Minding their own communities

Mpanjilwa Mulwanda

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    While the rapid changes that are taking place in squatter settlements are a reflection of the self-help and self-reliant spirit of squatter settlers, there are certain inputs that can only be provided by government institutions. However, for any external intervention to succeed, it must be based on a clear understanding of the system and the component parts that make up squatter settlements. Therefore, to view squatter settlements as merely aggregations of dwelling units and to designate them as unplanned is to miss the point. Squatter settlements are planned from the perspective of the settlers, and what they need is guidance and support from planning agencies. Furthermore, to label the inhabitants of these settlements as 'criminals' and 'anti-social' elements who should be eliminated from the urban landscape is to insult the very foundation on which all the present Zambian towns and cities were based - the labour camp - which was no more than a squatter settlement. It is also an insult to the residents who through sheer self-determination and with no help from the Government, have managed to scrap a living for themselves in a very hostile urban environment. The best that any rational government can do, in these circumstances, would be to give the squatters a 'leg-up'. If it cannot, then it would do better not to get involved. Yet in the changed Zambian political environment, such insensitivity would be tantamount to shooting one's own foot. © 1994.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)117-125
    Number of pages9
    JournalHabitat International
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1994


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