An initiative of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of
The creation of sustainable job opportunities for poor
rural families through the maintenance of rural roads.
The ZIBAMBELE Road Maintenance Contract System is a
poverty alleviation programme initiated by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of
Transport. This innovative programme which was adapted from the Kenyan Lengthman
model, contracts a household rather than an individual to maintain a length of
road. ZIBAMBELE contracts stabilize destitute families to break their
The Zulu name given to the "Lengthman" Contract System
is ZIBAMBELE, which means "doing it for ourselves'. The name, ZIBAMBELE,
captures its unique adaptation to meet the social condition prevailing in rural
|Zibambele is a community driven programme contributing
to social security and peace.
What is Zibambele?
ZIBAMBELE is a routine road maintenance programme using labour
intensive methods. It encourages flexible hours on road maintenance activities
to allow ZIBAMBELE households adequate time to deploy their labour on
A ZIBAMBELE Contractor is the term used for a person contracted under
the ZIBAMBELE programme to maintain a length of road. The length of road
allocated to each household depends on the difficulty on the terrain, thus the
more difficult the terrain the shorter the allocated road. The contract requires
a maximum of 60 hours of work per month to maintain the length of allocated
A ZIBAMBELE household will:
Maintain the road drainage system
Ensure good roadside visibility
Maintain the road surface in good condition
Clear the road verges of litter and noxious weeds
How the ZIBAMBELE System Works
- Instead of appointing an individual, KZN DoT appoints a household.
- This ensures that the household does not rely on the person for continuity
of the contract.
- The contract is awarded for twelve months and will be renewed annually to
last as long as the road is of value to the community.
- Contact targets the poorest of the poor who are identified and selected by
- New sustainable work opportunities are created at the lowest level
of the market place.
- Women-headed households are targeted because they make up the majority of
the poorest families.
- Training includes technical skills on the correct way to maintain roads as
well as a social development and life skills component.
- Support services to ZIBAMBELE households include assisting them to
obtain identity documents, open bank accounts, organise themselves
collectively into credit unions and assisting people to invest savings in
other productive activities.
|During the 2000/2001 financial year 6
031 contracts were awarded. During 2001/2002 these were increased
to 10 000 contracts. Today more than 17 000 Zibambele
contractors maintain approximately 11 000 (eleven thousand)
kilometers of rural road on an annual basis.
"When one evaluated the ZIBAMBELE contract system against other programmes in which welfare transfers are
made from government to the very poor, ZIBAMBELE stands out
because it creates meaningful work and enhances human dignity which is
associated with being gainfully employed. ZIBAMBELE creates a
sense of community ownership and partnership with government in the
maintenance of public assets. ZIBAMBELE is a wonderful example
of how a programme designed to alleviate poverty can indeed be gender
affirmative, employ the most needy and still be successful."
- Dr. KB Mbanjwa, former Head of Department
KZN Department of Transport
The selection process brings people together where they can talk about their
own and their community's poverty, listen to and advise each other, empathize
and work together to ensure that the family selected is the most deserving.
The selection process is a traumatic experience for all involved as there are
always many more needy families than there are ZIBAMBELE work
opportunities. For instance one woman not selected, because she was slightly
better off, publicly lamented the fact that her son had recently hanged himself
because he could no longer live with hunger. This is by no means an isolated
Zibambele workers clearing road verges of noxious weeds
A contract is awarded with equipment, which includes a wheelbarrow, a pick or
a hoe, a shovel, a machete and a slasher or a sickle. There is also safety
equipment that must be used by contractors at all times whilst working so that
they are visible to road users viz. safety vest and plastic cones.
The ZIBAMBELE selection process is creating a new king of democracy.
More and more communities, including traditional leaders, realize that they are
being empowered through ZIBAMBELE.
ZIBAMBELE has brought hope to families who look forward to joining
savings clubs and becoming more economically viable. In almost all instances,
this will be the first time that these families are able to save money.
A Zibambele contractor compacts gravel using a hand-rammer.
Zibambele has put to work people who would normally be
left out of any opportunity because of their poverty. In the process the
long term prospects of the family are enhanced through improved access
to schooling, nutrition, training and credit."
- Minister S’bu Ndebele at the launch of ZIBAMBELE, January 2000
"In 1999 the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport piloted
the ZIBAMBELE System by awarding 2 700 contracts as part of its Road to
Wealth and Job Creation initiative. The Road to Wealth and Job Creation
initiative was presented at the Jobs Summit in October 1998. The initiative
highlights the important role that road infrastructure plays in placing the
rural economy on a growth path that absorbs labour.
Road construction projects and maintenance programmes can be
designed to create work opportunities from the most unemployable to the most
professional. ZIBAMBELE has been implemented in KwaZulu-Natal to provide
work opportunities for the ultra poor.
The selection process of ZIBAMBELE unmasks hidden levels
of grinding poverty that are truly shocking. We in KwaZulu-Natal are reminded
once again of the terrible legacy inherited from apartheid and from decades of
civil conflict, which has widowed thousands upon thousands of women leaving them
I appeal to the donor community and the public to support ZIBAMBELE
and help government to create real opportunities for poor families. We have a
target of 40 000 ZIBAMBELE contracts which can only be achieved with
your assistance.” Mr J S Ndebele, Premier of KwaZulu-Natal (2004-) and former
MEC for Transport (1994-2004).
For More Information Contact
KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport
172 Burger Street, Pietermaritzburg, 3201
Private Bag X9043, Pietermaritzburg, 3200
Republic of South Africa
Ms Thandeka Mbonambi, Manager: Development
Tel: (033) 355 8707 Fax: (033) 355 8090
E-Mail Address: Thandeka.Mbonambi@Kzntransport.gov.za