History of Zenzele.
The Zenzele informal settlement is a stone’s throw from Oliver’s Village. It is situated in Daveyton on the southern border of Putfontein, Benoni. Zenzele originally started off as a squatter camp in the late 1980’s. It has never had any form of a community development program in place and was left to grow at its own pace. At the time the residents were genuinely homeless and occupying illegal land. 1994 saw the birth of the new South Africa. The then government announced a new socio-economic policy and the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) was born. Amongst other things the RDP programme promised low cost housing to the historically disadvantaged people of South Africa. This resulted in a large influx of people moving into Zenzele and occupying land while they waited for their houses to be bulit. Nearly two decades later most of these people are still waiting for their houses to be built.
Zenzele is a Zulu word meaning “self-sufficient” and without a community development program in place this informal settlement is struggling towards self-sufficiency. No one knows exactly how many households there are in this community, or how many people stay here. Depending on whom you ask the numbers will vary from 2500 to 20000 residents. We believe the number to be closer to the 3500 mark. The reason for such disparate numbers is that Zenzele forms part of a sprawling informal settlement community and no one actually knows the exact boundaries of any of these communities. It would be probably more accurate to say that there are 20000 residents in the entire sprawling homeless community.
At Oliver’s House our focus has never been to be a mouthpiece for the Zenzele community. Out of this entire informal settlement we are focused on providing community development services to only the Zenzele community. Even if Oliver’s House wanted to it could never take on the woes of the entire informal settlement. Electricity, water and sanitation are but a few of the infrastructure problems of this community. Oliver’s House does not have the financial wherewithal to do this. Instead, we have concentrated our services on the Zenzele community. Our community development services in the Zenzele informal settlement include:
- Feeding Program – In 2003 we established a soup kitchen at the children’s centre so that we could provide a daily meal to 100+ of the most impoverished households of Zenzele.
- Clothing – Whenever we have received a sufficient amount of clothing by way of donations, we distribute this to the Zenzele community.
- Community Vegetable Farming At Oliver’s Village we have set aside one acre of land and sub-divided it into 20 smaller parcels of land. Each parcel of land will be a vegetable garden. We have taken 20 people from Zenzele and taught them how to grow vegetables. All material, seeds and tools are provided by Oliver’s House. The training lasts one vegetable season after which the person will start his/her own vegetable garden at their home. Each vegetable season we take 20 new residents and then train them in growing vegetables. Our aim with this project is to train sufficient people within the Zenzele community to become self-sufficient in catering for their daily food requirements.