Each month, we shine a spotlight on partners who are using budget advocacy to bring transformational change to their communities. This month, we’re highlighting Zukiswa Quezo (MamQ) of South Africa’s Development Action Group working on the Asivikelane Cape Town project with our team in South Africa. [This interview has been condensed for clarity]
How did you become an activist for people living in informal settlements?
I started living there [in an informal settlement] in 1987. Living in an informal settlement is not easy. Crime is prevalent. I was part of a neighbourhood watch and would guard children in schools. Then I would attend workshops with activists, learning about people’s rights and that using the Constitution sometimes works, knowing what to do when you deal with a certain matter. The members taught us how to organize and go from step to step (to achieve our goals).
Your work with IBP on the Asivikelane project has greatly improved sanitary conditions and safety in the informal settlements. Why is this so important to you?
A challenge that united us all as communities was sanitation. The sanitation in our communities was very poor. When you live in a formal settlement, basic services such as toilets, electricity and water are inside the house. [In an] informal settlement, you don’t get anything. During the evenings it is not safe to go to the communal toilets. And even during the day. My husband was about to go to work one morning so he went to an open space to [go to the bathroom]. A person approached and stabbed him looking for money and a phone. He didn’t even have them with them because we know it’s not safe to take your valuables when going to the toilet.
What are some of the tactics you have learned to improve conditions for informal settlement residents by working with your organization and us?
For basic services, you need to go straight to the door you must knock on, straight to that specific department. Or you go to the city official, and you sit down at a round table and talk. If you knock on the doors, you will receive something. Building relationships with stakeholders has made my work very easy. Areas that never had basic services now do. And areas that did have basic services but were not functional, you are now able to report that – that the toilets are blocked, that the taps are broken, that we need containers. We must stand up and say, ‘This is what we want.’ And the constitution gives us the right to receive these services. IBP has helped tremendously with resources. And the data (we collected) has helped us a lot.
What are your advocacy plans for 2024?
Next year, as soon as the year starts and the city officials open [their offices], I want to sit down with them and continue the work that we did this year for my communities that do not have basic services still. I will help them receive these services through the relationships we are building with them, Asivikelane, and other organizations. I would (also) like to have one meeting to see how we can all work together in unity. Sharing similar challenges and learning how they overcame them. If I say, “In Cape Town, this is how I overcame this challenge,” then another organization can also learn from that.