May 2018

More security for Cape Town’s trains in “two to three months” says City

The plan must prioritise commuter safety, says #FixOurTrains campaign

By Aidan Jones

24 May 2018

Photo of a train passing
The City of Cape Town has announced the formation of a unit to improve security on Metrorail train lines. Photo: Brent Meersman

The City of Cape Town, the Western Cape government and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) announced on Thursday they had signed an agreement to form a unit to improve security on Metrorail train lines. This follows an agreement made at a rail summit in February.

In a media statement, the City said the unit would be operational “within the next two to three months” and would operate for a 12-month period at a cost of approximately R47.9 million. It will be jointly funded by the Transport and Urban Development Authority, the Western Cape government and PRASA. “Each role-player is paying a third of the costs,” said councillor Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport.

“The unit will consist of at least a hundred members and will focus on commuter safety as well as vandalism and the theft of crucial Metrorail infrastructure and assets,” said Herron.

Herron said the priority was to address safety and security issues “so that we can stabilise the urban rail service in the short term”.

Parkwood protests continue as officials meet

Province promises to discuss “plan” with residents

By Ashraf Hendricks

24 May 2018

Photo of protesters
MEC for Human Settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela promised Parkwood residents a solution to the housing problem in the area. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

As protests continued over housing in Parkwood on Thursday, provincial and municipal officials met to try to defuse the situation.

About 50 protesters were stoning vehicles and burning tyres along Prince George Drive, said City law enforcement spokesperson Wayne Dyason at 1pm.

Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela promised residents on Tuesday that he would meet City of Cape Town officials today to find a “lasting solution” to the housing problem after protests started on Sunday.

The following day violence erupted after over 100 structures were demolished on vacant land in the area.

According to Madikizela’s spokesperson, Nathan Adriaanse, the meeting did take place on Thursday but he was tight-lipped over the outcome. He said a “plan” would be discussed with the Parkwood residents’ leadership.

William Akim, ward councillor of Parkwood, said he had not attended the meeting.

Why plants need an identity

Berzelia stokoei, one of the 3% of plants in South Africa that are found nowhere else in the world. Marinda Koekemoer

Plant experts in South Africa have a challenging deadline to meet: gather everything that’s known about the country’s 21 000 indigenous plant species into a formal online record by 2020. Fortunately they are well on their way.

It’s not just an academic exercise; it’s to help preserve the world’s biological diversity. The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) – also helped in this effort by volunteers – has an important contribution to make as a member of the World Flora Online (WFO) Consortium. The 41-member group is creating a central record of the world’s plants by 2020. This list, known as a Flora, is a description of all species and where they are found.

The online Flora project addresses three problems that stand in the way of plant species conservation. One is that some plants have not yet been scientifically named. Without a name, they can’t be part of a conservation plan. The second problem is that names can change and multiply, creating confusion for researchers and managers. Thirdly, there is no single collection of information about all the world’s plants.

Why names matter

Whenever a new plant species or any other living organism is discovered, it must be named. Through formal naming (the process of taxonomy), a species is clearly defined and described. Its definitive characteristics are highlighted along with its relationships to other species.

Remembering South Africa's catastrophe: the 1948 poll that heralded apartheid


In the backdrop of extensive media coverage of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel – commemorated by Palestinians as the naqba (catastrophe) – it’s important that the 70th anniversary of South Africa’s own tragedy should not pass unnoticed. That is the election of May 1948 which brought the National Party to power on a platform of apartheid.

That both events should fall in the same month is a neat coincidence given the close Israel-South Africa relationship from 1967. This was documented in detail by Sasha Polakow-Suransky in his 2011 book The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa.

Added to this is the contemporary view among Israel’s critics that the country increasingly resembles an apartheid state. This comparison was given added weight by the recent killing of 60 Palestinians by the Israeli army, which evoked memories of the Sharpeville massacre of 1960.

Why the Pan-African Parliament must clean up its act if it wants to survive

The Pan African Parliament in session in Midrand, South Africa. EPA/Jon Hrusa

The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) has recently been in the news for the wrong reasons. There have been allegations of abuse of power by its Cameroonian president, Nkodo Dang. He’s been accused of refusing to table a report about the organisation and its finances. His lavish lifestyle at the expense of the South African government has further tarnished the institution’s image.

The PAP was established in 2004 by the African Union. The protocol that established it gave it an advisory role only. It envisaged that a conference would be organised to “review the operation and effectiveness” five years after it was set up. That conference should have happened in 2009, but never has.

Mobility Champions UITP-UCLG

Mobility Champions UITP-UCLG
Sustainable Development

Science in Africa: homegrown solutions and talent must come first

There's more and more good science news coming from Africa. Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock

It’s been a recurring refrain: Africa still lags woefully behind the rest of the world in generating new scientific knowledge.

As figures collated by the World Bank in 2014 show, the continent – home to around 16% of the world’s population – produces less than 1% of the world’s research output.

These are painful admissions to make as the continent prepares to celebrate Africa Day on May 25. But there are several projects and initiatives that offer hope amid all the bad news.

One is a major funding and agenda setting platform, the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa based in Nairobi, Kenya, which was established by the African Academy of Sciences in partnership with NEPAD. It will award research grants to African universities, advise on financial best practice and develop a science strategy for Africa. It also offers an opportunity for African scientists to speak with one voice when it comes to aligning a research and development agenda for African countries.

Changing the African narrative through social media platforms

From: #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou Twitter/@decorationsclub

Social media platforms are providing Africans with an opportunity to counter negative stereotypes by giving them representational agency.

More and more Africans use the internet. By the end of 2000 the continent had a total of 4,514,400 users. Seventeen years later it had increased to 453,329,534, giving Africa an internet penetration of 35.2%. Africans are also increasingly active on social media – this stood at 177,005,700 Facebook users across Africa at the end of 2017.

Social media presents a powerful platform for creating multiple stories about Africa. Embracing the accessibility of modern technology, African social media bloggers and commentators are using Facebook, YouTube and other platforms to undermine longstanding “Afro-pessimistic” stereotypes – the backward continent characterised by strife and poverty.

By giving ordinary people the space to share their “everyday” experiences, African bloggers are capturing positive “human moments”. These moments of joy, play, celebration, love and human interaction, create new narratives of Africa.

These new representations could ignite a new Afro-positive turn.

Examples of another Africa

Different and multi-directional narratives about the continent are emerging in a number of different ways. For example, the Facebook blog “Everyday Africa” showcases,

Parkwood erupts in protest after shack demolitions

“How must we sleep now? On glass, on sand, on bricks, on garbage? They took everything from us.”

By Annie Cebulski and Aidan Jones

23 May 2018

Photo of a woman being detained after protests turn violent in Parkwood.
A woman is detained after protests turn violent in Parkwood. All photos: Ashraf Hendricks

Violence broke out after land occupiers’ shacks were demolished and removed along Prince George Drive, in Cape Town’s south peninsula, on Wednesday morning by government contractors.

Protesters set tyres, couches, garbage bins and two tall trees on fire to protest against the demolitions. At midday at least six fires were burning on the streets bordering Parkwood.

A protester wraps himself in a South African flag during a face-off with police officers.

Kenya illustrates both the promise as well as the pitfalls of devolution

Devolving power and resources from the centre to the counties was a key pillar of Kenya's 2010 referendum vote. EPA/Dai Kurokawa

It is five years since Kenya shifted from centralised control to devolution in which 47 counties were given a free hand to set their development agenda. After years of tension and turf wars with central government, the transition is now largely complete. The Conversation Africa’s Julius Maina asked Michelle D'Arcy for a broad assessment

Has devolution made Kenya’s governance stronger or weaker over the past five years and in which ways?

Both. On the one hand, institutionally it has strengthened democracy in Kenya. It has increased separation of powers by adding a new layer of governance at the county level and a set of powerful new actors in the governors. But it has had adverse effects on the politics of identity by strengthening ethnic identification and tying it to homelands. This has marginalised minorities within counties and increased new possibilities for conflict at both the county and national level.

What can you list as the main successes?

Politics and poverty caused past conflicts in East Africa -- not climate change

Women looking for water in Sudan. Climate change can play a role in forcing people to migrate. Shutterstock

It seems obvious that climate change has – and will – cause human conflict and the mass movement of people. Look at the effects of the droughts in Syria, Darfur and Ethiopia. The former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon even described the ongoing war in Darfur as one of the “first climate wars”.

Various media have even started using terms such as “climate refugees” and “environmental migrants” to describe people fleeing their homes from these climate-driven conflicts. But is there any evidence for this link between climate change and conflict? There certainly isn’t any consensus in academic literature.

Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to the effects of climate change. The UN Refugee Agency reported that over 20 million people were displaced in Africa in 2016 – a third of the world’s total. The World Bank predicts that this could rise to 86 million by 2050 because of climate change.

Why megaprojects to deliver houses in South Africa might not work

GCRO/Clive Hassel

In 2014, the South African government announced a new direction in housing policy. The aim was to phase out smaller low cost housing projects of a few hundred units and focus exclusively on megaprojects – new settlements made of multitudes of housing units combined with a host of social amenities.

Given the uneven access to housing that resulted from apartheid, housing delivery has been a major focus of since 1994. Government’s 20 year review - 1994 to 2014 - reported that 3.7 million subsidised housing opportunities were created, undoubtedly a remarkable achievement.

Nevertheless in 2014 the then Minister of Human Settlements, Lindiwe Sisulu, became extremely concerned that house production had been falling. And, a backlog of 2.3 million families remained. The Minister favoured megaprojects (also referred to as catalytic projects) as a way of getting delivery back on track.

A shock to the system: how new teachers in Zimbabwe learn to do their jobs

A great deal of teachers' learning also happens in the classroom. World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

There’s a big difference between what prospective teachers learn at university and what they find when they enter the world of work. Some scholars have called this a “reality shock”, and pointed out that it could “account for the frustration, anxiety and self-doubt many early career teachers are thought to experience”.

Other researchers have found that early career teachers who are just starting out often lack the subject knowledge that’s needed for effective teaching. There’s a discrepancy between the content they’re taught and the curricula they find already in place at schools.

And, in perhaps the grimmest description of all, some researchers have called teaching an occupation that “cannibalises its ‘young’ and in which the initiation of new teachers is akin to a ‘sink or swim,’ ‘trial by fire,’ or ‘boot camp’ experience”.

Monitoring infrastructure development through drone tech

The construction process of building schools, clinics or libraries will be monitored by the use of a drone, thanks to a new initiative launched by the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development (DID).

Chief Director for Infrastructure Research and Planning Division Amanda Moletsane, 33, is the young lady who is leading the pack in the implementation of the drone project.

She said adding cutting edge technology to service delivery adds a new dimension to the monitoring capability of the DID.

“When we came up with this project we were looking at how we could deliver in a timeous, cost-effective and more efficient manner when monitoring our projects around the province.”

Moletsane and her team started piloting the drone programme in January this year. A total of 63 projects, including clinics, schools and community centres, were selected to test the use of the drone in order to monitor a construction project.

The drone has a camera and feeds live video and images to a remote or a mobile phone which can be used remotely. That means an operator can film a construction project to check on developments and identify possible problems.

“The drone checks if there were people on site, was there equipment and material for the work that needs to be done. It would also give feedback on how far the project was in its completion.”

The drone programme is being initiated by a team of seven people one of whom is a licensed drone pilot.

She said it cost her division about R55 000 to purchase the drone, train one of her team members to be a drone pilot and to ensure adherence to South African Civil Aviation Authority regulations to operate a drone.

Moletsane said it usually cost government about R2 million to monitor infrastructure projects in the department.

The next World Forum on Local Economic Development will be held in Córdoba, Argentina

 The next Local Economic Development Forum will be held in Córdoba, Argentina

"We want to share challenges and opportunities of global and local economic development. Our country is part of the G20 but almost 30% of its population is considered to bepoor. The global challenge is "to leave no one behind" - it is faced by all actors in my city, which stands out for its leading industrial and academic sector in the Latin American region", said Ramón Mestre, Mayor of Córdoba (Argentina).

The World Forum on Local Economic Development, according to Ramón Mestre, is an opportunity to put our territory in context and to reflect on such important issues as the future of work or cooperation between cities and their key actors. It should be remembered that the mayor of Córdoba is the interim president of the Mercociudades network and the Economic Development Agency of Córdoba (ADEC), as well as being a reference in the region for his economic strategies and for having coordinated several international reflections on local economic development in regional forums.

UCLG World Congress and World Council

World Congress and World Council 2019

The 2019 Congress will provide the opportunity to present progress in the implementation of the SDGs and their impacts at local level. It should also be the occasion to show the evolution of our World Organization within the framework of its 15th anniversary.

Monday, 18 November, 2019 to Friday, 22 November, 2019

UCLG Culture Summit and Executive Bureau

UCLG Culture Summit and Executive Bureau  2019

This third UCLG Culture Summit is a global event and a meeting point of cities, local governments, national governments, civil society organizations and international organizations to discuss the current position of culture in the global agendas. It sends strong messages on the role of culture in development and provides remarkable international visibility to the host.

The Government of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires was selected as the host for the third UCLG Culture Summit in 2019, which the World Council approved in Hangzhou. The Summit will take place on 10-12 April 2019.
UCLG policy discussions will start during the Culture Summit in Buenos Aires. The statutory committees and the business session of the Executive Bureau will be organized on 13 April 2019 in Montevideo.

More details coming soon!

Wednesday, 10 April, 2019 to Saturday, 13 April, 2019

UCLG Retreat and Campus - Barcelona from 11 to 15 February 2019

UCLG Retreat and Campus  2019

The fifth edition of the UCLG Retreat and Campus will take place in Barcelona from 11 to 15 February 2019.

The annual Retreat provides an opportunity for political leaders and the technical staff from all parts of the network to come together to reflect on their priorities and coordinate their work plans for the rest of the year. The Retreat provides an opportunity to foster a sense of ownership and cohesion in the network, boosting the connections among the different parts of the complex UCLG ecosystem.

Monday, 11 February, 2019 to Friday, 15 February, 2019

Xiong'an, Xi Jinping's new city-making machine turned on

Image source:
Image source: [[ Flickr]]</span>Behind mega urban projects often stand strong political wills. Xiong'an is called China's number-one urban project, and it is orchestrated by President Xi Jinping.
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Final Winning Design Concepts Released for Resilience by Design's Bay Area Challenge

One year after the launch of Resilient by Design's Bay Area Challenge, the final nine design concepts have been selected. The Bay Area Challenge launched with a call to action to "bring together local residents, community organizations, public officials and local, national, and international experts to develop innovative solutions that will strengthen our region's resilience to sea level rise, severe storms, flooding, and earthquakes." The idea formulated as a “blueprint for resilience” that can be replicated and utilized locally and globally. Other urban challenges will also be addressed, including housing, transport, health and economic disparity as a means of not just protecting the current regions, but strengthening them.

The elite, collaborative teams include world-renowned designers like BIGMithun and HASSEL+.

Read on for more about each of the final design concepts.

7 Sites in Havana That Tell the Story of Cuba’s Rich Architectural History

© Evan Chakroff © Evan Chakroff

Havana is often referred to as a time machine that transports visitors to a particular moment in history, seemingly frozen in time. While it is a city that boasts an exhaustive timeline of imported styles, Havana in the present day is not defined by a singular historical era—either in its political climate or in its architectural zeitgeist.

North Orleans Housing / SeARCH

Courtesy of SeARCH Courtesy of SeARCH
  • Architects: SeARCH
  • Location: Spijkerkade 33, 1021 JS Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Lead Architect: Bjarne Mastenbroek
  • Area: 4850.0 m2
  • Project Year: 2016
  • Other Participants: Theo Tulp
  • Client: Hamer & Spijker
Courtesy of SeARCH Courtesy of SeARCH

Text description provided by the architects. SeARCH has designed a new residential building of 120 studio apartments for students or young professionals, located right beside our own offices on the Spijkerkade in Amsterdam North.

Calm Returns to Hermanus As Fragile Land Truce Holds

Calm returned to Hermanus on Monday as a fragile truce over land held and work on site preparation began, municipal manager Coenie Groenewald said on Monday.

"At this stage, it is quiet. We just hope and pray it's going to stay like this," he said.

A truce was brokered last Thursday over land for Zwelihle "backyarders", as the council and community leaders continued to work on a timetable for development.


Msimanga Gets Tough in Sunnyside As Tshwane Clean-Up Operation Heads That Way

In his continued declaration of war on crime, Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga set his sights on Sunnyside.

There he closed down several shops for alleged illegal trading and showed up at an apartment building where there was an apparent outstanding rates bill of more than R2 million.

"We have closed a number of illegally-operated shops. Other people were arrested for drug possession and dealing," said Msimanga.

"This is the declaration of war."


Hakka Indenture Museum / DnA

© Ziling Wang © Ziling Wang
  • Architects: DnA
  • Location: Six Village, Dadongba, Songyang County, Lishui, Zhejiang, China
  • Architect In Charge: Tiantian Xu
  • Lighting Design: Zhang Xin Studio, Architecture Department of Tsinghua University
  • Client: Songyang Dadongba County Government
  • Area: 2574.0 m2
  • Project Year: 2017
  • Photographs: Ziling Wang, Dan Han
© Ziling Wang © Ziling Wang

Text description provided by the architects. The village of Shicang, whose residents belong to a Hakka ethnic group, is located in a narrow valley in the south of Songyang Country. The Hakka are also referred to as ‘guests’, since they migrated here as refugees from northern regions in the past centuries. They have retained their special status until today, which is characterized by the strong internal cohesion of the group.

Venue Hotel / Aline Architect

© Hiroyuki Oki © Hiroyuki Oki
  • Architects: Aline Architect
  • Location: 24 Tôn Đản, Lộc Thọ, Thành phố Nha Trang, Khánh Hòa 650000, Vietnam
  • Architect In Charge: Le Minh Duc
  • Design Team: Vu Dinh Phuc, Dang Quynh Le
  • Area: 3150.0 m2
  • Project Year: 2017
  • Photographs: Hiroyuki Oki
  • Structural Engineer: Tran Viet Oanh
  • Building Contractor: Nhan Hoa JSC
  • Investor: Dong Gia Thinh Joint Stock Company
  • Land Area: 165 m2
  • Floor Height: 19 floors

New Banksy Gift Shop: Souvenirs from the Walled-Off Art Hotel in Palestine

[ By WebUrbanist in Boutique & Art Hotels & Travel. ]

Located just a few hundred meters from the checkpoint to Jerusalem and a mile from the centre of Bethlehem, the Walled-Off Hotel (a play on Waldorf) project features works of art and artistically designed rooms — it serves as a habitable way to raise funds and awareness, too.

Now, the hotel has released a set of works depicting the West Bank barrier and other regional art pieces by Banksy, rendered in miniature and only available to those who visit (most are not available online).

What Kenya needs to do to take advantage of its rainfall

About 40% of Nairobi's water supply gets lost on the way to consumers. Shutterstock/Sopotnicki

For the past month Kenya has had torrential rainfall. This followed devastating droughts in parts of the country. The Conversation Africa’s Moina Spooner asked Maimbo Malesu how the country can make better use of the rains.

What is rainwater harvesting and how does it work?

Rainwater harvesting is the capture, storage and use of rainwater. The beauty of it is anybody can do it and it can be adapted to local context. Each design can be customised to suit the needs of the user.

There are several types of rainwater harvesting systems, but there are three main ones:

In-situ rainwater harvesting refers to the capture of rainwater where it falls. This system is useful in agricultural production systems where micro-catchments are used. For example, Zai pits. These are small permanent micro-basins, excavated on the ground where you want to plant a crop. They prevent water from running off the surface and causing erosion. Instead, water accumulates and plants can be grown in them.

Kenya's death penalty plan for poachers has stirred a hornet's nest

An elephant in Kenya's Amboseli National Park. The country wants the death penalty for poachers. EPA-EFE/Dai Kurokawa

Kenya’s minister for tourism and wildlife recently announced that the country will fast track a law to make the illegal hunting of wildlife a capital offense punishable by the death penalty.

The statement has attracted a great deal of attention. So has the unclear position taken by The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES, a respected authority on the trade in biodiversity.

On May 11th, CITES re-tweeted a news article about Kenya’s proposed use of the death penalty:


Should the death penalty be considered as part of legitimate “action” for biodiversity?

CITES attached the hashtag #SeriousAboutWildlifeCrime to the tweet.

South Africa's effort to improve child health is having teething problems

Caregivers need to be educated on the importance of routine nutrition screening and interventions. Shutterstock

Understanding children’s nutritional status is important. Globally, nearly half of all deaths in children under five are caused by malnutrition. This is due to a lack of sufficient and nutritious food as well as a range of other factors such as healthcare, education, sanitation and hygiene.

Malnourished children are more likely to contract diseases such as diarrhoea, measles and other infections. These can lead to death, as well as a range of permanent mental and physical shortfalls.

In 1999 the World Health Organisation developed a strategy to tackle this global challenge. The aim was to improve the health and development of children under the age of five.

In line with this strategy South Africa’s Health Department introduced a system in 2011 to improve the way it measured children’s growth by including height measurements and recording their nutritional status. It distributed a booklet to clinics aimed at helping health care workers keep a track record of children’s health and development status.