Zibambele is the Zulu word for "doing it for ourselves". The Zibambele Road Maintenance system was introduced into rural KwaZulu Natal in 1999. The maintenance of rural access roads is contracted out to households, who are responsible for a certain length of road for a period of one year. Accordingly, Zibambele uses labour intensive, road maintenance methods in order to provide an income to destitute families. By the end of 2000, over 6000 rural households had been contracted.
The length of road allocated to each household depends on the difficulty of the terrain. Contractors generally tend between 600 and 1500 metres of road. The yardstick used in allocating the length of road to a Zibambele contractor is that maintenance activities should not exceed 60 hours a month. This is to allow income to be spread more widely, and to allow contracting households' time for other activities.
The Zibambele programme targets destitute families who have no other source of income. In addition, it is a gender affirmative programme, with more than 98% of existing contracts having been awarded to women headed households.
The contract is made with a household rather than an individual so that the responsibility can be shared, and there is always someone available to work. The contracted households are chosen by the community themselves, who identify families who are most in need of assistance. Families with any other source of income are excluded, for example, where a family member receives a grant or pension.
The contracted household supplies a person to work on the road for 2 days per week, and is supplied with a set of tools, and basic training. In addition to maintaining the road surface, drainage system and verges, contractors are responsible for the removal of litter and noxious weeds. Tasks are set and monitored by an overseer who typically looks after 130 contracts and reports monthly on progress. The overseers are managed by a social consultant and a technical consultant who report to the Department.
The combination of an income and the contact with a social consultant assists extremely impoverished families to gain access to food, education and health services. There are other important interventions: assistance is provided with obtaining ID documents, opening banking accounts, setting up savings clubs and accessing credit, with a view to allowing a member of the household to start a small business.
"The demand for Zibambele contracts is almost overwhelming and the selection process has unmasked levels of grinding poverty that truly shock" S'bu Ndebele, KwaZulu Natal Minister of Transport.
Innovation: While maintaining the rural roads network, impoverished households are provided with a regular income. The most needy households are identified and chosen by their own communities. Contracts are awarded to households rather than to individuals, ensuring the spread of the responsibility and the income. Women headed households are targeted, despite the powerful patriarchy which pervades rural KwaZulu Natal. In addition to being gender affirmative, this focus is also based on findings that welfare transfers to women are spread further into the community than those to men.
Poverty impact: The project targets the most impoverished sector in South Africa, namely rural women-headed households, and provides a regular and sustainable income, and access to essential services. The project eventually aims to award 40 000 contracts. During 1999/2000, a total of 2700 contracts were awarded. The Department of Transport has budgeted for 6000 contracts to be awarded during 2000/2001. The number of contracts awarded will increase annually until the target of 40 000 is reached. The contractors receive a total monthly income of R250-00. The contractors are also given assistance with obtaining Identity Documents. They are also introduced to savings clubs and credit unions in order to promote financial security. This approach is aimed at encouraging contractors to utilise the skills learned through Zibambele to start their own ventures and thus reducing dependence on the project as well as making space for other households to become involved.
Replication: The project is capable of replication in other rural settings in South Africa if state funding is committed.