December 2017

The three barriers blocking Zimbabwe's progress: Zanu-PF, Mnangagwa and the military

EPA-EFE/Aaron Ufumeli

Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been cautiously welcomed with the hope that he will place Zimbabwe on a more democratic trajectory. He has spoken of a new democracy “unfolding” in Zimbabwe.

But this is wishful thinking.

There are three major barriers to a decisive break from the corrupt and dysfunctional political system that has been playing out in Zimbabwe: the ruling Zanu-PF, its president and what’s been their main sustainer – the military.

None would want to oversee real change because facilitating democratic rule with real contestation for power would mean running the risk of electoral defeat. This would endanger the networks of self enrichment that have been put in place over decades.

Instead, the next few months will see Zanu-PF, Mnangagwa and the military continue to block democracy as they seek to hold onto the power.

Statement on the closure of the Metropolitan Municipality of Caracas

The World Organization of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and in particular their Latin American membership MERCOCIUDADES, FLACMA and UCCI express their concern about the closure of the Metropolitan District of Caracas and the Metropolitan Municipality of Alto Apure, last 20 December 2017 by the National Assembly of Venezuela.

In our increasingly urbanised world the metropolitan and proximity governments play a vital role as the sphere of public authority closest to the citizen which they represent. Their role in service provision to communities and in guaranteeing inclusion, cohesion and territorial development is vital.

Latin America is the continent with more city dwellers than any other region in the world. Venezuela in particular is one of the 3 countries with most urban concentration in the whole region, with over 90% of the population living in urban areas, this is the reason why the measure of suspension of these two Metros is very significant.

The suspension of both metropolitan areas without consultation with the citizens and without a broader context of institutional reform can only be seen as bad news, and be interpreted as a limitation of the rights of the inhabitants of these metropolitan areas.

Four-star Green Star certification for KZN Department of Education: Ugu District Office

Four-star Green Star certification for KZN Department of Education: Ugu District OfficeThe KZN Department of Education: Ugu District Office has received four-star Green Star SA Office Design v1.1 certification from the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA). Located in Port Shepstone, the six-storey building spans 6,701m2 of gross floor area.
Read more... | Send to a friend

Kenya's HIV progress report: good progress, but also big gaps

Antiretroviral treatment prevents the virus from multiplying and prolongs the lives of HIV positive people. Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has clear markers on the road to controlling the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. By 2020, about nine out of every ten people should know their HIV status. Nine out of ten HIV positive people should be on antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) and the virus should not be detectable in their blood.

And by 2030, the WHO says, there should be no new infections, no AIDS-related deaths and no stigma or discrimination related to the virus.

These are all good goals and important ways to measure how countries are progressing. In Kenya, where I live and conduct my research, there has been some progress, but more must be done. We see progress in reducing new infections among adults, providing preventive medication and providing oral self-testing for HIV.

But more must be done to reduce new infections among adolescent girls and young women, female sex workers and men who have sex with men.

Fewer new infections, more people on treatment

Kenya’s latest HIV progress report shows that new infections are dropping.

Tikku: Three-Story Minimalist Micro Apartment Fits in a Single Parking Space

[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

Proponents of our supposed driverless car-sharing future say the system could lead to a dramatic drop in the number of vehicles in our cities, so does that mean we’ll be able to fill our sudden abundance of parking spaces with micro houses like this one? The Tikku by Marco Casagrande is a three-story structure with a footprint that fits perfectly within a single parking spot and can be erected overnight. Wherever a car can go, “the Tikku can grow,” says the architect.

High-Design Pie: Complex Edible Works of Art You’d Actually Want to Eat

[ By SA Rogers in Art & Sculpture & Craft. ]

Instagram might have made it famous, but the fine art of crafting a delicious pie so intricate you’re almost loathe to cut into its crust is much older than the modern ‘food art’ trend. Centuries ago, the richest and most flamboyant members of high society sought out talented head cooks who could present a sufficiently impressive dining experience filled not just with the finest ingredients, but also edible sculptural wonders.

Train of trainers is moving fast the journey continues in 2018!

As we approach the 2018 Voluntary National Reports for Sustainable Development, many cities are still grappling with SDG Localization, Implementation and monitoring, which makes National reporting significantly more difficult and SDG localization a matter of urgency.

Since the UCLG Learning strategy was to “train the trainers” for localizing the SDG, the learning modules for localization have been used in more than 25 events by our network. By the end of this year, more than 250 people participated already in a learning session and we can welcome more than 90 new trainers that will help us to share our strategy with more people. We can also proudly announce that our network includes now 40 regional and local governments and nearly 50 cities, in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, that are actively involved in our learning sessions. 

Mali's cultural capital shows how citizen-centred development can trump gentrification

Mali's cultural capital shows how citizen-centred development can trump gentrificationIn the first week of every February, the streets of Ségou in Mali come to life. Residents from the capital, Bamako, flock to the secondary city to escape the busyness of everyday life and absorb the sights, sounds and colours of the Festival sur le Niger, along the banks of the Niger River.
Read more... | Send to a friend

How shark spotting can help reduce attacks. A Cape Town case study

Morne Hardenberg

It is summer time in the southern hemisphere and locals and tourists are flocking to the coast to enjoy the sunshine, salt air and some of the best beaches this part of the world has to offer.

In southern Africa it’s also the time when great white sharks migrate closer to Cape Town’s shore to take advantage of warmer waters and abundant fish prey.

This raises the danger of people being bitten or attacked.

Shark bites are in fact extremely rare and there were only eight deaths annually from shark attacks between 2011 – 2015. In Cape Town, there have been 13 shark attacks – four fatal – since 2000.

It’s obvious that the chance of incidents is greater when the number of people and the number of sharks in the same space increases. As George Burgess, Director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, says

The number of shark-human interactions occurring in a given year is directly correlated with the amount of time humans spend in the sea and as the world population continues its upsurge and interest in aquatic recreation, we realistically should expect increases in the number of shark attacks and other aquatic recreation-related injuries.

African Union refocuses on rural areas

The African Union (AU) has pledged to renew its focus on infrastructure development in rural and remote areas.

Member states recently gathered in Swakopmund, Namibia, for the 2017 Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) Week. Delegates agreed that Africa should up its game in mobilising domestic resources to fund the complete implementation of the five selected projects and promote the maximal use of local content within the beneficiary countries and regions.

The five projects are the Central Corridor (Dar es Salaam to Chalinze Toll Road), Kinshasa-Brazzaville Road and Railway Bridge, Ethiopia-Sudan Power Interconnector, Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya Power Connection and the Batoka Hydropower Plant.

“We want to reach a point where our discussions are no longer focused on our shortage of funds, but rather on our collaboration and concrete accomplishments to leverage PIDA projects for the economic transformation of Africans, especially the youth.

“I call upon all member states to commit themselves to the development of PIDA projects on the ground and to renew their focus to infrastructure development in rural and remote areas,” the African Union Commission’s Infrastructure and Energy Director, Cheikh Bedda, said.

The week was held under the theme ‘The Regional Infrastructure Development for Job Creation and Economic Transformation’.

In their final communique, delegates called upon AU member states, as well as the Continental Business Network (CBN), to provide adequate resources for PIDA project preparation facilities and for the engagement of partner organisations.

They called for bilateral development partners to provide the necessary technical and financial support for the implementation of PIDA Priority Action Plan projects by 2020 and to continue consultations with the African Union Commission to mobilise domestic resources for the preparation of PIDA projects.

Cape Town warns of housing fraudsters

The City of Cape Town has warned prospective housing beneficiaries to be weary of fraudsters posing as community representatives.

The city said fraudsters posing as community representatives are active across city but tend to target areas where the city is set to commence with new housing developments.

“Residents are advised to exercise caution and not to hand over any cash if solicited. We’ve heard about fraudsters who are targeting residents living in Retreat. They pose as community representatives and arrange so-called community meetings for those registered on the city’s housing database or for those still wanting to register.

“They often ask for a cover charge from those attending the meetings, and promise to give those who pay preferential treatment in the allocation or building of new houses,” said the city’s Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development, Brett Herron.

Herron assured residents that the city will never ask money in exchange for a housing opportunity.

“The moment somebody makes such an offer you should know that the person is a fraud,” said Herron.

The city allocates housing opportunities to those who are registered on the housing database and in accordance with its allocation policy.

“Nobody can jump the queue on the waiting list for a house. Residents should be aware of opportunists offering special advice and operating in areas under the guise of providing housing to those registered on our housing database,” said Herron.

To qualify for housing opportunities, residents must be registered on the city’s housing database. Those who are already registered must regularly update their personal details.

The city gave residents some key pointers including:

To find out whether you are registered on the City’s housing database, send an SMS with your ID number followed by a space and your surname to 44108.

UniteBehind goes to court against PRASA and Minister of Transport

Urgent application to reverse decision to suspend Legal Panel

By GroundUp Staff

Photo of Minister of Transport
UniteBehind has lodged urgent court papers against Minister of Transport Joseph Maswanganyi. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks

The UniteBehind Coalition filed an urgent application the Western Cape High Court against the Minister of Transport, Joseph Maswanganyi and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) on Monday. The activist group is hoping the case will be heard on Friday.

UniteBehind’s is essentially asking the court to interdict a decision by the PRASA Board taken on 1 December to suspend PRASA’s Legal Panel and to procure legal services through PRASA’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) processes. It also asks the court to declare invalid the appointment of PRASA’s interim board in October by Maswangani.

The court action also follows the publication of the #PRASALeaks, forensic reports commissioned by Treasury that found grand-scale corruption at PRASA. These reports painted a picture of PRASA’s SCM as corrupt and incompetent. PRASA’s Legal Panel has been attempting to stop the Board and management from awarding irregular contracts and other unlawful behaviour. The decision by the Board to get rid of the Legal Panel and procure legal services through the SCM is therefore perceived as an attempt to remove any obstacles to continued looting of PRASA.

UCLG celebrates the appointment of one of its active members as Executive Director of UN-Habitat

United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has announced his intention to appoint Dato’ Maimunah Mohd Sharif of Malaysia as the next head of the United Nations agency tasked with promoting environmentally and socially sustainable cities and towns; a key partner of UCLG on the international agenda.

The current Mayor of Penang Island City Council, Malaysia, Dato’ Maimunah Mohd Sharif is also member of UCLG’s Global Women’s Caucus, a member of the UCLG Policy Council on the Right to the City, and Chair of the UCLG-ASPAC Standing Committee on Women in Local Government. She has further been very active in the work of the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments related to the Habitat III process and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

She succeeds Joan Clos, who has headed UN-Habitat since 2010, and has been an important ally for the cause of local and regional governments before the international community.

Priority actions to increase access to climate finance for non-state actors

Meeting on December 10, 2017 in Paris for a final workshop to finalize priority proposals to facilitate their access to funding, non-state actors organizing jointly in the Climate Chance process have adopted by consensus 13 proposals to support the creation of an enabling environment, the improvements of financial mechanisms, and to propose priority areas of intervention   as well as MRV measures for evaluation of financial mobilization.

This document builds on the work of the financing coalition created at the “Climate and Territories” summit in 2015, led by the FMDV (Global Cities Fund), UCLG (United Cities and Local Governments), GERES (Renewable Energies, Environment and Solidarities Group) and WECF (Women Engage for a Common Future). It also includes proposals from the Marrakech roadmap for a global framework for action to localize climate finance, adopted at the summit of local and regional elected representatives held during COP22. This document also echoes the declaration adopted at the UCLG World Council on 9 December 2017 in Hangzhou. These proposals were submitted for advice to all 200 organizations gathered in the Climate Chance Strategic Orientation Committee (Major Groups Focal Points to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), companies, communities, NGO networks, leading the twenty or so thematic coalitions collaborating in Climate Chance).

Construction sector confidence low, but not all hope is lost

Construction sector confidence low, but not all hope is lost
© Leon Swart – [[]]</span>With reports of construction sector confidence plummeting to 17-year lows, the Building and Property Economics Committee of the Association of South African Quantity Surveyors (ASAQS) says investors and developers should not lose complete faith in the industry.
Read more... | Send to a friend

Sunken City of Sin: Submerged Ruins of a Roman Playground for the Rich

[ By SA Rogers in Culture & History & Travel. ]

Hidden at the bottom of Gulf of Naples in Italy for 1,700 years, the ancient Roman city of Baiae has been revealed to the world after divers were permitted to explore and photograph the site. Historians call Baiae “the ancient Roman version of Las Vegas,” a getaway for the rich and famous where hedonism ran wild. The fashionable resort was popular with the likes of Julius Caesar, Nero and Hadrian, and it was once filled with luxury vacation villas and party houses echoing with rumors of corruption.

Towards local thinking for global action in 2018!

A New Year’s message from UCLG Secretary General, Emilia Saiz

UCLG, more than an organization

In my first message as UCLG Secretary General, I would like to start by thanking you for the trust placed in me and the numerous expressions of support I have received. I am delighted to take on this new role and challenge, and am honoured to have been entrusted with the mandate to continue to amplify the voices and recognition of local and regional governments on the global stage, building on the objectives and success of our century-old international municipal movement.

My journey with this movement has been – and I trust will continue to be – a great adventure, a privilege and a pleasure.

We have undergone many changes and transformations over the years, building on our shared values and mindful of our history.

For me, as for all of you, UCLG is more than just an organization. It is the movement that drives us, and that has inspired our work together and our path forward. It is about shared values, even when we have different interests; solidarity, even when our capacities are challenged.

It will take more than good intentions to clear Nairobi's garbage mountains

Nairobi's Dandora waste dumpsite -- still in use after being declared a health hazard in 2001. Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

Nairobi’s new governor, Mike Sonko, has promised to rid Nairobi of its mountains of trash. The city, which is home to an estimated 3.9 million people, generates between 3,000 and 3,200 tons of solid waste daily. But only half is collected.

And only about 25% of waste generated reaches the main dumpsite at Dandora east of the Kenyan capital where the evidence points to severe effects on the health of nearby communities. The remainder, about 2,250 tons, is illegally disposed of at undesignated locations such as roadsides, rivers and any open spaces. Piles of uncollected garbage are a common sight across the city.

During his election campaign, Sonko pledged to make the garbage collection system more efficient while also creating jobs for unemployed young people. He plans to build a new waste dumpsite to replace the overflowing Dandora site, the closure of which was recommended 10 years ago.

What does Ramaphosa's victory mean for South Africa's economy?

New ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa shortly after hearing he'd been elected to the top job. EPA/Kim Ludbrook

A great deal is expected from Cyril Ramaphosa who was elected as the president of South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress (ANC). This positions him to become the country’s president in 2019. Sibonelo Radebe asked Owen Skae to consider the implications of Ramaphosa’s victory.

What does Ramaphosa’s victory represent in political economy terms?

Judging by his track record and statements he made during the height of his campaign, Ramaphosa promises to ring in changes that will jump start the struggling South African economy. Brought to its knees by the recklessness of the Jacob Zuma presidency, the South African economy needs a new deal. Ramaphosa has promised exactly that.

Ramaphosa has the advantage of bringing a deep understanding and strong networks of business and organised labour to the position. So he has a better chance of getting business and labour to commit to a compact that can deliver economic growth and job creation.

Who is Cyril Ramaphosa? A profile of the new leader of South Africa's ANC

New ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa moments before winning. EPA-EFE/Cornell Tukiri

South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), has a new president – Cyril Ramaphosa. But who is he?

Ramaphosa cuts a fitting figure to take over government, stabilise the economy, and secure the constitutional architecture that he helped create at the end of apartheid.

But to expect more would be expecting too much. He is unlikely to veer far from the traditional economic path chosen by the ANC.

There are five important features we can draw on to make some conjectures about the man.

The early days

Ramaphosa was born in Johannesburg, the industrial heartland of South Africa, on November 17, 1952. The second of three children, his father was a policeman. He grew up in Soweto where he attended primary and high school. He later went to Mphaphuli High School in Sibasa, Limpopo, were he was elected head of the Student Christian Movement soon after his arrival, attesting to his Christian beliefs.

Delhi should follow Beijing's example in tackling air pollution

A pall of inaction and apathy hangs over Delhi's reaction to its air pollution crisis. Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee

Delhi’s air pollution crisis made international headlines in early December when a cricket match between India and Sri Lanka was suspended due to poor air quality.

Smog has also led to numerous school closures and flight cancellations in India’s capital and largest city. It has also been blamed for highway accidents.

Delhi is home to 20 million residents, and the city’s more than 10 million vehicles are a major contributor to air pollution. Industrial emissions are also to blame. Thirteen coal-fired power stations operate within a 300 kilometre radius of the city. Conditions reach crisis level every winter, when the capital’s already poor air quality is further degraded by smoke from post-harvest burning in the neighbouring agricultural states of Haryana and Punjab.

Migration in cities: A global scenario with local impacts needs a multi-actors cooperation

“What you see in our “Maison de la Métorople” (house of the Metropolis) is a sketch of reinforced cooperation in the metropolitan area - what we call our new metropolitan solidarity outline”. This was the welcome statement of Paul Soubiran, director general of the city of Lyon, to the peer visitors hosted by the city and the Metropole of Lyon last 12 and 13 December during the 7th peer to peer meeting of the MC2CM project on “Inter-institutional coordination in migration governance: Towards improved cooperation”.

This event gathered the participating cities of the project together 3 mayors from Libya and national government delegates of Portugal, Estonia and Chypre as well as UCLG network members: Medcities and Cités Unis France (CUF).

While in the six firsts peer to peer meetings of the project the focus was laid onto thematic aspects linked to migrants’ inclusion at local level (social inclusion and intercultural dialogue, access to basic services, employment, housing, refuges hosting, and education). So it strategic that the seventh, and last of the first phase, focused on governance, which means to deal with opportunities and limitations of being part of a government, meaning local, inter-municipal,  regional or national.

#5facts: SA’s top 2017 numbers

As 2017 comes to a close, we looked back at our top 5 numbers for South Africa in 2017.

How high is the country’s murder rate? Do women and men earn the same? How many social grants does the government pay? What share of adults are overweight and obese? And how many migrants call South Africa home? We’ve pulled together the answers here.

  1. South Africa’s latest murder rate is 34.1 per 100,000

The latest crime statistics from the South African Police Service show that South Africa’s murder rate increased for a fifth year in a row.

Ten years ago the murder rate stood at 37.6 murders per 100,000 people. It decreased year-on-year to 30.1 murders per 100,000 people in 2011/12. Since then the murder rate has been increasing.

In 2016/17, a total of 19,016 murders were committed – an average of 52 each day. This resulted in a murder rate of 34.1 per 100,000.

The province with the highest murder rate was the Eastern Cape. The province with the lowest murder rate was Limpopo.

Group Five warns of widening losses

Group Five warns of widening losses
© hxdyl – [[]]</span>Group Five expects its interim headline loss per share for the six months to end-December to worsen by 34% to R4.15 from R3.10 in the matching period, it said in a trading update on Tuesday morning, 19 December.
Read more... | Send to a friend

Why Ramaphosa won't be able to deliver the three urgent fixes South Africa needs

New ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa, centre, with fellow top leaders elected at the party's 54th national conference. EPA-EFE/Cornell Tukiri

The competition for the top six leadership positions in South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), was no carefully choreographed script such as the one-candidate-per-election of Chinese Communist Party congresses. It was a rip-roaring, full-throated democratic contestation – as raucous as US primary elections. Even more so, with delegates’ repeated singing and dancing.

This point bears emphasising. As recently as 2016, one hardline ANC critic published a book-length argument that ANC political practice and culture is shaped by an exile culture of avoiding or rigging elections. The ANC’s 2017 national elective conference proves him wrong.

Fracking and earthquakes: weighing up the dangers in South Africa

There are concerns about the negative environmental and social impact of fracking in the Karoo. Martin Heigan/Flickr

The South African government is looking into fracking to reduce the country’s huge reliance on coal for energy. Fracking involves pumping high pressured fluids into rock formations to release reserves of oil and gas.

Why Kenya’s push for nuclear power rests on false or fanciful premises

High voltage electrical pylons on the outskirts of Kenya's capital Nairobi. Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

Kenya wants to go nuclear. Since 2012, Nairobi has been talking the talk and walking the walk. It has engaged the International Atomic Energy Agency and signed multilateral letters of intent in pursuit of nuclear power.

To date, Kenya reportedly has memoranda of understanding with Russia, China, South Korea and Slovakia which involve the building of four nuclear power plants with a total output of 4,000 MW. France is apparently also eyeing the potentially lucrative deals which would nearly double Kenya’s current electricity capacity.

Kenya’s Nuclear Electricity Board secured the global atomic energy agency’s approval in 2016. It hopes to have the first plant online anywhere from 2022 to 2027, leading a new African push for nuclear power. The only country currently generating nuclear is South Africa.

News that mattered: 2017 in photos

Drought, protests, anger over the social grants payment system, and the collapse of Metrorail marked this year.

By GroundUp Staff

Photo of Hangberg resident throwing petrol bomb
Residents from Hangberg in Hout Bay protest over fishing rights on 13 September 2017. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks
Photo: Masixole Feni

A man walks through Marikana in Philippi East, on 14 February 2017. A high-profile court case eventually resulted in the City of Cape Town being ordered to buy the land on which Marikana is located. This essentially means that the people who have occupied this land will not be removed by the City.

Refurbishment, extension for Kwagga Mall

Refurbishment, extension for Kwagga MallLocated in Kwaggafontein, Mpumalanga, Kwagga Plaza is being refurbished by MDS Architecture for McCormick Property Development and it will be named Kwagga Mall. The existing open-air plaza is being converted into an enclosed mall, thus extending the gross leasable area of the 25-year-old building to 34,000m2.
Read more... | Send to a friend

Artem galleria parking area to be transformed into urban gallery

Artem galleria parking area to be transformed into urban galleryWith the Artem shopping centre in Sea Point currently undergoing extensive renovations, the entire parking area is set to become a giant canvas, featuring the edgy designs of a young group of street artists from Pretoria who have been commissioned to turn the blank walls into an urban gallery.
Read more... | Send to a friend