February 2017

How South Africa's mining industry can change its ways

Workers walk past a Lonmin Marikana platinum mine, a site that represents industrial strife in South Africa. Reuters/Skyler Reid

South Africa’s mining industry is increasingly cited as one of the key sectors that must yield “radical economic transformation” and help the country heal a deeply divided and unequal society.

President Jacob Zuma set out what he meant by radical economic transformation in his 2017 state of the nation address, describing it as:

a fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female…

The country’s finance minister Pravin Gordhan also touched on the subject in his recent budget speech.

So what can the mining industry bring to the party? The Alternative Mining Indaba recently provided some answers to this question. It’s a dialogue that runs parallel to the annual private sector convened Mining Indaba in Cape Town. The 350 organisations attending the civil society indaba reached some critical conclusions.

Good mentorship has the power to unlock university students' potential

Good mentoring can open up entirely new worlds for university students. Shutterstock

When I sent out an informal notice to my computer science students offering mentorship to anyone who wanted it, I wasn’t expecting many replies. After all, how many students rush to get involved in voluntary activities when they’re already so busy with academic work?

I was wrong.

Within two days 40 students had signed up. More requests followed – five of them from students who don’t even attend my university. The mentorship program kicked off in September 2016 and has been running for nearly six months.

In that time the students and I have learned a great deal about what it takes to mentor and be mentored in a structured, meaningful way.

There’s a vast amount of research evidence that proves how valuable mentorship can be. It improves students’ academic performance and, at its best, also equips them with the skills they’ll need to excel in a professional environment.

I have started to see all of this for myself, and have learned a number of lessons about what works when it comes to good mentoring programs. These lessons may be valuable to others who want to establish mentoring programs at their own universities.

Thabo Mbeki calls for a 'rebirth'. Is South Africa up to the task?

Thabo Mbeki during his inauguration as Chancellor at UNISA. Deaan Vivier/Netwerk24

The appointment of former South African president Thabo Mbeki as Chancellor of one of the country’s largest tertiary institutions, the University of South Africa (UNISA), comes at a unique moment in the country.

Universities are struggling to cope with student movements’ revolutionary demands for relevant, decolonised and free education. In his inaugural speech, Mbeki raised a number of issues, two of which I’d like to analyse here. He explored the idea of “the university” and its role, and also outlined his understanding of the role that knowledge plays in society.

The speech stretched far back into Africa’s history. It also looked ahead to how universities might free themselves of racism, tribalism, regionalism, sexism, patriarchy and xenophobia. This is a mammoth task which calls for what Mbeki described as “a rebirth”.

The million dollar question is whether South Africa’s current intellectuals and academia are up to the task?

What universities should be

Mbeki drew on several sources to explain his views on what a university should be.

The first was a document drafted during his presidency. It was complied by a working group he convened, and dealt with the biggest issues facing higher education in South Africa.

Rest in power, Miriam Tlali: author, enemy of apartheid and feminist

Portrait of Miriam Tlali as part of Adrian Steirn’s 21 Icons South Africa project. Date: 15.10.2014. Adrian Steirn/Courtesy of 21 Icons South Africa

Renowned South African author Miriam Masoli Tlali passed away on February 24 2017, aged 83. Born November 11 1933 in Doornfontein, Johannesburg, Tlali was the first black South African woman to publish a novel in English within the country’s borders. She is best known for this work, first published as “Muriel at Metropolitan” in 1975 by Ravan Press.

It was re-issued in 2004 by the title she had preferred from the start, “Between Two Worlds”. Based on her time as an administrative assistant at a furniture store in downtown Johannesburg during the height of apartheid, the novel documents the daily humiliations of petty apartheid. There were two types of apartheid, grand apartheid and the petty version, which the New York Times once described as,

the practice of segregation in the routine of daily life – in lavatories, restaurants, railway cars, busses, swimming pools and other public facilities.

“Muriel at Metropolitan”/“Between Two Worlds” was the first literary text that portrayed the degrading conditions under which African women laboured during apartheid. It highlighted how strict influx control into “white” cities hampered black women’s opportunities for employment and fulfilling family lives.

LID Design Considerations for an Uncertain Climate Future

Historically, the best way to plan for future storms has been to look at the past. Significant effort has been put into to developing long-term rainfall records, and many of the most complex stormwater models are designed to run simulations that represent decades of rainfall data. But a changing climate means that storm patterns are changing, often in significant and unpredictable ways. So how does a stormwater management professional plan for future storms when the future is not predicted to follow past patterns?

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ACSA to ramp up infrastructure for air cargo traffic

ACSA to ramp up infrastructure for air cargo trafficAirports Company South Africa (ACSA) plans to boost its efforts in supporting air cargo traffic growth with initiatives that aim to ease congestion and expand warehouse space in the short term and infrastructure developments that will develop capacity in the longer term.
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CIB annual meeting 2017

capacity and institution building working group

26-28 September, 2017. Durban, South Africa

+ INFO: www.cib-uclg.org

The annual meeting of the Capacity and Institution Building Working Group will take place on 26-28 September in Durba, South Africa.

 

capacity and institution building working group

Lessons from Africa prove the incredible value of mother tongue learning

Children at school in Mali, which is among the countries that's prioritised mother tongue education. United Nations Photo/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Sixty-five years ago a group of students paid with their lives in a fight for language. A number of students were shot and killed by police while demonstrating in defence of their language, Bengali (also called Bangla). The students wanted Bengali to be formally recognised as one of the two national languages in what was then Pakistan and is today Bangladesh.

Since 1999, the anniversary of the tragedy has been marked every year on February 21 by UNESCO as International Mother Language Day.

African research has made a valuable contribution to the framing of 2017’s International Mother Language Day theme: “Towards sustainable futures through multilingual education”.

Is China displacing traditional aid donors in Africa? The evidence suggests not

Chinese company managers at the site of a highway project in Kenya. While traditional donors fund the social sectors, China's emphasis is infrastructure. Reuters/Antony Njuguna

In keeping with a two decades long diplomatic tradition, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi chose Africa for his first overseas visit of 2017. Wang’s decision to make Africa his first stop on a five-nation tour in early January highlights the importance China places on its relations with Africa.

Dramatic claims are often made about relations between China and African countries. China is often portrayed as either a pariah or a saviour. This is also true in the aid world, where there is a pervasive argument that China is upending the dominance of traditional foreign aid donors.

According to this rhetoric, the emergence of China as a big player in African development increases African power vis–à–vis traditional donors. The assumption is that financing from China allows governments to decline aid from donors like the US or the World Bank. This gives African governments more “room to maneuver”.

Africa has a long history of fake news after years of living with non-truth

Shutterstock

US President Donald Trump’s election and his disdain for the mainstream media has been seen by some as the triumph of post-truth politics.

Post-truth politics is a culture in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

Not only is Trump deliberately picking wars with America’s mainstream media, he is forcing it to be more introspective by placing it in the same category as fringe outlets that supported his candidature through fake news.

The American experience and the debates it has triggered on post-politics, post-truth, fake news and alternative facts are relevant in Africa where truth regimes remain both loose and contested.

International Conference on Urban Planning and Management

Urban Planning and Management

24-26 April, 2017. Mashhad, Iran 

+ INFO: upmc.um.ac.ir

The Metropolis International Institute - Mashhad in conjunction with the Research Center of Mashhad City Council and Ferdowsi University of Mashhad will conduct 8th International Conference on Urban Planning and Management in Mashhad, Iran from April 24-26, 2017.

Cape Messenger : Updated holding statement (27 February 2017)

STATEMENT TO SACAP’S STAKEHOLDERS

Response to Cape Messenger article (Dated: 16 February 2017)

Date of issue: 27 February 2017

Time of issue: 10h00

Further to our statement last week (20 Feb 2017), in which we confirmed being aware of the article published about SACAP by Cape Messenger on 16 Feb 2017, please note that the publication’s editor now has a statement from us that addresses all issues raised.

We submitted this Right of Response to its editor on 23 February and we await its publication.

The 4thTerm Council values, and is committed to, demonstrating transparency and integrity in all of its affairs. Its corporate governance, as a public entity, is applied and run in tandem with the principles contained in the King Report on Corporate Governance.

We will continue to inform you on developments.

#DesignMonth: SA interior designers on par with international counterparts

#DesignMonth: SA interior designers on par with international counterpartsSouth Africa's ARRCC was recently added to US COVETED magazine's Top 100 Interior Designers list, which features some of the most influential interior designers in the world. We interviewed ARRCC director Mark Rielly to find out more about the local interior design industry and some of the projects on which the internationally recognised studio has worked.
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Survey offers insights into global trends, future of smart cities

Survey offers insights into global trends, future of smart cities
© Chin Leong Teoh – [[www.123rf.com 123RF.com]]</span>As cities and solution providers develop their smart city strategies, they are trying to understand which solutions and business models hold the greatest promise in this growing market.
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Streamlining the installation of a complex residential roof - a case study

Streamlining the installation of a complex residential roof - a case studyEvery so often, a complex residential roof, of average scale and with relatively small truss spans, arrives for design and estimation at a timber roof truss fabricator. While it may not necessarily be of grand scale, even relatively small yet complex projects can cause frustrations to all along the supply chain – with mounting time and cost implications.
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Streamlining the installation of a complex residential roof - a case study

Streamlining the installation of a complex residential roof - a case studyEvery so often, a complex residential roof, of average scale and with relatively small truss spans, arrives for design and estimation at a timber roof truss fabricator. While it may not necessarily be of grand scale, even relatively small yet complex projects can cause frustrations to all along the supply chain – with mounting time and cost implications.
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Morocco's membership of the AU: has unity finally been achieved?

Morocco's return to the African Union raises questions about the body's continued commitment to anti-colonialism and its pan-Africanism.

The African Union (AU) has always considered Morocco the only country missing from its fold. After a 33-year absence, it was recently admitted to the continental body to become its 55th member.

With this last piece of the jigsaw now in place, does it mean that African unity has finally been achieved? Or is the current picture of the AU likely to be ephemeral?

The criteria to become a member of the African Union are simple. The organisation is open to all African states and accession requires approval by a simple majority of the existing members. Though being an African state seems a straightforward requisite, there is ample room for interpretation.

Take for example efforts by Haiti, a Caribbean state, to accede to the union. This would require the AU review its reading of pan-Africanism. Other possible new members are states that could be formed as result of secession as well as European overseas territories that are part of Africa but represent the last vestiges of imperialism.

Beyond Africa

The dominant view of the AU reduces Africa to its continental definition. Accordingly, the objective is the political union of the African landmass and the adjacent islands.

South Africa needs to do more to plug its deficit than target the rich

In an attempt to plug a growing deficit, South Africa is increasing wealth taxes Shutterstock

Faced with a growing deficit, depressed revenue generators and a limited tax pool, South Africa’s finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, once again focused the tax increases on high income earners. By his own admission finding the right tax balance for the 2017/18 budget was a challenge.

South Africa is currently sitting with a deficit or shortfall of R28 billion – that’s by how much its spending plans outstrip its revenue. The minister has to find ways to plug the gap within the next two years.

Increased taxes are the most obvious and reliable source of government revenues. And so taxes had to be increased. But even within the tax space, the tax instruments available to the minister are limited because the country’s tax base is limited.

Of the 55 million people in South Africa, about 14 million are registered for tax and only 7.4 million are liable to tax, along with companies and trust. The other half of registered taxpayers fall outside the lowest tax bracket. Thus, from a direct income tax point of view only 14% of the population funds government expenditure, along with companies and trusts.

The peer-review system for academic papers is badly in need of repair

The scientific refereeing process can be tedious, time-consuming and isn't very rewarding. Shutterstock

Peer review, or scientific refereeing, is the basis of the academic process. It’s a rigorous evaluation that aims to ensure only work which advances knowledge is published in a scientific journal. Scientists must be able to trust this system: if they see that something is peer reviewed, it should be a hallmark of quality.

When the editor of scientific journal receives a manuscript, they ask other another scientist – a specialist in their field – to review it. The referee is required to advise the editor whether the manuscript should be published and to give feedback to the authors.

The system is not flawless. There have been instances of fraud and manipulation due to refereeing, but these are – we hope – isolated cases.

But there are much bigger systemic problems associated with peer review. These are negatively affecting scientific credibility. These include the fact that, globally, it is hard to find referees: reviewing a manuscript requires a lot of time and minimal reward. Very few journals pay referees, and most academics who act as referees are doing so for free in their spare time.

On top of this those who do act as referees often struggle to deliver on time. Worse still, their reports are not always helpful to editors or authors.

#DesignMonth: How to revive retail interior using Pantone's Colour of the Year

#DesignMonth: How to revive retail interior using Pantone's Colour of the YearAs we all know by now, Pantone's colour of the year for 2017 is Greenery, "a fresh and zesty yellow-green shade that evokes the first days of spring when nature's greens revive, restore and renew.”
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How the African Union's planned overhaul may affect its ties with China

The 28th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. GCIS

The African Union (AU) held its 28th Summit in Addis Ababa recently. The meeting was markedly different to previous ones because the organisation showed it was serious about finding practical, lasting solutions to contemporary continental problems.

Specifically the decision to “deeply” reform the continental body was given new life and uniquely, a report to bring this about was drafted by Rwandan President Paul Kagame. This formed part of a process that kicked off at the mid-2016 summit. Then Kagame – supported by a pan-African advisory team – was given the task of coming up with reform proposals. Importantly, it was recognised that previous attempts at institutional reform had been ineffective.

The report’s recommendations can be summed up as “less is more”. They include the need for fewer strategic priorities and addressing bureaucratic bottlenecks. They also call for a better division of labour between the AU and member states, regional economic organisations and continental organs and institutions. The need to lessen the AU’s dependence on external funding also featured prominently.

Physical inactivity is hurting the health of people in countries like Kenya. There's a solution

Exercise and a healthy diet provide an overall sense of well being. Reuters.

Getting physically active is important no matter where you live: obesity and physical inactivity are serious public health problems – in both developed and developing countries.

In sub-Saharan Africa the crisis of inactivity can be linked to the industrial and electronic revolutions taking place in the region. There’s been a marked shift from high activity lifestyles to a more sedentary pace. Known as physical activity transition, the process has already been seen in developed countries. The transition is always marked by a shift in people’s behaviour. They migrate from high energy expenditure workplace environments such as mining, forestry and farming to more relaxed occupations and lifestyles.

Now sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing similar changes and challenges. The result is that countries like Kenya are now fertile environments for non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cancer.

Given this, it’s become more important than ever to understand the twin relationship between the change in the foods we eat and how often we exercise.

Benefits of physical activity

Some of the benefits of being physically active include:

South Africa's budget: some good moves, but not enough to fix mounting problems

South Africa's Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan delivers his 2017 budget speech. Reuters/Mike Hutchings

South Africa’s finance minister Pravin Gordhan delivered the country’s annual budget amid growing concerns about slow economic growth, the unequal distribution of wealth and a widening budget deficit. The Conversation Africa’s Sibonelo Radebe asked Lumkile Mondi and Jannie Rossouw to shed light on the the minister’s speech.

Is the budget on the same page with ambitions expressed in President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address?

Lumkile Mondi: There is broad agreement in South Africa that the country’s high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality need to be eradicated. But there are disagreements on how this should be done as could be seen in the different approaches adopted by the president and his finance minister.

In his address Zuma spent a lot of time on the theme of radical economic transformation . He defined this as making fundamental changes in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy.

Why Gordhan's silence on South Africa's nuclear option is a good sign

President Jacob Zuma and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. Gordhan is standing firm against any political pressure. Flickr/GovernmentZA

South Africa’s Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan said very little about the energy sector in his recent budget speech. The word “energy” came up only once compared with 2016, when it was used five times. Even more notable is that he didn’t mention nuclear energy – a source of major contention – at all.

The explicit statements relating to energy were restricted to an increase in the fuel levy and affirmation that the independent power producer programme would continue with the development of further renewable and gas power generation.

This avoidance might at first glance seem odd given the heated controversies around power shortages as well as the government’s plans to invest in unaffordable nuclear power plants.

Highlights of South Africa's National Budget Speech 2017

Cape Town – Highlights of South African National Budget Speech 2017/18 delivered by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to Parliament on Wednesday.

Budget 2017: Property under R900 000 will not attract Transfer Duty Tax

Tabling the South African National Budget Speech 2017 on Wednesday, Finance minister Pravin Gordhan revealed that properties under R900 000 (previously R750 000) wll not attract transfer duty tax.

Some relief for first time property buyers in National Budget

The raising of the threshold for transfer duty on properties sold for less than R900 000, up from R750 000, as announced in today’s National Budget, is positive news as it provides some relief for first time buyers.

Good news for Buyers, not necessarily Owners

Minister Pravin Gordhan had a difficult budget speech to deliver as the economy struggles through its largest under performance since the 2009 recession, with the added challenge of a R30.4bn tax shortfall.

Billions to be spent on South Africa’s Infrastructure: 2017 National Budget

Government will spend over R50 billion to fund national and provincial economic infrastructure requirements, according to the National Budget 2017 announced on Wednesday by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

UJ student takes top regional award in architecture competition

Darren Sampson won first prize.
Darren Sampson won first prize.</span>Speaking ahead of the 30th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards, Dirk Meyer, managing director of Corobrik said that innovation is the standout quality that differentiates design resolutions and helps define architecture as special and appreciated by one's peers.
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