Nearly 1,800 low-income families could benefit from Conradie Hospital housing project

3 days 2 hours ago
Western Cape government confirms development will proceed

By Cally Ballack

Photo of a development
Artist’s impression of the future Old Conradie Hospital Development in Pinelands. Source: Western Cape Government

The Western Cape Provincial Executive has confirmed a decision to dispose of the old Conradie hospital site to Concor Construction and proceed with the R3-billion development, announced Premier Helen Zille on Wednesday.

The project, called the Conradie Better Living Model, is a public-private partnership. The development will include subsidised housing units, as well as affordable housing units located close to the Cape Town CBD for families who earn between R1,500 and R22,000 per month.

Construction will include 3,602 residential units of which 1,764 will be grant-funded, affordable units.

There have been objections to the size of the development by people living in the area.

Processes with the City of Cape Town, including the allocation of funding by the Urban Settlement Development Grants (USDG), need to take place before construction can begin. These processes are expected to be completed by the end of this year.

“At this stage we are hoping to hand over the site to the developer early in January [2019], but that is subject to the processes that the City concludes. … Once the property is handed over to the developer there is a design phase that starts off, and that design phase is for all the bulk infrastructure that will eventually be constructed,” said Mark Munro, the project manager of the Conradie Better Living project. “That will take the better part of nine months, so physical construction would ideally only start toward the end of 2019.”

Donald Grant, Western Cape Transport and Public Works MEC, said a signed agreement was made with PRASA to upgrade the Thornton and Old Mutual train stations.

Zille said, “Previously the government would focus on housing for people who are completely indigent. Now they are moving up the range to make housing more affordable as well for people who can afford to pay something, but not everything. And that is the category we are looking at in this particular development.”

Munro said that the Social Housing Act stipulates that no less than 30% of the social housing income band should be allocated to the lower portion of that band.

“The lower portion of that band … is between R1,500 and R5,500 per month. So essentially 30% of the total allocation [of units] must be allocated to that income bracket,” said Munro.

Western Cape Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Mandikizela explained that those who qualify for social housing will be considered on a “first come first serve” basis if they are situated within a 7km radius of the development.

Published originally on GroundUp .

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South Africa needs to refresh how it manages by-products from mining

4 days 12 hours ago
A gold tailings dam under construction in South Africa. Author supplied

To extract minerals from host rocks, mines grind down rock into fine sand. Once the mineral is extracted, most of this fine sand remains as a by-product called tailings. Every mining operation produces a unique tailings stream and local conditions dictate storage options.

In countries like South Africa which has a big and robust mining sector, tailings need to be managed with extra care. Typically they’re conveyed as a slurry and placed into dams that are incrementally built over a mine’s life. This watery tailings slurry takes a long time to dry out and gain strength, resulting in unique challenges. If they aren’t managed correctly, the results can be disastrous – and even fatal.

South Africa has more than 200 active tailings dams and many more dormant facilities. The Departments of Mineral Resources, Environmental Affairs and Water and Sanitation all have regulations for the management of these facilities. The aim is to maintain a balance between environmental protection, economic growth and social development.

There have been two major tailings dam failures in South Africa in the last half century – in 1974 and 1994. As many as 29 people died. These two failures galvanised the industry, leading to a better technical understanding of tailings dams and the development of systems to manage the inherent safety risks.

This progress – and the fact that there have been no further catastrophic failures in the last 20 years – can easily lead to complacency. But recent disasters in Canada and Brazil have shown how quickly things can go wrong. The recent failures of the Mt Polley Tailings Dam in Canada and Fundão Tailings Dam in Brazil have shown that even though the risks are known and technical solutions are available, failures still happen. Failures can result in the loss of life, environmental destruction and financial damage that could exceed the mine’s capacity to pay.

These international failures have highlighted the need for South Africa to revise its laws and regulations. Mining houses and the government need to take stock of these two incidents and look back at local failures with a view to improving practices. The tailings industry comprising of design engineers, tailings dam construction contractors, mining houses and regulators need to join together to update codes of practice, and commit to current best practice in the South African context.

Better technical and operational understanding

Forty four years ago a platinum tailings dam operated by the Bafokeng Mine failed tragically. Tailings from the dam flowed 45 km flooding a mine shaft, trapping and killing 12 miners.

Bottom left corner shows the breach at Bafokeng Mine with the scar of released material extending into the middle of the dam. M Duncan

Various theories were put forward for the failure. In the end the likely cause was identified as being concentrated seepage through the dam wall. Poor management of water on the dam surface and heavy rain prior to the failure were equally considered causes of the failure.

Almost 20 years after the Bafokeng failure a tailings dam collapsed, releasing tailings that engulfed the village of Merriespruit and killed 17 people, many of whom were children. This brought into stark focus the importance of controlling water and the key role mine management plays.

These two failures resulted in significant changes within the mining industry. Following the Bafokeng disaster, the Chamber of Mines in 1979 issued a document providing mines with guidance on how to protect the environment. These guidelines predominantly dealt with technical aspects.

For its part, the Merriespruit disaster focused attention on management. This resulted in the publication of a South African National Standard Code of Practice in 1998. This document provides guidance for the appropriate management of tailings facilities throughout a dam’s life-cycle.

The codes are arguably world class and are probably the reason no major catastrophes have occurred since.

Shortly after they were released the Department of Minerals and Energy issued guidelines on how mines should develop their own site specific and mandatory codes of practice.

Many in the industry have adopted the recommendations. But some argue that the recommendations have been largely ignored or have been implemented merely as tick box exercises.

Another challenge is that the documents have remained largely unchanged in the intervening years. Codes of practice in other countries now include better change management requirements and guidelines for peer review of designs and operational procedures.

Nearly 25 years have passed since the Merriespruit disaster. Custodians of tailings dams in South Africa can’t rely on existing systems, nor should regulators consider prescribing practices that have been developed in other countries because they can lead to poor local engineering solutions.

A recent industry conference showed that while contractors and consultants are willing to come to the party to refresh South Africa’s codes, mining companies and regulators are less so. Hopefully, all parties will join together before another disaster destroys the industry’s credibility and its social license to continue mining.

John Wates, Geotechnical and Tailings Engineer, contributed to this article.

The Conversation

Charles MacRobert 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.

Ancient village arenas remain a central force in Igbo life. Here's why

4 days 12 hours ago
A group of men proceeds to an Otobo in an Igbo village. John Kelechi Ugwuanyi

People and places are inextricably linked. Your knowledge about life and how you move through the world is based on the environment where you were raised. A good example is what we found among the Igbo, where landscape provides space to discuss and decide on social structure and social processes.

Research has shown how this relationship between people and place creates a great sense of values and attachment. Our world is made up of places with meaning and experiences that are connected or attached to particular people.

My work builds on this understanding, and on the idea that places or landscapes tell stories: about people, how they lived in the past and how they continue to interact. My latest research, conducted with my PhD supervisor, focuses on the village arena or square used by the Igbo people of southeast Nigeria.

This space has various names because of dialectical differences. The Nsukka Igbo who live in our study region call it “Otobo”, so that is the word I will use. The Otobo is the heart beat of a Nsukka Igbo village. It’s a place for learning; for spiritual practices; for events that bring people together.

Though the Otobo is not permanently in use, its existence and the activities held there at different times of the day, month, or year live on in villagers’ hearts. This is a perfect example of how people and places become interwoven, and how a group of people comes to value and feel attached to a particular place – even one that isn’t always in use. Similar spaces exist, but Otobo stands out because of the way it embodies every aspects of the Igbo culture.

There is a great deal to learn from such spaces about ourselves, others and ancestors. For instance, we’re able to understand how ancient people organised so much through the village arena: their politics, economy, religion, culture and social lives. In many villages, Otobo was – and often still is – the equivalent of a parliament. A village was only recognised and considered independent if it had an Otobo.

The Otobo also served as a museum; in some communities, where modern museums have not been established, it still does.

The Otobo remains an ancient symbol of democracy; it almost certainly helped to shape Nigeria’s modern democracy in some ways. Understand its purpose, its origins and its ongoing value to communities helps us to understand more about democracy, destinies and people’s lives.

The history of Otobo

The first evidence of Igbo settlements has been traced as far back as 2555 BC. Research has suggested the Igbo language is even older; it may date back to 8000 BC. Ndi Igbo, as the Igbo people are collectively called, are largely found in southeast Nigeria.

Historically, the Igbo lived as republicans. Villages existed independently, and the Otobo symbolised that sovereignty. Even though Igbo villages are no longer their own small republics, and fall under Nigeria’s broader political system, Nigerian laws retained the customary rights of the indigenous peoples.

We conducted our research in seven villages, and found that the system of Otobo persists. The Otobo or arena was defined in various ways by those we interviewed.

Young people from the village learn about their history and tradition there. It’s a place where communal cultural properties such as figurines, pottery, gongs (wooden and metal), textile materials, shrines, musical instrument and many other treasures are kept. It serves a deep spiritual purpose. One person we interviewed called it:

the meeting point for human and spirit, for the dead and for the living, the religious tabernacle of the people.

It’s also a space for making decisions and passing laws; what one interviewee described as “a native court”.

Those who are “Itarigba” – strictly of a people tracing descent from a known ancestor – meet at the Otobo to make laws and policies and to resolve crises. Land cases, family and inter-family conflicts, marriage problems and minor crimes can be heard there, and judgments delivered.

The Otobo is also a festive space. Feasts, performances, ceremonies, games and sporting activities are held there, too. All of this brings people together and means that ancient practices and an ancient space remain entirely relevant today.

A place in time

All of this work fits into a large body of research into the links between human activities, physical landscapes and time. Human activities take place in a landscape within time. This can either be linear or cyclical time, or – as with the Otobo – a combination of both.

Our study found that this combination means the use of Otobo is constantly shifting between permanency and temporality. A village’s Otobo is a strong cultural landscape, but there are times when this space looks abandoned and other times when it’s in active use. Even in times of abandonment, though, the Otobo and what it stands for lives in people’s hearts.

The Conversation

John Kelechi Ugwuanyi lectures at the University of Nigeria. He received funding from the Overseas Research Scholarship (ORS) of the University of York, Tweedie Exploration Fellowship of the University of Edinburgh and the Gilchrist Educational Trust.

The Hidden Cost of Low Fees - Simmy Peerutin

5 days 12 hours ago
Simmy Peerutin considers the implications of the recent survey on fees commissioned by the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA), which confirmed a depressing reality.

Simmy Peerutin is a senior partner at Peerutin Architects, in Cape Town. He is Chair of the Practice Committee of the South African Institute of Architects, a Practice Committee member of the International Union of Architects and a member of the SACAP Fees Committee.

The recent survey on fees commissioned by the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA) confirmed a depressing reality, that in 2017 architects were charging fees roughly 40% less than the last Guideline Fee Scale published in 2015 by the South African Council for the Architectural Profession. This, at a time when the level of responsibility (and liability) is mounting with each new piece of legislation and technological innovation in design, and 3D software is increasing client expectations while at the same time putting additional financial strain on practices. A single properly equipped Revit Workstation costs around R40,000 excluding VAT and the Revit network license of about R14,000 excluding VAT is renewable annually!

When I decry the low fees paid to architects at a time when responsibilities are increasing, my father-in-law remarks that that is how the (free) market values the service. But buying architectural services is not the same as buying a commodity or an appliance. What you pay for is not necessarily what you get.

The main consequence of fees too low to cover a full and proper service is increased risk to Clients, delays and errors on sites, and inferior buildings which aggregate into inferior environments.

It seems that there are three ways architects manage their businesses in order to offer market-related, competitive fees. The first is to have a significant volume of other new work; the second is to cut overheads and/or limit profit; and the third is to reduce the service – either explicitly or not. All three are likely to have negative effects on the projects and increase risk for clients. Let’s examine each in detail.

The cashflow palliative – feeding the beast with new work.

Generally, projects are broken down into six work stages. The first three relate to the design process and 40% of the fee is generally assigned to these three processes. A further 20% of the fee is related to half of the next stage that leads to a major milestone – Council Submission. Therefore, a full 60% is due upon Council Submission. However, it is often the case that not near 60% of the staff costs accrue to this point and therefore most projects show a very healthy ‘profit’ upon Council Submission. I deliberately put profit in inverted commas as it really represents fees in advance but few, if any, practices put the required amount aside to pay for later costs in work stages where the fees do not cover the real costs.

Now, if everyone understood this and put aside the money there would be no problem, but instead, the cashflow (and false ‘profit’) generated in these early work stages can disguise an overall fee that is simply too low for the job. And if one adds multiple projects overlapping in a staggered manner, one can continue to see healthy ‘profits’; until, of course, there are not enough new projects and the latter, time-intensive work stages catch up and start to show losses. Recording Fees Earned against Income Received should highlight if there is a problem or not.

Low overheads/low profit = high risk

The SAIA Benchmark Survey revealed shockingly low levels of investment in key areas and well as low average profit levels, especially in micro and small practices, which constitute 60% of SAIA Practices. Expenditure on IT and software is, on average 4% of turnover, with Education and Training accounting for another 2%. This is surely unsustainable and insufficient. Staff salaries account for 47% of costs but salaries are low when one considers the years of university education needed to train an architect. The median annual salary for a candidate architect, who has graduated after 6 years of study, is R205,000. For professional architects with less than ten years’ experience the salary climbs to a median R338,000. It is no wonder that the number of building professionals registered with SACAP has fallen by 6% over the past 8 years (although the number of professional architects has risen by 11% in the same period). It is not a particularly attractive profession.

Low levels of investment almost certainly predict lower levels of skill and lower levels of risk mitigation as well as poor working environments. These days the best practices will have robust network, server and UPS systems with an offsite backup regime, running to hundreds of thousands of Rands. An individual workstation is likely to consist of two large-format screens supporting a PC with an i7 processor and 32GB of RAM as well as a serious graphics card. Contrast this to someone working off a 13” laptop, possibly with no server, UPS or proper backup. I wonder when clients will start drilling down to this level of detail, and vetting their professionals, not only on what they can see but also how their office is set up.

Do clients know what an architect does? – Cutting the service to match the fee

While writing this part of the article, three recent interactions are playing in my head.

The first is me sitting at a coffee shop with a developer, starting to explain how fees are related to service quality and watching his eyes wander until he finally tells me that he pays X% to his architects and that’s that. He was clearly not interested in what we need to do to make the fee work.

The second is a colleague from another practice describing what work they do at risk or for deferred fees. They go all the way to a full Building Plan Application and only upon approval do they get their first invoice paid. But they do not carry out many of the tasks defined in the Professional Client/Consultant Services Agreements (Procsa) for stages 0 to 4.1. They define precisely what they will do for deferred fees, but I suspect many clients do not fully appreciate what is being omitted or deferred until later in the project and so have no real idea of the risks and hidden costs associated with this approach. Furthermore, it is highly likely that many practices are not disclosing what work is omitted or deferred till later.

The third is a discussion I was having with a sole practitioner during which he/she confessed that they have to limit their work, or they will not be able to make ends meet, given the agreed fees on many of their projects. Limited work often results in an inferior service and that often has consequences for the buildings and building owners.

A recent analysis by a few practices of the actual time spent per work stage on a small sample of projects revealed big differences between the practices, and even big differences amongst the projects within a practice. The time has come for a common understanding of the work required to be done in each Workstage, particularly Stage 2 – Design Concept, and Stage 3 – Design Development.

For example, it is my opinion that the Design Concept Stage should include conceptual designs for each of the major services and systems, and that Design Development should include the development of ALL design aspects of the project – each package and service. The latter is implicit in the Procsa descriptions, but the former is not, although it should be.

Do architects know what their service costs?

The Benchmark Survey revealed that less than half of practices tracked project costs. Not surprisingly, the percentage is much higher in large and macro practices, but every other category did not reach 50%. Curiously, only 1 in 3 Principals completed timesheets even though they must be the most expensive category of ‘staff’. When it came to reviewing the timesheets only 24% of respondents claimed that they always review the timesheets. If one does not measure the costs, then one will never understand the relationship between costs and fees. While in the short term that may be good for clients, with some architects accepting almost whatever fee is offered, or tendering very low fees, it cannot be sustainable.

How can one size fit all?

For many years until its withdrawal in 2015, the guideline fees published by SACAP were presented in one table for all project types and the fee percentage only responded to cost of the project. The higher the cost the lower the percentage fee.

The SAIA Fee Survey has, not surprisingly revealed quite a range of fee percentages for different project types and, if we ever get another guideline fee scale published, at the very least there should be three categories – simple, ‘average’ and complex. This could reflect or align with the categorization proposed by the SACAP Identification of Work Committee, resulting in a fairer, more nuanced guideline fee scale.

Where to from here?

Here are some initial thoughts:

  • We need the entire Masters of Architecture degree to be supported with financial aid, not just the undergraduate degree.
  • We need staff to be able to earn enough to live on, starting with G It is not moral to allow people to work for nothing or for little pay, just because they are prepared to. And it is not moral to expect high degrees of unpaid overtime.
  • We need to provide an office environment which conforms to a minimum standard in relation to software, hardware, backup, network and the like.
  • We should allow staff time to increase their skills through well-designed, affordable courses.
  • We should commit to defining the service we provide to our Clients in detail, in each and every instance, whether they want to fully understand it or not. If we are going to omit or defer parts of the early work stages, let us understand and explain the implications.
  • We should commit to completing timesheets and evaluating the results on a regular basis, to understand the costs. This applies to sole practitioners as much as to large practices.
  • We need to engage and educate Clients about what we do and the added value that we bring. Anyone can ‘draw a plan’. We should be able to, and be allowed to, make practical AND beautiful buildings that contribute positively to their environment, while managing the whole process in a manner that one can be proud of, and that brings credit to the profession.
  • We should not abdicate management responsibilities on a project. Indeed, we cannot, even if some would have clients believe that others can take over that role. There is no other member of the Project Team that has total project comprehension.
  • SAIA will soon be offering a Quality Management Toolkit to enable members to take their first steps towards service excellence: Plan – Do – Evaluate – Adjust.
  • SAIA should engage with software and hardware resellers to lobby for reductions in the costs of these mission critical tools. Or maybe SAIA can organise a bulk purchase discount?
  • PI Insurers need to pay more attention to excessive fee reductions. Of course, that begs the question about what the appropriate fee should be.
  • Perhaps SACAP, too, needs to pay more attention to fee reductions, especially when architectural professionals are brought before the disciplinary committee.

What we all surely want is a sustainable, responsible, accessible, transformed profession that offers value to clients and to society. That we are not there yet seems self-evident. How we get there is clearly up for debate.


Simmy Peerutin is a senior partner at Peerutin Architects, in Cape Town. He is Chair of the Practice Committee of the South African Institute of Architects, a Practice Committee member of the International Union of Architects and a member of the SACAP Fees Committee.

The views in this article are those of the author alone. He is neither writing it on behalf of his own practice nor the various organizations in which he is active.

AUTHOR: Simmy Peerutin

The post THE HIDDEN COSTS OF LOW FEES appeared first on Leading Architecture & Design.

More sea cliffs collapse at West Coast mine

6 days 5 hours ago
Mining company submits final application for massive expansion in the area

By John Yeld

Aerial photo of a coastline
This Google Earth image, dated 15 March 2018, shows four collapses of the sea cliff in front of the Tormin mine processing plant. In the duplicate image below, the area of the 2015 collapse — where the mine has apparently attempted some rehabilitation — is shown in red, while three subsequent collapses are shown in orange. The fourth new collapse has occurred further to the south and is not visible in this image. Photo: Supplied by Allen Lyons

The coastal sea cliff overlooking West Coast beaches being mined by an Australian-owned company has collapsed in four more places. This follows the catastrophic 2015 collapse directly in front of the mine’s processing infrastructure.

Three of these new landslips are within a few hundred metres of the 2015 collapse at the Tormin mine, near Lutzville some 400 kilometres north of Cape Town. It is here that mining company Mineral Sands Resources (MSR) is excavating valuable heavy minerals such as ilmenite, leucoxene and rutile (titanium oxide minerals), zircon and garnets from several beaches.

The new cliff collapses were spotted on Google Earth images by Allen Lyons, secretary of the Strandfontein ratepayers’ association, a popular coastal holiday village on the southern bank of Olifants River estuary, south of Tormin.

Lyons, a retired geologist, said he had started compiling mining data from satellite images in an attempt to understand the collapses on the cliff that stands between 30 and 50 metres above the sea.

“From my satellite image interpretation it appears that there have been four other cliff failures since the original collapse of 2015, and most of the new collapses are as big or bigger than the 2015 collapse,” said Lyons. “My preliminary findings indicate that the new collapses are occurring in areas where the beach has been mined more than once and where mining benches have advanced to within ten metres of the toe of the cliff.” (A mining bench is a narrow strip of land cut into the side of an open-pit mine.)

Many environmentalists and critics of the mine are convinced that the mine’s operations caused the 2015 cliff collapse. This was denied by MSR, who pointed to “documented specialist studies on the cliff face [that] suggest the cliff failure in part is due to high wave energy and tidal action as well as climatic conditions and storm water run-off”.

Lyons said it appears that Tormin has attempted to rehabilitate the 2015 collapsed area with sand tailings from the mine’s processing plant. He estimates that between 500,000 and 600,000 tons of sand has been borrowed from other beaches to “prop up” the 2015 collapse.

“If that is so, it means that sand from other vulnerable beaches is being used, increasing the likelihood of other cliff collapses within Tormin’s licence area,” said Lyons. “It’s clear to me that the rock mechanics issues associated with Tormin’s beach mining have not been resolved. It’s critical that these issues get resolved, particularly now that Tormin [MSR] is planning on expanding its mining footprint.”

But recent documentation by MSR consulting company SRK states that “there is no specialist or technical basis to support the contention that the non-return of mining sand to the beach has contributed to the cliff failures”.

According to SRK’s environmental impact assessment report for Tormin’s expansion plans, the geotechnical impact of beach mining on the sea cliffs and dunes was assessed and found to be of “very low” significance, both before and after mitigation measures.

SRK recommends enforcing a ten metre buffer zone from the toe of the sand dunes and cliffs towards the sea in which no mining or disturbance may take place. But several critics say there is already a ten metre exclusion zone in place that has been ignored by MSR.

In 2017 MSR applied for a massive extension of its existing mining right at Tormin that includes ten additional beaches north of the mine. The application was made through a Section 102 application under the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act. An environmental impact assessment report about this application has just been submitted to the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR).

However, the proposal is facing strong opposition, including from the Western Cape’s Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning (DEADP) department. DEADP is highly critical of MSR’s mining record at Tormin, and is one of several other “interested and affected parties” arguing that Section 102 is not applicable and that MSR should be applying for an entirely new mining right.

In the summary of comments by interested and affected parties in SRK’s environmental impact assessment report, DEADP is quoted as stating: “This Department recommends that any future application by MSR not be considered until such time that the matter relating to the unlawfulness of Tormin Mine has been resolved and compliance with all conditions of the environmental authorisation has been presented.”

MSR is currently facing sanction by the DMR for two specific violations of environmental conditions in its existing mining right. It was forced to submit Section 24G applications in terms of national environmental management regulations for “rectification of unlawful commencement of the listed activities” – in effect, the retrospective legalising of unlawful acts. This came after an independent audit uncovered unlawful clearing of an additional 3.9 hectare area adjacent to the processing facilities, used for stockpiling, and construction of a 2.2 hectare dam.

The DMR told GroundUp that no decision on the Section 24G application would be taken until it had decided on the amount of a fine to be levied on the mining company for these two environmental violations. The rectification application would only be finalised “after the fine is determined and paid”.

The Department also emphasised that MSR’s two applications – the Section 24G rectification and Section 102 extension applications – were separate “and are treated as such”.

The DMR received MSR’s final environmental impact assessment report and an environmental management programme for the proposed extension on 14 November. In terms of the National Environmental Management Act the department had 107 days to consider and take a decision, giving it until early March 2019.

MSR did not respond to a request for comment.

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2018 GroundUp.
This article is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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Creating the Furniture of the Future

6 days 12 hours ago
Using the Autodesk Fusion 360 software package, RAW Studios expanded its existing Epik range of office furniture for 100% Design Johannesburg 2017.

Local furniture designers RAW Studios expanded its existing Epik range of office furniture – a range of beautifully designed and expertly crafted office furniture developed for commercial clients – for 100% Design Johannesburg 2017.

At 100% Design Johannesburg, August 2017, RAW Studios was invited to feature its concept for a new office space and working environment. Using the Autodesk Fusion 360 software package, the team at RAW expanded its existing Epik range to include various designs that illustrate how workspaces can be activated, energised and equipped for meaningful work.

A unique aspect to Autodesk Fusion is that it integrates freeform and solid modelling tools, as well as enables 2D modelling and 3D animation and rendering. These features were central to the development of the Epik range as they provide the capability to prototype quickly and refine designs where needs be.

The Fusion software package also connects the entire product development process in a cloud-based platform, which allows designers to share, review and manage versions seamlessly, thus speeding up development and refinement processes exponentially.

The result was a furniture range that was awarded Best Office Furniture Design 2017 at the 100% Design show.

Time Frame of Project

The new products from the Epik range showcased at the 100% Design show address the collaborative and breakaway spaces needed in a workplace where people can use furniture as tools for collaboration, brainstorming, quiet breakaways or private meetings or calls.

The design process for these products used to take over a year from product development to launch. Since the introduction of Autodesk Fusion 360 – the ability to develop a design in the morning and produce a prototype by the afternoon – means this production time has been halved, providing obvious advantages to profit margins.

For the 100% Design show, the RAW team were able to conceptualise, design and build the expanded Epik range furniture in as little as four months.


Thanks to Autodesk Fusion 360, the team at RAW Studios can develop a design in the morning and have a prototype ready by the afternoon.

The process begins with the design team identifying the problem to solve or the idea they wish to explore. Then the team models the idea using Autodesk Fusion 360 which allows both free form and solid modelling tools that integrate seamlessly. Once the team decided the best approach to take, thanks to the insights generated from the 3D animation and rendering application, they moved to prototyping some of the complex elements as identified by the simulation software.

At this point in the process, the CAM application for turning and milling aides in converting the design to a prototype with 100% accuracy. As the refining and cutting process circles at the last stage on the development lifecycle, the simulation software and CAM application help the team to refine the final product.


Design is often driven by its limitations. In the past, traditional tools were unable to activate design advances.

  • Traditional carpentry was challenging in traditional wood materials as they were only available in custom sizes, which wasn’t cost effective – especially when designing non-traditional furniture features.
  • Until the introduction of Autodesk Fusion, designs had been cut on a CNC machine where the limitation was 2D cutting. In practical terms, this meant designs were cut from the top and repositioned for second side cutting. As such, accuracy was compromised, and wastage often occurred.

Autodesk Fusion 360 has opened doors to a scope of design that was previously very labour intensive on traditional design, modelling and cutting tools.

  • The cloud-enabled platform enables seamless reviews, sharing and version management. Thus, the ability to set and change parameters is improved.
  • Autodesk Fusion 360 connects the whole development process. Its 3D animation and rendering application along with its simulation software makes whole design process and visualisation much quicker, allowing the team to move straight into machining.
  • The CAM application for turning and milling applications means that designs are taken to the production phase with 100% accuracy, thereby ensuring no errors or inaccuracies in the cutting phase.
  • The tools the software offers enables rapid prototyping, allowing the team to create a design in the morning, and produce a proto-type by the afternoon.
  • The 3D rendering application allows the team to show clients the rendered quality.
Budget Savings

Creating expertly crafted office furniture that is designed to endure can be expensive. However, the introduction of Autodesk Fusion 360 has helped the team at RAW Studios work with greater accuracy, information and integration, all of which have helped them to accelerate innovation. The rapid prototyping means the weighting of designs versus production has shifted entirely and the team can increase production

The accuracy provided by Fusion 360 means the team have realised savings in terms of reduced material costs due to far fewer changes during prototyping, an increase in production thanks to a streamlined design process and the cloud platform integration has enabled the team at RAW to engage effectively in a dynamic business style that accelerated their business growth.

Savings achieved through less wastage and increased productivity and accuracy have been realised across the business.

“Autodesk Fusion 360 has contributed to the capability of our business in terms of productivity and quality, and it has the potential to do so for many other design businesses. The growth of small design businesses is critical to the growth of the economy in South Africa.” Thys Kotze, RAW Studios.

The post CREATING THE FURNITURE OF THE FUTURE appeared first on Leading Architecture & Design.

Bo-Kaap Youth Movement calls for “peaceful and positive” solution to development impasse

1 week 1 day ago
Leadership denies receiving any financial compensation from property developers

By Aidan Jones

Photo of Bo Kaap
There have been many protests against property developers in Bo Kaap in recent months. But the community is not united in its opposition. Photo: Kim Alvelius

“As a community we need to strive to adapt to change, yet uphold our rich cultural and religious beliefs and practices,” said Yasin Moses, an executive member of the Bo-Kaap Youth Movement (BKYM), during its first press conference in Cape Town on Thursday.

“Our objective has never and will never be self enrichment … We want to contribute positively towards uplifting our community and help create sustainable opportunities for the future leaders of our community,” said Adnaan Oesman, BKYM chairperson. “We wish to find common ground with all community stakeholders to uplift our community and preserve our heritage.” He said BKYM was formed in May 2018 and registered as a non-profit company on 23 August 2018.

BKYM has recently been accused of receiving money for agreements made over the development of 40 Lion Street in Bo-Kaap by BLOK. The leadership denied this. “We the Bo-Kaap Youth Movement … can truthfully and honestly say that we have not accepted any compensation in any form whatsoever [from BLOK],” said Oesman.

“To date, the only agreement that we have with BLOK is to find a peaceful solution going forward,” he said. BLOK confirmed this in an email to GroundUp. “We feel that BLOK should contribute towards uplifting our community,” said Oesman.

BKYM said it does not claim to act on behalf of the Bo-Kaap community, but “has the interests of the community at heart”.

Members of the Bo-Kaap Youth Movement gave a press conference in the Cape Town city centre on Thursday. From left to right: Robyn Hawes (member); Mujahid Hartley (vice-chairperson and director); Adnaan Oesman (chairperson and director); Yasin Moses (executive member). Photo: Aidan Jones

Then and now

Earlier this year BKYM began protesting against development in Bo-Kaap. Burning tyres became a regular sight at the entrance of the neighbourhood.

“In May [2018] the protests escalated to vandalism because we were told that developers were coming into our area and building without community consultation and consent from the authorities,” said Mujahid Hartley, BKYM vice-chairperson.

He said that in the months that followed BKYM performed “due diligence” and learned that the sale of the property at 40 Lion Street to BLOK was legal and that the developers had in fact approached and consulted with the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers Association (the Civic).

Hartley said they also learned that the Civic had “commented in favour of excavation and noted no objection to the proposed development [at 40 Lion Street]” on an archeological permit application by BLOK in February 2018.

BKYM handed out documentary evidence of this information in the form of printed copies of extensive email correspondence between BLOK and the Civic.

It was then that “BKYM stopped protesting and starting looking for a positive solution to enhance the community,” said Hartley.

Secretary of the Civic, Jacky Poking, signed the Civic’s comment on BLOK’s archeological permit application.

“That letter doesn’t say BLOK can go ahead and build … It is taken out of context … We didn’t give the go-ahead to the development, we gave a comment on an application,” Poking told GroundUp by phone. “Heritage Western Cape is still the authority, they in turn had to approve it. They had asked SAHRA [South African Heritage Resources Agency] for comment as well. We were one of the parties commenting, we are not the authority to approve development or prevent it.” The authorities subsequently granted the permit to BLOK.

According to independent heritage consultant Quahnita Samie, the National Heritage Resources Act has various sections that can be triggered when it comes to potential development. The section relevant to the 40 Lion Street site was section 35, which relates to archeological resources, hence BLOK’s archeological permit application.

“Section 38 relates to Heritage Impact Assessments but because the site is under 5,000m2 this did not apply. Section 34 relates to structures older than 60 years but because no such structures were on the site, it was also not triggered by the development application,” said Samie.

However, Poking said the Civic felt a Heritage Impact Assessment should have been done “due to the significance of the site”.

BKYM also agrees that preserving the heritage of Bo-Kaap is important. Moses said that the organisation has submitted nominations to SAHRA to have the Tana Baru Cemetery and Auwal Masjid declared National Heritage Sites, as well as for the protection of Bo-Kaap as a living heritage site on a national level.

Civic and Youth Movement at loggerheads

Oesman said that they have always been willing to work with the Civic but they had not been shown the same willingness in return. “Whatever we do we always involve [the Civic] … because they are the authoritative body so basically everything has to go through them,” said Oesman.

“In order for this community to go forward and for everyone to benefit there has to be some form of unity and we need to find common ground,” he said. “We are open to sit down and talk to them but they should be open to listen to us as well.”

But Poking said the Civic had already called for talks. “We are asking them to come forward … and speak to the community and speak to us so we can see how we can move forward”. She said that in a recent public meeting in Bo-Kaap the president of the Muslim Judicial Council had made the same call to the leaders of BKYM.

Hartley said that BKYM will host a public meeting on 6 December 2018 where they will “address the community … because we feel that we owe it to the community first, and then from there we will address the Civic”.

Shahied Ajam, chairperson of the District Six Working Committee, attended the press conference. “We can’t be having these spats anymore, there is a generation coming after us that we have to think about,” said Ajam. “I think it is about time that the Civic and the BKYM get together and talk about the future … I think you should be forthright and state your objectives clearly to the world out there. They are watching and we are watching you. We would love to follow your example.” People applauded when he finished speaking.

Construction on the apartment block on 40 Lion Street in Bo-Kaap being developed by BLOK began in early 2018 and is due for completion in mid-2019. Archive photo: Aidan Jones

Population growth and urbanisation puts pressure on housing

Data compiled by the City of Cape Town’s Strategic Development Information and GIS Department states that the City’s population grew by about 850,000 from 2001 to 2011, from 2.9 million to 3.74 million. There was an addition of 290,000 households over the same time period. In subcouncil 16, in which the Cape Town city centre falls, the population grew by over a third, from 69,433 in 2001 to 92,977 in 2011, with the addition of about 9,000 households.

According to the provincial Environmental Affairs & Development Planning department, the urban population in the Western Cape will increase by 2 million by the year 2040, with the City of Cape Town listed as one of three “growth hotspots”, the West Coast and Cape Winelands Districts being the other two.

With an increase in the urban population, densification is going to become more important over the coming years if the City is to avoid a housing crisis. “If we don’t welcome density in well-located areas of our city then we must accept that more urban sprawl will take place on the periphery … Urban sprawl leads to exclusion, as many people are forced to live very far away from the jobs, services, and amenities that well-located areas provide,” said Nick Budlender, a researcher at Ndifuna Ukwazi.

Afrobarometer, a research network that conducts public attitude surveys on issues related to governance, questioned 1,800 South Africans in August and September 2018 and found that housing is the third most important issue people think government should address, behind unemployment and crime.

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2018 GroundUp.
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Africities 2018: A Pact to cooperate on an African Charter for Local Equality

1 week 6 days ago
Submitted by uclguser2 on Mon, 26/11/2018 - 16:19
Africities 2018: A Pact to cooperate on an African Charter for Local Equality

Bringing together more than 5 000 participants – from cities and local governments’ officials, to ministries, international, national and subnational networks, partners and key stakeholders for development – the 8th edition of the Africities Summit provided the occasion to hold an open session under the title “Gender equality and social inclusion strategies: for a Just Transition of Africa”. Held on the morning of the 21st November, the session gathered a large number of local leaders and partners for development from Africa in order to discuss the crucial importance of mainstreaming gender equality in local development and governance in Africa, and to adopt a pact of collaboration between the African and the European sections of UCLG aiming at developing such activities.

The Africa-Europe Marrakech Pact was officially signed on 22 November by the Secretaries General of the African and European regional sections of UCLG, as well as by the Secretary General of the world organization, under the eyes of a number of African local women and men elected leaders, in order to mark the starting of the elaboration process of an African Charter for Local Equality, based on the principles of the 2013 Paris Agenda, the African Union 2063 Vision, the New Urban Agenda, the 2030 Agenda –and, in particular, SDG 5 and other relevant global agendas and to be further developed by the African regional section of UCLG (UCLG-Africa) and the Network of Local Elected Women of Africa (REFELA), in cooperation with the European regional section (CCRE-CEMR/Platforma) and its Standing Committee for Gender Equality, with the support of the world organization.

The session “Gender equality and social inclusion strategies: for a Just Transition of Africa” was very well received by the participants to the Summit and gathered around 200 participants, among which were many elected women from Africa. It was first introduced by the President of REFELA, Célestine Ketcha Courtés, who recalled that “elected women are only 6% in Africa at the local level, when they are an average of 23% in the rest of the world; and the same way, they are less than 10% at the national level”, and called on an active commitment from cities and local governments to “focus on the Agenda 2030, and especially SDG 5 on gender equality”, in order to reverse this phenomenon. She also explained how Africa could make its own Agenda or Charter for Equality using the European Charter for Equality as an inspiration, and not as a model.

In an introductory comment following the opening speech, Secretary General of UCLG, Emilia Sáiz emphasized that this session was the demonstration that gender equality and gender mainstreaming had been a long-term priority for UCLG as a global organization, but also for regional sections and stressed “the need to now stop justifying and focusing on taking concrete action”. She declared that regions, like Africa, should be at the core of gender sensitive development since they can build on local contexts, and she reaffirmed the great concrete potential and political willingness of African local women leaders, with a regional network of African local elected women that grows and consolidates itself every year. She also stressed that “women leaders share a collective responsibility to make their voice heard on the international stage and inspire future generations.” 

Following, Mayor of Abrantes Maria do Ceu Albuquerque underlined that having a political strategy for gender mainstreaming in political life and governance was a sine qua non condition of local, sustainable and inclusive development. She presented the national, subnational and local policies in place in this view, including 173 cities who dedicate at least one staff member to gender equality issues, and underlined the importance of having a strategic coordination at all levels in order to guarantee an effective implementation of gender mainstreaming, as well as global indicators that allow to assess at any time the state of gender equality in policies.

Lisa Bardot from CCRE-CEMR, further presented the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life which was signed by more than 1 730 stakeholders, cities and local governments from 35 countries, as well as the Observatory of this Charter, a tool aiming at identifying signatories of the Charter, action plans and good practices in the field of gender equality in local life, in order to facilitate exchanges between signatories and to encourage the development of decentralized cooperation and twinning projects in this field. She placed the focus on the need to have a criteria for normalization, such as the control and monitoring of wage and salary gaps, the establishment of quotas, or the access to equal opportunities.

Frédéric Vallier, Secretary General of the European regional section of UCLG (CCRE-CEMR), insisted on the fact that “the European Charter for Equality is an agenda that promotes equality between women and men, and that men, as women do, have an essential part in pursuing this goal”, and should play an active role in achieving this equality. He emphasized that the 2030 Agenda, SDG 5 and the conditions for equality couldn’t be achieved without inclusive policies addressed to all people, including both women and men, and that gender sensitive policies have to be transversal to all other policy areas.

Following, Diane Osso Mbango, from REFELA Congo-Brazzaville, acknowledged that the creation of sub-regional or subnational networks such as REFELA, allows local women leaders to unify in solidarity and to strengthen the networking processes between them, allowing them to access and take part in the international debates focusing on gender equality, and to gain visibility in the global debates on sustainable urban development at the global level. She also mentioned the importance of developing education, training and capacity-building opportunities for girls and women, in order to create the conditions that would raise the ownership of the promotion of women in decision-making by both women and men

Mayor of Tunis Souad Abbderahim, who was recently appointed and is the first woman Mayor of the City in more than 160 years, talked about her experience in accessing to this high level position, and explained how “it is fundamental to acknowledge the achievements of women at high level decision making positions, not only to make them visible but also to help mindsets – often led and set by men – change”. She highlighted the lack of recognition of women inputs in the way of thinking, planning and implementing political changes and sustainable development. She also made reference to the fact that “women’s strength, action and capacity still have to be proven today” and that “militancy, the acknowledgment of rights and freedoms, the involvement of men, the action of civil society and legislative norms are essential conditions of equality between women and men”.

The audience also played a key part in this session since many interesting and constructive exchanges happened, among which the intervention of the former President of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza, who encouraged her fellow colleagues to share and make visible their experiences as leaders, mayors and elected women, in order to inspire contemporary and future generations, and to valorize women perspectives in the political sphere. Other issues were raised, including the need to rethink legislation frameworks with the aim of making them gender-sensitive; the importance of gender mainstreaming, not only in the political sphere but also in the public, private and civil society sectors; and the need to give women the means to take action, for example by developing micro-financing systems.

Finally, the Africa-Europe Marrakech Pact aiming at, among others, triggering the official launch of a charter for gender equality in Africa, was presented and read aloud by Malika Ghefrane, Special Adviser of REFELA, to a cheering audience. In this process, the participants of the session – both speakers and audience – decided, in a large consensus, to name the Charter as the “African Charter for Local Equality”, and presented some additional contributions to the final document and collectively approved its formal adoption.

As a conclusion, expert on gender equality Sandra Ceciarini, who also worked with the European section on its Charter for Equality a decade ago, recalled some of the structural and main recommendations to be taken into account in the development of further activities within cities and local governments of Africa regarding gender mainstreaming. She stressed that “the specificities of each UCLG regional section are the richness of the network and I request that Africa genuinely makes gender equality issue its own in order to develop a unique and inspired African Charter for Local Equality”. She also acknowledged the work carried on by UCLG as a global network in the promotion of gender equality in the last years, and called on the active involvement of each regional section of UCLG for the visibility of women in politics, at all levels, across the whole world.

Célestine Ketcha Courtés, President of REFELA, closed the session on gender equality and social inclusion strategies for a just transition of Africa saying that “we need to get as many women as possible to sign this pact, to take part into this project, and contribute to it in order to guarantee that by 2030, future generations of girls and women will have a place at the global decision-making table".

During Africities more meetings could be experienced where the empowerment of women was reflected in the decisions of several assemblies. The Assembly of REFELA (Network of Elected Women in African Local Authorities), held on Thursday 22 November and witnessed by numerous mayors who are members of the network, confirmed the renewal of REFELA's bodies with the election of the presidency.

The women mayors of Africa renewed their confidence by electing Célestine Ketcha as President of REFELA, and Fatna El Khiel, Secretary of State, attached to the Ministry of National Planning, Urbanism, Housing and Urban Policy; Macoura Dao, Mayor of Foumbolode (Côte d'Ivoire); Katrina Shimbulu, President of the Association of Local Authorities of Namibia (ALAN) and Irma of Madagascar as vice-presidents. UCLG Women is delighted as a network to have witnessed this meeting with the local mayors and elected representatives who make up its executive board, which is sure to bring new perspectives and commitments to equality at the local level.


Another of the most important moments for women in the political sessions of Africities 2018 was the election of Rose Christiane Ossouka Raponda, Mayor of Libreville, at the Assembly of UCLG Africa as the new President of UCLG Africa for the next 3 years.


Promise of right to housing remains elusive in democratic South Africa

1 week 6 days ago
The fight for decent housing in South Africa has been unsuccessful. Nic Bothma/EPA

South Africa’s Constitution protects everyone’s right to access adequate housing. This principle was spelled out in law when the Court issued a landmark ruling in 2000 that stipulated the most vulnerable people – “those living in extreme conditions of poverty, homelessness or intolerable housing” – should be given priority access to housing.

A new law to effect this was passed in 2001. But, 17 years later, the law hasn’t been implemented. The main reason is that the country’s municipalities still don’t have adequate plans setting out the time frames in which they will provide adequate housing for thousands of people in desperate need.

The most recent data shows that there are about 3.3 million people living in informal settlements. This includes those living in temporary relocation areas.

Tens of thousands of South Africans are living in emergency housing areas known as “temporary relocation areas”. These were established by municipalities as emergency housing for displaced people. But they have proved not to be temporary at all. In fact some relocation areas have grown in size. This has left both the people who were originally moved into them on a temporary basis, as well as newcomers, in a situation of limbo.

This reveals an epic failure by local, provincial and national governments to deliver social housing, as required by the Constitution. This unresponsiveness of government needs scrutiny by the South African Human Rights Commission, which is constitutionally mandated to promote, protect and monitor the realisation of human rights in the country, including access to housing.

And Parliament, in its oversight capacity, should hold government to account for its failure to provide housing for the most vulnerable as espoused by the 2000 landmark judgment.

Relocated, and abandoned

One relocation settlement is Blikkiesdorp, a poverty stricken community 30km east of Cape Town. Blikkiesdorp was established in 2007. It was meant to provide temporary shelter for 650 displaced, indigent people. A decade later, the city still has no definite plans to provide adequate housing for those people. The number of residents has since swelled to 15 000 in about 3 000 dwellings.

A similar situation is also found in Johannesburg, where 118 households were evicted from the Marie Louise informal settlement in 2001 and placed in temporary relocation areas. Although the move was only supposed to be for 18 months, this community is still without adequate homes seven years later. This, despite the courts ordering the City of Johannesburg to provide them adequate basic housing. As with Blikkiesdorp, there are still no precise time-frames for when this community will receive adequate basic housing.

In Durban, the Jadhu Place informal settlement was devastated by a fire in 2008 which displaced 600 households. A decade on, these residents remain in temporary shelters. They don’t know when they will be properly housed.

All these situations violate the Constitutional Court’s 2000 ruling and subsequent legislation. They also go against the policy guidelines the Court provided in 2008 for emergency housing.

Who has failed?

South Africa’s Constitution obliges the government – specifically the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, which is responsible for municipalities – to provide social housing for indigent South Africans.

Since the landmark Grootboom case, the Housing Development Agency has provided National Policy Guidelines for emergency housing programmes.

Places like Blikkiesdorp were supposed to be a short-term housing solution. But, a decade later, its residents still live in the area. They endure poor basic services like water and sanitation. This is contrary to the 2008 court judgment that provided guidance for dignified temporary housing.

In 2016, the then-mayor of Cape Town demanded that her officials present her, in two weeks, with a plan which would set out time-frames for the rehousing of Blikkiesdorp. Two years later, the city has confirmed there are currently three housing developments for Blikkiesdorp but “poor contractor performance” has caused indefinite delays.

The South African Human Rights Commission is constitutionally mandated to take steps to secure appropriate redress where human rights have been violated – such as is happening in Blikkiesdorp. It confirmed in a report in 2015 it was aware that people relocated to temporary areas end up living there forever.

But it has done nothing to ease the plight of people like those living in Blikkiesdorp.

What needs to happen?

Communities that are relocated to temporary areas are deemed to be “vulnerable” by the Constitutional Court, and need to be provided with adequate housing as a matter of priority.

Local government is compelled by policy guidelines which provide clear steps how this should be done. There are three steps to be followed.

The first is relocate to a temporary area, then maintain the place adequately and, lastly, relocate the affected people to permanent housing. Importantly, the community must be involved in setting the time-frames for the allocation of permanent housing.

Staying indefinitely in a temporary housing area is a relegation of just administration principles as set out in the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act. Actions by government that materially and adversely affects the rights or legitimate expectations of any person must be procedurally fair.

The Human Rights Commission and Parliament are the custodians that should ensure the government upholds its constitutional obligations to provide adequate housing.

Blikkiesdorp and other displaced communities have a right to fair administrative action in line with their legitimate expectations. The Human Rights Commission needs to prove its worth and hold the government to account on time-frames to provide adequate housing for these people – and others in a similar situation. This should preferably be complemented by parliamentary oversight.

The Conversation

Soraya Beukes is affiliated with The Dullah Omar Institute at the University of the Western Cape.

Steps rural communities can take to protect their water resources

2 weeks ago
Water quality is compromised by cultivation, pesticides, household waste and clothes washing. Martchan/Shutterstock

For rural communities in the highlands of eastern Africa, water for domestic use is not piped. They have to collect, or use it from springs or rivers and it’s accessible to anyone. Increasingly, highland communities in Tanzania and Ethiopia face challenges when it comes to water quantity and quality.

Poor agricultural practices, deforestation and land clearing have led to soil erosion and excessive rainfall runoff which means underground water reservoirs are not recharged. Springs, once surrounded by trees and other vegetation, have dried out after land was cleared due to rising populations.

The water’s quality is also compromised, due to cultivation, the use of pesticides, household waste and clothes washing. This often leads to high incidences of waterborne diseases.

Declining water quantity and quality means people have to travel further to find good water sources – wasting time and energy.

This issue can’t be solved by individual households and weak enforcement of bylaws, due to corruption and weak leadership, mean it’s not being managed by the state either.

As part of the African highlands initiative, we carried out projects in three areas of Ethiopia and Tanzania to see if collective action – carried out by groups of people working together toward common goals – could work. These projects aimed to restore water resources and construct water points to give communities a clean water supply. In the past, households worked together, but these traditions have broken down over the years.

Two years later, the projects have been a success and there is increased water supply near homesteads. This has greatly saved time and improved the health of the communities.

Creating a strategy

Three areas, two in Ethiopia (Galesa and Gununo) and one in Tanzania (Baga) were selected for water source rehabilitation. This affected over 10,000 people in Tanzania alone. These areas had high population densities and were showing signs of water stress like decreasing crop and livestock production, fragmentation of land to small plots and increasing numbers of rural poor.

Research teams analysed historical trends – for instance how water quality has changed over time – using simple indicators like the time it takes to collect water, physical appearance and presence of pollutants in water.

A variety of farmers were then selected for interviews and they were asked about why the water sources had deteriorated and how they think the trend could be reversed.

For the three areas, a team of researchers and development workers came up with a strategy. We then implemented these same steps for all the areas:

  • Created awareness on the situation and emphasised the need for collective action

  • Set up water user committees – entrusted with the management of the water sources – to oversee the implementation of agreed plans

  • Identified and consulted with different stakeholder groups. Each was allocated a role

  • Developed by-laws with the participation of all stakeholders, and got them validated by communities to validates

  • Developed the skills of water committees and local leaders on water source management

  • Implemented agreed tasks

  • Took part in monitoring and evaluating targets

As much as possible, local materials and local artisans were used. For instance, local communities contributed labour, collecting stones and sand. They also managed the land around water sources to minimise the effect of contamination from soil erosion by planting water-friendly trees or vegetation around springs.

There were challenges. We had to convince donors to support domestic water supply because they believe it should be the role of a government ministry. Another challenge was that there were incidents where crops would get destroyed when people went through farms to collect water.

But these were overcome and the collective action approach was successful.

The results

Five years later about 84% of farmers confirmed that time for fetching water had gone down. And 82.9% responded that the prevalence of waterborne diseases had gone down.

At the Baga site in Tanzania, communities said that their time collecting water went down from an average of five hours to five minutes per day. During dry seasons women and children used to have to walk huge distances.

The number of patients treated for ailments related to unclean water also went down, from 77 in 2006 to 22 in 2007.

The collective action approach worked because the management structure was solid and the community were involved in enforcing the bylaws. For instance, if someone is destroying a water source, community members would take them to the authorities.

Collective action also increased confidence and trust among community members so they are more willing to interact to address a common problem.

The Conversation

Jeremias Mowo works for The World Agroforestry Centre - ICRAF. He is also affiliated to The Global EverGreening Alliance Limited.

Open Studios 2018 returns this December

2 weeks 2 days ago
Open Studios returns to Cape Town once again, with architecture practices across the city opening their doors to the public on 3 and 4 December 2018.

The participating studios will open after hours and guests will be able to chat to architects about their work and process of design. Each studio will offer their own curated display of work, including current and future projects, presentations, architectural models and animations. (Image courtesy of dhk)

Open Studios returns to Cape Town once again, with architecture practices across the city opening their doors to the public on 3 and 4 December 2018.

Now in its sixth year, this event invites people inside the innovative architectural studios responsible for shaping the buildings and city around us, giving visitors the opportunity to meet the architects behind the projects and to see the diverse creative spaces in which design takes place.

One of the most popular events on the design calendar, this year’s event will focus on two main hubs: CBD and East City. The participating studios will open after hours and guests will be able to chat to architects about their work and process of design.

Each studio will offer their own curated display of work, including current and future projects, presentations, architectural models and animations. Studios that are walking distance are grouped together, meaning visitors can visit several locations in one night.

Popular with professionals, students and general public alike, this unique event is not to be missed. The full programme is available on

Architecture studios taking part include:

  • DesignSpaceAfrica
  • dhk Architects
  • Fabian and Make Architects
  • GAPP Architects, Urban Designers
  • Jenny Mills Architecture
  • Meyer & Associates
  • Peerutin Architects
  • SAOTA, ARCC, Tenebris Lab, Okha
  • SSH Design
  • Studiomas
  • Team Architects
  • VDMMA at The Architect Gallery
  • Wolff Architects

Open Studios is a joint initiative by the South African Institute for Architecture (SAIA) and the Cape Institute for Architecture (CIFA). The programme this year forms part of a broader week of architectural celebrations in Cape Town including the Cape Institute for Architecture’s annual street party, First Thursdays and the SAIA Honours Awards and Presidential Inauguration.


The post Open Studios 2018 returns this December appeared first on Leading Architecture & Design.

Interiors: Plascon's 2019 Colour Trends

2 weeks 2 days ago
Plascon reveals their 2019 colour trends and how they’ll make all the difference in the built environment.

Far from dull, this pastel combination of Oyster Catcher (Y2-B2-3), dreamy Nutmeg Dust (O3-C2-2) and crystalline Mermaid Jewel (G7-B1-3) from the Glamour colour story offers a sublimely sophisticated look.

Brainstorms, brush-outs, samples, tester pots, photoshoots, mood boards, late nights and more. After months of research and trend analyses, the wait for colour connoisseurs and paint enthusiasts is over as Plascon reveals their 2019 colour trends and how they’ll make all the difference in the built environment.

Teaming up with trend authorities with research obtained from around the world, each year Plascon collaboratively decodes current social and lifestyle insights into projected colour, décor and design trends. Plascon’s Head of Decorative Marketing, Katlego Kondlo says, “Our 2019 Colour Forecast speaks to current global societal needs. This year reveals six social moods from which we have formulated four unique colour stories that reflect them.”

What are the trend drivers?

In a rapidly evolving and increasingly chaotic world, uncertainty is propelling people to look inward and create personal spaces where they feel safe and secure. Katlego says, “This brings us to cocooning as one of our trend drivers. Our homes are becoming more social as we once again invite people into our personal space to socialise and entertain.”

The 2019 Colour Forecast’s Glamour story suggests combining gentle lilac Candy Tuft (P3-B2-1) with grounding colours such as Oyster Catcher (Y2-B2-3) or Evening Glade (G3-E2-2) to create a stylish sanctuary in your home. Pops of colour through freshly green Granny Apple (G2-A1-1), aqua Mermaid Jewel (G7-B1-3) or dramatic Groovy Grape (R1-B1-1) for accent or features will add a gratifyingly opulent quality.

Plascon reveals their 2019 colour trends and how they’ll make all the difference in the built environment.

Dark brown walls, floors and doors are here to stay. From the Luxury colour story, this sophisticated and monochromatic grown up interior is given a dignified paint treatment in Black Bean (71).

The forecast’s dramatic Luxury story also speaks to this natural trend with colours such as Ravine (62), Plascon’s Neutral of the Year, and Berry Good (P1-A2-3) working well with Black Bean (71) and Beeswax Candle (Y1-B1-1), for a look that takes us back to a slower pace where old world values take centre stage.

Katlego adds, “Plascon’s Cashmere is the ultimate interior paint that will give you a luxurious finish that not only brings the colour to life but also creates that cocoon-like feeling.”

With more people living in cities and towns to get closer to employment and other economic opportunities, urbanisation is also a key driver in how people utilise their space. Katlego comments, “Living in urban areas means we live in smaller spaces and this is driving people to embrace smaller homes that are functionally designed to do more with less.”

The Colour Forecast’s Urban colour story speaks to the ultimate urban home, edited with clean lines and no clutter. Cementitious Silver (38) and gritty Bovine (47) are the neutrals which are brought to life with rich blues, reds and yellows such as Pristine Blue (B4-A1-1), Red Flame (R7-A1-1) and Yellow Jubilee (Y2-A1-1).

Digitally connected and social, everything these days is done for ‘likes’ so individualisation and the way we portray ourselves on digital platforms is increasingly important. Central to this is how our homes look to our peers. Younger people especially are more willing to embrace expressive and eye-catching designs that pop on the digital stage and purvey their sense of individuality.

Plascon reveals their 2019 colour trends and how they’ll make all the difference in the built environment.

What more can we say about the Minimal colour story except, ‘less is more’. This bathroom is a modern sanctuary treated in Daiquiri Cream (G4-B2-3) and Storm (B4-E1-4).

Urban’s colours work well to this end as does the Minimal colour story which features futuristic neutrals such as Daiquiri Cream (G4-B2-3) and Meadow Yellow (Y4-A2-2). Teamed up with refined shades such as Atlantic Ocean (B2-C1-1) or sensorial Night’s Cloak (P1-C1-1) we have an upbeat colour story that provides warmth in the absence of ‘stuff’.

Emotional intelligence and mindfulness have also come to the fore with conscious consumerism in contrast to the ‘stuffocation’ of days gone by. With uplifting saturated hues like Lemon Rind (Y4-A1-3) for focus and rich rewarding Go Go Red (R4-A1-1) for energy, Minimal’s colour story appeals to the person who likes uncluttered, uplifting modern spaces that also allows pause for thought.

In a globally connected world where just about anything from anywhere can be bought or read online, cultural influences are varied and at our fingertips. All four of the Plascon Colour Forecast’s colour stories speak to this trend and provide colours and a way for people to design with their heads and hearts to ensure they have a living space where they can live their best life.

Plascon reveals their 2019 colour trends and how they’ll make all the difference in the built environment.

Industrial Bovine (47) and vital Yellow Jubilee (Y2-A1-1), part of the Urban colour story, make a confidently artful statement in this lounge and eliminates the need for accessories and art pieces.

Katlego concludes, “In this uncertain world, creating a beautiful home where we feel confident, happy and loved is one of the few things we have control over. Using the Plascon Colour Forecast 2019 and choosing one of our premium quality paint products, it’s easier than ever to do this. So, the only thing left to think about now is: What’s your colour story?”

The post HERE THEY ARE: PLASCON’S 2019 TRENDS appeared first on Leading Architecture & Design.

dhk reveals residential design comprising four elliptical towers

2 weeks 3 days ago
Ellipse Waterfall, a new residential development comprising four elliptical towers of differing heights, is the first high-rise luxury apartment development in the heart of Waterfall City, Gauteng.

The shape of the buildings’ elliptical towers takes inspiration from an ellipse or curved plane, which is highly efficient in terms of ratio of surface area to internal volume.

Architecture firm, dhk, has unveiled its design for a new residential development comprising four elliptical towers of differing heights. Ellipse Waterfall is the first high-rise luxury apartment development in the heart of Waterfall City, Gauteng (South Africa). Covering 45 000 sqm, the precinct features 590 brand-new apartments and other amenities including ‘The Luna Club’, an exclusive multi-concept lifestyle destination for Ellipse Waterfall’s residents.

Waterfall City is a rapidly developing mixed-use suburb that encompasses a variety of lifestyle, residential and commercial functions. Prominent buildings within the district include the Mall of Africa, as well as several high-rise office blocks. The vision of Waterfall City is to establish a vibrant, modern destination that embraces urban living.

The brief from the clients, co-developers Attacq and Tricolt, was to create a unique residential complex, including executive 1-bedroom, 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom units as well as multiple penthouse suites.

In response to the brief, dhk moved away from the traditional rectangular apartment block design and decided to take on a more unconventional form. To make best use of the property’s unobstructed views, dhk proposed four separate elliptical towers. The buildings’ shape takes inspiration from an ellipse (a mathematical term for a curved plane surrounding two focal points) which is highly efficient in terms of ratio of surface area to internal volume. The lack of corners reduces the visual profile of the buildings and was identified as the most suitable form when considering multiple towers in proximity to one another. Inspired by their mathematical origins, each tower is named after some of the world’s most celebrated scientists, namely, ‘Newton’, ‘Kepler’, ‘Da Vinci’ and ‘Galileo’. Each tower has an identical footprint; however, the height of each differs. ‘Newton’ has 10 storeys, ‘Kepler’ has 11 storeys, ‘Da Vinci’ has 13 storeys and ‘Galileo’ has 15 storeys.

The curvilinear façade of the towers is complemented by a mix of moveable and fixed screens which serve to animate the elevations. This produces an ever-changing collage resulting from the movement of the sun and the moods of its occupants.

The towers sit on a raised podium, creating an elevated ground floor with a parking garage and services infrastructure underneath. Extensively landscaped, the podium level includes a central piazza, running track, active and passive parks, lap and leisure pools, verdant gardens and ’The Luna Club’ to engage residents and encourage community activity. At street level, an elevated forecourt addresses the most prominent corner where retail spaces spill out onto the activated street edges to embrace other users from the broader Waterfall City community.

The interiors of the buildings have a clean and contemporary aesthetic, complete with ultra-modern finishes, high ceilings and large windows that provide panoramic views of the Gauteng skyline. Designed with user experience in mind, everything has been considered to optimise internal functionality and flow. The interior design was completed by dhk’s sister company, dhk thinkspace.

Aram Lello, associate director at dhk and lead architect on the project says, “Our intention was to create spaces for dialogue and community involvement. We critically analysed the requirements of residents to design spaces responding to their needs – we wanted to create homes and a rich sense of community. The buildings embrace diversity through their unique design and the provision of great amenities”.

Once complete, the development will not only encourage interaction amongst residents, but it will engage the entire community and add to the growing Waterfall City skyline.

The project consists of two phases. During the first phase, ‘Newton’ and ‘Kepler’ will be built with ‘Da Vinci’ and ‘Galileo’ being built in the second phase.


The post dhk reveals residential design comprising four elliptical towers appeared first on Leading Architecture & Design.

Why, even with more access to toilets, women in a Kenyan slum avoid them

2 weeks 5 days ago
New toilet blocks in Mathare Valley informal settlement in Nairobi. Samantha Winter

About 2.3 billion people around the world lack access to basic toilets. This leads to poor sanitation and about 280,000 people per year die as a result. But the global sanitation crisis isn’t equally distributed. Women in developing countries are disproportionately burdened by the persistent lack of access to sanitation in their homes, communities, schools and public spaces.

Women and girls who rely on shared toilets, at schools or in densely populated urban settlements, lack privacy, safety and hygiene to comfortably manage their daily toilet and menstruation needs.

This threatens their health. Exposure to harmful bacteria in unsanitary environments puts women at risk of urinary tract infections, toxic shock syndrome and vaginal infections. Holding in their urine and faeces also puts them at risk of dehydration and haemorrhoids.

We carried out a study in Mathare Valley informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya to better understand women’s daily sanitation practices and what influences their decision to use facilities in the settlement.

Seven years ago there were about 144 public toilet facilities in Mathare. Anywhere from 17 to 232 people relied on a single toilet and over 70% of residents had to walk more that 50 meters to reach a toilet.

Since then, there’ve been concerted efforts by non-governmental organisations and the government to increase the number of toilets in Mathare. For instance Sanergy, a social venture, has launched more than 140 toilets in Mathare. But many of the existing toilets still require payment to use, between KES 3 and KES 10 per month (USD$0.03 - USD$0.10).

Despite the growing availability, many women still don’t always use them.

In our study we found that about one-third of women relied on a bucket, plastic bags or open defecation at least once during the day and over two-thirds rely on those methods at night.

This means that its not just access that’s the issue. Many women aren’t using the new facilities because of concerns over their safety, privacy, health and ability to pay to use them.

Future interventions must address these problems – and not just supply toilets – if sustainable gains in this important public health area are to be achieved.

Informal settlements

About 6.5 million of Kenya’s 45.5 million people live in urban informal settlements. The population living in these settlements increased by more than three times, from 1.5 million to more than 6.4 million between 1990 and 2014 and is still expected to keep growing. This will exacerbate the challenges women face when it comes to sanitation.

We collected data in two phases between 2015 and 2017. During the first phase we partnered with representatives from the University of Nairobi and female residents from Mathare to conduct in-depth case studies with 55 women living in Mathare. In the second phase we worked with female residents in Mathare to carry out 550 household-level surveys with women.

We found that, about 40% of women relied on public toilets for some of their sanitation needs during the day, but are unable to rely solely on these toilets. Within 24 hours, 75% of women relied on plastic bags or buckets at least once for their ablutions. They then dispose of these in open drains or rivers near their homes.

This is surprising. Over the last few years there have been efforts to increase access to toilets in Mathare. Notable among them are Sanergy’s fresh life toilets, Grand Challenge Canada’s funded Banza toilets and a government effort under the National Youth Service’s slum improvement project. Each of these projects focused on some aspect of increasing access to sanitation, from provision of innovative toilets to household rubbish collection, drainage cleanup, and toilet construction and management.

A number of factors prevent women from regularly using the facilities.

Women fear victimisation – like sexual assault, rape, or theft – poor cleanliness and a lack of privacy. On average, toilets in Mathare are shared by 70 people, with many being used by hundreds of people. This makes it very difficult to maintain them.

We found that one or more of the stalls at public toilets have missing doors or locks, are flooded or blocked, or aren’t cleaned well. Several of the public toilets, which have separate sections for men and women, aren’t always open or have closed one of the gender sections. Having to share facilities is a factor that makes women feel insecure, particularly at night.

The women didn’t see the toilets as safe spaces. They also don’t feel safe in the settlement. Participants said they felt unsafe leaving their homes at night, even if the toilets were located within a short walking distance.

Another reason women wouldn’t use the facilities is because most charge them, and they can’t afford to pay. Most toilets in Mathare charge a pay-per-use fee between KES 3 and KES 10 per month (USD$0.03 - USD$0.10). A family fee is between KES 100 and KES 150 (USD$1 - USD$1.50). The average household income in Mathare is about KES 8500 (USD$85), and estimated monthly expenditures often exceed this amount. This leaves little or no money for spending on sanitation.

On top of this, we found that some women don’t have the decision making power or control over household spending to allocate additional funds to sanitation.

Interestingly, many of the community toilets in Mathare have separate urinals for men that are free to use but there’s no setup like this for women.


When we asked the participants what would work for them, some suggested they needed more access to free urinals – one or two stalls in a public toilet facility – that they could use for urination and to change menstrual pads.

We also suggest that policymakers need to start accounting for other challenges to sanitation access, like strategies that increase women’s safety and privacy, especially at night. For example, better lighting in and around public toilets or community or technological innovations to help women feel safer when accessing public toilets.

The Conversation

Samantha Winter received funding for this project from the National Security Education Program in the United States as a Boren Fellow, PEO International, and the Rutgers Global Health Institute.

Saldanha Bay clinic burnt as community anger boils over

3 weeks ago
Mayor appoints task team to deal with residents’ demands

By Barbara Maregele

Photo of three people
Saldanha Bay Mayor Marius Koen accepts a list of demands from community leaders on Thursday. All photos: Barbara Maregele

At least two people were arrested and a dozen others sustained minor injuries during clashes between the police and residents of Diazville in Saldanha Bay on Thursday.

Residents of the West Coast town have accused the municipality of sidelining poor people in Saldanha Bay. A lack of housing; high water and electricity tariffs; and the municipality’s “unfair subsidy terms” were some of the concerns voiced by residents.

In the early hours of Friday morning, police said protests had flared up again, with another shop looted. Calm has since been restored to the area.

The protest came in the wake of unrest in Vredenburg which started on Monday. The town is situated about 20 kilometres from Diazville. Residents there are also demanding that the municipality provide housing and cheaper water and electricity fees, among other things.

On Thursday, most of the shops in and around Diazville remained closed. The main road into the area was littered with large stones and charred tyres. The two schools in the area remained closed. Only matriculants were escorted out of the area to write exams at a secure venue.

The Diazville community hall, a municipal office and part of a local holiday resort were burnt. Several homes and vehicles were also damaged and a local butchery was ransacked. The local clinic was also burnt.

“This was the closest clinic people could go to. The one closer to town is smaller and is always full. People with chronic illnesses and those who need to visit the clinic every day will suffer the most,” said resident Janine Paulse, pointing to the gutted clinic building.

Paulse recalled hearing people shouting and “loud sounds” in the early hours of Thursday morning. “Now people really won’t get houses because all of that money will go to fixing these buildings,” she said.

Tensions flared again around midday. Sporadic cat-and-mouse games ensued between the Public Order Policing members and groups of young boys in the community. They pelted police with stones and the police retaliated by shooting teargas canisters and rubber bullets.

“Those are skollies throwing stones. They don’t even know what we are protesting for,” a woman shouted from her porch. “The police are shooting teargas in our yards. They don’t care that I have a two-year-old inside. Her eyes are swelling up.”

Minty’s Meat Market, a butchery in Saldanha Bay, was looted.

Earlier, community leaders — most of whom are also ANC and EFF office bearers — told GroundUp that people were “frustrated and tired” of their pleas going unanswered by the DA-run municipality.

“There were a number of legal marches to the municipality before the mayhem started [in Vredenburg] on Monday. We still don’t have a proper explanation for the high water and electricity bills,” said Eugene du Toit. He grew up in Vredenburg and has lived in Saldanha Bay for over a decade.

Du Toit, who is also the EFF’s regional deputy chairman, insisted that the protests “were not a political ploy” but instead were led by residents, highlighting “valid plights” in the community.

He said the budget allocated to Saldanha Bay was not enough to adequately provide services and alleviate poverty. “We have two squatter camps — Iraq and Marikana — where people have been living for years without services. But we have one of the lowest budgets.”

Resident Carina Jordaan said, “We want affordable service delivery. Some people have to pay high bills because of leaks in the pipes and those without bins still has to pay for refuse. It’s not fair.”

Another community leader Simphiwe Jantjies pointed to a new housing development called Hopland on the outskirts of Diazville. There, he said, residents were living without electricity for months. They also complained of shoddy workmanship.

By 3:30pm, about 1,500 people gathered in the main road into Diazville as word spread that Saldanha Bay Mayor Marius Koen was on his way and would personally accept a memorandum of demands.

Koen arrived about 30 minutes later, along with ward councillors, Western Cape Deputy Police Commissioner, Major-General Mpumelelo Manci, and South African Human Rights Commissioner, Chris Nissen.

A large contingent of heavily armed police officers stood watch as Koen read out the memorandum and signed it. “We will discuss this with the leaders during a meeting [at the police station],” he said.

The momentary calm was again broken as several stones were thrown towards Koen and the officials. He was immediately escorted out of the area. Protesters scattered as police retaliated with rubber rubber bullets and teargas.

During the meeting at the Saldanha Bay police station, Major-general Manci, said, “We could’ve been injured if we didn’t run today. The mayor wants to meet with legitimate people to discuss issues involving the wards. We want to be able to leave here with a plan.”

Some residents live in RDP houses like those shown above, but many live in shacks. The area is run down.

Nissen reprimanded leaders, saying the community’s conduct “only created more problems”. He urged the leaders to assist police in restoring calm to the area and to caution residents against spreading rumours on social media. “We don’t want to monitor through social media but people are posting on Facebook rumours that the multipurpose centre will be burnt and of further violence,” he said.

The mayor then set up a task team with leaders to deal with the issues raised by the community. This team are expected to meet again next Thursday.

Meanwhile, community leaders at the meeting, distanced themselves from the violence but added that many people were angry that Koen did not use a loud-hailer while addressing residents.

During a telephonic interview, spokesperson for the municipality, Ethne Julius said a formal statement in response to Thursday’s protest would be sent out on Friday. She added that because the municipality was already in the midst of the current financial year, there was very little it would do to accomodate most of the demands made by residents of both Vredenburg and Saldanha.

A Nyala drives along the edge of Diazville. In the background protesters and police are clashing.

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2018 GroundUp.
This article is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.


There's a new way to "grow" bio-bricks using human urine. Here's how it works.

3 weeks ago
Thanks to a novel process, human urine can be turned into bio-bricks. Robyn Walker

Recently, researchers from the University of Cape Town in South Africa have “grown” a bio-brick using bacteria and urea found in human urine. The Conversation Africa’s Natasha Joseph asked Dyllon Randall to explain the research and story behind the bio-bricks.

What prompted this project?

Initially, curiosity. Some years ago I read about a US based company called BioMASON that uses the same process we do to produce bio-bricks, but with synthetic urea rather than urine. I was working in the sanitation field and wondered whether real urine could be used instead. Thanks to a one-year feasibility grant from South Africa’s Water Research Commission in 2017, we were able to test the concept – successfully.

So you’re putting what we usually describe as “waste” to good use?

Yes. My research work focuses on rethinking wastewater as a resource. Some of the things we discard – like urine – can actually be converted into useful resources, as this work has shown. This is important if we’re going to achieve a truly sustainable future because we are running out of natural resources at an unprecedented rate.

It’s also about questioning the status quo and trying to improve processes.

Finally, it’s about using language differently when we describe “waste”. Language is important because it creates subtle paradigm shifts.

Where did you get the urine for this project from? How much does it take to form one bio-brick?

We collected the urine from men working in the New Engineering Building at the University of Cape Town using novel fertiliser-producing urinals. In future, we plan to collect urine from women, too.

We typically need between 20 and 30 litres of urine to make one bio-brick. This might sound like a lot, but remember that urine is more than 98% water: for the bio-brick making process we are only after carbonate ions and calcium ions which only accounts for about 1% (by mass) of the total urine.

How does the process work?

The bio-brick is made by a process called microbial induced calcium carbonate precipitation.

It’s partly a biological process, and a key part of the process is making sure the urea doesn’t quickly degrade, which is what usually happens. To do this, we increase the pH of the urine by adding calcium hydroxide (lime). If we didn’t do this, most of the urea would degrade during collection or storage.

This initial process also produces a solid fertiliser, calcium phosphate. This is removed from the liquid phase by filtration, and we’re left with a solution that’s rich in urea which can be used to make bio-bricks.

Certain bacteria produce an enzyme called urease which acts as a catalyst to breakdown urea into carbonate ions and ammonium ions.

With this in mind, we decrease the pH of our solution slightly so the bacteria which degrade the urea can survive, and add food for the bacteria along with extra calcium to make the whole process more efficient.

After this the carbonate ions combine with the calcium ions from the urine to form calcium carbonate – that is, a solid is formed. This solid is the cement that glues any lose material together into a shape of your choice – in this case, a bio-brick. This is also a natural process and occurs in many environments from coral reefs to caves. We merely imitate this in our bio-brick mould.

Do the bio-bricks smell of urine?

They’ll initially have a strong smell. This is the smell of ammonia, a pungent gas that is produced as a by-product when the bacteria degrades the urea.

We can recover this ammonia using a separate process and convert it into a nitrogen rich fertiliser.

Importantly, the bio-bricks lose their ammonia smell after drying at room temperature for a day or two and are safe to use and handle thereafter.

What about waste?

This is an integrated three phase process. Phase one produces the first (solid) fertiliser; phase two produces the bio-brick and phase three, which we haven’t tested yet, has the potential to produce a second (liquid or solid) fertiliser.

The entire process would theoretically produce no “waste”.

There’s also room to optimise the process and reduce the amount of urine required to make the bio-bricks.

Will this work at scale?

I think so. BioMASON has shown that this natural process is commercially viable, albeit not with urine. Back in 2016 they were in the process of upgrading their facilities to grow 2500 bricks per day.

We need to work on the integration of the urine collection to the large-scale bio-brick making process though. I’m confident we will be able to do this in the near future.

The Conversation

Dyllon Randall receives funding from South Africa's Water Research Commission (WRC K5/2734/3) for this work.

Some smart ideas to make toilets fit for purpose in Africa's cities

3 weeks ago
Every flush by a typical toilet sends about 6 to 16 litres of fresh water to wastewater treatment centres. lchumpitaz/Shutterstock

About 23% of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to toilets while 31% with toilets use one’s that aren’t connected to a formal sanitation system. This means that more than half the people in sub-Saharan Africa live without proper sanitation – that’s about 570 million people.

One of the problems is that existing toilets aren’t a good fit for parts of sub-Saharan Africa because many areas lack water and there are often no proper plumbing or facilities to treat wastewater.

But there are solutions – toilets that are designed differently. We have come up with some innovative designs overcome the two biggest challenges – excessive use of water, and the fact that urine and faeces aren’t considered as resources.

The designs we suggest have a number of key features. Primarily, they use no water and store and treat urine and faeces separately. They include innovative technologies that reduce water and energy consumption – both vital steps if we’re going to start building smarter, greener cities.

Problems with current designs

Every flush by a typical toilet sends about six to 16 litres of fresh water to wastewater treatment centres. That’s a lot of water. The average total water consumption per person in Africa is about 20 litres a day.

On top of this, the treatment of waste uses up a huge amount of energy – about three to 15 kWh. This energy is being used to provide fresh water from different sources – like dams – for the flushing process and to treat the produced wastewater. It’s a huge amount of energy given the fact that we need only about 2kWh to charge a smart phone over a whole year.

The process of treating wastewater, so that it can be recycled and reused, is expensive because urine and faeces are mixed at the source. This makes treatment lengthy, expensive and power intensive. It’s also bad because there are valuable elements in human waste – like nitrogen and phosphorous – that aren’t being extracted and reused.

The cost of a more innovative toilet system can be higher than others – like pit latrines – but it really depends on the raw construction materials like concrete and wood. Tanks and other parts can also be made through locally available materials – like jerrycans. But once it’s built, the operation and maintenance process is easy and can be done by local labours.

New ideas

Separate waste: Our main idea, when it comes to improving toilets, is to view urine and faeces as a resource instead of waste. Nutrients from human waste – which can be used as a fertiliser to grow crops – can be removed during the treatment process through better management and technology.

To take advantage of this, the urine must be separated from the faeces. There are many toilets around the world that already do this. In some Asian countries, like Korea, Japan and Vietnam, it’s a traditional mechanism.

These toilets look similar to normal ones but there are two different inlets that store the waste in different tanks. Here they can be treated to remove smell and increase their fertility.

It’s a highly efficient process which doesn’t need complicated infrastructure and reduces the time needed for the treatment of waste. The system saves a huge amount of water and energy, which is beneficial to many local governments that are already under pressure.

Waterless: For most existing toilets, water is essential for flushing and draining. But it’s possible to have a waterless toilet. Again, the toilet must collect the urine separately from the faeces. Instead of flushing, the faeces and urine are separated from the source using urine-diverting dry toilets. These toilets are available in both sitting or squatting models and take advantage of the anatomy of the human body, which excretes urine and faeces separately. The urine is kept separate and drained via a basin with a small hole near the front of the toilet bowl or squatting pan, while faeces fall through a larger drop-hole at the rear.

Enhance waste: When waste is separated and collected into tanks, microbes can be added to them which ‘nitrify’ the waste – making it a better fertiliser – and control any bad smells from the toilet.

Community support: If these toilets are used communally they can bring huge social and economic benefits for communities. While common toilet systems are expensive to maintain, and pit latrines can be public health hazards, these systems are safe and can provide an excellent source of fertiliser for groups that grow their own food, or produce food for markets.

As African cities grow and develop, and pressure on natural resources and infrastructure – like sewerage – increase, these systems offer a sustainable and more hygienic way forward.

The Conversation

Mooyoung Han receives funding from Korea Research Foundation. He is affiliated with Water and Sanitation Appropriate Technology(WASAT) center at Seoul National University.

Shervin Hashemi is affiliated with Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Seoul National University.

Vredenburg closed off as protesters demand better living conditions

3 weeks 2 days ago
Shops shut and roads blocked

By Ashraf Hendricks, Kelly Vinett and Saam Niami Jalinous

Photo of residents protesting
Over a thousand residents protested along Southern Bypass Street in Vredenburg on Wednesday. All photos: Ashraf Hendricks

About 1,000 people protested in Vredenburg on Wednesday for the second day in a row, demanding housing and cheaper water and electricity. Armed with sjamboks and sticks, protesters blocked the streets with burning tyres and rubble, preventing vehicles from entering or leaving.

Vredenburg is about a 135km drive north from Cape Town, on the West Coast.

The protesting residents said the municipality did not listen to their complaints.

They said they wanted more toilets in the informal settlement of Ongegund. They wanted to be charged separately for water and electricity because, they said, if they did not pay their water bills, their electricity was cut off. “You stay in the dark until you pay for your water,” said a protester who identified himself as Ayabonga.

Protesters said they wanted to be housed in the promised George Kerridge 512 Housing Project, which was meant to be completed by the end of October.

One person told GroundUp that police had, on Tuesday, shot rubber bullets at protesters who were running away. “All their scars are on their backs,” he said.

“We want the mayor to give us proper places to stay,” said a protester. “We want electricity, taps, toilets. Each and every house must have toilets and electricity. They say they will build houses when they want our votes. But when the votes are up, we don’t hear from them again. We don’t even know what the mayor looks like.”

“We have to make chaos so they can see we’re suffering,” said protester Gift Naki.

Protesters marched down Southern Bypass Street burning tyres and blocking the streets with rubble. The police watched, and used a water cannon to douse the flames at one of the intersections.

Provincial Minister of Community Safety Alan Winde said the police station had been stoned during protests yesterday. He said ten police vehicles had been damaged. “Unlawful attacks on the police are an attack on the whole community, and on the country’s Constitution,” Winde said. On Tuesday, 38 people were arrested for public violence according to News24.

A man walks with a child on his back near the protesters.

A portion of the Tsitsiratsisi informal settlement in Vredenburg. According to residents, one toilet services about ten families.

Residents claim that the toilets are cleaned once a month typically.

About 100 protesters marched through town. Some erected burning barricades.

This resident claimed that police were arresting anyone trying to make their way into town. He was trying to get to work and hurt himself running away from police. He was also shot with a rubber bullet. According to the SAPS twitter account, one police officer was injured and numerous vehicles were damaged during the protest on Tuesday.

Protesters blocked a portion of Southern Bypass Street in Vredenberg. At the end of the first day of protest on Tuesday, over 30 people were arrested for public violence.

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2018 GroundUp.
This article is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.


Billions spent on railway contracts. Yet Metrorail collapses

3 weeks 2 days ago
Roy Moodley, who is implicated in a leaked forensic report, says that criminal charges have been laid against GroundUp reporters

By Aidan Jones and Nathan Geffen

Photo of Metrorail train
Forensic reports by Werksmans Attorneys indicate that a huge amount of irregular spending has gone into train infrastructure. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

If you travel on Metrorail’s Southern Line in November 2018 and compare it to two years ago, a few things strike you. First, most infuriating, is that trains are more irregular than they used to be. Second, the carriages, even the higher priced Metro Plus ones, have deteriorated to an even more parlous state. Barely a seat is still covered. Graffiti and advertising stickers plaster the sides.

What’s eery though is how relatively empty the carriages are during the morning rush hour at Retreat Station, one of Cape Town’s main hubs. You’re almost guaranteed to get a seat now, even though it may be torn and have no more stuffing. Far fewer people appear to be using this line, and commuters must be finding other more expensive but reliable ways to get to work.

Yet over the past half-decade Metrorail has spent, or squandered, billions of rands on supposedly improving trains infrastructure.

The leaked Werksmans Attorneys reports into mismanagement at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) have flagged irregularities in the agency’s dealings with infrastructure service providers. The firm has recommended that racketeering charges be considered.

According to one of the reports, the agency spent R9.3 billion between 2010 and 2016 on its General Overhaul (GO) project for “the repair and refurbishment of coach features, fittings and equipment”.

The contracts of some service providers for the GO program have been identified as irregular. Goldex Engineering and Maintenance (Pty) Ltd, a “coach refurbisher and general maintenance supplier … is part of the GO Program, but was not part of the panel [of service providers] appointed in 2006 … PRASA could not provide documentation to the investigation team in support of their appointment to the panel despite having personally signed off on the work allocation to Goldex Engineering,” wrote the investigators, concluding that their appointment “appears to be irregular”.

According to the investigators Roy Moodley has “business interests” in a company called Hail Way Trading and this company trades under the name Goldex Engineering and Maintenance. However, a Windeed search did not substantiate this.

GroundUp approached Moodley for comment and received a threatening text response. See the full response below. Moodley was named in Jacques Pauw’s best-selling book, The President’s Keepers, as a key player in state capture.

Werksmans also pointed out that Goldex’s registration number is connected to a company with a different trading name. This “is indicative of a risk of fraud,” the report states. It recommended that “offences of racketeering in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998 as amended be considered.”

Another of the reports revealed that PRASA spent over three times the approved budget for its Infrastructure 2013 program. “The total value of contracts, received to date, exceeds R575 million, which is in excess of the envisaged program value in the November 2013 memorandum of R136 million.”

The report states that service providers for this project also appear to have been appointed irregularly. “Dikiza [Railway and Civil Engineering CC] was appointed by means of a confinement process” in November 2013 “as part of a program to appoint additional suppliers … to improve after-hours reaction time for infrastructure repairs.”

Appointing service providers on confinement involves deviating from competitive bidding processes and is done in emergency situations or when a particular service is only provided by one supplier. But Werksmans were unconvinced there was any emergency. “We are of the opinion that the confinements were irregular,” the report states.

PRASA has not responded to our questions regarding the GO and Infrastructure 2013 projects, despite repeated requests and generous deadlines for comment. We were unable to get comment from Dikiza.

Train travel drops over the same time period

The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) has reported that train mileage decreased and operational occurrences on South Africa’s rail network increased between 2010 and 2016.

Their latest State of Safety report states that train mileage decreased due to “the effects of a prolonged period of decreasing availability of rolling stock, infrastructure maintenance and criminal acts of vandalism and theft on PRASA Rail.”

PRASA Rail trains were travelling 26.3 million kilometres in 2010/11, this decreased to 22.2 million kilometres in 2015/16. Operational occurrences rose steadily over the same time period, from 4,181 in 2010 to 4,250 in 2016, peaking at 4,632 in 2014/15.

Operational occurrences include train collisions and derailments and are caused by things like faulty signalling equipment and cable theft.

The Werksmans reports, known as #PRASALeaks2, were provided to GroundUp by commuter activist group UniteBehind. UniteBehind has not divulged the source of the leaked reports. The first #PRASALeaks referred to leaked reports commissioned by National Treasury, and were reported by GroundUp last year. You can find the reports here.

It is important to note that the National Treasury and Werksmans Attorneys investigations, like those of the Public Protector and Auditor General, are smell tests. They make recommendations for further action but are not sufficient grounds for prosecution in and of themselves.

Even so, it is concerning to note the lack of response from prosecution agencies to the numerous red flags raised by the various investigations into mismanagement and corruption at PRASA.

Due to the sheer volume of the Werksmans reports, together with GroundUp’s relatively limited capacity to peruse them, we cannot claim to have a comprehensive overview of the reports.

Roy Moodley’s Response

GroundUp sent the following message to Roy Moodley’s cell phone:

“Good day Mr Moodley. GroundUp will be publishing a report about the Werksmans Attorneys investigation into PRASA in which they claim a company directed by you called Hailway Trading bought and restructured a company called Goldex Engineering that provided general maintenance services to PRASA as part of their General Overhaul program between 2010 and 2016, however the investigators claim the appointment was irregular. Do you have any comment on this? If so, please get back to us by midday tomorrow. Thank you.”

We received this response:

“Hello I don’t understand your logic. Which appointment was irregular you better get facts and then publish. As you might already know there is a criminal charge against Aidan Jones and Nathan Geffen for publishing false accusations in last weeks media the ground up. Watch the space what ever you publish make sure you have the facts and if you dont have facts then you are committing fraud by misrepresenting the public to generate personal income. Make Sure you publish the truth to the public and don’t misrepresent the public for personal gain. Remember there is only one law in this country misrepresentation is a criminal offense. Thanks”

It appears Moodley is referring to the article GroundUp published on 30 October which dealt with his family’s company Royal Security: New leaked reports show why train security has collapsed

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2018 GroundUp.
This article is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.


32 Battalion veterans left in limbo in forgotten military town

3 weeks 4 days ago
Pomfret is in decline and its 3,000 Portuguese speaking residents face an uncertain future

Text by Christopher Clark. Photos by Shaun Swingler.

Photo of entrance to Pomfret
At the end of the Border War, Angolan members of 32 Battalion were moved to Pomfret

As the midday sun beats down on the desert town of Pomfret in North West Province, 29-year-old Marcela Viemba pushes open a crooked metal gate and walks across a barren yard towards the front door of a forlorn red brick bungalow with a terracotta roof.

“This used to be my home,” Viemba says, turning to look at the varying states of collapse of other properties on either side of the tree-lined street. “It used to be so nice here in Pomfret, but it’s not a place to live anymore.”

Viemba moved to Pomfret, a former asbestos mine camp, at just three months old. Her father was among a group of Angolan soldiers who fought for apartheid South Africa’s notorious 32 Battalion. They were settled here with their families in 1989 at the end of the Border War, when Namibia gained independence and Pomfret became a South African military base.

Although residents still consider themselves Angolan, and Portuguese remains the lingua franca, they are all South African citizens and many have known no home but Pomfret. Only a handful of the 100 or so remaining military veterans have ever returned to Angola.

But the future of this uniquely homogenous community has become increasingly uncertain since the military base was closed in 2000 and ownership was transferred to the Department of Public Works.

Various departments of local and national government have stated their intention to relocate residents and demolish the town, citing the alleged risk of asbestos-related illnesses stemming from the old mine, which is visible on a hillside just beyond the perimeter of the town itself.

Marcela Viemba, who moved to Mahikeng in 2008, stands outside her former home in Pomfret.

Most recently, an October 2017 report by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation stated: “The discovery of asbestos contamination in Pomfret renders the environment unsafe and unclean. Allowing the community to remain in such a condition is a fundamental violation of their human rights.”

Some current residents told GroundUp there were rumours they’d all be moved out by the end of 2018. But it has been 13 years since Pomfret residents were first made aware of a sluggish relocation plan and approximately 3,000 of the original 5,000 inhabitants still remain, almost all of them black Angolan family members and descendants of the original veterans. The few white military families who once lived here have long since departed. Those left behind have watched their town gradually deteriorate around them.

Much of the town was ravaged by looters after the local police station was shuttered in 2005 or torn down by police officers deployed to Pomfret during various phases of relocation that took place over the course 2008, when scores of families, including Viemba’s, were moved to RDP houses in Mahikeng.

Viemba comes back to Pomfret to visit family once every year or so and is still visibly upset by the dereliction. Among the ruins are a former clinic now used as a dump site, three empty public swimming pools and a dilapidated sports club that was once equipped with plush squash and tennis courts and a grand hall for hosting concerts and film screenings.

A 2008 court interdict put a temporary halt to the relocations and the accompanying demolition of the town, but it hasn’t stopped the steady erosion of services. Eskom shut off the electricity in December 2014, which subsequently interrupted the water supply. Residents have since had to fill water containers from rain tanks or the few public boreholes scattered across town.

“I grew up here. It was a beautiful place. To see the way it’s going downhill, it’s truly terrible,” said a local spaza shop owner who spoke to GroundUp on condition of anonymity.

With the nearest major urban centre of Vryburg more than two hours’ drive away, no job prospects in town and veterans on paltry pensions often having to purchase groceries on credit, he added that “business is terrible”.

The combination of socioeconomic woes and military heritage has led many Pomfret veterans and their male descendants to join controversial private security outfits in conflict zones as far away as Kosovo and Iraq.

“If you’re from Pomfret you aren’t really exposed to another way of life,” says Martin Antonio, a former resident who now owns businesses in the security sector in Pretoria. “So there will always be people from Pomfret going into that kind of job because they don’t see any other option.”

Antonio says that this is compounded by the stigma that Pomfret residents face in the job sector due to the town’s uncomfortable association with apartheid: “When you apply for a job and then you say you’re from Pomfret, automatically they look at you as a traitor. So your application will not be considered.”

According to Adrian Vorster, an advocate who represented the Pomfret community for more than five years, it was the town’s chequered past rather than the alleged asbestos contamination that prompted the initial government relocation attempts, which were first announced to the community in 2005.

This was just a year after more than 60 mercenaries were arrested in Harare in connection with an alleged coup plot against Equatorial Guinea’s longstanding dictator, Teodoro Obiang Nguema. Many of the mercenaries were former members of 32 Battalion.

Pomfret used to have three public swimming pools, all of which are now empty and long since out of use.

“Pomfret was seen as a mercenary pool. It was an embarrassment to the ANC government that South African citizens were arrested and many were from Pomfret. The government was also worried that someone might use that military capability in Pomfret for a coup attempt on home turf,” Vorster told GroundUp.

He adds that there had always been a “residual resentment” towards the 32 Battalion veterans, particularly for their role in gross human rights abuses when they were deployed to various townships across Gauteng in the political tumult of the early ‘90s, which ultimately led to the disbandment of the unit in 1993.

Vorster believes that more recent statements from the Department of Public Works and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation pushing for the court interdict to be overturned and the relocation process resumed are a political ruse ahead of the 2019 elections.

“At some stage everyone in Pomfret voted for the ANC because promises were made by then Premier Popo Molefe that the community would be assisted. But when the relocation started the relationship deteriorated and there was a political shift and the DA started gaining traction,” Vorster says.

“If Pomfret sways to a particular party, then that party is going to enjoy the majority of support in the area because Pomfret is the biggest voting block. So the whole thing has become about the artificial dilution of voting blocks to make sure the ANC maintains control in the area.”

On the asbestos risk, Vorster adds: “I previously worked on a number of asbestos cases. Very close to Pomfret is a community called Heuningvlei that is so contaminated that it definitely shouldn’t be inhabited at all. Yet those people have not been earmarked for relocation; the area has just been earmarked for rehabilitation.”

An affidavit submitted by Vorster to the Pretoria High Court in 2008 on behalf of 300 Pomfret households stated: “There were no less than six tenders for asbestos mine rehabilitation projects in the Northern Province, Northwest Province and Northern Cape provinces in the Government Tender Bulletin of October, 2005; Pomfret was conspicuously absent from the list.”

As recently as September 2018, the Department of Environmental Affairs announced the appointment of a service provider for the “development of the designs, construction and supervision of a 10km asbestos free road in Heuningvlei.”

The Department of Public Works did not respond to a request for comment on the risk of asbestos contamination in Pomfret.

Pomfret used to be an asbestos mining camp before it was repurposed as a military base. The old mine is visible from town.

But according to Johann Smith, a security analyst and former 32 Battalion commander, Pomfret shouldn’t have been considered habitable in the first place. “These guys were just dumped in this abandoned asbestos town in the middle of nowhere. From a health point of view that should never have happened.”

Angela McIntyre, a researcher who worked in Pomfret for a number of years, says that for the older Angolan veterans, this was merely the latest in “a series of abandonments and misfortunes”.

She points out that many of the veterans had been thrust into the Angolan Civil War in the 1970s as child soldiers fighting for the increasingly outgunned National Liberation Front of Angola (FNLA). By the time they were forced into contact with the South African forces on the Angola-Namibia border, she says they were “essentially refugees” in their own country.

As a result, both McIntyre and Vorster believe that the Angolans had little choice but to side with the South African Defence Force: “They were completely dependent on them,” says Vorster. “They’ve always been left in a terrible situation where they’re exposed to exploitation by basically everyone. It’s a truly tragic story.”

Mario Gomes, a 62-year-old 32 Battalion veteran, moved to Pomfret at the end of the Border War in 1989.

62-year-old Mario Gomes is among the small handful of ageing veterans left in Pomfret. A former FNLA child soldier, he joined 32 Battalion at just 20-years-old in 1976 and moved to Pomfret with his family in 1989.

Gomes says he often wakes suddenly in the night thinking about all the things he witnessed during more than two decades as a soldier. “After everything I’ve been through, it’s like I worked for nothing,” he says. “We still ended up poor and forgotten. It doesn’t feel good.”

Antonio claims that all the Pomfret veterans were promised substantial payouts towards the education of their children, but that this never materialised.

Responding to a parliamentary question from the New National Party’s Dr BL Geldenhuys in 2004, then defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota said that a “32 Battalion trust fund still exists, with R870,497 in the fund” and that the SA Army Foundation was responsible for the safekeeping of the funds.

In a statement to City Press journalist Sipho Masondo in 2017, SA Army Foundation general manager Angel Ramphele said he had no knowledge about the funds and would launch an investigation. Ramphele failed to respond to requests from GroundUp for an update on this.

Meanwhile, Pomfret’s residents continue to live in limbo. Vorster said that in 2008 most were opposed to relocation and supported the court interdict. A spokesperson for the North West Department of Public Works said that although “the relocation process is ongoing”, some residents were still refusing to be moved. But during GroundUp’s visit in October, everyone interviewed said they wanted to leave, though many still expressed fears about how they’d be received elsewhere.

“The veterans are tired. Many of them will die here waiting for a better life that will never come,” said a 30-year-old woman whose father was in 32 Battalion and died of a heart attack in 2007; she asked to remain anonymous for fear of being associated with her father’s past. “You feel like you’re going crazy waiting for the day when this place will finally be closed,” she added. “Things are just getting worse.”

In an overgrown cemetery on the edge of town, Marcela Viemba looks for her father’s grave among the numerous veterans who lie there. Many are buried in pauper’s graves marked only with a small metal cross and covered in uneven mounds of sharp rocks.

While Viemba says that life in Mahikeng is an improvement on Pomfret in its current state, she concedes that “there’s not the same sense of community or social life”.

“Sometimes I sit and stare out of the window and drift off and my mother asks what I’m thinking about, and I tell her I’m thinking of Pomfret,” she adds.

She finally locates her father’s grave, which has a faded black and white picture of his handsome but stern face mounted on a marble tombstone. “If you have an open mind like me, you will see that these men were heroes,” she says. “When everyone else is gone, what will happen to their remains?”

Children walk across town to Pomfret’s only school early on an October morning.

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2018 GroundUp.
This article is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.

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