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Duncan Village: Provision of Sustainable Electrical Reticulation
South Africa

Keyword: Poverty Eradication


The City Council of East London is the implementing agency for the Duncan Village Special Presidential Project. Duncan Village is a low income residential area which is home to 90,000 people. Infrastructural facilities are minimal and densities are extremely high, being in excess of 2,500 people per hectare in some areas.

Through the Presidential Project, infrastructure will be upgraded and the focus of the first phase has been the introduction of electricity to 5,000 informal dwellings. The project intended to facilitate the establishment of locally based businesses by establishing and promoting local skills whilst at the same time guaranteeing delivery of targets at a competitive price and at comparable quality.


    Introduction to Duncan Village:

Duncan Village today is poised to meet the challenges of the post apartheid era. Like all townships around South Africa, it has suffered from years of administrative and institutional neglect. Services are overburdened and in some areas have collapsed; clinics are few and unable to meet even basic health requirements. Houses are overshadowed by the growing number of shacks.

80,000 people live permanently in Duncan Village in a horrific situation where 50% of the core city's population is crammed onto just 2% of the land. There are 3,500 formal dwellings and 14,000 shacks, while densities exceed 2,500 people per hectare in some areas.

The residents of Duncan Village have long and active history of resistance to the apartheid policies of the recent past. Community organisations first successfully fought the forced removal of the entire community, then destroyed the illegitimate Black Local Authority system forced upon them, and finally organised themselves to campaign for the upliftment and development of their lives and community.

It is this history the Duncan Village Presidential Project will take forward. The Duncan Village Residents' Association has over the past 18 months pursued a process of participatory planning. This process has seen the coming together of agencies which have historically been at loggerheads with one another. The strength of Duncan Village lies in its own ability to communicate with a broad range of interest and to openly and jointly forge a vision of reintegration into the wider community of East London.

The Duncan Village Special Presidential Project will be implemented by the East Lodnod Transitional Local Council in terms of a Business Plan previously proposed by Community Development Agencies in Duncan Village and approved by the South African Government. The plan brings to life a vision of reconstruction and development which emphasises primary health, adult education, job training, contractor development and child health care clinics, which when implemented, will ensure that the community has the basic building blocks necessary for its fulfillment. The key component of the plan is that its contents and perpetration are structured upon the philosophy and rationale of the Reconstruction and Development Programme. The plan emphasises the co-operation because the combined efforts of all stakeholders will be required, and success will hinge upon effective co-operation between financial resources, personnel and administration.

    The "C-Section" Bulk Services Upgrade Project:

One of the most densely populated areas of Duncan Village is an area referred to as "C-Section" comprising of some 5 000 shacks. Infrastructural facilities are minimal with approximately 200 families utilising one toilet, water stand pipes infrequent and electrical facilities non-existent. Densities have been measured in some parts of "C-Section" which are in excess of 2 500 people per hectare. Through a participate and consensus approval to planning and decision making, a Steering Committee was established in 1994 to initiate and direct the upgrading of bulk services in "C-Section". The committee represents a de facto partnership of community structures, Local Government and Professional Consultants. The focus of the first phase of the bulk services has been the introduction of electricity to "C-Section" and a summary of the process to successfully achieve this portion is outlined below. This is the first project to be undertaken using some of the Development principles required by the Community Based Devilment Programme.


The project consists of the provisions of electrical reticulation to 5,000 informal dwellings and was designed to not only reflect the aims of the RDP but also to strive to achieve them in practice. The project intended to facilitate the establishment of locally based businesses by establishing and promoting local skills whilst at the same time guaranteeing delivery of targets at a competitive price and at comparable quality.

A community can derive maximum benefit from infrastructural wok if the latter is structured to:
(i) Create employment opportunities irrespective of gender.
(ii) Promote community participation.
(iii) Impart technical skills to unskilled and semiskilled workers.
(iv) Transfer administrative commercial and managerial skills to community members.
(v) Retain as far as possible the funds expended on the project within the community where the project is taking place.
(vi) Develop contractors/local entrepreneurs from the local community which can enter and be part of the formal business community.

To provide the community with the opportunities after agreement is reached on methods, systems and technologies, financial barriers which have and are preventing small contractors in underdeveloped communities from emerging in the construction of engineering services, have to be broken down.

Financial safeguards are inherent in contracts for labour only Contracts as contractors are only paid for completed work and retention of ten per cent is kept for three months after project completion.

Safeguarding quality is the duty of the Consulting/Project Management Teams which must provide continuous developmental support, vigilance and on site training.

In the Duncan Village Project the latter entailed providing practical on site lectures and training modules covering:

(i) Basic Hand Tool Skills
(ii) Setting out and pegging
(iii) Excavation Methods
(iv) Pole Planting
(v) Low Voltage Cable Construction Methods
(vi) Use of preumatic tools
(vii) Testing, Commissioning and Handing Over
(viiii) Contract Administration: Preparation of Progress Claims and Progress Reports


The Project brief was the Design and Reticulation of MV (11 kV) and LV power to approximately 5,000 informal dwellings. Various designs and methodologies were investigated. It was ultimately decided in consultation with community structures and funding agencies that the most cost effective and appropriate method of providing power to the informal dwellings was by using overhead bare aluminium MV conductor and overhead LV aerial bundled conduct.

The contractors and their teams thereafter were sent to a two week comprehensive training course on LV ABC Reticulation at the Estech Training Centre after which they were awarded a Training Certificate. Both the Project and the Construction Manager was also sent on the same training course as observers to ensure that the training was sufficiently comprehensive. Any uncertainties which were not clearly addressed at Estech were noted and attended to during the construction phase of the project.

After the training period was completed the Contractors commenced work on site, under constant supervision of the Project and Construction Managers.

Materials were issued and where necessary delivered to the Contactors from the site store; management of stock in the site stores also formed part of the Consulting Engineer's/Project Managers appointment. Proprietary computer software was developed for the purpose and to suit all stock reporting requirements.

To facilitate management of the project a specialist Project Management Company was formed called Masakane Projects.


To make the implementation stage manageable it was decided to subdivide the LV reticulation part of the project into twelve contracts with only two at a time being run concurrently. Pre-tender qualifying forms were circulated by the executives of community residents associations and thereafter potential tenders screened out of the multitude of applications received. Twenty prospective tenderers selected from the applicants were given a comprehensive three day pre-tender training course covering: Introduction to Contracting, Project Details, Calculations and Basic Arithmetic, Manpower Management, Pricing of Bills of Quantities, Presentation of Tenders and Tender Evaluation. Pre-tender training was not a static exercise and by encouraging constructive participation from the floor with question and answer sessions, the attention and interest of the audience was guaranteed. At the end of the tender training, prospective contractors received tender forms and were given three weeks to submit tender prices for the Labour component of the project. All tools and materials were to be provided by the Client via the Construction Managers.


The Project has so far trained some twenty LV ABC linesmen who have completed their contracts ahead of scheduled time producing finished installations of exceptionally high quality.

The overall cost of these contracts from initial indications is likely to have entailed a saving of some 15% for the funding agencies when compared to a Conventional Electrification Contract even accounting for additional Project Management and Supervision overheads. At the same time these contracts have provided the motivation for further community development and upliftment and have facilitated the establishment of other smaller informal businesses such as cartage, personnel placing, grocery stores etc. The local formal business sector as suppliers of equipment and material have also enjoyed the benefits of this project.

When the entire LV Reticulation project will be completed it will have provided training and employment for some 130 people and some 12 Contractors. The Contractors and their teams have achieved a standard and an understanding of their work which will enable them to tender for similar projects in the future. Eighty percent of the staff trained in the Labour Based Electrification Programme has subsequently found formal employment once the Labour Based Contracts were completed.


  • Employment creation, irrespective of gender
  • Promotion of community participation
  • Technical and administrative skills transfer
  • Promotion of emerging contractors
  • Retention of funds within community
  • Crime reduction
  • Encouraging cultural learning
  • Enhancement of quality of life
  • Supports National Reconstruction and Development Programme


The real outputs of this project are to be found in areas such as partnerships, training programmes, skills transfer, entrepreneurial development and enhanced quality of life of the resident community. The tangible impacts are multi-faceted, complex and long lasting.

The partnership aspect has been demonstrated a positive and structured relationship between the electricity supply authority (the City Council), the delivery agency (a private sector project management company) and various CBO's all of which have come together to the mutual benefit of each other.
The delivery agency is called Masekhane Projects which initiated the project in collaboration with the Duncan Village Residents' Association. Masekhane, as project managers, initiated education and training programmes to ensure necessary skills transfer which would result in the emergence of community contractors.

One of the key issues in this project has been the deliberate training of community contractors who are able to develop entrepreneurial skills and thereafter compete for tenders in the open market. The experience of the project to date has been that 80 % of contractors trained through the labour-based electrification programme have been able to effectively compete for electrical installation contracts outside Duncan Village. In this manner, the income generating ability and contractual experiences of these individuals has vastly improved.

The quality of life enhancement through an electrification programme is both difficult to measure and express in words. The improvement permeates every aspects of residents' life and a variety of socio-economic measures will be developed to measure the success of the project. However, the advantages are obvious, inter alia, improved security in both public and private spaces, an improved living environment which will encourage a culture of learning, a reduction in fire hazard though the diminished use of paraffin and other flammable materials for cooling and heating.


  1. Enhanced quality of life of residents
  2. Payment of electrical services ensured through pre-paid card metering system
  3. Acceptability by the community


    Duncan Village Development Forum
    C/O 229 Oxford Street
    East London
    Eastern Cape
    South Africa


    City Council of East London - South Africa
    City Council of East London
    Oxford Street
    East London
    Eastern Cape
    South Africa
    027 - 431 - 349111


    Masakane Projects CC.
    4 Belgrave Rd.
    East London
    Eastern Cape
    South Africa

    Duncan Village Planning Team
    229 Oxford Street
    East London
    Eastern Cape
    South Africa
    [email protected]

    Duncan Village Planning Team

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