During the early 1990s, as South Africa prepared for its first democratic election, millions of people across the nation looked forward to their integration into South African society and to taking their rightful place in the new democracy. At this time, seven kilometres from the centre of Durban, the physical and social landscape of the urban settlement known as Cato Manor still bore the grim scars of apartheid’s segregation policies. Characterised by urban poverty, environmental degradation and social disarray, greater Cato Manor became the concern of a range of interest groups who saw the area as a post-apartheid development priority and a significant urban renewal opportunity.

Individual players, local community organisations, political parties and city and provincial authorities joined forces to embrace the numerous re-development challenges presented by Cato Manor. Together, they devised a plan which would correct the wrongs of the past and establish an institutional framework to facilitate the development process. The Cato Manor Development Association (CMDA) was formed as the vehicle to implement these aims.

In the eight years since the end of apartheid in 1994, Cato Manor has experienced significant and exciting change across all sectors. Today, around 93 000 people live, work and enjoy a normal life in Cato Manor. New houses, buildings, facilities, roads and engineering works have been and continue to be developed. Cato Manor’s economy and its people, especially the urban poor, have benefitted from the integrated development process.

The Cato Manor Development Project (CMDP) has achieved world-wide acclaim as a model for integrated development. Within South Africa it has become a model of post-apartheid sustainable urban development practice.

Once divided by race, Cato Manor’s people are being united in a vibrant cross-cultural identity and integrated into the activities and life of the rest of the city of Durban. Once ignored, poor people are accessing education, health care and basic services.

Through a multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach to development, the CMDA has also laid important foundations for the continuation of Cato Manor’s development into the future and beyond the life-span of the CMDA.

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