike burgerskap te vestig en outonoom in die stryd vir daardie doel deel te neem. Insig in plakkershutbewoners se stryd om stedelike burgerskap is verkry deur sosiale en beplanningsprosesse in en rondom die Enkanini-woonbuurt waar te neem, byvoorbeeld: persepsies van verbeterde lewensomstandighede, prosesse waarvolgens eise verwoord en met die munisipaliteit gesprek gevoer word, en bedrywighede wat patrone in gesprekvoering uitgewys het (vergaderings en protesoptrede). Daar is in die besonder gelet op hoe Enkanini sy bestaande dienste bekom het en hoe inwoners te werk gaan om dit uit te brei. Wat uit Enkanini se verhaal na vore gekom het en vir ’n begrip van stedelike burgerskap belangrik is, is die prosesse en gesprekke waardeur plakkershutbewoners hulleself as (on)waardige aanspraakmakers op stedelike burgerskap posisioneer. Hierdie proefskrif hou kontekste van uitsondering en verwaarlosing voor wat deur plakkershutbewoners beveg word, aanvanklik deur kliëntistiese verhoudinge wat lateraan verswak, maar wat die regering mettertyd reken sterk is. Begunstiging funksioneer as ’n (de)mobiliserende element in die genealogie van informele woonbuurte binne die konteks van die gepolariseerde verkiesingspolitiek wat die Demokratiese Alliansie (DA) en die African National Congress (ANC) bedryf, waarvolgens die DA-beheerde munisipaliteit die inwoners van Enkanini se onlangse eise sien as ’n blote fasade om die ANC te begunstig en dienslewering te verpolitiseer. uitdruk, terwyl sodanige hulp in soortgelyke strydsituasies elders in die land wel beskikbaar was

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