When I first started this internship, I never thought that my experience would be as broad as it has been. I was expecting work in a municipal office where there would be set projects for the time line that I am in the country, and that would be the entirety of the internship. However, I have been blessed with the privilege of going to several different offices within the municipality and working with all of their teams.
When I first arrived, I was based at the Inner Thekwini Regeneration and Urban Management Programme (iTRUMP) which is an office of the Area Based Management (ABM) department based in Warwick Junction. The Warwick area is historically one of the most challenging in the inner city, yet is also full of opportunity. It is the main public transportation and informal trading hub in the city including taxi ranks, bus ranks, the train station, several open air and covered markets, as well as street traders and other informal workers like card board collectors and trolley pushers. Based in this area, I got to know the true city with all of its flaws and potential. Often this area is only considered a problem because of the hectic nature of the informal activities, but it is actually a brilliant mixture of people making their own way in the city and those who use their services. I hope that in the future those working in the informal economy will be supported more to make their living in a clean and safe manor rather than them being regarded as a problem to shut down. The iTRUMP office is working in the area to help make it a cleaner, more livable place and also deal with problem buildings through the bad buildings programme.
From the iTRUMP offices, I moved to the Urban Management Zones (UMZ), another office of the ABM department in the inner city. This team operates differently than the iTRUMP’s method of project-based urban management by focusing on precinct management. The inner city of Durban is divided into 6 zones, or precincts, which are monitored daily by a Zone Support Officer and Junior Zone Support Officer. In this office I was able to travel to every part of the inner city, road by road, and got to know all of the areas intimately. Through this process, I learned where there are problems in the city, what the recurring issues are, and what the city is doing about it. I also learned a lot about the everyday functions of the line departments like Roads and Storm Water, Cleansing and Solid Waste, Metro Police, Parks and Recreation, etc. through monthly meetings about outstanding calls the departments must complete. This part of my placement was crucial to understand how the city works in detail, so that I could work on bigger scale projects with the full picture in mind.
Now, I am placed at Urban Renewal with the Catalytic Projects team who work on the large-scale development projects in the city like Moses Mabhida stadium and the beach front promenade. The team that I am working with has just finalized the new Inner City Local Area Plan (LAP) and are finishing the Regeneration Strategy accompanying the plan. By working at two of the ABM offices and getting to know the city in detail, I have a solid understanding of the city to contribute to this team. Since my education and work background is project-based development work, this final placement is ideal for me to get more experience contributing to municipal projects in the field I studied. Moving forward, I will be working on the implementation of several of the projects identified to start the Inner City LAP. In the coming month, we will also be working on finalizing the Regeneration Strategy, which will lean heavily on the urban management programmes at ABM. Since I spent time at iTRUMP and UMZ, helping with the Regeneration strategy is the perfect finish to my internship in the field that I want to build my career.