Suzanne Smit

Enkanini Case Summary

Enkanini case description
Enkanini, which means to take by force, is an informal settlement, which was established in 2006 through the illegal occupation of municipal land (CORC, 2012). It is located approximately 4 km from the centre of Stellenbosch town. The settlement was created when the evicted backyard shack dwellers of the neighbouring Kayamandi township occupied the adjacent land (Kovacic et al., 2016). Enkanini may be classified as having started as a squatter camp (Category C: Informal, Illegal, Unplanned, Illegitimate), which is gradually progressing to a site and service informal settlement (Category D: Informal, Legal, Planned; Legitimate) with limited access to basic services (Smit et al., 2017).
Several research studies have been conducted in the Enkanini informal settlement. Such as, studies focusing on waste management (Von der Heyde, 2014), food waste and food production (Mollat, 2014), sustainable energy and in situ upgrading (Keller, 2012) and power transitions (Wessels, 2015). Wessels (2015) characterises the Enkanini informal settlement as an illegal, un-mobilised, underdeveloped, local community. Although these characterisations are valuable in understanding the complex nature of the community, they do not position the informal settlement as a socio-ecological system that is connected to the wider urban system, hence, necessitating an alternative approach. The imperative for sustainable, equitable urban planning requires a new understanding of informal settlements beyond their physical, geographical, and legal characteristics. Smit et al., (2017) argues that it requires a holistic understanding of the interconnectedness of these spaces with their broader urban environment, through a multi-scale integrated assessment of the societal and ecosystem metabolism (MuSIASEM) approach. The study is based on Suzanne Smit’s Ph.D. in which the Enkanini case study was carried out as part of the Participatory Integrated Assessment of Energy Systems to Promote Energy Access and Efficiency (PARTICIPIA) project.

The MuSIASEM approach is an analytical tool for analysing the development of human society in relation to sustainability, whilst being multi-disciplinary (Giampietro et al., 2001). It is capable of integrating variables related to non-equivalent descriptive domains and equipped to incorporate data from distinct hierarchical levels (Giampietro et al., 2001). The MuSIASEM approach, developed by Giampietro et al. (2012, 2013), is based on Georgescu-Roegen’s flow-fund model (Giampietro and Mayumi, 2000a; 2000b). Unlike other conventional urban metabolism approaches such as an economy-wide material flow analysis (Raupova et al., 2014; Kovanda, 2014), an ecological footprint analysis (Wang et al., 2014), and input-output analyses (Huang and Bohne, 2012), the MuSIASEM approach provides a characterisation of informal settlements at different levels and scales in terms of funds and flows and across multiple dimensions. Fund elements include: (i) human activity measured in time; (ii) exosomatic devices in the form of technology and infrastructures; and (iii) Ricardian land measured in terms of land use. Flows are represented by the elements metabolised in the system, which include: (i) food; (ii) energy; (iii) water; (iv) waste; and (v) money.

Data collection
This type of study had not been conducted in an informal settlement or African context before, and necessitated the design of a detailed data collection tool that would capture the necessary data whilst being context specific. The questionnaire was developed by Suzanne Smit, as part of her Ph.D. and with inputs from the research centre and community members, the tool was modified for the specific context and translated into English and isiXhosa (the language spoken by the majority of residents).

The questionnaire was designed to capture the following:
  • Demographic data – age and gender of individuals and household composition
  • Human activity - related to individuals’ time spent on paid and unpaid work; physiological overhead, leisure and social activities, education and time spent on travel.
  • Money flows – related to individual and household income and expenditure
  • Energy flows – related to the type of energy carriers used for different household activities (such as cooking, lighting, and heating), quantity of fuels used and associated costs.

The input from community members ensured that specific cultural references or practices were not overlooked. For example, the term ‘Stokvel’ (referring to a type of community-based saving scheme) was included as a possible source of income and savings instrument, while remittances (the practice of sending money to family in another region) were also captured.

The fieldwork for this study was conducted in collaboration with the Enkanini Research Centre who appointed three experienced, community members as co-researchers to administer the questionnaires to 100 households within the settlement. This arrangement would increase access to the community whilst improving community participation and input. Co-researchers also contributed to a participatory mapping exercise to indicate land use and infrastructure in Enkanini. Highlights included the location of churches, shebeens (informal restaurant establishments), educational facilities, spaza shops (micro businesses), and municipal supplied water, waste and sanitation facilities.

The following publications emanate from the Enkanini case:
  1. Kovacic Z, Smit S, Musango JK, Brent AC & Giampietro M. 2016. Probing uncertainty levels of electrification in informal urban settlements: A case from South Africa. Habitat International, 56: 212-221.
  2. Smit, S, Musango, JK, Kovacic, Z & Brent, AC. 2017. Conceptualising slum in an urban African context. Cities, 62: 107 – 109.

Conceptualising slum in an urban African context

The urban age is unfolding, with more than half of the world population now living in cities and urbanisation set to increase by a further 2.5 billion people by the year 2050ii,iii. This situation places excessive strain on cities to plan for and manage the increase in urbanites and their demand for housing, employment and access to basic infrastructure and services; a situation that is becoming vastly untenable for many cities, particularly those in the developing world. Most urban economies in developing countries are unable to meet these basic needs, leading to the emergence of slums or informal settlementsiv.

Slums are generally defined and analysed along various dimensions including: (i) physical characteristics – as pertaining to housing typology, access to services and infrastructure; (ii) social characteristics based on income, employment and economic activity; and (iii) legal characteristics related to land ownership and adherence to planning regulationsv, vi,viii. Notably, these definitions do not consider access to electricity as a measure, which is problematic because about 60% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lack electricityviii. Recent studies are also highlighting the role of electricity in meeting 15 out of the 15 Sustainable Development Goalsix. Using the conventional categorization, slums are conceptualised to fluctuate between Formal and Informal, Legal and Illegal, and Planned and Unplanned, as depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Slum types based on conventional categorisation.

It should be noted that settlement types are not static and may evolve and/or devolve over time. Each settlement type may also be recognised as having a unique set of issues that need to be addressed, thereby creating a framework for deeper analysis of the different slum types and particularly as related to the political context in which they exist viii. For example, the emergence of slums in South Africa is closely tied to the social and political history of the nationx, xi, xii. Furthermore, in considering the political context of South Africa, another category of description emerges, related to the notion of Legitimacy/Illegitimacy.

Figure 2: South African typology of settlements.

Informality should be understood as produced by the state itself through its legal and planning apparatus which determine what is informal or not, who is deserving or not vii. Legitimacy here therefore highlights the complex political struggle associated with recognition by state and as negated through the implementation of technical solutions that do not address socio-political issues. The issue of legitimacy is used to indicate the possible stance taken by formal or government entities based on the provision of infrastructure and level of legal compliance.

Although useful for recognising the physical, infrastructural and legal dimensions of slums, the typology of settlement types should not be employed as the sole basis for understanding slums, but rather as a starting point from which further analysis, including the metabolic dimension, may be applied.


i. This vignette is based on work stemming from Suzanne Smit’s PhD and is an extract from the published paper: Smit, S., Musango, J.K., Kovacic, Z., & Brent, A.C. 2017. Conceptualising slum in an urban African context. Cities, 62:107-119.
ii. UN-DESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs) 2014. World urbanization prospects: The 2014 revision. Accessed 28 March 2016 from:
iii. UN-Habitat (United Nations – Human Settlements Programme) 2015. Habitat III: Issue paper 22 – Informal settlements (non edited version 2.0). Paper produced for the UN conference on housing and sustainable urban development, held October 2016. Paper produced in New York, May 2015. Accessed 10 March 2016 from:
iv. UN-Habitat (United Nations – Human Settlements Programme). 2010. The challenge of slums. Global report on Human settlements: revised and updated version (April, 2010) Accessed 8 February 2016, from
v. Srinivas, H. 2015. Defining squatter settlements. GDRC research output E-036. Kobe, Japan: Global Development Research Center Accessed 9 February 2016 from
vi. Turok, I. 2015. Upgrade informal settlements: South Africa. New Agenda: South African Journal of Social and Economic Policy. 2015: 11–15.
vii. Roy, A. 2005. Urban informality: Toward an epistemology of planning. Journal of the American Planning Association, 71(2), 147–158.
viii. IEA (International Energy Agency). 2015. World energy outlook. Accessed 14 September 2016 from:
ix. Schwerhoff, G., & Sy, M. 2016. Financing renewable energy in Africa – Key challenge of the sustainable development goals. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. [n Press].
x. Hunter, M., & Posel, D. 2012. Here to work: The socioeconomic characteristics of informal dwellers in post-apartheid South Africa. Environment and Urbanization, 24: 285–304.
xi. Harrison, P. 1992. The policies and politics of informal settlement in South Africa: A historical perspective. Africa Insight, 22(1): 14–22.
xii. Urban Foundation (South Africa). 1991. Informal housing: Urban debate 2010. Braamfontein: Urban Foundation.