Day care centre rebuilt after fire - for the fifth time

2 days 18 hours ago
“I just need the municipality to assist me rebuild,” says principal

By Chris Gilili

Photo of a woman showing a burnt shack
Ncumisa Yoyo shows the fire damage at the Zamani Day Care Centre she founded in Duncan Village, East London. Photo: Chris Gilili

In July, the Zamani Day Care Centre in Duncan Village, East London, burnt down for the fifth time.

“We lost most of the children’s school work, stationery and other essentials. But our principal keeps us going and motivated,” says Isabelle Quill, who has been a teacher at Zamani since 2010.

The centre is still open. Three of the 12 classrooms survived the fire; one class has been rebuilt, thanks to donations. Nine classrooms are currently functioning.

“I am someone who focuses on how I will get out of a situation rather than complain. I love children and teaching them,” says the principal Ncumisa Yoyo, who established the centre in 1995 in a two-room shack.

In 2003, a fire started from a flame stove. “The parents were cooking for a function that day. The flame stove burst and engulfed the whole place with fire. Before we knew it, all the shack structure was demolished … I managed to pick up the pieces and rebuilt the centre with donations from various people. With major help from students studying at the Brigham Young University (BYU) in the United States,” says Yoyo.

“In May 2004 a fire started from a neighbours shack … Again in 2007, after everyone was gone, in the evening a teacher called and told me the crèche is in flames. I came as fast as I could. Unfortunately, even then, nothing was saved … In December 2015 around 3am I received a call also telling me that my daycare [centre] is burning again … The latest, in July this year, happened around 9am,” says Yoyo. The cause of the latest fire is unknown.

The centre has 300 learners in day care – 250 in Duncan Village and 50 at another branch in New Life. Parents pay R150 for each child and R250 for English classes each month. The Department of Social Development assists with a food subsidy for 60 of the 300 children. Yoyo also receives donations from the National Lottery, which helps pay the salaries of five teachers.

The crèche consists of a container and zinc sheet structures. A brick building has been built after the July fire.

“One of the many challenges we have is not having electricity here. We use a gas stove to cook for children. Our electrical box burnt with the structure in 2015 and was never restored. The municipality said it will have a challenge with bringing electricity here, because of the many illegal connections around the area. I don’t want to blame the (illegal connections) izinyoka, but most of these fires come from neighbouring shacks.”

“The BYU community has always had my back. Every time I had a crisis, they always intervened. I am at a loss for words to explain how grateful I am to them. Even now, after the blaze in July they sent me money to help with rebuilding the centre … I wish the Buffalo City Metro can chip in and assist me with rebuilding all that I lost,” she said.

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Mayhem in Witsand over building of community hall

3 days 18 hours ago
Rubber bullets fired and shop looted

Text by Kim Reynolds. Photos by Ashraf Hendricks.

Hundreds protest for better services including a police station and clinics in Atlantis.
Hundreds of people protested in Witsand (near Atlantis) on Thursday, demanding a community hall, clinic, schools and a police station.

Tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades were fired on Thursday at protesters from Witsand, near Atlantis, who built barricades using trees and burning tyres. A shop was also looted.

Over 500 people from the Witsand community gathered in groups to demand a community hall, clinic, a police station and schools. The protest was aimed at the City of Cape Town.

At least 500 protesters blocked a section of the R304 with branches, tree stumps and tyres.

Community leader and South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) Member Lavapo Motshisi told GroundUp that the protest was a response to what the community sees as continued delay in the delivery of services and the construction of a community hall.

Motshisi said SANCO has been in contact with the City over the construction of the community hall, funded by an outside donor since June of last year. He said that there have been, what the community believes to be intentional, delays put in place in the contract. This includes sketches of the hall that need to be delivered to the sponsor to begin building. Motshisi said the community hall should be built because there “is no infrastructure, no clinic, no police station, no school” in Witsand, which neighbours Atlantis.

A community leaders tries to calm the situation after police gave protesters five minutes to disperse.

Binky Masega, fellow community leader and SANCO member, told GroundUp that the council had provided the community with a sketch of the community hall, but they had deemed it “fake” based on the evaluation of another resident who works in construction. She said the community wants an approved and official sketch from the City to take to Mkhulu EDP.

The protest grew in intensity and many stones were thrown. Several police in riot gear dispersed large groups at the entrance of Witsand. They used rubber bullets and tear gas.

Protesters disperse after police fire stun grenades and rubber bullets at them. Protesters retaliated by throwing rocks and bottles. The woman has just been shot in the arm (see bottom of photo).

Shortly after the first dispersing, sub council manager for Area 1 in the Western Cape, Wessie van der Westhuizen, arrived on the scene to deliver to the residents a sketch of the community building and speak with residents. Van der Westhuizen said he was out of the office during the most recent negotiations between the community and the City. He confirmed to GroundUp that outside sponsor, Mkhulu EDP, approached the City to do two development projects, with one being located in Atlantis. This development project was meant to build the community hall.

Community members still wanted an “official sketch” and to hear from Councillor Suzette Little, whom SANCO had been in negotiations with.

Police use tear gas to clear the streets.

While waiting for Councillor Little, the protest escalated with some stone throwing and well as toyi-toying.

More police arrived on the scene with a Nyala. They warned residents to disperse within five minutes. Following this warning, stun grenades were thrown, and the police began apprehending individuals, including those who looted a nearby store. GroundUp saw at least three people arrested. SAPS had not confirmed the total number of people arrested by the time of publication.

Resident Thabisa Sithole told GroundUp that the protest was not meant to be “a violent fight” but that “they [the community] want to be heard”. She said, “People are crying for schools. People are crying for clinics”.

At least one store was looted.

One resident was shot at close range with a rubber bullet leaving a large gash in her right forearm. She said she was not “doing anything wrong” and that she was concerned about her two-year-old child and now also her ability to go to work. She received medical assistance.

Following this final dispersal, the police then began to clear the streets, cutting logs and clearing brush. They stayed in the area for the rest of the afternoon.

Police make their way through the township searching for protesters.

At least three protesters were apprehended.

During a quiet break, a goat walks nonchalantly past the police.

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Stutterheim protesters burn municipal offices and clinic over lack of jobs

3 days 18 hours ago
“Unfortunately the clinic mistakenly burnt down but it was never the plan”

By Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Photo of burning clinic
Stutterheim Local Clinic burnt down on Tuesday in a protest over unemployment. Photo supplied

Armed with petrol bombs and stones, protesters barged into the offices of the Amahlathi Local municipality in Stutterheim on Tuesday. They were demanding answers about government jobs.

They set alight the municipal offices. A local clinic close to the municipal offices was burnt down too.

Protesters we spoke to said burning the clinic was not part of their plan, but destroying the municipal offices was the only thing that would get municipal officials to listen.

The protests entered their third day on Thursday. 18 people have been arrested and one person has died after being shot by police.

Tuesday’s violence came after municipal officials did not meet with protesters at Mlungisi township. The protesters say they had promised to do so.

Protesters claimed that when they went to the municipal offices, they waited outside the offices but no one addressed them.

Officials have denied this, and said the mayor tried to meet with them.

The protesters then decided to destroy the municipal building.

An eyewitness, who asked for her name not to be used, because she lives in the area, said a group of young people from Mlungisi Township in ward 14 marched to the municipal main offices on Tuesday.

She said the protesters were carrying a petition with their grievances, including that no new posts in the municipality are being advertised. The protesters claimed that interns who have been with the municipality for three years have not been given permanent jobs. They also accused officials of hiring family members or forcing youths to buy jobs.

“Next thing we saw protesters going inside the municipal offices carrying petrol bombs and big stones,” the eyewitness said.

“Unfortunately the clinic mistakenly burnt down but it was never the plan,” she said.

On Wednesday the protest started at 4am. The protesters set alight shops at Mlungisi Commercial Park Shopping Centre. Vehicles were stoned and roads closed with burning tyres.

A police vehicle was damaged. Police used rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the angry crowd who were also looting shops.

Amahlathi spokesperson Anathi Nyoka said protesters who claimed to be unemployed youth from ward 14 came to the municipality on 25 September with a petition containing a number of issues.

She said Speaker Nokuzola Mlahleki and Mayor Phatheka Qaba responded on the same day to some of the issues, resolving a number of them.

“The municipality was still in the process of trying to attend to some of the outstanding issues. Then on Tuesday they arrived at the municipality burning tyres and the mayor and speaker immediately went outside to address them, but the protesters refused [to listen] saying they wanted to be addressed in their ward,” said Nyoka.

She said they continued burning tyres and suddenly they started throwing bricks at the buildings and eventually torched them.

“On Wednesday a portion of the Mlungisi Community Commercial Park was torched,” she said.

The municipality is unable yet to estimate the cost of the damage.

Eastern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Lwandile Sicwetsha said the department is waiting for a police investigation into the burnt clinic. “Staff escaped unharmed,” he said.

Stutterheim police spokesperson Siphokazi Mawisa said the people who were arrested on Wednesday are appearing in Stutterheim Magistrate Court on Thursday. They are facing charges of public violence and malicious damage to property.

Mawisa said over 100 people participated in Tuesday’s protest.

“One male was shot and taken to hospital. The case has been transferred to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate for investigation,” she said.

Sicwetsha said the man died in hospital.

On Thursday morning, Mawisa said that the situation was calm and police were monitoring it.

Published originally on GroundUp .

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Village school has three teachers and three pit toilets for 116 learners

4 days 13 hours ago
“It’s really tough but we battle along”

By Chris Gilili

Photo of a classroom with learners in it
Mfunalwazi Primary School in Ncera Village, 30km outside East London, has 116 learners from grade 1 to 7 and only three teachers. Photo: Chris Gilili

Mfunalwazi Primary School in Ncera Village, 30km outside East London, has 116 learners from grade 1 to 7 and only three teachers. The school was established in 1994 but still has three pit toilets and one tap. Some children use an open field to relieve themselves. The floors are broken and the roof leaks when it rains.

Parents and teachers tried to make improvements using their own funds.

“When it rains, the pupils have to mop the floor because water flows in through the roof. It’s really tough, but we battle along,” says school principal Sonwabo Jimane.

Strong winds ripped off the roof of the Grade 7 class. Jimane says it was reported to the Eastern Cape Department of Education who came to assess the damage.

On the shortage of teachers, Jimane says, “I am told that currently the department cannot guarantee any new teacher for us … They said each teacher is supposed to look after 40 learners.”

Spokesperson for the department Malibongwe Mtima said, “The department has allocated a budget for this financial year to fix sanitation related issues at schools around the province. I am not aware of the broken roof situation, but will make sure a follow-up is made.”

“I cannot provide much comment about this school, especially on the understaffing, until the department has made a proper evaluation and seen what assistance is needed,” said Mtima.

Published originally on GroundUp .

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Kenya is planning to privatise prisons: why it's risky and needs careful planning

5 days 21 hours ago
Private companies can provide services - like catering - for inmates. LightField Studios/Shutterstock

Kenya is taking steps towards privatising its prisons. Gráinne Perkins asked expert Rob Allen, an independent researcher and cofounder of Justice and Prisons, about the benefits and risks of prison privatisation.

Why do countries involve the private sector in prisons?

Historically, prisons were facilities that generally fall under the authority of national governments. But this has changed over the last few decades, with private companies increasingly being brought in to run them. Governments have chosen to involve private companies in a variety of ways, for various reasons.

In high and middle-income countries some governments have contracted out –- in whole or in part –- the construction and running of prison establishments. Governments – like the US, UK, Australia and Brazil – have taken this route. The rationale has been that it will increase prison capacity, cut costs, and introduce innovation through better management and new technology. But these aims have seldom, if ever, been achieved in full. This is partly because pressures to cut costs and boost profits can mean there are insufficient staff to run safe and successful prisons.

A much larger group of countries, like France, outsource specific functions such as the provision of food for prisoners and the maintenance and repair of buildings. Services that are specialised, such as education, health care and rehabilitation, have also been outsourced. Across Europe, the trend has been towards the outsourcing of health care to private contractors.

The private sector is also increasingly involved in providing employment opportunities for prisoners while they are in jail. This can be in factories, farms or other productive activities. Such activities are commonplace in Asian prisons.

It’s this limited type of privatisation that’s currently planned in Kenya. More comprehensive private sector involvement has been proposed, but despite considerable support, it has so far not been pursued.

How widespread is prison privatisation in Africa?

The only privatised prisons are in South Africa where it’s limited to two prisons, with a capacity of 3,000 inmates. In 2002, two private companies were each awarded 25 year concessions to design, build, finance and operate each prison.

The conditions in the prisons today are generally viewed as being better than public prisons. Specifications, like accommodation and activities, in the contracts were based on prisons in the UK.

There are also countless examples of small-scale businesses being involved in prisons in other African countries.

Ethiopia’s Mekelle prison created more than 30 active cooperatives that provided work for prisoners before and after release.

Ghana is planning a public private partnership programme that would see inmates involved in large scale production of maize and oil palm as well as livestock especially poultry and piggery using prisoners.

What has the impact of privatisation been?

Experience of wholesale privatisation of prisons across the world has been mixed. And there’s no clear-cut evidence that it provides better value for money or improves standards.

Birmingham Prison in England, run by the private security company G4S, was recently taken back into public control following a disastrous inspection report highlighting shocking levels of violence and drugs. The same company lost control of a South African prison in 2013 following concerns over deteriorating safety and security.

But the company has also had plenty of successes. A G4S prison in Liverpool has generally received positive reports.

Nevertheless, there are some general concerns over prison privatisation. One is that turning prisons into a market opportunity means that companies will lobby for tougher penalties. Most of the evidence for this comes from the US.

There are more widespread concerns too that privatisation opens up possibilities for corruption among politicians, officials and even judges.

Private companies could also take advantage of the situation. In the UK, for example, two firms providing electronic tags on released prisoners were found to have been billing the government for tracking the movement of offenders who had moved abroad, returned to prison or even died.

What key steps should Kenya be taking to ensure it is done well?

The Nelson Mandela Rules –- the United Nation’s standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners – express a preference that institutional industries and agriculture businesses should be operated directly by the prison administration and not by private contractors. This is because of concerns that the prisoner’s vocational training may be subordinated to the purpose of making a financial profit from an industry in the prison.

But the UN also says that:

With the right safeguards, private companies can play a major role in providing employment opportunities inside and outside prison, as well as upon release.

Steps need to be taken to ensure prisoners are not exploited. Compelling prisoners to work for the private sector is prohibited by the Forced Labour Convention and wages and conditions should be close to normal labour. While it is legitimate for prisons to retain a proportion of income generated from work conducted by prisoners, the system needs to be transparent and accountable. Measures must be taken to minimise corrupt practice.

Because prison privatisation is a risky path to take, Kenya should carefully consider all options. There may be a case for new prisons to be built. Nevertheless, a very careful cost benefit analysis should be carried out first. For instance, a better bet may be to find ways to reduce the use of pre-trial detention – almost half of Kenya’s 54,000 prisoners are in custody pending trial -– and make more use of community service orders, instead of short prison sentences.

The Conversation

Gráinne Perkins does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Education is key to avoiding demolition in Kenya say authorities ahead of the Big 5 Construct East Africa Exhibition

6 days 14 hours ago

  •     Ongoing demolition in Kenya targets buildings that have been constructed without following the due legal process.
  •     Insight into demolition will be covered throughout free CPD certified workshops at The Big 5 Construct East Africa, 7-9 November at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre.

National Construction Authority (NCA) and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) say they will now focus more on educating Kenyans on the ‘necessary legal requirements’ for developers to avoid demolitions.

The two government institutions observe that with some 4,000 buildings targeted for demolition in Kenya, there is urgent need for construction professionals to review the correct legal approval process as a means of safeguarding future projects and avoid losses occasioned by demolitions.

NCA and NEMA, who sit on the technical committee charged with auditing unsafe buildings and those built on wetlands, say that the current demolition action whose primary focus is reclaiming riparian land in Nairobi is an example of what could happen if asset owners neglect to follow the due legal process.

The two authorities announce they will utilize The Big 5 Construct East Africa, the official Exhibition of National Construction Week Kenya, to highlight these issues.

    “The benefit of our talk at The Big 5 Construct East Africa is to help construction professionals better understand the reasoning behind the ongoing demolitions in Kenya. The NCA looks forward to providing our clients with the right advise at this event,” observed Eng. Stephen Mwilu, Manager of Regional Offices NCA.

Mwilu notes that demolition should be carried out in the reverse order of construction as far as appropriate. The structural elements, ahead of the internal floors, should be demolished in the following sequence: the slab; the secondary beams; then the main beams.

According to NEMA, non-compliance includes adding extra units on top of the approved ones, encroachment into the road reserve, encroachment into the riparian reserve and failure to observe the building line and setbacks.

 “Even when approval has been granted, failure to comply with the approval conditions is attracting demolition by the county government,” adds Leah Muthoni Mutonyi, HEW Consultant and Environmental Expert, NEMA adding that “Demolition leads to a lot of destruction on construction equipment and materials coupled with financial losses. It is therefore very necessary for developers to understand how to avoid it.”

Both NCA and NEMA representatives will be speaking at The Big 5 Construct East Africa from 7-9 November at Kenyatta International Convention Centre. More insight into the topic of demolition in Kenya will be available to visitors through the free CPD (continuing professional development) certified workshops at the event.

40 workshop sessions will cover a wealth of added topics under themes of Affordable Housing, Technology & Design in Building Construction, Project Management and Engineering, Sustainability in Construction including a dedicated series for Women in Construction.

The Big 5 Construct East Africa will also bring over 220 exhibitors from more than 20 countries including Qatar, Germany, Turkey, France, Italy, China and Greece to showcase the latest building innovations and solutions.

Now in its second edition, the launch event welcomed over 7,000 participants in 2016, hosted more than 150 exhibitors from 20 countries, and held 20 workshop sessions.

The National Construction Week organised by the NCA is backed by the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing & Urban Development. The event also enjoys the support of the Engineers Board of Kenya, the Institute of Quantity Surveyors of Kenya, Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Green Building Society, Kenya Property Developers Association and many more high-level trade associations in the construction industry.

To know more about The Big 5 Construct East Africa, click

To see the full education agenda, click

To register to attend the event, click


Informal economies are diverse: South African policies need to recognise this

6 days 20 hours ago
Informal trading in Fordsburg, Johannesburg. Shutterstock

South Africa is currently mulling over ideas and agreements that recently came out of a two-day jobs summit. The country is losing the battle against high joblessness. The latest figures show unemployment stood at 27.2% during the second quarter of this year. The number is much higher, close to 40%, when discouraged work seekers are included. This is very high by international standards since the average global unemployment rate is 7.6% while the same figure for African countries is 8.8%.

Lots was said and resolved during the job summit. But not enough attention was given to the position and role of informal employment which accounts for about one third of all the country’s workers.

This is disappointing given all the talk about jump-starting informal economic sectors and frequent mentions of developing the “township economy”. The summit agreement does reflect a broad objective of providing “township and informal settlement enterprise support”. But it’s thin on detail.

There’s even more cause given the country’s traditional approach to developing the informal sector. Many proposals focus on entrepreneurship or unleashing the potential of small informal firms. Such interventions are usually limited to support in the form of training and micro-finance. This is a fairly narrow view from a jobs creation perspective as it focuses on a very small group of informal workers.

What’s needed is a strategy with a broader view of informal employment. It must focus on increasing the incomes and improving the conditions of workers in all segments of the informal economy.

The needs of informal workers are likely to vary among different worker groups. Nevertheless, a good start would be to ensure that the regulatory environment, basic social protections and urban infrastructure are supportive. Numerous policies could be used to support informal livelihoods, such as providing access to electricity as has been done in Durban’s Warwick Junction Market.

The point is that simple policies backed by effective implementation have the potential to improve existing livelihoods in the informal economy and to create more jobs. But this can only happen if the diversity of the informal economy is well understood.

A dynamic sector

The informal economy in South Africa is relatively small compared with other developing or emerging economies. That’s not to say that it’s insignificant. A recent International Labour Organisation report showed that informal employment makes up roughly a third – 5 million – of total non-agricultural employment. This is a large segment of the South African workforce.

But what is the informal economy and why does it matter to job creation?

It’s important to dispose of the common misunderstandings. The informal economy is often depicted as part of a “shadow economy”, or informal workers as “plucky entrepreneurs” or regulation evaders. There are some activities and workers that fall into these categories. But the sector is in fact much more dynamic.

The informal economy includes a diverse set of workers. The vast majority (64%) are employees. This includes:

  • people working in informal sector entities such as small corner shops or hair salons

  • informal employees in formal firms or private households who do not have social protection or job security.

About 28% of informal workers are own-account workers which means that they are self-employed in activities such as street trading or waste collection but are not registered for tax or VAT and do not employ others.

The other group (just under 7% of the informal economy) of self-employed workers employ others in their informal sector businesses. This is the group (employers) that is increasingly receiving attention in World Bank and International Monetary Fund publications as workers that could be “formalised” and brought into the tax net and other regulatory structures.

Hierarchies of risk

Earnings and the risk of poverty also differ considerably across the informal economy.

Unlike common depictions of the informal economy as a single “undifferentiated” group of workers, the evidence shows that informal employment is complex and made up of varied sectors. For example, the links between poverty and employment differ, substantially, by gender and type of employment.

An analysis of South Africa’s 2015 Labour Market Dynamics data-set shows marked gender based wage inequalities in informal employment in the form of a pyramid hierarchy.

Poverty risk by status in employment. Source: Author’s calculations from the 2015 Labour Market Dynamics in South Africa.

Women earn less than men within each of the same broad categories of employment. Women are also concentrated in the lowest paid types of employment in the South African informal economy. Men only make up a small percentage at the bottom of the pyramid, where earnings are lowest and poverty risks are highest. Moreover, most unpaid family workers are women.

These differences have significant policy consequences. Understanding these (and other) sources of vulnerability is crucial to designing policies which address poverty reduction, gender equality and income inequality.

For example, a policy which aims to help informal entrepreneurs to expand would almost certainly have a gender bias towards men since almost 90% of informal employers in South Africa are men. And it is also likely that workers at the bottom of the pyramid will face a number of different risks from those at the top. As such, the policy solutions may vary for workers in different segments of the pyramid.

Women occupy more vulnerable positions of employment in the informal economy. Author’s calculations from the 2015 Labour Market Dynamics in South Africa.
Acknowledging diversity

As the country reflects on the outcomes of the summit on jobs there is an opportunity to think carefully about the South African workers who earn their livelihoods in the informal economy. If policymakers are serious about supporting jobs in the “township economy” they need to understand the structure of the informal economy, the different characteristics of the workers who comprise it and, importantly, which risks they face as they craft livelihoods.

The Conversation

Mike Rogan is a research associate in the Urban Policies Programme of WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing).

Thirty Keyes Residential Apartments Unveiled at Keyes Art Mile

1 week ago
The design of a new apartment block designed by StudioMAS, called Thirty Keyes, has been unveiled, adding a residential element to the Keyes Art Mile precinct in Rosebank.

View looking south east, with the Thirty Keyes residential development in the foreground and the art foundation and public exhibition space in the background. Shops line Keyes Avenue to achieve an active and walkable neighbourhood art precinct.

A series of stylish, thoughtfully designed residential apartments will soon break ground along the Keyes Arts Mile in Rosebank, ideal for those urban lovers who desire a communal, convenient and enriching lifestyle. To be called Thirty Keyes, and with a first phase of fifty-five units on sale, these apartments are set to become some of the most sought-after living spaces in Johannesburg.

The brainchild of Tomorrow Co., the same people behind the Keyes Art Mile, this project has been percolating for eight years, in which time some of the industry’s greatest minds have shaped its symbiotic character. With a strong focus on a thriving, collaborative neighbourhood, and perfectly located on the Dunkeld border, Thirty Keyes looks onto leafier suburbs whilst being a heartbeat away from the pulsing, rapidly emerging high street that is the Keyes Art Mile. Live. Work. Play. Love. Do it all.

This new venture is as much a property development as it is a commitment to sustaining and growing the thriving, interactive community that has, over the past few years, brought the neighbourhood to life. “We are so encouraged by how the Keyes Art Mile has contributed to Johannesburg’s cultural landscape,” explains Anton Taljaard, Co-Founder and Director of Tomorrow Co. “The atmosphere, sense of engagement and participation that prevails along the avenue is all set to work in harmony with the respect that the design of Thirty Keyes has given to privacy – manifested in quiet, private courtyards, rooftop gardens and the greened communal courtyard for residents only. The perfect balance has been struck between moments of quiet and engaging public spaces – which all makes for the ideal living environment for the modern, culture-loving individual”.

And that, in essence, is what makes Thirty Keyes so different. It’s a change of habit, where your living space extends beyond the front door into a vibrant, diverse neighbourhood, a seamless flow from home comforts into a highly stimulating outside world.

Beyond the private spaces of Thirty Keyes – and building on Tomorrow Co.’s alignment with and close proximity to art galleries like CIRCA, Everard Read, SMAC and TMRW Gallery – one of the standout features of Thirty Keyes is that it will live adjacent to a dedicated art foundation, a cross between a private museum and public exhibition area.

Designed as a mixed-use development with paradigm-shifting ambitions, this project aims to be a catalyst for communal values, where people walk and connect, interacting with a broader community and breathing new life into an old, cherished suburb.

With shops spilling out onto Keyes and Jellicoe Avenues to facilitate an active street life, it will be home to a range of new neighbourhood establishments – from artisanal delis and atypical restaurants to design studios, coffee shops and a selection of service outlets. This retail offering is an extension of the ‘high street’ of the Trumpet Building – home to thriving eateries like Marble, Momo Kuro, BGR and Milk Bar, and stores like Shelflife, Anatomy, Okapi and Cassina.

The concourse level, much like a piazza, is an extension of the street. It will be accessed by a generous set of stairs off Jellicoe Avenue and form a forecourt to the Thirty Keyes reception and the ground floor ‘atelier’ units and coffee shop.

The art foundation space will sit above the concourse level and will be accessed via escalators and a set of lifts and above the art space, the development will house office space, an expansive rooftop garden and two penthouses with optimal views across Johannesburg’s skyline. Residents of Thirty Keyes will have access – from their apartments via two walkways – to this building.

But it’s the open, free-flowing atmosphere and careful consideration that makes Thirty Keyes truly special. Inspired by European street culture and with a huge emphasis on courtyard living, the apartments all look out onto a central communal space, overflowing with greenery and intended as a meeting point to connect residents. The lowest level apartments are high above street level, giving all owners magnificent views, and those with private courtyards enjoy a seamless flow from indoors to out. A few of the apartments have access to private roof gardens, and the rooftop public park in the adjacent building will be open for all to enjoy. This opportunity to live inside/out, to enjoy fresh-aired freedom without having to leave your living space, is another one of this precinct’s thoughtful distinctions.

StudioMAS, the same firm that designed CIRCA and Trumpet on Keyes, are once again in charge, but as lead architect Pierre Swanepoel explains, they intend to do more than merely erect another urban monument. “Thirty Keyes is not a trophy building, but rather a testament to our belief in the unique charm of the greater Rosebank area,” he says. “Our objective is to create a space inspired by what’s already here, a building that helps shape the way people live, and that through this, these people will shape the environment around them.”

The design of a new apartment block designed by StudioMAS, called Thirty Keyes, has been unveiled, adding a residential element to the Keyes Art Mile precinct in Rosebank.

View looking west within the Thirty Keyes residential development showing the landscaped courtyard space between apartments – a space for neighbours to meet.

Private but designed to create a sense of belonging, these apartments are aligned to and influenced by global living trends, where supportive residential communities are emerging, creating inclusive buffers against the global instability that threatens to erode our empathy and humanity. A combination of minimal, understated elegance and super practical, astutely smart spatial solutions, there are a number of options for buyers to choose from:

  • Solo Series: single-level master bedroom apartments, paired with a balcony.
  • Demi Series: single-level master bedroom apartments, paired with a balcony, and either a library room or guest bedroom.
  • Demi Series Plus: single-level master bedroom apartments, paired with a balcony and a spacious second bedroom.
  • Duo Series Courtyard: two bedroom, double-level apartments, with private courtyard as well as direct courtyard access.
  • Duo Series Roof Garden: two bedroom, double-level apartments, paired with a balcony and private roof garden.
  • The Editions: double-level apartments, each with two en-suite bedrooms, a library or pyjama lounge, a spacious balcony and a private courtyard that leads to a generously proportioned roof garden with uninterrupted views of Johannesburg.
  • Atelier Series: double-level apartments designed for living and working, combining a lower-level studio or showroom space with an upper-level Solo apartment.

The apartments all ascribe to an unfettered, efficient design ethic that places as much importance on sleek, high-end finishes as it does on the real-life, day-to-day realities of inhabiting a space. Andrea Kleinloog, Partner and Interior Designer at HesseKleinloog, is overseeing all of the interiors. “To work on a residential development that is exceptional on every level is a dream project,” she enthuses. “We approached Thirty Keyes with a balanced sensitivity to ensure we stayed true to the vision of highly optimised spatial design, innate luxury and a harmonious link with the abundant natural influences. Above all, we wanted to create beautiful canvases that are open to individual interpretation.”

The design team dedicated an enormous amount to the project, fitting the apartments with the finest products from world-class brands like SMEG, Kohler and Belgotex Softology. There will also be opportunities to add additional elements or accessories like bespoke garden packages, garden furniture, and timber shutters that enhance outdoor living. All buyers will be offered a free consultation with True Design that includes preferential purchase arrangements on global design brands like Cassina, Kartell and Moroso.

The naturally sublime form of Thirty Keyes is supported by seamless functionality. The entire building is always-on with electricity and water, and all gas hobs are council-linked, while concierge, laundry, dry cleaning and tailoring services, a fibre-ready infrastructure, and in-apartment catering, grocery and floral deliveries are easily arranged. An integrated neighbourhood security system with additional control rooms and streetlights designed to increase safety are in place, and have been implemented off the back Tomorrow Co.’s existing operations.

It’s all been designed to make life simpler, to free up time and to give residents the opportunity to be inspired by the city that surrounds them. These highly efficient, incredibly functional apartments are suited to those who want the comfort and convenience of an impeccably designed space coupled with the adventure and spirit that an area like this offers on any given night. It’s intelligent living for those who live a very full life.

In addition, Thirty Keyes is conveniently central, close to transport hubs like the Gautrain, safely protected by a highly efficient patrolling service and a stone’s throw from over 250 public parking bays, these in addition to the building’s dedicated spaces. Rosebank’s premium property prices make any purchase here a sound investment.

There are many reasons to love Thirty Keyes. There’s the seamless integr

ation with an active arts precinct, a natural sense of community and effortless shifts from work life to home entertainment to social pursuits. But ultimately, it’s a blank canvas, one created for its inhabitants to create their own rituals, to customise their own experiences and to curate a life that is fulfilling, enthralling and deeply connected.


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Savage + Dodd Architects Named WAFX Winner

1 week ago
Savage+Dodd Architects in collaboration with UrbanWorks have been named the World Architecture Festival (WAF)X Power and Justice Winner 2018.

Tower Inten_city, the award-winning design by Savage+Dodd Architects in collaboration with UrbanWorks, radically shifts the status quo on urban living in Johannesburg through a story of spatial justice showcasing the conversion of a previously inaccessible 30-storey inner city tower block into a mixed-use environment

The WAFX Prize (sponsored by Greencoat) is awarded to 10 future projects that identify key challenges that architects will need to address in the coming years and was created as part of the World Architecture Festival’s 10th anniversary celebrations in 2017 (WAF 10 Manifesto).  Winning future projects which address the Manifesto issues are entered for the prize. Key challenges span diverse topic areas, including climate, energy and carbon, water, ageing and health, re-use, smart cities, building technology, cultural identity, ethics, power and justice.

The prize winners will be given the opportunity to present their projects live at the World Architecture Festival on 28th and 29th November, with the overall winner receiving a prize at the Festival’s star-studded Gala Dinner on the 30th November, the culmination of the three-day event at the RAI convention centre in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam. The WAFX judges were impressed by the diversity of innovative approaches by architects and designers across the globe, which varied from innovative solar panel fields in The Netherlands, to urban green corridors in Bangkok, eco farms in rural Vietnam and river parks in Colombia.

Over and above presenting this project on the Main Stage at the WAF Festival, Savage+Dodd and Urban Works will present their project as a WAF Shortlist competitor in the COMPETITION ENTRIE S– FUTURE PROJECT category.  Should they win in this round of judging they will go on to present to the Master Jury for the grand winner prize in the FUTURE category.



Re-imagining Tower on Main to include EQUITY, DIVERSITY and DENSITY in the inner city of Johannesburg

Rapid growth and investment resulted in an unprecedented concentration of high-rise developments in Johannesburg in the 1960s. These towers served the exclusive interests of corporate capital. After the fall of apartheid and the dramatic economic, demographic and political shifts, these towers remained unchallenged to serve their new context – one which is Urban, African + Cosmopolitan.

Further, Johannesburg has a historical debt relating to the inequality perpetuated by apartheid spatial planning which is played out through everyday experiences of living and working in the city.

Tower Inten_city is a story of spatial justice showcasing the conversion of a previously inaccessible 30-storey inner city tower block into a mixed-use environment that combines;

  • Dense apartment living that has compact living units for families and micro units for singles integrated with social interaction spaces throughout the vertical structure which provide space for relaxed and accessible social interaction whilst allowing for more residential units in the structure.
  • A social lobby envisaged as a large public living room and retail mezzanine level which extends into a plaza around the tower that includes kiosks and a theatre allowing larger public gatherings or general public recreation space.
  • Commercial office rental space that can accommodate a range of small to middle size businesses.
  • A public landmark, which uses the roof of the tower as a gathering and event space and repurposes one of Johannesburg largest electronic billboards into a public notice board broadcasting events and content relevant to its community.

The intention is to create a dense concentration of living, working and social spaces in a tower that radically shifts the status quo on urban living in Johannesburg. The potential of the proposed design solution if replicated in other corporate enclaves within Johannesburg is a renewed balance of live work and play spaces within the city.


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The Growth of Green Building in South Africa

1 week ago
Jolene Blundell, Saint-Gobain’s Head of Sustainability, elaborates on the crucial importance of moving with the times in terms of green building.

Saint-Gobain Gyproc assists clients by providing accurate and objective environmental performance data in the form of externally validated Environmental Product Declarations and Life Cycle Assessments.

Green building and sustainability are words that remain at the forefront of conversations for many South Africans and is a trend that has seen continuous growth within the building and construction industry. Jolene Blundell, Saint-Gobain’s Head of Sustainability, elaborates more on this subject and the crucial importance of moving with the times in terms of green building.

Recent attention around green building has been spurred on by public awareness around environmental issues, explains Blundell. Global warming and recent local climatic events, such as the Cape drought have highlighted the need to limit energy consumption and the waste of natural resources. According to research done on low-carbon development in sub-Saharan Africa, the construction sector is accountable for 56% of energy consumption and a yearly 3.9 tons of CO₂ greenhouse gas emissions per capita1 and as such, it is incumbent upon this category to play a key role in transitioning into a more sustainable society.  Added pressure to increase environmental awareness, continuously rising electricity prices and the introduction of energy efficiency regulations has further driven the development of more energy-efficient buildings in South Africa.

The industry has already seen a number of trends developing in relation to the growing need for greener building techniques. This is evident in the need for companies to be more transparent in terms of the impact that their products have on the environment and people. Customers want to make more informed decisions when it comes to building and construction and to enable this, Saint-Gobain Gyproc assists clients by providing accurate and objective environmental performance data in the form of externally validated Environmental Product Declarations and Life Cycle Assessments.

Another key trend is the increasing adoption of drywall building technologies. Due to its light weight and ease of installation, drywall presents several environmental benefits compared to brick or block wall systems. A third-party lifecycle assessment comparison between plasterboard systems and traditional materials in South Africa has revealed that using drywall systems instead of brick systems on 1m² of partition walls has significant savings potentials: up to 70% in global warming potential, 62% in primary energy use, 86% in wall system weight and 67% in fresh water usage.

But it’s also important to realise that green relates more to just the energy consumption in the traditional sense. On the construction site, the lightweight properties of our solutions (10 times lighter in the case of plasterboard partitions vs. traditional brick) helps to reduce transportation, crane activity and even the depth and material involved in the foundation design. Waste to landfill is reduced by bespoke board sizes to minimise cut-offs and during the design stage, specification teams work with architects and consultants on the building design to minimise waste.

“Green building is making strides within the building and construction industry, but there is still significant potential to reduce the gap as we move towards a society that fully embraces green development.   With a combination of buy-in from big companies, an increase in the use of sustainable interior construction products, more transparency on the environmental impact of products and a drive to reduce construction waste and carbon footprints, things are moving in the right direction,” concludes Blundell.

Reference: Low-carbon development in Sub-Saharan Africa: 20 cross-sector transitions, ODI 2015. Available here:


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Shangaan shop owners chased out of Duduza

1 week 2 days ago
South Africans not spared in latest xenophobic violence

By Kimberly Mutandiro

Photo of shack
Nkosi Kubheka was renting this shack to a Mozambican immigrant for R1,000 per month, who ran a kiosk from it. But in the wake of xenophobic violence the Mozambican man has left Duduza, leaving the area without a shop and Khubeka out-of-pocket.

After a four-year-old child was found dead and mutilated at Spaarwater Dam in Duduza last week, community members went on the rampage on Sunday. They looted Shangaan shops, blaming them for ritual killings.

For the past week Mozambican and Shangaan shop owners have been targeted daily with community members looting their shops. Some residents protested on the streets against Shangaan people, burning tyres and blocking roads.

But police say there is no evidence supporting the allegations against the Shangaan or foreign shop owners.

Nkosi Kubheka had been renting out a small shack to a Mozambican immigrant who had been using it to operate a tuckshop on his premises. “The death [of the child] has nothing to do with the attacks on the Shangaans. Some community members have been long planning to chase them out after they had dealt with the Somalis.”

“We have been told that the community wants to clean out all of the Shangaans. It is unfortunate because l have been getting a reasonable amount of money from renting the shack out,” he said. Kubheka said his tenant had been paying him a R1,000 monthly.

He said community members had come to his premises in broad daylight on Wednesday. They opened the roof of the tuckshop and cleaned it out.

While he was saddened by the circumstances, he says he was afraid to have a dispute with his community. “Here in Duduza, no one stands in the community’s way. If they say Shangaans must go, they must go. Or else one will die trying to defend them. The sad part is that local people cannot even run businesses. Yet they want to chase out all foreign shop owners.”

Police said the violence had been a result of a culture in the Duduza community of blaming all misfortunes on foreigners (yet many Shangaans are South African).

“We have noted with great concern that some members of the Duduza Community have got a tendency of taking their frustrations out on foreign shop owners by committing certain acts of criminality,“ SAPS spokesperson for Duduza, Captain Harry Manaka said. “We are still investigating the death of the child and have not made any arrests in that regard.”

“However three people are in custody for public violence, malicious damage to property, breaking and entering, and theft following attacks on foreign shop owners. We are also doing our best to keep the situation under control,” he said.

Manaka said police had also rescued a South African man who had been attacked by residents who believed that he was one of the suspects in the child’s murder. Residents also vandalised a police officer’s house, accusing the officer for accepting a bribe and releasing the man.

Most of the the Mozambican and Shangaan shops are closed after the owners ran away fearing for their lives.

A resident who gave his name as Sakile expressed some of the prejudices of his community. “This thing of ritual killings came with the Shangaans. They do it to make muthi for their businesses. If they return to their countries it will stop.”

He continued: “The problem is that our government creates a free environment for these foreigners. They are not afraid to commit crime here in South Africa because our jails have food and beds which they do not find in their home countries. If government worked with us we would soon have them all out of our country.”

Another community member Mduduzi (only first name given) said: “Foreigners come here and use their muthi to open businesses. If they do not kill babies they take our women and impregnate them. They flaunt money and expensive cars in front of our women. Some of them are going around in the latest double cabs and golf cars from this witchcraft. Enough is enough.”

But some Mozambican shop owners said the community members were just jealous of their success. “Us foreigners are hard workers. When the locals see us succeed they become jealous. If they think we use muthi to succeed why do they not also look for the muthi,” said Lucas Cume. “The real muthi for success is hard work.” He had been operating his shop since 2011.

Cumbe says he was attacked while he was offloading stock into his shop on Wednesday. The looters took most of the stock but he managed to escape. He says police told he and other shopkeepers to close their shops while they handled the situation.

John Sibande, who is a South African citizen from Bush Sibande, said residents also took all his stock. Sibande said that community members ill-treated Shangaan people regardless of the fact that some of them are South African citizens.

Resident Themba Mnguni said, ”A Shangaan is a Shangaan. As long as anyone speaks a Krrr Krrr language [foreign language] the community regards them as Shangaans.”

However some people told GroundUp that if the Shangaan shops were closed it would be unfortunate for the community which had now begun to rely on them after Somalis were chased out of Duduza.

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Canals remain an open sore in Masiphumele Wetlands

1 week 2 days ago
Residents unhappy with City’s efforts; Provincial government however paints a rosy picture

By Thembela Ntongana

Photo of shacks
Wetlands informal settlement in Masiphumelele is home to approximately 2,500 households. Photo: Rebecca Redelmeier

More than a year after the City of Cape Town was told by the Western Cape government to clean up the wetlands informal settlement in Masiphumelele, home to approximately 2,500 households, residents are unhappy with the lack of progress. The Western Cape government however paints a very different picture.

The first directive by the Western Cape government was issued in January 2017 and a second one in July 2017 by then Provincial Director of Environmental Law Enforcement Dr Eshaam Palmer sent to the City’s Executive Director of Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Management Dr Gisela Kaiser.

The directives stated that City had failed to address issues in Masiphumelele affecting the health and well-being of the residents and polluting the environment and that the City had failed to comply with the National Environmental Management Act. In 2015, GroundUp reported on what it was like to stay in Masiphumelele.

Palmer said the City had failed to provide toilets, ablution and washing facilities, as well as storm water management and proper solid waste services. The province ordered that the City repair all the blocked toilets, provide additional toilets, and dredge the canals every two months. The City was also ordered to provide time frames for clean-up operations, inspections and maintenance of the storm water canals, toilets and standpipes.

Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements Xanthea Limberg said at the time the City had appealed the directive, stating that it was already attending to issues in the community and was doing its best to improve the lives of residents. Limberg said nearly R2 million was spent on new water and sanitation infrastructure in the 2017/18 financial year.

The new Provincial Director of Environmental Law Enforcement Achmad Bassier said the City’s appeal was dismissed, the directive altered, and the department’s “investigation into the matter is still ongoing”.

Bassier said a compliance inspection was conducted on 4 July 2018. “It was evident that there has been a significant improvement at the informal settlement from the previous site inspections … New sewer lines have been installed and rerouted to alleviate blockages, toilets and associated infrastructure have been replaced and at the time of the inspection stormwater channels were being installed in areas where surface water had previously stagnated and/or community members would dispose of their grey water, thereby reducing the pollution on site.”

Bassier said, “The City has constructed two low flow diversion channels at certain stormwater canals to lessen the load of grey water in the canals. This also creates an alternative point for members of the community to dispose of their grey water. The City have created an innovative ablution block complete with showers, toilets and wash basins at one of the canals which would vastly improve the living conditions within the informal settlement.”

However, community leaders are not impressed. “The main issue is the canals … which people have been asking to be closed off. They are still open. The City says they clean them every day. But when you go there, they are dirty. Where is a permanent solution?” asked Masiphumelele community leader Tshepo Moletsana.

The City has built a pilot ablution facility consisting of six toilets and two showers in one section of the informal settlement. It has also put up washing basins, some of which are not yet functional.

These are some of the new toilets built in Masiphumelele informal settlement. They were not yet ready for use when GroundUp last week. Photo: Thembela Ntongana

Currently, the community has 147 toilets and 22 taps. In 2017, the City introduced portable flush toilets, but many residents in the informal settlement rejected these.

Wetlands informal settlement community leader Sithembele Mtshaba, who has been living in the area for 26 years. He said there were not enough taps in the community. “It is just not feasible … The toilets are still not enough.”

Resident Nosihle Mbewu has lived for ten years in a two-room shack with her two children and partner. “I personally do not understand the need for showers that could have been two or more toilets. Who will leave their house and go and take a shower next to the road? … There is no privacy. I’d rather use my tub.”

“Maybe what the City needs is to understand the situation that we live in. I do not know how long that will take, because we have been complaining for years. I am not going past dirty and smelly canals to go take a shower. Why can’t that money be used to close off these things [canals]?” asked Mbewu.

Mayoral Committee Member for Urban Development Brett Herron said short-term litter and night soil were removed from the canals on weekdays. He said the City was “working on a more permanent solution to the canals and improved storm water infrastructure.”

Herron said, “These plans are linked to the introduction of a new road that will provide emergency service access and improved flood protection and storm water infrastructure for this part of Masiphumelele.”

“The Environmental Impact Assessment studies for the proposed road are in the final stages of being completed. Once completed, these will be submitted to the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning and the National Department of Water and Sanitation for the relevant authorisations to permit the construction of the road,” said Herron.

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Parents have to build toilets for Eastern Cape school

1 week 2 days ago
Learners at schools in Cofimvaba have to relieve themselves outside

By Yamkela Ntshongwana and Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Photo of a row of children
Boys from Mvuzo Junior Secondary School in Cofimvaba use old, broken toilets, even though they are dangerous. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Parents at Sidubi Poort Junior Secondary School in Cofimvaba say they have decided to build toilets for their children because the Eastern Cape Department of Education has been dragging its feet for over seven years. Community members have volunteered to do the work.

The current toilets at the school in Ngxingweni village were built in 1984. There are eight pit latrines for the 208 learners and teachers. Some of the toilets are full and the seats are broken. Children and teachers have to relieve themselves in the bush outside the school premises.

Teachers say the education department first promised to fix the toilets in 2012, but keeps on postponing. “When we first asked for toilets, the teachers’s toilets were still in better condition … [Now] we are also forced to go to those bushes to relieve ourselves,” said a teacher.

A member of the School Governing Body, who did not wish to be named, said, “Teachers are supposed to be well respected people. Then tell me if they relieve themselves in bushes where is their dignity? … We can’t just sit because government is failing our children and teachers.”

“These bushes are far from the school and when learners go to them, they have to go in numbers, at least four of them for safety reasons,” said a teacher.

Unemployment is high in Ngxingweni village and most people survive on social grants, but they have been willing to use the little money they have to assist the school to build toilets.

Parents started collecting money a year ago and have so far raised just under R5,000. It is not enough for new toilets yet, and some of the funds will be used first to fix the pit latrines. Community members have been fetching sand for construction from a river bank a few kilometres away from the school.

Learners at Sidubi Poort Junior Secondary School have to relieve themselves outside. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

At Mvuzo Junior Secondary School in Qamata village, also in Cofimvaba, the education department told teachers to destroy all broken pit toilets. Department officials visited the school and said the toilets, built over 30 years ago, were putting learners’ lives at risk.

However, the department did not say when it was going to build new toilets.

The school has 321 learners from grade R to grade nine. They now relieve themselves at a wall a kilometre away. Teachers were told they have to accompany the learners, but they say they do not have time to do this.

“I’m a male teacher … What are the community members going to say when they see me watching their children relieving themselves? On the other hand, there are learners who are waiting in class for a lesson,” said a teacher. “The challenge we are facing is that when learners go to relieve themselves, they leave the school in groups … We can’t keep our classes in order. And learners are missing lessons.”

“Even if we go in groups, that does not guarantee our safety. There are snakes here and anything can happen. To be honest I’m always scared of going … but we do not have a choice,” said learner Jessica Ngqomo.

She said some boys at the school were still using the destroyed toilets and refusing to go to the bush.

Spokesperson for the department Malibongwe Mtima said the department has close to R2 billion to replace unhealthy and unhygienic pit latrines. Mtima did not respond to questions about the two schools.

Equal Education says the Eastern Cape has over 1,700 schools with pit latrines, the highest number in the country. It said the need to address this crisis cannot be overstated, particularly when taking into account the danger it poses to learners and teachers.

A toilet at Sidubi Poort Junior Secondary School. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

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After mass demolitions land occupiers return to Wallacedene

1 week 3 days ago
Family that was lawfully living on the land, but pushed out by occupiers, now lives in an Open Kadett.

By Vincent Lali

Photo of a woman and a demolished shack
Nthuseng Mzaci, centre, said she frantically moved her cupboard, TV and dishes when she saw officials arrive. “I quickly took my belongings out before they damage them as they did the last time they came here,” she said. Photo: Vincent Lali

After the City demolished as many as 600 shacks in Wallacedene, Kraaifontein, early last week, by Saturday the land was once again crowded with shacks. The City proceeded again to demolish shacks this week.

Land occupier Bukiwe Bhatyo said, “Law enforcement can shoot me and destroy my building materials, but I will build my shack again and stay here.”

Nthuseng Mzaci said the constant demolitions have affected her two children’s mental health. “My kids [in grade one and five] quickly wake up at night when they hear someone hit a corrugated iron zinc … thinking that the officials are destroying their home,” she said.

Nokulunga Koli quickly dismantled her own shack so that her building material would not get damaged.

Ntombovuyo Jola said she begged officials and started crying. They left her shack alone. She has two young children.

Community leader David Faku said residents rebuilt their shacks because they have nowhere else to go. “We can’t go back to our rented backyard shacks because we are jobless and have no money to pay rent … If the city doesn’t want us to stay here, it must tell us where we must go.”

Faku lives with his four kids, his sister, his wife and his sister-in-law.

“The government says we must use the [social] grant to buy food and clothes for our kids and take them to school. The grant is not meant for paying rent [as backyarders],” said Faku.

After the officials destroyed shacks on Tuesday last week, land occupiers turned their anger on two families from Joostenbergvlakte.

“Residents tore down their fence and houses out of anger. They were outraged and disgusted to watch them stay comfortably while the City destroys their shacks … We hear that the City gave permission to the families to stay here, why can’t it do the same to us?” asked Faku.

On Wednesday, the space where the families relocated by the City from Joostenbergvlakte had been staying was crowded with new shacks.

“We lost everything,” said Jenny Badernhost, one of the Joostenbergvlakte family members. “The NGO that assisted us gave us a bit of food, but we don’t want to stay at the NGO place.”

Badenhorst said she and her family now stay in an Opel Kadett in Kraaifontein.

“We are still shocked, but we will get through this,” she said.

Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements Councillor Xanthea Limberg said: “The City has conducted numerous anti-land invasion operations on this land parcel, given the repeated attempted land invasions over the past months … The City has also obtained an interdict protecting this land parcel from illegal occupation.”

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Residents expelled from Blikkiesdorp amidst racial tensions

1 week 3 days ago
Over 20 people have sought shelter in the Methodist Church in central Cape Town

By Mary-Anne Gontsana and Ashraf Hendricks

Photo of mother and child in church
Washiela Baeers cleans her six-month-old son Waseem. Baeers has been a resident of Blikkiesdorp for ten years. She is now staying in the Central Methodist Church in Cape Town so that “I can sleep tonight”. Photos: Ashraf Hendricks

Fearing for their lives, at least 22 people have moved from Blikkiesdorp and into the Central Methodist Mission Church in central Cape Town. This includes eight children, the youngest being six months old. Where they go to from here is uncertain.

Eight families were forced to vacate their structures in Blikkiesdorp on Wednesday evening, following threats made to them by other residents. The old Blikkiesdorp Joint Committee (BJC) members claim that there is an ongoing power struggle between black and coloured residents.

The families say they have received numerous threats from members of the newly formed BJC. One threat is that their structures would be burnt down with them inside. This was the push that has got them to leave Blikkiesdorp.

GroundUp watched as residents scrambled trying to find transport and spaces for the safekeeping of their belongings they could not take with. Residents could be seen helping each other move refrigerators and clothes.

Etienne Claasen is a member of the old BJC. He felt compelled to move out of Blikkiesdorp. “This whole thing started about a month and a half ago because of a rumour,” he said. “There has always been a problem of crime here, like house break-ins, people being robbed. There have always been gangsters. But then a rumour started; I don’t know by who, that a coloured gangster raped a black woman. This led to the black residents retaliating and deciding that they would chase out the gangsters themselves, and they came to the conclusion that the gangsters here are coloured.”

Claasen said since then, there have been a lot of violent incidents, including people being beaten up, with many people including himself being targeted.

He says apart from the crime, there was also infighting over the future of the BJC and housing opportunities for residents of Blikkiesdorp.

“I have been a member of the BJC for the past five years. We have worked tirelessly to be part of the Airport Company of South Africa’s (ACSA) Symphony Way Development, which will see Blikkiesdorp residents being moved from here to there. Now, these new people want to come in and take all the credit for our hard work. But that will not happen, otherwise this whole development will not happen. We will not let it. Right now we are being threatened and chased out of our houses because these new BJC members want to bring in their relatives and friends from surrounding areas like Marikana informal settlement to occupy our structures,” said Claasen.

Another resident, Jane Roberts said they were at a loss about what to do. Even the ward councillor and the police were of no help, she claimed. “I live with my daughter and my two grandchildren aged three and ten. I don’t know what is going to happen with us. The police are not always going to be here to check on us and keep us safe.”

Ward councillor for ward 106, Xolani Ndongeni, said he was not aware of the families that had moved out of the area. But he said the conflict arising in Blikkiesdorp was due to housing and crime.

Ndongeni told GroundUp that on Saturday a house was set alight after it was petrol bombed by residents who were looking for an alleged drug dealer. He said 39 residents were displaced due to the fire which damaged other houses.

“As for the housing issue, residents have been waiting ten years to be moved from Blikkiesdorp and there is a new development on the cards from ACSA, but it is still in the planning phase,” he said.

Attempts to contact the people accused of chasing the residents out of Blikkiesdorp have so far been unsuccessful.

Residents try to store their furniture in nearby homes, because they fear it will be stolen after they leave Blikkiesdorp.

Etienne Claasen says that he was threatened and chased out of Blikkiesdorp. He is now staying at the Central Methodist Mission Church in the city centre.

At least 14 adults and eight children spent Wednesday night at the church. How long they will be staying there is unclear.

Rugshana Hartley sits with her six-month-old baby Naifah. Hartley says that staying at the church is “ok”, but “my heart is in Blikkiesdorp”.

Coffee, bread, milk, chocolate and soup have been donated.

Badronessa Morris says that she was threatened so she left Blikkiesdorp. She says she was told that if she didn’t leave her home, it would be burnt down.

A child passes the time drawing in the church.

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Wallacedene shack dwellers close down housing project

1 week 4 days ago
City of Cape Town says project should not target one specific community only

By Vincent Lali

Photo of protesters
Wallacedene residents are demanding to be prioritised for a housing project. Photo: Vincent Lali

Dozens of angry shack dwellers who live in a Temporary Relocation Area (TRA) in Wallacedene marched to Kraaifontein police station to deliver a memorandum of demands to the City of Cape Town on Monday. Community leader Thembelani Mzola handed over a memorandum to Acting Subcouncil Two Manager Amelia van Rhyn. Marchers toyi-toyied and held placards that read: “We want houses” and “We want answers today or no Maroela Project”.

According to Mayoral Committee Member for Urban Development, Councillor Brett Herron, the Maroela housing project is a breaking new ground (BNG) state-subsidised housing project for beneficiaries registered on the City’s housing database.

But the protesters want the Maroela project exclusively for residents of TRA informal settlement.

Herron said about 20% of the houses will be allocated to people from other areas who have been on the City’s housing database the longest. “The Maroela Housing project is not intended to benefit one specific community or group. Instead, the purpose of this project is to accommodate as many beneficiaries as possible who have been registered on the City’s housing database.”

Construction on the Maroela housing project started on 27 September but was forced to stop on 1 October by the shack dwellers.

“If the City ignores our demand, we will shut down the project for good,” said Mzola.

“We want the housing project to cater only for residents of TRA because they have been waiting for houses for too long … We don’t want residents from outside Wallacedene to get houses from the project,” said Mzola.

“We live under inhumane conditions,” he said. “Some residents settled in the TRA about 13 years ago and the City told them that they would be moved to somewhere dry, but they are still staying in waterlogged shacks.”

He said a dozen shack dwellers shared a toilet and the City had not cleaned the toilets for almost a year.

Chairperson of Wallacedene policing forum Mawethu Sila said, “As long as the City doesn’t involve the shack dwellers in decision making, they will protest … The City must first deal with the overcrowding before it brings people from outside.”

But Herron said, “The project steering committee for the Maroela housing project was [democratically] elected at two public meetings held on 8 December 2015 and 30 June 2016.”

Receiving the memorandum, Van Rhyn said the project steering committee and project officials would discuss the shack dwellers’ demands.

Herron said, “We cannot allow a situation where certain residents get access to housing opportunities at the cost of those who have been waiting for years for the very same housing opportunity.”

“The purpose of the City’s housing database is to ensure that housing opportunities are made available in a fair, transparent, systematic, and equitable manner, and in accordance with our housing allocation policy to ensure that no one jumps the queue.

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Accra's informal settlements are easing the city's urban housing crisis

2 weeks 1 day ago
Accra's sprawling slums. Nataly Reinch/Shutterstock

Informal settlements continue to remain a significant component of many cities in the developing world. UN Habitat describes them as lacking security of tenure, not having durable housing and short of basic services. Globally, almost one billion people are hosted in informal settlements. This is expected to increase to 1.5 billion by 2020.

In sub-Sharan Africa, about 60% of all urban residents reside in slums and their level of deprivation is considered to be comparatively severe. In view of the recent urbanisation trends on the continent, much of the projected urban population growth is expected to be absorbed by slums.

In spite of this reality, slum dwellers continue to be marginalised, brutalised by the state and forcefully evicted. They are also frequent victims of demolitions and displacements. However, slums are critical for the future wellbeing of many urban residents across the continent because they provide a refuge.

This is true in Accra where close to half of the city’s population live in informal settlements.

In this article, we shed light on the broader dynamics of urban housing, and the rental regime that has pushed many people into the informal settlements. We argue that slums are more than just marginalised spaces of abject poverty and neglect.

Accra’s housing crisis

Housing in Accra is something of a paradox: a boom in supply for the wealthy, and scarcity for those at the lower ends of the income strata.

According to the Ghana Housing Profile, 60% of all urban households in Ghana occupy single rooms. Only 25% of households own a house. The remainder either rent or live rent-free in a family house. Urban housing is also regarded as very expensive.

Because of a lack of affordable, decent and secure shelter for the low-income population it’s generally accepted that there’s a housing crisis in the Ghanaian capital. This crisis was instigated by the withdrawal of the state as an active provider of housing.

The state withdrew following the adoption of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s structural adjustment programs introduced in the 1980s. At that point market-led policy became the mainstay in housing provision. The private rental housing market was commercialised resulting in a boom in profit-driven housing production that targetted high-income residents.

Exclusive apartments, gated communities and high-end residential units mushroomed across the poorly controlled housing landscape.

Thanks to rising land prices, a decline in the access to land, and a lack of access to housing finance, many low-income and lower-middle class workers are pushed out of the housing market.

This has pushed most of them to rely on the informal rental sector. There, landlords exploit the vulnerability of the their tenants often demanding several years of rent in advance.

Can upgrading slums help solve the crisis?

About 45% of Accra residents live in some form of slum housing. These areas are overcrowded, have limited access to piped water and poor sanitation facilities. But this is only part of the picture. Slum housing means more to local residents than the stereotypical depictions of deprivation and poverty.

Urban slums like Old Fadama allow many people to escape the near homelessness that Accra’s housing crises creates.

Old Fadama is the largest informal settlement in the city of Accra. In media and political circles it is often cast as dystopian. But for many it’s the one of the few places they can be assured of access to cheap and alternative housing while still remaining close to core services in the city of Accra.

This informal settlement sits on public land that was initially acquired by the Government of Ghana for the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project. The project was abandoned and the land remained undeveloped until the 1980s when the informal settlement began.

Since then the population has grown substantially. Between 2004 and 2007, for instance, the population doubled from 24,000 to 48,000. The most recent data suggests that nearly 80 000 people now live in the area.

This exponential growth can be attributed to the fact that Old Fadama provides cheap, centrally located housing. Moreover, not all housing is substandard. Relatively better-quality houses can be found in unplanned areas at more affordable prices than other areas in Accra.

This is borne out by the fact that Old Fadama doesn’t only house the informal poor. A recent study suggested that about 15% are formal sector employees.

Old Fadama is an entry point to basic housing for those in both low-paid formal and informal employment. For many in this slum, access to cheap housing in the city’s economic heartland has made it possible to capitalise on their capabilities, and enabled them to try and move out of poverty.

Policy and project experimentation

There’s an urgent need for targeted interventions around slum housing in Accra. Fortunately, the 2015 National Housing Policy, and the newly established Ministry for Inner City and Zongo Development, are good starting points. Both emphasise support for the urban poor and low-income housing.

Additionally, civil society groups are experimenting with collective self-help housing– such as the Amui Dzor Housing and Infrastructure Project implemented by the Ghana federation of the urban poor in collaboration with the government and UN Habitat– for low-income groups. In view of this, we suggest that there is a need to combine policy support with project experimentation for house improvement in urban slums.

This should be considered as part of a housing program that involves state leadership in providing ‘real’ affordable housing. There is also a need to provide funds for social housing, enforce regulation of the rental market, and support the informal housing sector. This would add up to a solid commitment towards every citizen’s right to decent, secure and affordable housing.

The Conversation

Seth Asare Okyere is part of a collaborative research team that receives funding from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) for urban socio-spatial studies and action research in Accra, Ghana.

Jerry Chati Tasantab is affiliated with the University of Newcastle. He receives the University of Newcastle International Postgraduate Research Scholarships (UNIPRS) and University of Newcastle Postgraduate Research Scholarship (UNRS External) for his PhD in Building since 2017.

Matthew Abunyewah receives funding for his PhD in Disaster Management from the University of Newcastle International Postgraduate Research Scholarships since 2015.

Lottery money goes to waste as school falls apart

2 weeks 2 days ago
R28.3 million handed over to a boxing promoter with no experience in construction

By Kaizer Nengovhela and Raymond Joseph

5 October 2018

Photo of plaque
This plaque was unveiled during Vhafamadi High School’s official opening in December 2016. The shoddy workmanship is clear from this photo, including the fact that the plaque has not even been cemented permanently in place almost two years later. Photo: Raymond Joseph

A school in Vuwani in Limpopo that was rebuilt less than two years ago with a R28.3 million Lotto grant is falling apart because of structural problems.

Nineteen months after the school was opened with great fanfare, parts of the buildings are unsafe to use as they have developed cracks and other serious structural problems.

At least a third of the new classrooms and parts of the administration centre have been cordoned off with tape to block access to unsafe areas. Makeshift lintels supported by wooden poles have been erected to support parts of buildings that are in danger of collapsing.

Sections of walls in front of some new classrooms at Vhafamadi High School have had to be propped up because of structural problems caused by poor workmanship. Photo: Raymond Joseph

Cement is falling out between bricks and many of the classrooms have developed cracks in their walls. Students say they feel unsafe and some are experiencing respiratory problems because of dust from the walls and ceilings in some classrooms still in use.

Questions are now being asked as to why a non-profit organisation, run by a Limpopo boxing promoter with no experience or track record in the building or construction industry, was chosen as a recipient to handle the multimillion-rand grant.

It also appears that the National Lotteries Commission failed to do proper due diligence when boxing promoter Azwindini Simba was appointed to oversee the multimillion-rand project and during the building of the school.

The official handover of the new Vhafamadi High School took place in December 2016. Dignitaries at the handover included Ishmael Kgetjepe, Limpopo’s Education MEC, and Lottery Chairperson Alfred Nevhutanda. Traditional leaders, community members and learners also attended.

The school was destroyed in a fire during violent protest actions the year before. The violence, which began in 2015 and continued into 2016, left about 30 schools totally or partly destroyed, affecting more than 50,000 learners. The protests were against the incorporation of several municipalities into the new Collins Chabane municipality.

The multimillion-rand Lottery grant was used to construct 20 new classrooms, a library, a computer lab, a science laboratory, a kitchen and a school hall at Vhafamadi High, according to the 2017-2018 Annual Performance Plan of the National Lotteries Commission (NLC).

Who received the money?

In a press release after the school’s official opening, the NLC said that it had been approached with a request to help fund the rebuilding of the school. The assistance was approved in terms of the Commission’s “proactive funding” model. This allows the Board to identify needs in communities and allocate funding to address them.

The funds to rebuild the school were channelled through the Simba Community Develop Foundation (SCDF), an NPO run by Simba.

Though he had no experience in the building industry or in handling big projects, the NLC appointed Simba as the “implementing agent” responsible for hiring contractors and overseeing the “flagship” project. This was in spite of the fact that his NPO is non-compliant in its reporting to the Department of Social Development, according to the records held by the NPO Directorate.

Documents made available by the department show that SCDF was issued with “non-compliance notices” in 2015 and again in 2016 after it failed to submit financial statements and to meet other statutory reporting criteria. The foundation was warned in 2015 and again in 2016 that failure to submit the necessary documentation and rectify some issues would result in its deregistration.

But though the foundation did not comply with these warnings, its registration was never cancelled, thanks to a moratorium on removing non-compliant NPOs implemented in 2015 by then Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and still in force. As a result, an unknown number of non-compliant NPOs such as the SCDF, which would have been deregistered were it not for the moratorium, are still included on the department’s register of NPOs. Some of these NPOs have received funding from the National Lotteries Commission.

The old Vhafamadi High School that was destroyed by fire during protests that swept through the Vuwani area of Limpopo in 2015 and 2016. Photo: Raymond Joseph

Finding the builder

The Commission is, at the best of times, not the most transparent of institutions. It routinely refuses to make specific requested information and documentation available about funded projects and the organisations involved in them. When members of the media have resorted to requesting the information under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) legislation, these requests have often been denied by the Lotteries Commission for various reasons, including the need to protect the privacy of people involved in Lottery-funded projects.

During our investigation into the school-building project, information about SCDF was obtained via the records filed at the NPO Directorate.

Contacted for comment, Azwindini Simba said he had no knowledge about the construction work done at the school. “I know nothing about what is going on at the school. My only role was to produce the [NPO] document for that project to assist them to get funding from the Lottery. I know nothing else … I know nothing about any problems at the school. The only time I visited the school was when I attended the opening. I never went there at all while it was being built.”

Simba said a committee had been elected to oversee the project and to appoint contractors to oversee the building of the school. He declined to name the company that built the school. Instead, he referred inquiries to a man he would only identify as “Tshisimba”, who he said was “directly involved” and had attended meetings with the National Lotteries Commission to discuss the problems at the school.

In a brief telephonic interview, “Tshisimba” - who claimed his name was actually “Simba” – said: “Are you sure there is a problem at the school?”

When he was told that reporters had visited the school and had also taken photos of the damage, he changed tack and said: “The Lottery did not fund the parts where there are problems”. He said there had been insufficient funds to build the school and “our company funded parts of it.” Told that the Lotteries Commission had claimed to be the sole funder of the project, “Tshisimba” said: “The Lottery has not given you the right information.”

The National Lotteries Commission said it was “unaware” of any other “funding or funders” involved in the project.

“Tshisimba” said that the company that built the school would only comment at a face-to-face meeting at their offices in Johannesburg. Later he said that “my MD will call you” but refused to name the company or the managing director and would not supply phone numbers for either. Pressed further, he abruptly hung up.

A while later, “Tshisimba” called back to say, “the MD will call you” and hung up again when questioned further. The “MD” never called and SMSs to “Tshisimba” went unanswered.

Azwindini Simba, whose NPO was used to apply for a multi-million rand Lottery grant to build the new school. Photo supplied by Limpopo Mirror

Lotteries Commission is aware of the problems

But the National Lotteries Commission denied that Simba was merely used as a conduit to channel money to other organisations. The legal executive manager of the Commission, Tsietsi Maselwa, said that Simba was “the beneficiary” and was responsible for appointing contractors for the construction of the school. “In terms of the Lotteries Commission funding regulations, only non-profit organisations can be funded, and the subsequent contracting of companies becomes the responsibility of the funded NPO, and therefore the money could not have been paid directly to the contractor/company that would have been engaged in the work,” he said.

Tsietsi confirmed that the Lotteries Commission was aware of problems at the school. “The NLC … subsequently appointed an engineering company which has assessed the extent of the challenges and compiled a report for consideration by the NLC. Upon assessment of the report, the NLC has engaged the implementing agent and outlined corrective measures to be implemented. The NLC is currently undertaking monitoring and evaluation processes in line with its funding policies.”

But Simba said that while he was aware that a meeting had been held at the school with representatives of the Commission, he had not attended it and was unaware of the discussions that had taken place. He had also not been contacted by the Commission.

This is not the first time that the Lotteries Commission has been questioned about implementing proper monitoring systems.

Earlier this year, chief financial officer Philemon Letwaba, in response to queries about another Lottery funded project, explained that the Commission did not get involved in the implementation of funded projects. “However, we provide any support necessary to ensure that the beneficiary is well capacitated to deliver on the project; this is required by the regulations and the Act. It is the responsibility of the NPO to ensure the appointment of adequately competent service providers to ensure the quality of the work meets the standards. [The] NLC has a team of engineers who give reports on the quality of the work done on all our infrastructure-funded projects. The NLC has monitoring and evaluation which monitor the implementation of such projects.”

Official opening of the new school in December 2016 (from left to right): Vhafamadi High School principal Mashau Thenga, Chief Livhuwani Matsila, traditional leader ThoveleVho-Thavha, National Lottery Commission Chairman Alfred Nevhutanda, Deputy Minister Obed Bapela and MEC Ishmael Kgetjepe. Photo supplied by Limpopo Mirror

“It can collapse at any time”

Parents and learners are concerned that the school “could collapse at any time”. They blame poor work by contractors and say the damage must be properly repaired. Learners complain that dust from the cracks often falls on them in some classrooms which are still in use.

Parents say they have pleaded with the Department of Education to fix the school, but their appeals have fallen on deaf ears.

Parent Mercy Mugovhani said parents were worried about the safety of their children. “There was no greater joy for the parents than witnessing the construction of the new school building in 2016, but now it’s a nightmare.”

Mugovhani said she was “disappointed” that, even though the school had received more than R28-million from the Lottery, the contractors had done a shoddy job. “We had hoped our school would be rebuilt properly. We’re not saying we want a new school, but we would be happy if they fix the cracks and renovate the buildings,” she said. “We fear for the safety of the learners because the buildings could collapse on top of them. We are also worried because the conditions at school are not conducive to learning. In some classes, there are walls that are cracked and could collapse at any time. This disturbs the learners, especially when it is rainy.”

A teacher at the school, who asked to remain anonymous, said the crumbling infrastructure was a barrier to teaching and learning. “On rainy days we can hardly teach because the learners cannot focus,” he said.

A learner, who also asked to remain anonymous, said cracks had developed in the new toilet block. “We go to the toilets in groups because it’s so dangerous”.

Provincial education spokesperson Sam Makondo said that the department was engaging with different structures to try and resolve the issue.

Local traditional leader Thovhele Vho-Thavha Mashau said he had received a report from community members about the problems at the school. He said that the school or school governing body should report such problems to him, in his capacity as the traditional leader of the community. He said that he would visit the school himself to find out what was happening, adding that learners must be taught in a healthy environment with safe classrooms.

Mashau-Magweni Civic Association’s secretary Polinah Malemela said that the association had not received any reports about problems at the school. She said that if the classes were damaged, the contractor must rebuild the school, “because he is the one who built it and was paid”.

This article was co-published with the Limpopo Mirror.

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Banks are clogging up the justice system, says court

2 weeks 3 days ago
Pretoria High Court orders banks to use magistrates’ courts when acting against debtors

By Ciaran Ryan

Photo of bank
Banks seeking judgment against borrowers should use the magistrates’ courts, the Pretoria High Court has ruled. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

A full bench of the Pretoria High Court ruled last week that magistrates’ courts should be the first port of call for banks seeking judgment against their clients. On Wednesday we explained the arguments in the case that dealt with access to justice for distressed debtors. But another important part of the case was how these applications to the court by banks have clogged up the high courts.

The Pretoria High Court judges said the number of new cases coming before the Pretoria High Court had increased to nearly 100,000 in 2016 from 74,000 in 2012. In the Johannesburg High Court the case load is more stable, increasing to nearly 50,000 in 2017 from about 48,000 in 2012.

The two courts had about the same number of judges: 40 permanent judges and 23 acting judges in Pretoria, and 38 permanent judges and 24 acting judges in Johannesburg. Judges sat in court almost every day and were forced to write judgments after hours or on weekends, the judges said.

“This results in inordinate delays in delivering judgments. Obviously this is an untenable situation that needs to be addressed in the interests of justice,” reads the Pretoria High Court judgment.

They said judges were also taking longer in trial preparation due to changes to court rules allowing for reserve prices to be set in cases where repossessed homes are sold at auction. All this resulted in delays of four to five months for cases to be heard. The problem was aggravated by banks bringing cases before the high court which should properly be heard in the magistrates’ courts.

The judgment says it becomes untenable for a single judge to hear 80 unopposed matters (where the defendants put up no opposition) in a day. This has now been limited to 60 matters per judge per day.

The tendency of banks to launch proceedings in the high courts poses a threat on two levels, says the judgment: it affects the right of access to justice for poor litigants, and places an unsustainable burden on the courts.

The judgment summarises the reasons why banks approach the high courts for relatively trifling amounts:

  • There are long delays in the magistrates’ courts, and banks have problems securing hearing dates.
  • There is a lack of uniformity in the granting of orders in magistrates’ courts.
  • Unnecessary queries are raised by debtors.
  • Magistrates are reluctant to declare that properties can be sold at auction by the bank to recover debts.
  • Attachment orders issued by magistrates’ courts lapse after a year, while in high courts they do not lapse. (An attachment order means the banks can take possession of a house or car being paid off, if the client defaults on loan repayments.)
  • Motor vehicles depreciate rapidly, and banks need swift and effective action.
  • It is not always cheaper to litigate in the magistrates’ courts.

In its court papers, Absa argued that the Superior Courts Act says that where two or more courts have concurrent jurisdiction, the bank should not be limited to accessing any one of those courts. But the Pretoria High Court saw it differently, arguing that the primary constitutional right is not to gain access to a particular court, but to a fair hearing before “a court” or other independent tribunal.

Paragraph 81 of the judgment criticises the banks for hauling matters before the high court when they should be heard in the lower court. “Lamenting about perceived inefficiency of the magistrates’ courts does not constitute a valid reason to approach the high court as the court of first instance. The inefficiency, if it exists, must be addressed on another level. The banks must also adjust their thinking.”

This is the second of two articles on this case.

Published originally on GroundUp .

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Overflowing sewage, no electricity, one tap and two toilets for over 300 residents

2 weeks 5 days ago
Residents of Duncan Village blame councillor

By Chris Gilili

Photo of a street with shacks
Residents of C Section in Duncan Village, East London, say they live in squalor. Photo: Chris Gilili

Shack dwellers in Duncan Village, East London, accuse their councillor of doing nothing about overflowing sewage in their area. In turn she has accused residents of vandalising the toilets. “Residents must learn to take care of their own sanitation system,” she says.

Area 15 in C Section is home to nearly 300 people living in shacks. They share one tap and two functioning toilets. They have no electricity.

Resident Bongani Kweya said, “The dirty water from this drain goes all the way down and stops by my shack. I even tried to dig a trench for it to flow… The whole area here stinks … We really cannot bear the smell.”

Sinazo Khalimashe said, “The smell gets worse every day. Sometimes I sleep at my friend’s place to avoid being around this. You see human waste flowing with the dirty water. I have reported this to the councillor and she keeps on promising that something will be done about it, but it never happens.”

Resident and ward committee member Mpana Ngemntu said there had been no electricity since 2014 when the electricity supply box was damaged in a fire. A new box had been brought but had not been connected.”It is not working and just an ornament.”

“Our ward councillor lives very close, in Toilet City, but her house has a functional sewerage system. She appears as someone who doesn’t care about us … We have written her several letters asking her to community meetings but she has never bothered coming,” said Ngemntu.

Ward 2 councillor Ntombizandile Mhlola denied the claims made by residents. “Those are just people who do not want to see me as a councillor in this area. I have a lot of areas to look after within the metro. I cannot really focus on one area. I also inherited some of the issues here from the previous councillor.”

Mhlola said, “Littering and vandalism propagated by residents sometimes contributes to the problem of blocked drains. Sometimes people dump things that do not belong in drains. They dump used diapers and bones, which make the drains get clogged. Residents must learn to take care of their own sanitation system. ”

Mkhuseli Nongogo, Engineering and Sanitation Programmes Manager for the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, said, “The municipality will look into the drain issue this financial year. However, it is the people’s duty to take care of drains by looking at what they dump [in them].”

“As the municipality we will make sure we follow up on this as soon as possible. That is all I can say.”

Published originally on GroundUp .

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