Community Work Programme (CWP)

The Community Work Programme (CWP) is an innovative offering from government to provide a job safety net for unemployed people of working age. The CWP is also a great opportunity for unemployed youth who are actively looking for employment opportunities. The programme provides participants with much needed extra cash to make you effective in your search for full-time or part-time employment. Programme participants do community work. The Community Work Programme (CWP) is a government programme aimed at tackling poverty and unemployment. The programme provides an employment safety net by giving participants a minimum number of regular days of work, typically two days a week or eight days a month, thus providing a predictable income stream.

The CWP is designed as an employment safety net, not an employment solution for participants. The purpose is to supplement people’s existing livelihood strategies by offering a basic level of income security through work. It is an ongoing programme that does not replace government’s existing social grants programme but complements it. CWP sites are being established in marginalised economic areas, both rural and urban, where unemployment is high.  Unemployed and underemployed men and women qualify to apply for work. The daily rate paid at present is R63.18. Communities are actively involved in identifying ‘useful work’ needed in the area. The first target is one site per municipality operating in at least two wards to reach 237 000 people by 2013/14.


The CWP was initiated by the Second Economy Strategy Project, an initiative of the Presidency located in Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS), a policy research non-governmental organisation (NGO). In 2007, a pilot programme to test the approach was implemented under the auspices of a partnership between the Presidency and the Department for Social Development, which established a Steering Committee and provided oversight.

The pilot was successful, and the CWP was accepted in 2008 as part of the new non-state sector of the second phase of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP II), with access to the funding of wages through this. By mid-2009, it was decided that, as the CWP contributes to a number of key strategic goals of government to address poverty and unemployment, it should become a fully-fledged government programme. Its Steering Committee was expanded to include National Treasury, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (DCoGTA) and the Department of Public Works, and the programme was housed in DCoGTA from 1 April 2010.

Useful work

The work performed in the CWP must be ‘useful work’. It must improve the quality of life in poor communities by helping to create and maintain community assets and develop services. This work is identified and prioritised through participatory processes, in ward committees or other agreed local development forums. This has required innovative community development approaches, which the CWP has enabled. In practice, the work performed is multi-sectoral, and typically includes a mix of activities such as home-based care, mapping orphans and vulnerable children, food gardens, environmental services, and the creation and maintenance of community assets such as parks, water tanks and roads.

Funding the CWP

The CWP is funded from the national budget. Wages have been set at R50 a day, based on the wage-contribution approved in the national budget for the non-state sector of EPWP. Wages are paid directly into workers’ bank accounts.

The CWP prioritises labour-intensive activities and 65% of the money at site level goes to the workers. This ratio requires partnerships with other players to co-resource or co-fund activities with high material inputs.

CWP at work

Koppies – Ngwathe

Achievements include establishing vegetable gardens at 10 churches, with destitute families being helped with food from these. Other work involves fixing roads, filling potholes in partnership with the Ngwathe Municipality, building of a shack for orphaned boys, cleaning a community swimming pool, administrative assistance at a school library, and starting a bottle recycling initiative.

Motheo – Motheo

An important focus at this site is agriculture and planting food gardens. Other work has included cleaning cemeteries, clinics and churches. Participants are also planning to help renovate local crèches and schools.

Maluti-a-Phofung (Rural Development site) – Maluti-a-Phofung

Activities at this site include a door-to-door campaign for child immunisation week. Cleaning work has been carried out at illegal dumping sites, the church, the taxi rank and cemetery. A number of food gardens have been planted. Relationships have been established with the council, the local chief and the Municipality, which is assisting the CWP with rubbish collection.

Welkom – Matjhabeng

This CWP is helping clinics to administer medication to patients and creating homestead gardens for food-insecure households. Participants include retrenched Plumbers who have been mobilised to fix toilets and ablution facilities in schools and old age homes. Assistance to schools includes cleaning and placing School Assistants, who help in the classrooms, run sports and homework classes, and manage security to decrease absenteeism.

Success stories

The Welkom Community Work Programme is located in Ward 10 of the Matjhabeng Local Municipality, which includes the Bronville township and an adjacent informal settlement. Bronville was demarcated as a segregated area for Coloureds under the apartheid regime; today the population is estimated to be about half Coloured and half black African. A notable feature about bringing together a mixed black and coloured group is that people say that the long-standing divisions between the two groups are being broken down. As a declining mining area, Welkom has a high unemployment rate, vast informal settlements, but also a significant number of unemployed artisans and skilled people. This mix has been harnessed in a creative way by Mercy life, the faith-based organisation which runs the CWP. Members of the community are facilitators, health and safety officers, trainers and administrators, so the project has a high level of self-reliance.

There are few employment opportunities for young people in the area and as a consequence most of them continue to live with their parents, with high rates of crime, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy. The site was chosen because the area is disadvantaged. Community members were invited to register for the job opportunities available under the CWP in August 2009. It was soon apparent that the demand for work exceeded the 1 000 work opportunities being offered. The number of participants was raised to 3 000 and the programme extended to include more of the surrounding area, and also the townships of the outlying villages of Hennenman and Ventersberg.

Activities in the community started with a household social survey. The main needs identified were problems with identity documentation, the need for help to access grants, and lack of food. The survey found a large number of vulnerable children and people with health problems, mostly HIV/AIDS and TB-related illnesses, who needed help. Participants on the programme are employed in teams doing different tasks such as helping clinics to administer medication to almost 14 000 patients. A target of 283 homestead gardens for food-insecure households was set to for completion by March 2010 – a deadline the programme met, which reached 1 132 people. In addition to providing nutritious food for the families, some households are selling surpluses to generate a small income. Kitchen and garden waste is collected with small sums of money paid for it, and made into compost, which is then sold back into the community for use in gardens.

A big concern in the community is the number of leaking pipes and taps in streets, schools and the old age homes especially. Participants include a number of retrenched plumbers who have been mobilised as construction teams to attend to leaks, fixing the toilets and ablution facilities in schools and old age homes. A particular focus in Welkom has been schools and Early Childhood Development. Assistance to schools includes weekly cleaning of 10 ‘adopted schools’ and the placement of School Assistants at schools. The Assistants help in the classrooms, run sports and homework classes, and manage security to ensure there is little absenteeism. The community has seen a real difference in the quality of education.

The local community identified 80 crèches that needed support. A total of 2500 children are now being helped through this initiative, which includes renovating premises and helping with care and feeding, While it is difficult to quantify the benefits, anecdotal statements such as the following indicate the degree of need: “It means parents can go to work knowing that their children are safe and they can enjoy the children in the evening because they come home well fed, looked after and loved. The incidence of child rape has gone down as children are not left alone at home.”