Slovo Park at a Glance

Slovo Park is situated in a politically and socially sensitive stretch of land south of Soweto. The community has been known by national government as Nancefield, by local council as Olifantsvlei and in the last five years as Slovo Park – named in honour of South Africa’s first minister of housing and former Umkhonto we Sizwe General, Joe Slovo.

The forced changing of identity reflects an on-going struggle faced by the leadership of Slovo Park to gain recognition as a legitimate settlement to access governmental support. This battle has been fought through constant shifts in governmental policy, power and promises for the community of Slovo Park. Their only tactics comprising of service delivery protest, painstaking formal requests for upgrade and currently a lawsuit against the City of Johannesburg.

Currently the community of Slovo Park with its development partners are strategizing this key social and political move.




Slovo Park Project 2012

In 2010, a group of postgraduate students from the University of Pretoria were given the opportunity to analyse and understand the needs, problems and opportunities of the Slovo Park community during their Housing and Urban Environments module.
They soon discovered that this community was grounded by a strong, established and open-minded social structure, which gave the residents the confidence and awareness to recognise their own problem areas within the settlement and more importantly their potential to be self-empowered.

Mapping Slovo through the community's eyes
The community were open to the idea of having a relationship with the students, which allowed for an intimate type of research engagement to start taking place. The outcome of this mutual contribution identified the need to upgrade the community hall.

The newly opened Slovo Hall as the team left it on November 20th, 2010

The residents participated during all stages of the Slovo hall process, including analysis, problem recognition, conceptual problem resolution, design resolution and finally implementing and building of the chosen design intervention.

The process of upgrading Slovo hall has ensured that the Slovo Park community has a designated place to meet. More importantly, it has shown the residents of Slovo Park that they have the ability to come together and work towards making the changes necessary in order to improve their quality of life and achieve their long term goal of community upliftment.

In 2012, a new group of postgraduate Architecture students were introduced to the Slovo Park community and were given the opportunity to further document and research their needs.

The first visit, welcomed with friendship and a tasty meal

The pre-established intimate relations with the residents and thorough research undertaken in 2010, enabled the students of 2012 to focus on attaining and defining a long-term vision of community upliftment, self-sustainability and development.
Two years later, the positive impact of the 2010 project was still acknowledged by Slovo
Involvement of the community, especially the Youth forum, during this research period directed the students towards the realisation that further development of Slovo Hall was necessary in order to accommodate new needs:

Including the youth during the mapping exercise at the existing hall
A positive social growth since 2010 could be seen through the expansion of after-school activities run by the Youth Forum together with the need to provide for more occasions of community gathering.

Typical tavern, the current location for after-school activities

The Research
Due to the success of the 2010 Slovo hall project and the enthusiasm and encouragement which it installed in the Slovo park residents, the 2012 student group decided to follow a similar process of analysis and understanding to that of the 2010 group. Thus a sensitive and holistic approach to researching and documenting enabled a more comprehensive understanding of the complex socio-economic context of Slovo Park.
Observing and documenting first impressions of site using photographs and note taking.
Participating in guided tours organised by willing community leaders, provided students with access to specific site community activities and created suitable opportunity for interviews with other community residents to take place.
Interviewing residents and members of the Community Development Forum was the best way to gain insight into the complex and developed social structure.

It is here were the foundation and strength of the community was realised.
Interviewing a Community Development Forum leader

Attending a community meeting at the hall revealed the social and political complexity of Slovo Park

This important information was documented and conveyed into a more accessible format using an organogram: A suitable way to visually portray the different sectors, portfolios and relationships within the Community Forum structure.
Organogram, visually organises social complexity

This had a direct influence on the analysis and mapping exercises completed.
Five key research themes were defined and used to synthesize the intangible social knowledge recognised together with the more literal aspects of the settlement.
Reserach themes and related sub-reserach categories determined through mapping exercise
Research themes: Infrastructure, Meeting places, Business, Safety and Children helped to categorize and map the needs, problems and potentials found within Slovo Park
Each theme was mapped independently and connections and relationships between research themes began to unfold.

Addressing the issue of safety and linking that to the routes children take to school
Bridge as a safety hazard needs to aquire more surveilance. A new business opportunity arises

Typical section through streetscape, overlaying relevant research themes and issues to be addressed

A link between these themes and the streets of Slovo Park was found. The street network was providing more than just movement and access infrastructure and needs to accommodate services, recreation and meeting space as well as business.

Business owners taking advantage of main pedestrian routes

Streets are the comon playground

Framework Proposal

Once a comprehensive understanding of the community’s needs, potential and opportunities was achieved, the group focused its attention on urban framework strategies, the aim and outcome of which was to determine and define a vision for the Slovo park community.
During the mapping process, an interview with the Community’s Business Forum leaders revealed that the community was already contributing to the process of problem solving on their own.

Discussion with Business Forum members
They shared their ideas and goals of initiating and maintaining a sustainable economic structure within Slovo and discussed which resources were available.
Business Forum's idea to invest in a nearby warehouse as part of their economic strategy
In order to ensure that a relevant outcome was achieved and that the community experienced a sense of inclusion within this process, it was important for the 2012 students to consider and expand on the business Forum’s ideas.
Defining a vision which recognised the importance of a sustainable economy, access to public amenities and opportunity for partnership was important.
Vision:  Slovo Park, a self-sustaining/ empowered community, independent from government which collaborates with NGO support.

Meeting with the community to gain their insight into an appropriate vision

Researching how residents pereive and understand business and ownership by playing a Slovo version of Monopoly

Proposals derived from the framework exercise, adopted the concept of implementing strategies in stages or incrementally. Basic infrastructure would provide the foundation and potential for further development and activities to be generated:
Phase 1:               Focus on infrastructure and street upgrade: water drainage infrastructure, sewerage (flushing toilets on street edge), electricity (solar panels, street lighting) and river rehabilitation.

Phase 2:               Developing economic opportunities: defining and expanding on current commercial and industrial business initiatives within streets and on edges associated with main activity and transport nodes. Defining a safety route for children in streets based on business development above using recreational activities.
Phase 3:               Developing meeting spaces and recreational areas relating to business activity as well as defining potential areas for urban agriculture, recreation and sports facilities near the river.

Phase 4:               Building infrastructure – relating to the existing warehouse and property development as outlined by Slovo Park’s business Forum. This entails the re-use of industrial buildings, using their potential for storage and shelter for business opportunities and health care or clinic facilities.

These framework strategies implement the five research themes through streetscape intervention in order to achieve the Slovo Park vision.
Here after the individual designs and programs were required to support the overall vision and goal for social, economic and environmental community sustainability.
Network of individual programmes

Individual Proposals
The group focused on overlapping the individual programmes to ensure a sustainable network and integration of activities.

Individual programmes contribute to the framework strategy
Although there was a common objective, each programme responded differently. Some interventions could be used as primary catalysts to initiate development and provide stability. Others could only be considered in time once a founded development was established.
Presenting these concepts was well received by the members of the community. They did however challenge the students to identify and realise what could be implemented in the short term and whether it could support the growing activities of the Business and Youth Forums.
Presenting individual programme ideas and discussing a way forward

A self-sustaining Slovo Park
Respective sites within Slovo Park
Slovo Park Farm - Kiana Martins
Composting Worm Farm - Abby Walsh
Slovo Park Depot and wholesale - Carla Taljaard

After attending another meeting with the Business Forum, the enthusiasm over the work completed by the students ignited the idea that this research could be translated into another built intervention.

Business Forum meeting and presentation of individual concepts
The built intervention
Although it was not required of the students to complete and build a designed intervention for the University module, the students together with the Community Forum realised the need to address some of the current problems.
The first issue that was raised by the community was related to the current community hall. This was not sufficiently providing for the Youth and Business Forum activities and could not comfortably accommodate the residents and government officials when meetings took place. The second was the need for lockable storage. Finally, the vandalism of Slovo hall by the children confirmed the lack of recreational facilities.

Attending a community meeting in cold, windy conditions confirmed the need to close the hall and provide more sheltered conditions
In order to complete adequate research which focused on these community requests, the students and residents which were willing to complete this task had to set aside time during the University holidays.
The community’s consistent and willing participation during the stages of problem analysis, design brainstorming and construction was testimony to Slovo Park’s drive for achieving upliftment and independence.
Discussing design ideas with Youth Forum leaders and gaining construction knowledge from more experienced community members
More importantly the students’ lack of practical knowledge was made up by the skills gained by the community during the building experience in 2010. Residents who had any building skills were also present during the design process. This gave the team foresight into the execution of any desired design ideas.
The community members supported the idea that the design be determined by the existing materials available on site and the needs defined above.
Fortunately there were several large window frames which had been stored in the post boxes on site for the purpose of expanding on the existing hall structure. Making use of all the frames would minimise the need for additional material such as brick and concrete and maximise on natural lighting.
Checking the condition of existing available resources stored in post boxes

These could be incorporated into the design for the purpose of closing the current open structure. This would ensure that the hall could be locked and sealed and thus suitable to store goods.
Hinging the frames would allow for a flexible structure which could be opened and aired during hot climates and provide larger openings when larger quantities of people are present. This considered the comfort of the user.

Measuring existing materials to ensure accurate inclusion into the design
With the strong social network present, the hall and surrounding public space needed to accommodate the growing number of attendees. Hence the idea of shading the existing gum pole structure, adjacent to the hall, become relevant.
As the main users of the hall, most of the community members pointed out the need to raise the roof in order to maximise the use of the structure and better accommodate the users and activities.
Existing hall roof structure
Although many of the students were nervous of the idea, the residents with building experience were confident in this decision and believed it to be manageable.
Designing on site and discussing how to work with existing hall structure
It was announced that there were other willing University students who were available to participate in a building exercise during the last week of the University holidays.

With this in mind, the current team comprised of students and Slovo Park residents decided to take up the opportunity and complete the build over the one week period. This meant that any funding and obtaining of necessary materials had to be completed during the few weeks remaining prior to construction time.
With limited available resources on site this was somewhat challenging.


Workshops were held to plan the hall upgrade with the community development forum.
Buccs led the meeting, encouraging a flow of ideas and establishing a realistic time-based goal. Jappie proceeded to the Eastern side of the Hall and proposed that it be closed off completely. Buccs then suggested that the roof be raised and extended further west to increase the covered floor space.

There was a clear understanding of time and budgetary constraints from all of the community members present, which made their demands for the Hall very realistic. We were able to plan what could happen in the very near future and were told of the many talents we could have perform in the Hall after our build week.

The build

The students planned to stay in Slovo with host families during the build weeks, this would be a two week period and would have the students working 

On arrival in front of Maparas, Mapara Street

We had a few minor injuries; luckily we came prepared with a mini medi-kit.


Abby and Kiana, with Frans's bakkie, took charge of collecting sand for the concrete and mortar mix. A weak battery proved quite problematic, as many times the truck needed a push start, sometimes while loaded with sand.

As Yolandi, Tialise and I went to Kliptown's Pick n Pay to get food supplies, Corobrick very kindly arrived with a delivery of 3000 bricks (with their own transport). The jungle gym, which was stored at Frank Maparas' place overnight, was brought back and in no time, the hall was encumbered with curious and excited children that not only saw the play potential in the playground, but also in the building sand. They remained with us until the end of the day.

We formed several brick lines and passed along it enough bricks to each of the Hall's edges, to ensure that enough bricks are placed close to where the walls will be built.

When lunchtime arrived, we took turns to eat at Frank's, so that we could have a couple of people remain at Slovo Hall to watch over the building materials.
As Frank and Mohau, along with several other community members, set out and marked a straight line for the East wall, they realized that the third column from the north wall sticks out further east than the other columns. To avoid the wall possibly being built further than the roof edge, they decided to use an angle grinder to saw off the bottom of that column, and anchor it into the wall by building around it.
One of the day's highlights was the arrival of the generator, supplied by David. This brought much joy, as a generator proved quite difficult to organise. David said he simply didn't know we needed one, but that he had an unused working generator at his mother's house.

While Yolandi went to collect the brick force and oil for the generator, the boys were assigned the task of breaking the rough screed with mallets, to smoothen the floor surface in the Hall for the walls.
As the day's end came, I left with the hopes that we'll find our building materials all there the next day.

Nelson Mandela Day

 by Abby Walsh

With most of the materials finally on site and the nation-wide energy of Mandela Day with us, we began a very successful and productive day at Slovo Hall!

Due to the first two days of build week being spent on finding necessary materials and the transport thereof, an objectives meeting for the rest of the week was of paramount importance. After a well-deserved dinner at Mapara’s last night, the group decided to allocate team members to the different jobs which needed to be completed by the end of Mandela Day. With the main objective of closing the hall, a focus was placed on building the brick walls and cleaning and installing the window frames.

 The 1:1 Pretoria Student League, the JCP students from the University of Pretoria, and Slovo Park community members.

Mr. Frank Mapara, hard at work.

A donation of building sand and cement from Takolias as well as the generous delivery of bricks from Corobrik, meant that the building team could focus on completing the seating walls of the hall. The students relied heavily on the experience and expertise of the community members for this. After a long debate and consideration of all opinions as well as Frank Mapara’s guidance, we were able to solve the level problems of the hall’s floor and the position of the existing steel structure which affected the laying of bricks and the wall height.
Adjacent to the wall building team was a very hard working window cleaning team (comprised of ladies of course!). Despite the limited cleaning resources, they made do with what they had and made headway with a very tedious job.

Kiana woke up very early this morning to fetch and deliver the shade cloth and cement from Rustenburg which she kindly organised. She still managed to get to Slovo  before lunch!

A donation of 30 x 2litres of soda drinks for the hardworking team gave everyone some new energy.

                                                 The seating walls are well on their way.

Julia and her team prepared lunch at Maparas and at 14:00 we had fried chicken and pap.

The confidence and productivity of the team seemed to attract the interest of other community members and soon we had many willing volunteers.

With an increase in helping hands and availability of resources (especially that of a much needed generator!) numerous tasks began taking place simultaneously: Kiana and Tialize took charge of measuring the timber for the seating and the shade cloth to attached to the colonnade. The JCP students made use of their welding skills to fix the children’s gym donated by Omar’s family. Omar did what he does best, which is project manage everyone and the building activity on site.

            3 Engineer students and 3 architecture students trying to figure out basic details.

Kiana measured out the sizes needed to make seating from old wood palettes which were sanded down on day 1.

A trip to the water plant down the road, gained us a bakkie load of aggregate for concrete. And to our dissapointment, we still short some riversand, and off to Takolias we went. We managed to get a load of riversand, and started mixing concrete to cast the footings.

Everyone was ecstatic when the delivery from Akhane Construction came at 16:30, and we started to unload the overwhelming amount of materials. What an amazing end to a very hard day of work!

The work started off slowly, but as loads had to be done, it picked up soon. The University of Pretoria JCP group took the shade cloth project into their own hands, and the results were greater than we expected. By adding something as simple as shade cloth, changed the space completely.

Welding had to be done, and we needed a bigger generator to power the welding machine. We made a few calls and quickly Mr Frank Mapara organised one from Kliptown, and before we knew it, it was already up and running. Abby apparently bought some petrol on her way to site.

Jedia took initiative with the wide range of sponsored pavers and incorporated the 1:1 logo into the new paving.

                                                                Some community helpers
Tuliza and I made another trip to Kliptowns’ PicknPay for supplies. The last we can afford. And on our way back heard that Nature’s Harvest sponsored 30 loafs of bread.
Buccs and Japie are adamant to raise the roof, with or without our help. We discussed many options, and we were worried about the structural integrity of the columns if they were to be cut and extended. I can however not argue with someone who has done steel welding for 20 years, so I phone a friend, a civil engineer, for a professional opinion. He gave the unofficial go-ahead. Buccs and Japie are convinced that it will be done before lunch time tomorrow. Success to be confirmed…
Mr Frank Mapara made us take out all the pavers, level the ground, and redo it. He also broke down a wall and redid it. He will not stand for anything but first class work (with second class labourers).

By the end of the day, we have not completed all the welding as planned, but that is how it goes. But the progress is finally visible! The windows will be installed tomorrow, and with our generously sponsored paint, we will coat them with pride. The walls, benches and columns are also on our list, so is the wooden seating.
Slovo Park Youth Forum aka Slovo Khayalami, lead by Frank Mpendulo, will all be dedicating their time to help us on our final day for the build week, branded with their Slovo Khayalami badges.

What we hoped would be the final day of building met us with an interesting addition of work: raising the roof. A long discussion was had between Buccs, Japie (the welder) and myself about ensuring the stability of this already fragile structure. Rather than lifting it 1m high, we resorted to raising it only 0,4m high. Although all of the 1:1 team members had reservations about successfully lifting the roof and bracing the columns, community members insisted that it could and should be done and finished by Friday. With our focus forcefully deviated to this task, the hopes of completing the project today dwindled.

As some of the JCP students continued with the tarp over the gumpoles, others went to work on sanding and cutting planks of wood for the east seating edge. Carin came and spoke to us about possible details for the bench, which sent Frank Jnr., Bonga and I on a hunt for more wooden planks.
                                Scrap wood from the factories would be perfect seating

As we went, Japie commenced with the roof by welding a structure that would act as a transfer beam when the columns get cut to be raised. They started on only the eastern columns first, with several community members needing to hold up the roof while Japie displayed his welding skills.

Frank Mpendulo and Bonga Nyembe, members of the Slovo Khayalami Youth Forum

Due to an error in judgement, a smaller window was opted for on the south side's left corner. This meant that the wall now used a lot more brickwork than we had planned for.

Panic consumed us all when the west columns got cut and the transfer beam fell, thus making the roof collapse. One of the workers sprained his ankle and was treated and bandaged, while others worked on restabilizing the roof.

                                                          Japie and his team

What was a consistent problem on site was communication. Omar, Clare and I were in charge of resolving construction issues, but only Omar was heard. Sometimes Clare and I were left to tell Omar what the solution was in order for him to tell them so that it could be heard/accepted. When Omar left, they requested to speak to him on the phone rather than to get those answers from us.

As we all agreed that Saturday be used as build day, we were saddened by the realization that the JCP students will no longer be with us.

So there's no signing o

The end to Build Week, 16-20 July, saw the team having to work on Saturday, 21-07-12 in a drive to push for completion. Despite the team’s best effort not everything could be achieved. This left some important elements outstanding, as well as many smaller details. These include the door to be fitted into the opening in the north wall, the brick columns to be built around the extended steel supports, the structure for and completion of the roof extension, and the tip-up doors to the south.
Sunday 22-07 - The construction team decided that Sunday was to be a rest day.

Monday 23-07 - Owing to a number of community meetings, commencement of building was postponed from Monday to Tuesday.
Tuesday 24-07 - Building was off to a late start as many of the Slovo Park residents employed in the adjacent cemetery project were unsure of their employment position due to the project being  temporarily halted. This is in part due to the complaints by the Slovo Park residents of their possible eviction to make space for the cemetery for project.
Building work commenced around 3pm with much of the steel work being done. Some brickwork from the previous week was also corrected or completed. A quick tidying up of the site saw all rubble being collected to fill the base of the bench cavity wall. This was topped with soil and moistened to help settle and level the soil.

Wednesday 25-07 - (O. Horzook absent) Support structure of the roof extension to the west was largely completed, with only the southern end having been delayed due to the lack of material and a generator. The brick piers forming the partitions for the benches were finished off to cill level. The concrete topping for the benches was cast and left to cure

Thursday 26-07 - Yet again, construction for the day was delayed, with myself and Mohau having to run errands to draw money, and to purchase groceries for meals for the build team. Some work carried on on site, but only a few volunteers were present. With the concrete having settled, preparations were under way to finish the bench with the timber slats prepared during Build Week 1. The detailing for this was only resolved at the end of the day, leaving the finishing for Friday. Final adjustments to the windows were made, and the filling in of the external window cills began. For this, it was decided to use the clay tiles donated by Akhani. 

Jhono arrived on site with roof sheeting and cement collected in Brakpan, as organised by Kiana. These sheets were immediately fitted to the hall, with only a 1/3 of the length outstanding. Building material including Sanitaryware, countertops and mirrors were generously donated and delivered to site by Builders Warehouse Rivonia, organised by Abby.
Friday 27-07 - Installation of the timber seats started first thing in the morning whilst the local team was still at breakfast. This took the rest of the day, with only four of the six benches being completed, owing to a shortage of nails. The door to the north was eventually brought into the hall, and is brickwork surround integrated into that of the adjacent brick support column. Mr Mapara also continued with the brick columns to the east side between the benches. The remainder of the roof sheets were fitted, and the polycarbonate sheets above the west   windows were cut and prepared. Fitting of these commenced in the afternoon.

Friday Evening - Having left the site at 5:30pm, work still carried on by the locals. Some more brickwork was finished, with the bulk of the late-night work being welding of the south door frames. Members of the 1:1 Team came to lend a hand, including Jhono Bennett. Work ensued until 12:30am Saturday morning.

In true Slovo tradition we were busy until the very last moment on the final elements f the upgraded Slovo Hall.

In this case the movable south wall walls/doors proved to be far more tricky than anticipated. This had the community build team up until the early hours of the morning working away on the steel frames.

Nevertheless, the team pushed through and had the doors ready for the Saturday festivities.

by Omar Horzook 

Saturday 28-07 - With the late-night push for completion, the hall took on a different image on Saturday morning. Yet again, work was off to a slow start, despite the imminent hand-over. This was largely due the late-night, and that some of the principal volunteers operate taverns until late night on weekends. At this crucial stage, a last-minute trip to the local hardware store had to be done, to get tack screws needed to fix the remaining polycarbonate sheets.

With the prompt arrival of the 1:1 student team including the JCP students, the site became vibrant again. This despite the  fact that the day’s visitors ended up having to work, clearing  up the site of rubble, neatly storing the un-used bricks to form outdoor seating, and washing and cleaning of the paved areas and the hall.

A final tidying up and cleaning of the hall and its surrounds made for a professional hand over of the site, even though a few aspects needed tending to. These are to be addressed in the upcoming week, and include final building of columns, painting of all steel work, sealing of the roof leaks, installation of the ceiling insulation panels, repairing of the floor tiles and closing of the window panels. Attention must also be paid to the ailing jungle gym, as it is over-used by the local children, and is in need of reinforcing.

Another Perspective
by Yolandi Viljoen

The day finally arrived. The upgraded Slovo Hall : Opening. Truth be told, I was dreading this day. Not being part of the building process for the last week and being forced to focus on other work, when we have not completed the Slovo Hall, was challenging. The community was eager to complete the process of enclosing the hall and Omar kindly updated us on the progress as the week went by.

We were pleasantly surprised to see that everyone was already hard at work when we arrived. None of us expected to be working on Saturday, but things needed to be done, and thus we all jumped in.

The energy was great. Bonga, Frank and the rest of the Slovo Khayalami Youth Forum set up a DJ set and the music attracted many children and unfamiliar faces. Julia offered to make us pap and Mohau and I drove to Kliptown for some meat to end the day off proudly South African style, with a braai.

At 6PM when we left Slovo Park, I felt very close to content. Saying a temporary goodbye to everyone we have met the last 2 months, made many things I know ,quite irrelevant and all the things I have learned, crucial.

Japie and Tebogo
The improv-braai/tap

The JCP students from the University of Pretoria