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:
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
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:
On the Housing front:
Through the BESG housing cadreship development programme and accompaniment, BESG has contributed:
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.”
Food, Energy, Water Security (FEW for All)
The FEW for All project is an extension of a larger Livelihood and Tenure Security (LTS) programme
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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