Zibambele (‘Doing it for ourselves’)

Zibambele (“Doing it for ourselves”) is a poverty alleviation programme targeting mainly women, piloted in 2003 in the Inanda/Ntuzuma/KwaMashu area.  

The programme entails involving previously disadvantaged individuals in the maintenance of recently constructed roads, thereby providing them with an opportunity to re-establish a sense of identity.

While the primary outcome of the programme is poverty alleviation, since it was implemented on suitable sections of the road network, it also resulted in the improved maintenance of infrastructure.  

The main objectives of the programme are to provide sustainable work opportunities for destitute households; provide persons that are no longer part of society for whatever reason with a sense of identity and purpose and access to social benefits, where applicable; the maintenance of approximately 1 200km of road network; and the establishing of savings clubs.

Zibambele contractors carry out low-intensity road maintenance activities on a part-time basis, on defined sections of the road network, including cleaning of the road surface, clearing of drains and channels and clearing and cleaning of verges.


The programme targets women-headed households considered by community structures and ward councillors to be the most destitute. In rural KZN, there is a strong correlation between deep-rooted poverty and women-headed households, the result of underdevelopment, firstly through colonialism and then through apartheid.  Women currently outnumber men in rural areas in the province, and the number of women-headed households has dramatically increased, with many women widowed and children orphaned as a result of decades of civil conflict.  When the programme was initiated in 2003, only 200 women participated.  To date 6 065 women have benefitted from Zibambele.  

The project is run at local government level with links to the following national government departments: Department of Labour (assistance with the interpretation insofar as it affects the employment of the contractors), Department of Home Affairs (assistance with the processing of identity documents where required), Department of Social Development (assistance to beneficiaries in obtaining access to social grants).  

Private sector links have also been established with various financial institutions, with the purpose of opening bank accounts for the contractors and for the purpose of setting up savings clubs.  

Other than the objectives related to poverty alleviation, work opportunities and maintenance of infrastructure, the programme provides an ideal opportunity for the forging of links between the municipality and local communities. It is cost-effective when compared to alternative methods of providing such services and community involvement ensures that there is buy-in and hence, sustainability.

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