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About us


39 Years of pro-poor development in Pietermaritzburg, KZN.

BESG is a Non-Profit and Public Benefit Organisation based in Pietermaritzburg, the capital of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa.

The organisation was established in 1983 by senior staff of the then University of Natal Department of Architecture and Allied Disciplines, as a support group that defended communities against eviction from informal settlements in urban areas.

In the early 1990’s, BESG became a key player in shaping planning and housing policies from local to national level. Since 1995, it has been a leader in enabling poor communities to access development and advocating pro-poor developmental policy.

BESG has developed substantial knowledge, including policy and technical knowledge on housing, livelihoods and tenure security.

Over the last six years BESG’s has had interlocking programmes of Building Sustainable Human Settlements and Promoting Good Governance and Deepening Democracy. A  large range of activities  to achieve the project, broadly fell into the categories of:

No poverty
Good education
Clean water
Good health


BESG in its participatory orientation and practice is in solidarity with the poor and marginalized and accompanies community struggles towards the attainment of rights, development, gender justice and human dignity. BESG is a value driven organisation that  is ethical, accountable, transparent, and acts with integrity in its community work, governance and resource management


BESG Strengths and Achievements.

Over an extended period, BESG has developed substantial knowledge on land, housing, built environment, basic services, local government, livelihoods and deep relationships of trust with 26 communities in the last 3-year project cycle.

Its methodology of process facilitation has accompanied communities  under complex conditions in Kwa Zulu Natal to be resilient in at times protracted processes for the attainment of basic human rights and for the restoration of dignity.

Through a respectful process and praxis led by a small team of skilled and experienced staff, BESG has contributed to:

  • A critical mass of community leaders who have developed knowledge of their basic human rights, housing policy and processes, and service delivery. This has contributed to enabling community leaders to lead the building of community agency to engage and challenge the state for delivery and improvement in the quality of their lives. This has resulted in:
  • A range of advocacy efforts, engagements with municipalities and protest action leading to several communities having greater access to water, sanitation, and services. Through their knowledge and actions communities have compelled municipalities to install extra standpipes, fix water leaks, ensure daily water delivery, the building of toilets, more consistent emptying of toilets, delivery of chemical toilets, the building of tarred roads with installation of speed humps with storm water drainage.
  • Knowledge and skills to engage the South African Human Rights Commission (Denmark) compelling the Msunduzi Municipality to empty toilets after a period of three years.


On the Housing front:

Through the BESG housing cadreship development programme and accompaniment, BESG has contributed:

  • A critical mass of housing activists are knowledgeable on housing policy and policies on public participation. This has equipped activists to engage from an informed position, assert and in some instances realise their rights.
  • Nkanini engaged the MEC for Human Settlements, regarding the lack of progress with their planned housing project. Twenty houses were built for the most vulnerable in the community
  • Equipping leaders to monitor quality assurance of housing delivery. The Endumeni Civic Association got the contractor to rebuild a house that did not meet quality requirements.
  • BESG has commenced efforts to unlock several housing projects in terms of the Enhanced People’s Housing Process (ePHP).


Livelihood and Tenure Security (LTS)

“The LTS has contributed to  mainly women developing a sense of pride, dignity, confidence and credibility in communities. It also  mobilises local resources[1].”

  • 42 Gardens in Shiyabazali contributing to food security.
  • Wills are being written by community members as part of succession planning.
  • In water stressed communities rain-water harvesting has assisted as a supplementary source.
  • Budgeting skills has enabled community members to be more efficient in managing their limited finances, including a women’s group that saved and built a room for their beadwork.
  • Health and safety training, including fire hazard mitigation have contributed to the avoidance of accidents.


Food, Energy, Water Security (FEW for All)

The FEW for All project is an extension of a larger Livelihood and Tenure Security (LTS) programme

  • This programme is to strengthen the livelihood capacities of indigent households in the uMgungundlovu District through training in life skills, health and safety and poverty alleviation.
  • Many women headed households have been referred to us through our partnership with Women Development Bank.


  • On 1 April 2020 BESG was one of 12 NGOs and social movements that were invited to engage with the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu, on strategies to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 virus in informal settlements. This led to the creation of the COVID-19 Informal Settlements Task Team, of which BESG was part of.
  • Our association with LRC ensured the following:
    • We ensured a group of women from Ophokweni, Mkhambathini was able to attend a virtual webinar on The Customary Marriages Act held by LRC.
    • BESG ran a workshop for LRC on the IDP Process and Informal Settlement Upgrading.
  • A joint venture between BDS and Swelihle Agricultural and Environmental Services entered into a contract with uMgungundlovu District Municipality (uMDM) piloting a climate change adaptation programme in Nhlazuka, Richmond and a component of the uMngeni Resilience Project, “Climate Proofing Human Settlements.” This led to the formulation of the “Climate Change Adaptation Toolkit” which was well received by uMDM and its partners.
  • Khayalethu Street Children’s Shelter was eventually completed. A Thanksgiving and Khayalethu Shelter Re-Opening Ceremony was held on the 10th of December 2021.
  • Following the Evaluation Process, Misereor was willing to fund our Organisation Development & Strategic Plan Workshop based on our proposal. This is contributing to a stronger more effective and efficient institution.
  • Actively building CSI partners among the business community in the locality of the communities we work with.
  • Building relationships with partner organisations that were previously fractured:
    • AFESIS, CLP, IBP, among others.
  • Building partnerships with organisations that will be beneficial to BESG and our community partners:
    • Gift of the Givers (resources towards community upliftment)
    • MOU with Womens Development Bank (WDB) – referral to communities in need for our intervention

BESG serves 26 communities in the Pietermaritzburg, KZN region.


The context in which we operate and champion our communities.

The Constitution and a Bill of Rights in South Africa  establishes the right to a better life for all. There is a gap between policy and implementation in order to realise these rights.

The neo-liberal economic paradigm is a capitalist global and South African paradigm that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.

This global system enables corporations both local and international to extract massive wealth for a few and generates in the South African context endemic poverty, inequality, a housing  and services crisis, rampant corruption, environmental destruction, patronage and dysfunctionality in particular at local government level.

These systemic manifestations are currently more severe and traumatic  due to the devastation  caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

There is an increased deadly scramble to control resources. Local councillors, aspirant local councillors and activists have been killed in particular those who challenge corrupt power.

The recent local government elections shows growing discontent with the ruling party and a significant increase in independent candidates and smaller coalitions. The ruling party has suffered its biggest loss since the turn of liberation losing its control off all major metros in Gauteng. In KZN, the IFP has made major inroads into ANC dominance.

The trade union movement has been by and large swallowed by the system and is a shadow of its powerful self at the turn of liberation. There is widespread non-compliance with progressive labour legislation, resulting in widespread exploitation and increased vulnerability of work.

The housing and services context is getting worse with rising levels of homelessness and informal settlements, made worse by the onset of COVID 19.

Housing developments still perpetuate the apartheid spatial patterns. Housing and services budgets are decreasing as austerity measures are put in place, with increased backlogs, delayed and failed housing projects,  corruption at tender allocation and housing allocation, lack of support of the PHP process in KZN and failure of the  USIP process

The work of BESG is situated in the volatile province of KZN. The housing sector is generally politicised and expressed through cronyism and corruption.  This has closed  space for BESG to play an intermediary role between government and communities, leading to BESG taking the route of a more community-based approach. Access to communities has been assisted through BESG’s strategic partnership with KZNCC.

The general context  in communities is one of increased dehumanisation. The daily relationship of the poor with neo-liberalism is characterised by deep vulnerability and survival. This  leads to  conceding rather than resisting (acquiescence), a culture of silence (apathy) and fear to challenge power. With a few exceptions, there is generally no sustained movement for rights as enshrined in the constitution.

There are pockets of hope.

The 26 communities that BESG works are a beacon of hope as they continue on their journey to realise their rights, improve the quality of their lives and increasingly use the power of their knowledge and agency to restore their dignity. From this base substantial growth in people claiming and realising their rights can take place in the next period.

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