Kew Town, South Africa, Africa
Year1973latitude: -26° 7'
longitude: 28° 5'
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type of New Town: > scale of autonomy
New Town
Company Town
> client
Private Corporation
Public Corporation
> policy
Kew Town not being a New Town in the strict definition is howecer interesting when it comes to the redevelopment projects that in the 1970'ies were carried out in order to help this black poor neighborhood.

Situated in the peninsula of the Cape of Good Hope Kew towns was for many years isolated and overlooked. This resulted in a high degree of disillusion among the inhabitants and extensive alcohol, crime and social problems. In this context the project 'Build a Better Society', BABS was initiated. The target of BABS was to seek out, identify, harness and develop all those possible forces that could help.

BABS was established in Kew Town, one of the oldest townships in Cape Flats, (in 1973) with the purpose to act as a catalyst of a better living situation for the inhabitants (the author is involved in the BABS project).
Kew Town was built in 1936 and comprises 1253 housing units. It was designed after Garden City principles with boulevards, pedestrian ways, housing courts, blocks of flats, cottages, and a shopping center. It was in 1975 rather well maintained. A door-to-door survey revealed that there were, 1975, 2583 families living there which add up to about 10740 people. 43% of the population needed larger accommodation. Of the 5412 children living there 2283 are drop outs and the remaining 1200 are of preschool age. 21% of the potential working force is unemployed and 72% of the inhabitants of Kew Town do not mix with their neighbors.

Kew Town was a little more than a dormitory, but it did not offer its inhabitants the facilities to develop a communal feeling or offer places to meet, play, etc. Therefore people rarely went out of their houses unless when going to church - this particularly applies for the older segments of the inhabitants.
Kew Town was at the time a community which could not identify its position in social or political processes, where people could not articulate their needs. This resulted in a high degree of indifference for the new rules and regulations which were sought employed by social or political - or religious - organizations.

The BABS project thus sought to counter this situation by organizing people into groups, and thereby get them to undertake the responsibilities of improving their lifestyle and the social problems of the community.
The first issues to be addressed were: preschool problems, disagreement with neighbors, dissatisfaction with municipal authorities, the transport-system, the aged and the sick.
The churches offered great obstacles for the attempts at changing the situation of Kew Town but also the inhabitants themselves were reluctant to engage in the process. However it was managed to gather all the mothers of Kew Town who thought there was a need for a crĂȘche for their children - later these crĂȘches were to become some of the most active groups.

The strategy that was followed was to group people of common interest and to put people in touch with information that could help improve their situation. Tenant's organizations were also established to encourage people to partake in the problematic situations of their housing blocks. The hope was that the collective approach would motivate people to play a positive role in their community. This however did not succeed in the first year of the project. The inhabitants were suspicious if the project and its leaders and had no tradition or knowledge of such involvements. Slowly this changed, and the inhabitants gained trust in the project and began talking among themselves about both the problems and the positive aspects of the community.

In 1974 the first neighborhood council was started based on good-neighborly schemes and started from the dissatisfaction of the inhabitants. Club-works were also started and resulted in the operation Big Clean-Up. The operation resulted in a variety of new social networks and the channeling of energies into possible service and solution groups. In general there was a great optimism in the township and people had decided to engage in the process now that it looked like something was going to happen.
The BABS group formed a fund that would fund the erection of a multi-purpose building for the people of Kew Town, and a large fund-raising project was started to carry the project through. It also helped publicize the different group's work to encourage similar projects. They also developed a community education program to help people create projects and provide proper input for the different groups.
Another BABS initiative is the youth work. It affects the entire township and tries to deal with one of the major problems, that of gang crime, vandalism and violence. A youth movement was sought organized and the parents, street corner-boys, teachers, etc were invited to participate. Interests were developed on three fronts: sport oriented initiatives, project with local primary school, and a more independent project group.
The last project was run by BABS together with an expert on youth work and involved a series of workshops, parental meetings, seminars etc. A product of the process was the establishment of a camp at Strandfontein, a resort in False Bay. The youth movement has taken over leading the camp and organizing events there. In September 1975 the recreational league was formed with six clubs from Kew Town.

source: George Gibbs 'Building a Better Society in Kew Town - Purpose, Methods of Work and results' in: (ed) Michael Lazenby Housing People - Proceedings of the Housing 75 Conference, Johannesburg October 1975 arranged by the Institute of South African Architects.

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