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High density, high hopes

Civil Society Award
Makhulong a Matala

Makhulong a Matala is a Sesotho phrase that means “greener ­pastures” and there is no ­better name for a social-housing ­project that changes the lives of city dwellers by transforming Johannesburg’s urban heartland into a community.

The non-profit organisation has joined forces with international and local partners such as the Johannesburg Housing Council to help landlords and residents to work together more effectively by understanding each other’s rights and responsibilities.

“Residents cannot always live up to the expectations of the landlord and vice versa,” said Makhulong’s general manager, Lindi Malinga. “We educate our tenants on a number of issues so that they can build themselves into a community.”

Makhulong is a key player in the eKhaya neighbourhood in Hillbrow, a precinct where the council owns four buildings. The densely populated area is a rich masala of people from different cultures, nationalities and races who all share a limited space and it was once considered a slum.

But, thanks to the eKhaya initiative, the neighbourhood now boasts cleaner streets, refurbished buildings and much less crime. It is also a place where people come together to enjoy events such as the eKhaya Kidz Day and the eKhaya street-soccer tournament. “We also work in partnership with the South African police, security guards and Pikitup, as well as the tenants, to keep the area clean and safe,” said Malinga.

Makhulong a Matala wants to build a culture of respect among residents in the inner city — respect for themselves, their neighbours and their ­environment. Its most ­exciting programmes are those that nurture a sense of self-esteem and responsibility among young people through arts, culture and social-awareness initiatives.

“We sourced professionals in these fields to help them achieve their goals,” said Malinga. “Now the young people themselves are taking over.” She is proudest of the young tenants’ initiative to “adopt” Dora’s Arch children’s home in Roodepoort. Through washing cars and baking cakes, they raised enough money to buy the home a much-needed washing machine.

The younger generation is inspiring adult tenants to follow their example and are addressing once-taboo issues such as domestic violence and, said Malinga, “taking ownership of situations that affect them directly”.

Makhulong a Matala also pioneered the tenant hardship cover initiative, which provides financial support for families that lose their breadwinners. “We cover rental fees for three months so that they can decide how to move forward,” Malinga said, after which families may choose to leave or relocate to a smaller unit.

The philosophy of the organisation is clear: “Leadership with integrity, organisation, management and community ­participation are the keys to social cohesion in both established and transforming environments.” The process takes time but it is possible to “make the exception the rule”, as long as commitment and trust are strongly forged.

The judges praised the organisation for demonstrating how “contributions to the ­wellbeing of society can go beyond the ­conventional in anti-poverty and development work”.

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Ayanda Sitole
Ayanda Sitole
Ayanda Sitole works from Johannesburg South Africa. Writer. Photographer. Proudly SA Ayanda Sitole has over 684 followers on Twitter.

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