Stellenbosch builds world class institute to investigate deadly diseases

2 days 23 hours ago
R1 billion Biomedical Research Institute will be ready by 2022

By Elsabé Brits

Graphic of future Biomedical Research Institute
Depiction of Stellenbosch University’ s future Biomedical Research Institute in Tygerberg. Graphic supplied

Stellenbosch University has started building a new Biomedical Research Institute which will investigate diseases that have the greatest impact on South Africa and the rest of Africa.

This R1 billion-facility, which will be completed in 2022, will be one of the most innovative and advanced biomedical research centres in Africa. It will be based at the university’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in Tygerberg.

Faculty dean, Professor Jimmy Volmink said the institute would “advance our capacity to undertake world class research on the leading health problems affecting our people”. He also said it would build the region’s research capacity. Its main aim will be to investigate diseases, improve diagnoses and treat illness such as TB, HIV, diabetes, heart disease and neurological disorders.

Professor Nico Gey van Pittius, vice dean and molecular biologist, said bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field which uses IT and statistics to understand biological data, for example the huge amount of genomic information generated by gene sequences. It includes the fields of population genetics as well as personalised medicine where patients are treated according to their genetic composition.

The faculty has been part of this type of research for the past 20 years and all these experts will be part of a new Bioinformatics Hub, where they will have access to the best high speed genetic processors.

Biomedical teaching, training and research has been based in the Physiology and Anatomy building, which was built in the 1970s. In the past four decades student numbers have more than tripled and the field of biomedicine has changed dramatically.

The new facility will increase research and teaching capacity in fields such as bioinformatics, genomics, anatomy, neurobiology, advanced surgical sciences, and biobanking.

Gey van Pittius said the Biobank will have storage capacity for medical tissue samples of more than 5 million people. This automated biobank, the first of its kind in Africa, will store samples at -80°C for the long term. It will contain a robot which can access an individual sample as requested. “A biobank storage facility is the key to research in medicine, especially in the era of genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics and personalised medicine.”

The new institute will also house a Proteomics laboratory. Proteomics is the analysis of the entire protein complement of a cell, tissue, or organism. Van Pittius explained that this can give good insight into the differences between how people are affected by disease.

There will also be conference facilities, a skills laboratory, a morphology museum, and electron microscopy laboratories. The latter has a very high resolution to see very small structures such as tuberculosis bacteria.

The building has to generate its own backup power supply said van Pittius. One fridge might contain enzymes worth millions of rands and a power outage would be disastrous. The samples in the Biobank will be irreplaceable and they need to be cooled down.

The institute will have some environmentally friendly features. The building will tie into the campus’s greywater masterplan, which allows for rain water harvesting and the use of borehole water. All toilets will be flushed with non-potable water. A smart lighting system will detect areas where natural light is strongest and adjust lighting accordingly, thereby drawing less electricity from the grid.

Published originally on GroundUp .

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Rolling blackouts are killing small businesses in South Africa

2 days 23 hours ago
“We are losing profits. Our clients are impatient and always in a hurry. They can’t wait for about two and a half hours.”

By Mary-Anne Gontsana, Thembela Ntongana and Tariro Washinyira

Photo of restauranteers
Thulani Mguda and Tumi Mayende say that even though their restaurant in Gugulethu is doing well, load shedding has been making things difficult for them. Photo: Mary-Anne Gontsana

Toni Burton started Zizamele Ceramics in 2008. Located in Masiphumelele, a small township in the south of Cape Town, she employs nine people. She has trained them to do ceramics. She and her employees depend on this small business for their livelihood.

The kilns which make the pottery the business sells, cannot work without electricity. “We may need to resort to going to the studio at night to switch the kilns on after load-shedding ends at 8:30pm and before the 10am one begins,” Burton says. But she also says it’s dangerous to travel in Masiphumelele at night.

The kiln needs to reach a temperature of 1,000ºC over 12 hours. During load shedding it is impossible to get one firing cycle completed before the next outage begins. “Our glaze firing takes even longer as it needs to reach 1,175ºC over 14 hours,” Burton explains.

She is investigating using paraffin to power the kilns. That would mean getting rid of the ones that use electricity.

Meanwhile, Bagcina Dlovo sits frustrated in his panel-beating workshop in Masiphumelele. Earlier in the day he went to a shop outside in a nearby area — but on a different part of the grid — to buy parts for a car he needs to fix. But the electricity was off. So for two hours he had to wait before the shop’s systems came back online. Then, when he got back his shop an hour later, the electricity went off in his area.

“Most of the cars I fix are taxis that have to be on the road to make money. They cannot wait the whole day for me, so they rather take their cars to someone who can do it,” says Dlovo.

The single father of three, who also supports his parents in the Eastern Cape, says that load shedding means that sometimes it takes the whole day to do a one-hour job. “Big businesses have generators and do not lose as much as we do,” explains Dlovo.

Nolufefe Bisani, who works as a teller at a braai place in Masiphumelele, explains to a customer that she will only be able to sell him meat once the electricity comes back on in two hours. Photo: Thembela Ntongana

Noziziwe Bozo owns a braai place in Masiphumelele. She has seven employees. Her business gets busy at lunch and after work in the evening. When the electricity is off during peak hours it hurts her business.

“I was unable to operate during the busiest time of the day. I need electricity to weigh the meat. And because the braai area is indoors, customers can’t braai if it is dark, so I have to turn them away. I have employees that have children to support. I can’t tell them that I won’t pay them because of electricity. It is not their fault but I am left with a loss at the end of the day,” says Bozo.

She also worries about her meat going off because it must be kept cold. She is considering investing in a generator. “If things keep going like this I will run at a loss.”

Entrepreneurs Tumi Mayende and Thulani Mguda are both in their twenties. They say that even though their business has been doing very well, load shedding is starting to put a damper on things.

The pair started their restaurant, Orgasmic Gawulo in Gugulethu, in October 2017. “We definitely feel the pinch when our food becomes rotten because there’s no electricity,” says Mayende.

Mguda explains: “The food business is very delicate. We will be cooking and right in the middle, the electricity goes off. It is worse when the electricity goes off in the morning, because breakfast is the busiest time for us.”

They have put a lot of effort into their business. The duo started it in a small caravan outside Gugulethu Mall where they would sell sandwiches. They now run it from a house next to a popular pub and have a much wider menu. They employ four full-time staff.

Mguda says they want to buy a generator, but it won’t be soon because it’s expensive.

Christine Fri’s hair salon comes to a grinding halt during load shedding. “We are losing profits,” she says.

Christine Fri owns a beauty salon in Parow. “How can you explain to the landlord that there was no electricity and you don’t have money for his rent?” she asks. Like many of the immigrant-owned small businesses in Parow, Fri sends money to her family, in her case her child and parents in Cameroon.

She started her salon, called Momi Christ, in 2008. It is the busiest one in the area, and a cosmopolitan place, serving people from many different countries. Some of her clients travel from as far as Parklands, more than 15km away, for a hairdo. She employs three hairdressers.

Hairdressing needs electricity: without hairdryers, curling irons and warm water to wash hair, customers cannot be served properly.

“We are losing profits,” Fri says. “Our clients are impatient and always in a hurry. They can’t wait for about two and a half hours.”

Sometimes business is slow, and then the electricity goes off as a customer walks in. “It’s hard to lose a client that way. I couldn’t bear the pain when I lost two clients in such a way yesterday,” Fri says.

Idris is a barber from Congo who also runs his business in Parow (he wouldn’t give his surname). He needs electricity for his razors. “Just imagine that you are busy with someone and before you have finished, the electricity goes off.” Some of his his clients are not from Parow and not aware of the load shedding schedule there. Idris laments that they waste time and fuel to travel for a haircut, only to have the electricity go off.

Tressor is a tailor from Congo who runs his business in Parow (he also wouldn’t give his surname). His sewing machine needs electricity and so it does not work during load shedding. “My clients are angry with me because I am behind with orders. I have lost clients. If the electricity problem is not resolved soon I am worried I will lose more business,” he says.

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2019 GroundUp.
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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Buffalo City mum on its shoddy RDP houses

3 days ago
Residents say they occupied the poorly built, incomplete houses after they had stood empty for six months

By Lisekho Madikane

Photo of an unplastered house
People staying in RDP homes in Velwano, Mdantsane, are living in incomplete houses and appalling conditions. Photo: Lisekho Madikane

People staying in RDP homes in Velwano, Mdantsane, are living in incomplete houses and appalling conditions. Residents blame the municipality and the Ruwacon construction company. The company denies responsibility. Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality has not responded to GroundUp’s queries despite repeated attempts for over three weeks to get comment from its spokespeople.

“When they started building the houses we were excited because we were finally going to move out of the shacks and live in a better place. But the way things are now, I think I was better off staying at the shacks. At least there I had a toilet nearby,” says Kiga Ntyala.

Kiga and Nongenisile Ntyala are elderly and suffer from disability. They have to send their grandchildren to fetch water from a tap about 150 metres away. Much of the time it is dry and the grandchildren have to walk 500 metres to access water on the other side of the location before going to school.

The Ntyalas occupied the house in 2017 after it had stood empty for six months. The walls are cracked and there are no windows or doors and no toilet. The family relieve themselves in a bucket or use the veld behind the Mdantsane train station.

Resident Mntubanzi Baka is a wheelchair user. He is 39 and lives alone. He spends R700 of his disability grant to pay people to fetch water for him daily, take him into the yard, and empty his toilet bucket. Sometimes he is stuck with it for days because there is no one to help him.

“Sometimes I have to ask children to go and fetch water for me and their parents don’t like that and they swear at me. But what can I do when I can’t find an adult to help me?” said Baka.

“The government promised they will build me a house that is wheelchair friendly … My room is small. I can’t move around. They [government] said I must ask my doctor to fill in a form. He did that and I submitted it,” he said.

Councillor Gwebile Kosani said he has been trying to help the residents but cannot do anything beyond putting pressure on the municipality.

“The municipality needs to fix this mess. There are cases where more than one person owns the same house. There are lawyers involved. The municipality knows everything. They are aware that those houses were not built properly,” said Kosani.

Nyameka Mana lives with ten family members. They had gone to the local committee active at the time and asked for their house number. They received a house, but to their surprise the walls were unplastered, the ceilings unfinished and it had no doors.

The family depends solely on social grants. They wanted to finish the house themselves, but local builders advised them that the problem was with the foundations and buying cement would not solve it.

“It’s like I am outside, but I am inside a house. I don’t feel safe here … All the rooms are leaking. When it rains, we have to move the furniture. That is the life we are living,” said Mana.

Anda Swelindawo is one of a few dozen lucky residents who received their houses officially, even though they also have problems such as cracks and faulty electricity meter boxes.

“Our houses were handed over to us officially in 2016. There were only 32 of us, while there are 268 other houses. We are also not in possession of the title deeds, but we have a document stating that we are the owners of the houses,” said Swelindawo.

Ruwacon Construction was awarded the tender. Construction started in 2013. Manager of labour relations and legal matters De Waal Boshoff said: “We can confirm that we built the houses and they were built according to the design. The foundation, walls and roofs were inspected and signed off by the engineers, who performed tests on the houses before they signed off.

“We have never received any complaints regarding the project. We completed our part of the project five years ago and de-established our site. Nothing was ever reported to us,” he said.

Buffalo City Municipality communications head Samkelo Ngwenya refered GroundUp to Bathandwa Diamond, who said she has had forwarded our email to the housing department. After many reminders, GroundUp has still not received any comment. Our WhatsApp messages and phone calls have been ignored.

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2019 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.


Picking up the pieces, counting costs after load shedding

3 days ago

Load shedding left a trail of destruction with appliances, substations and transformers exploding, costing the country even more billions.

The five-day rotational load shedding, halted yesterday, did not only turn lives upside down and cost the country billions, but also left a trail of destruction, with mini-substations and transformers popping and exploding in Johannesburg.

Hundreds of consumers also lost appliances to voltage surges when the power came on after shedding.

Cable thieves wasted no time in taking advantage of the situation, digging up electricity cables to sell as scrap, which compounded the effects of damaged substations and transformers and left parts of the city without power long after load shedding was suspended yesterday.



Ramaphosa's plans aren't enough to adequately tackle violent crime in South Africa

1 week ago
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during his 2019 State of the Nation Address. GCIS/GovernmentZA/Flickr, CC BY-ND

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa used his State of the Nation Address on February 7 to outline his relatively new government’s actions and plans.

Ramaphosa focused particularly on economic growth, investment and job creation. He also announced substantial investments in education, health and housing. But there was very limited focus on crime. Prevention strategies he outlined were somewhat stale. Most, especially those related to policing and gender-based violence, have been tried before. They yielded few positive results and there is no evidence to suggest that they’ll work any better now.

This, in a country whose levels of violent crime are extremely high. Gender-based violence such as assault and rape, and violence against children is common. And there are very real problems with how South Africa’s police operate.

Ramaphosa’s robust plans for the economy have the potential for reducing violent crime in the future. But, importantly, existing levels of violent crime can severely undermine his government’s efforts to stimulate growth, increase investment and reduce poverty. There’s an urgent need for government to honesty reflect on its current approaches to crime prevention; and to adopt strategies that are based on evidence.

The police

Many of the determinants of violent crime in South Africa are beyond the police’s control. Crime and violence are shaped by a variety and combination of societal factors. These include inequality, societal norms that condone the use of violence, and alcohol and drug abuse. Despite this reality, the heavy lifting of crime control has fallen squarely on the shoulders of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

SAPS has developed various community policing approaches since the mid-1990s. These have been designed to try and work with communities to address crime’s societal drivers.

These strategies have included the creation of community policing forums. Another strategy was the implementation of “sector policing” – an approach that divides policing precincts into smaller parts, which would be actively patrolled by the same police personnel to improve police-community relations.

Unfortunately, there’s little evidence to show that these approaches have done much to bring down crime rates. Why? Because communities, especially those where crime is high, don’t trust the police much. Another problem is that most community policing strategies are imposed on residents by SAPS without proper buy-in. Only certain groups, such as neighbourhood watches, are actively encouraged to participate. Other community-based organisations and NGOs are often excluded.

In his speech, Ramaphosa introduced a “new” SAPS Community Policing Strategy. In fact, it appears to be a “business as usual” approach. Without important changes, it’s unlikely that this strategy will be any more effective than previous efforts.

Community policing interventions in some US cities, such as Boston and Chicago – and even in some parts of South Africa, such as Khayelitsha and Roodekrans, have shown how it can be done.

Building equal and mutually beneficial partnerships between police and communities is an effective way to fight crime. Sadly, those areas in South Africa which take this approach do so in an ad hoc way, driven almost entirely by individual police officers taking the initiative without instruction from their superiors.

Allocating resources

A recent judgment by the Equality Court found the allocation of police resources in the Western Cape was skewed in favour of wealthier areas with lower crime rates. It’s highly likely that discriminatory allocations of police resources occur in other provinces. This state of affairs has reinforced established patterns of poverty, inequality and violent crime.

Ramaphosa indicated in his speech that more resources would be made available for policing, but he was silent about where these would be allocated. This may help to improve community-police relations, but only if priority is given to those crime affected areas that need it the most.

Gender-based violence

For more than 20 years, the government has been aware of the complexity of interpersonal violence – a point Ramaphosa reiterated in his speech. Various crime prevention strategies and plans have been developed to address both violent crime in general as well as gender-based violence. Examples include The National Crime Prevention Strategy (1996), the Integrated Social Crime Prevention Strategy (2011), and the Integrated Programme of Action Addressing Violence Against Women and Children (2014).

Available evidence suggests these strategies have not resulted in significant crime prevention. The reason is that these documents have tended to be overly ambitious. They envisioned an integrated, multi-sectoral response without an appreciation of the complexities involved in getting the relevant government departments and agencies to collaborate in implementing the strategies.

Even in well resourced countries with relatively low crime rates, such as Australia, Belgium and New Zealand, integrated crime prevention approaches have failed to adequately translate into action. In Australia, for example, a study concluded that an integrated crime prevention effort failed because of

a lack of clear and coherent central leadership…, an emphasis on short-term goals and outcomes…, low levels of funding, and repeated radical changes in direction.

It appears that the latest document which president Ramaphosa mentioned in his speech, the National Strategic Plan on Gender-based Violence, will follow a similar approach to previous plans. If it’s to be effective, such a plan should rather prioritise a small number of key areas where there is a high probability of achieving positive results across society.

For example, there is increasing scholarly consensus that childhood experiences of violence are among the greatest risk factors for such victims engaging in and perpetrating gender-based violence in future. Hence, child protection could be a particularly strategic focus area for such a plan.

President Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address underscored that “building a better South Africa” requires a collective action from all citizens. Indeed, this is imperative in preventing crime. But the government needs to ensure that effective structures and mechanisms are in place to allow for such collective involvement.

The Conversation

Guy Lamb 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.

Welcome to the revolution in digital wallpaper printing

1 week ago
See how two printers have taken on the challenge of printing digital wallpaper and are already forging ahead into the future of the industry.

From wallpaper and tiles to wood and glass, digital print is enabling creativity and innovation in the interior design sector, opening up new areas of opportunity for designers and print service providers (PSPs) alike.

Unlike other industries, wallpaper hasn’t been fully engulfed by digital print technology. But with the winds of change picking up speed, it’s only a matter of time before everyone else catches up to the new ways of printing. 

With so much heritage and tradition in wallpaper printing, making the jump to digital can be a brave move. Read on to see how two printers have taken on the challenge of printing digital wallpaper and are already forging ahead into the future of the industry.

Consumers want to experience the beauty of innovative design

Wall Vision Group was founded in Boras, Sweden in 1905 and now carries brands such as Cole & Son, Mr Perswall (a Swedish, pure digital printed brand), and Wall and Deco (an exclusive Italian brand for digital printed wallcoverings).

Fredrik Larsson, COO at WallVision, says: “We carry a long history of wallpaper design with our brands, but we also continuously develop new designs and possibilities. We can print with almost all the techniques that exist in the wallpaper industry, from 19th century surface printing to the latest digital printing machinery.

Mr Perswall was established from the desire to print wallpaper in small series. Once production was up and running, the brand had no problems finding designers for their custom wallpaper printing – for many, expressing their creativity through large-scale designs instead of small repeat patterns was hugely exciting.

“Digital printing has challenged, and continues to challenge, our traditional skills for printing and our perception of how to sell wallpapers,” says Fredrik.

“I think consumers want to experience the beauty of innovative design. Digital print offers a wonderful opportunity to design outside the limited boundaries of analogue print cylinders, enhancing interest in a previously old-fashioned product.”

It’s an exciting time to be in wallpaper!

Milton & King are all about embracing technology, and claim to be “pioneering a bold new era in wallcoverings”. Their modern manufacturing methods use digital design and production techniques, social media profiles, and our online sampling.

Richard Capp, Co-Founder of Milton & King, says: “Whilst we share all the romantic views on wallpaper, everything that comes from Milton & King is produced on a digital press.

“Digital is enabling new designers to enter the market, avoid large start-up costs and sell themselves to the world as wallpaper print house. We haven’t seen digital really impact the market yet, […] but as companies invest in more commercially viable machines for wallpaper, then we will see a very different wallpaper landscape.”

Milton & King love exploring new design trends and testing new technologies. As relative newcomers to the industry, their enthusiasm for the new is inspiring for both designers and consumers. Richard believes the future is bright for digital wallpaper printing: “I think digital production is having a positive impact on an old market – it’s bringing in a new era! It’s an exciting time to be in wallpaper!”

Download Canon’s insights here to see how print can make spaces more personalised and dynamic than ever before.

The post WELCOME TO THE REVOLUTION IN DIGITAL WALLPAPER PRINTING appeared first on Leading Architecture & Design.

Aleph Hospitality Signs Deal with Marriott International to Manage the First Four Points by Sheraton in Liberia

1 week 1 day ago
Aleph Hospitality

Pioneering hospitality management company, Aleph Hospitality (, today announced the signing of a franchise agreement with Marriott International for the first Four Points by Sheraton ( hotel in Liberia. Located in the capital city, Monrovia, the hotel is due to become the first internationally branded hotel in the country upon opening in 2020 and will be managed by Aleph Hospitality under the Four Points by Sheraton brand.

The landmark property is ideally situated in the city’s central business district, adjacent to the United Nations mission and in close proximity to a number of government organisations and commercial offices. It will offer 111 stylishly appointed guest rooms to the capital’s expanding business traveller base, along with meeting facilities and a multitude of food and beverage outlets, including one all-day-dining venue, one speciality restaurant, a beach bar and grill and a rooftop bar.  Guests will also be able to take advantage of a gym, spa, swimming pool and access to the beach. The hotel will boast Four Points by Sheraton’s approachable design and excellent service and reflect the brand’s promise to provide what matters most to today’s independent travellers.

The opening of the hotel will play a vital role in helping to realise the country’s tourism strategy, which aims to deliver 15 million international visitors by 2023. 

“With President Weah announcing plans just last month to greatly simplify the visa entry system and look to develop a national tourism board to drive inbound visitor numbers, Liberia looks set to significantly grow its share of voice in the African tourism industry,” commented Bani Haddad, Managing Director, Aleph Hospitality.  “The increasing number of international guests will bring with them a strong demand for international quality accommodation and we greatly look forward to managing the operations of the hotel to world-class standards and making the Four Points by Sheraton Monrovia the destination of choice in the city.”

Expected to create over 100 new jobs when open, the hotel, which is owned by Sea Suites Hotel LLC, will be operated by Aleph Hospitality under a third-party management model. This model, ubiquitous in the U.S. and European hotel industries but in its infancy in Africa, is proven to deliver superior value for the owner through a combination of the benefits afforded by an international brand married with a highly-focused and personalised management approach aligned to the interests of the owner.

“By appointing Aleph Hospitality to manage our hotel, we have secured not only one partner but two, with Aleph executing a franchise agreement for the Four Points brand which would not have been possible if we were managing the hotel ourselves,” said Joe Barbar, President of Sea Suites Hotel LLC. “We look forward to the hotel opening and creating history as the first internationally branded hotel in the country.”

Founded in 2015, Aleph Hospitality is an approved operator of all of the major international hotel brands and serves clients across Africa stretching from Monrovia to Mombasa.  Upcoming openings in addition to the Four Points by Sheraton Monrovia include, among others, the Best Western Plus Nairobi Westlands in Kenya, which is expected to open mid this year. The company also operates independent unbranded hotels such as the 115-room Getfam Hotel in Addis Ababa, offering owners the opportunity to tailor make the optimal management structure for their asset.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Aleph Hospitality.

EDITORS: Company factsheet and logos can be downloaded from the Aleph Hospitality Media Centre, available here. (

Media Contact:
Roz Money
Vice President Marketing & PR
Aleph Hospitality
Phone: +44 7745 673624

About Aleph Hospitality:
Aleph Hospitality ( is a pioneering hospitality management company, specialising in the operation of hotels and food and beverage outlets across Africa and the Middle East. Unique in both its geographical focus and the breadth and flexibility of its service offering, the company gives regional owners and developers unrivalled access to the international expertise and local know-how required to maximise the success and profitability of their assets. To find out more, visit

About Four Points:
Four Points by Sheraton (, part of Marriott International, Inc., includes over 250 hotels in more than 40 countries and territories. At Four Points, travel is reinvented and guests can find the timeless style and comfort they’re looking for with genuine service and everything that matters most, all around the world.  Four Points hotels can be found in big urban centres, by the airport, near the beach, and in the suburbs. Each hotel offers a familiar place with an authentic sense of the local, and friendly genuine service where guests can relax and unwind, watch local sports, and enjoy the brand’s Best Brews and BBQ™ programme. To learn more, visit us online ( and stay connected to Four Points on Facebook ( Four Points is proud to participate in the company’s award-winning loyalty programmes – Marriott Rewards®, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®, and Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG). The programmes, operating under one set of unparalleled benefits, enable members to earn points toward free hotel stays, achieve Elite status faster than ever, and seamlessly book or redeem points for stays throughout our loyalty portfolio of 29 brands and more than 6,700 participating hotels in 130 countries & territories. To enrol for free or for more information about the programmes, visit

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Living on a dam wall

1 week 3 days ago
Shack dwellers in Dunoon have occupied the edge of a dam

By Peter Luhanga

Photo of a dam and shacks
Land on the edge of a dam in Dunoon has been occupied by shack dwellers. Photo: Peter Luhanga

Desperate for rent-free accommodation, residents living in the overcrowded informal settlement of Ekuphumuleni broke down a concrete fence and occupied land on the edge of a dam. Situated behind the Dunoon municipal hall near Milnerton in Cape Town, the air at the site is thick with a rotten egg smell that seems to come from the dam.

Occupiers say the first people to move to the site did so in February last year. A second wave of occupiers followed in June.

On 30 January 2019, the City’s anti-land invasion unit (ALIU), accompanied by police, demolished shacks and confiscated building materials and household belongings.

Residents immediately rebuilt. The ALIU returned on 4 February, razing homes and again confiscating building materials and household belongings.

By Wednesday some occupiers were rebuilding again.

“We are stressed. We don’t have a place to stay,” said Sanele Thetha, 23. It had cost him R3,200 to build his shack.

Before the occupation, the site was an illegal dump. The occupiers pushed piles of garbage into the dam to clear the site and build their homes. “The vacant land was being utilised for illegal dumping. So we decided to clear it and occupy it instead,” said Thetha.

Mateboho Mahashe, 30, who has two children, aged 17 months and seven years, said, “We have been renting shacks outside the fence of the dam in Ekuphumuleni near the N7. We have been paying R800 for rent including electricity. We are unemployed and cannot afford to pay rent, and [we] decided to move inside the dam [area].”

The ALIU demolished her home in January. “They did not give us any notice for eviction or anything,” she said. It cost her and her partner R2,200 to build the shack.

GroundUp saw mattresses floating and household belongings submerged in the grey water of the dam.

Mahashe and Thetha said they built their shacks so that the fronts faced the N7 and the backs faced the dam. “We don’t have many options,” said Thetha. She said the need for land outweighed the dangers of the site.

Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements Councillor Malusi Booi confirmed the demolitions. Asked if the City had a court order to evict the residents, Booi said the resident’s claims that the land was already occupied in February and June last year were untrue. “The City’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit removes structures that are unoccupied or unfinished. This is not an eviction in terms of the law.”

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2019 GroundUp.
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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Communities, mining corporations and corruption in South Africa

1 week 4 days ago

During the apartheid era in South Africa, the mining industry operated without restraint and had undue influence over government decision-making. This created an environment where companies maximised profits at the expense of people and the environment.

To establish whether this is still the case I did research in Dullstroom, Mpumalanga and St. Lucia, KwaZulu-Natal. Dullstroom has a strong agri-tourism sector and is well known for its natural environment, particularly flyfishing. These attributes are now under threat from coal mining license applications. St Lucia is located near South Africa’s coastal border with Mozambique. It’s near the Great St Lucia Wetland Park, a world heritage site.

My research shows that some mining corporations still have influence over mining development in post-apartheid South Africa, although to a lesser degree. The study found that mining corporations, national and local government had a close relationship. Mining companies were strong arming government on how mining developments in the sector should happen.

Mining houses and development

The research found that corruption, poor governance and lax compliance were rife in Dullstroom. Generally, mining corporations often employed government officials to get mining licenses approved. Political connections enabled corruption between mining companies and government.

Practices like this have undermined laws that were passed after 1994 to control the negative effects of mining. For example, the National Environmental Management Act stipulates that development shouldn’t be allowed if it will lead to irreversible environmental degradation. And the South African Constitution makes provision for two rights potentially affected by mining. These are the right to a healthy environment and the right to having the environment protected.

The introduction of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution also enshrines the right of communities to express their dissatisfaction and challenge mining laws and regulations.

A number of communities have used these rights to take action against government and corporate malpractice.

One example is a civil society coalition’s successful defence of a protected area in Mabola in the north of the country.

But in other instances mining companies have found ways to circumvent community resistance. One route has been to get licenses approved by bypassing proper consultation processes with residents by influencing community leaders. For example, a community campaign against Indian mining giant Jindal, to prospect for iron ore in northern KwaZulu-Natal saw traditional leaders intimidating community members who were opposed to the development. Community members accused traditional leaders of giving Jindal permission to prospect on their land without consulting them.

Mining companies have also used the fact that people living in communities earmarked for mining are poor, and most don’t have jobs. In the Sakhelwe township in Dullstroom, the offer of jobs was to create divisions within the area. Similarly in St Lucia the local mining company promised local residents jobs and bursaries for tertiary education to get community members on their side.

Why civil society matters

The influence of companies has placed a strain on South Africa’s participatory model of democracy. This should involve the government, residents and the civic community. Local communities are often not consulted meaningfully during mining development processed.

For now it seems that the strategies being used by civil society organisations may be the best prospect for ensuring mining companies, and the government, are forced to apply the law.

There have already been some notable successes. In Xolebeni in the Eastern Cape the community has forced the mining company to stop a proposed development. A court ruled that an independent survey should take place to determine if community wants the project to go ahead. The court judgment specifically called for thorough consultation with the community prior to any granting of mining rights.

Groups such as these are gaining political momentum and support. For now, they provide the best potential for an enabling political settlement and for deliberative democracy.

It remains to be seen if these victories will have a wider impact on the future of mining in the country. A big question mark still hangs over whether the government, and the leadership of the African National Congress, will continue to be dictated to by corporations.

The signs aren’t good. The mining industry has welcomed the election of new leaders to run the ANC, signalling that it offers a new dawn for collaboration.

It also remains to be seen how civil society and local communities are able to organise and respond to any risks over mining development. This includes how local leaders will engage with their constituencies over future mining developments.

The Conversation

Llewellyn Leonard tidak bekerja, menjadi konsultan, memiliki saham, atau menerima dana dari perusahaan atau organisasi mana pun yang akan mengambil untung dari artikel ini, dan telah mengungkapkan bahwa ia tidak memiliki afiliasi di luar afiliasi akademis yang telah disebut di atas.

Police, private security clash with students in Johannesburg

1 week 4 days ago
Ministry sets up task team to resolve issues

By Zoë Postman and Barbara Maregele

Photo of protest
About 300 students from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Wits and Central Johannesburg College marched from UJ’s Doornfontein campus to Auckland Park Kingsway campus. Photo: Zoë Postman

At least one person has been seriously injured during clashes between police and protesting students on Wednesday.

Students have been protesting at campuses across the country about similar issues. On Tuesday, students at Wits said they were going on hunger strike because of lack of accommodation and financial exclusions.

About 300 students from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Wits and Central Johannesburg College marched from UJ’s Doornfontein to Auckland Park Kingsway (APK) campuses. As they entered campuses they called on other students to join them.

Two nyalas and several police and private security cars followed protesters closely as they marched through the streets.

The group, led by EFF student leaders, is calling for free registration, for students with historical debt to be allowed to register and for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to pay out accommodation funds.

Students were expected to hand over a memorandum to management at APK campus but a scuffle broke out between private security guards from SSG Security and the students at the gate. It is unclear what started the scuffle.

In a bid to disperse the group, police fired stun grenades. Several SSG security guards chased protesters down Kingsway Avenue, spraying pepper spray. Both guards and students threw stones at each other.

GroundUp saw a man who appeared to be badly injured with a blood-covered face. Paramedics were attending to him.

University spokesperson Herman Esterhuizen said the institution had implemented security measures for the safety of staff, other students and university property.

EFF student leader Phuti Chokwe said, “We warned them that we will be shutting down all UJ campuses today. At least 40% of returning students have been blocked from registering because of outstanding funds. We also have students that have not been able to register because UJ has a first come, first serve policy. Our students at Braamfontein also don’t have accommodation because there was an issue with NSFAS paying their money.”

Sergio Malatji, another EFF student leader, said about 21,000 students have not been able to register. These students mostly have large amounts of outstanding debt, he said.

“We are demanding that registration be free and all students with historical debt must be able to register. The university has a policy that students must pay half of their debt before registering, but if you owe R80,000 it means you must pay R40,000 upfront. Where must we get that kind of money?” said Malatji.

Thamsanqa Ntaka, 22, said he owes the university about R100,000. He is studying Construction Management and Quantity Surveying and is meant to complete his fourth year but has been unable to register.

Nkata said this debt accumulated over the years. “The university wants me to pay half of my debt before I register. I don’t have the money to do that. This is why we are here today … We want to continue studying and finish our degrees,” he said.

Esterhuizen said the last academic year had shown that UJ was the university of choice for students who came from the poorest backgrounds. He said the university realises it needs more money for students who are “academically deserving” but whose families are struggling to support their studies.

He said the university will continue with its “missing middle” fundraising campaign which has raised about R195 million to support students financially. The “missing middle” refers to students who don’t qualify for free education but who are from homes that struggle to afford university fees.

Lunga Ngqengelele, spokesperson for the Ministry of Higher Education and Training, said a delegation of senior officials would be tackling some of the grievances raised by students in the coming weeks.

He said NSFAS would also be meeting with the South African Union of Students soon to “discuss some of the issues they raised”.

In response to questions about the EFF’s involvement in the protests, Ngqengelele said, “Minister Naledi Pandor urges students not to heed the call to join protests as it will have negative consequences to their academic year.”

Ngqengelele said Pandor had an open door policy for “anyone who wants to bring ideas to resolve some of the challenges.”

Published originally on GroundUp .

© 2019 GroundUp.
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How Russia is growing its strategic influence in Africa

1 week 5 days ago
Angolan President Joao Lourenco and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Johannesburg in 2018. EPA-EFE/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin Pool

Much has been made about China’s role and profile in Africa and the factors underlying its activities on the continent. Less debated is the spread and depth of Russia’s contemporary presence and profile in Africa.

There was a strong Russian influence in Africa during the heyday of the Soviet Union. The post-independence governments of Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda and Benin at some point all received diplomatic or military support from the Soviet Union.

But this began to change after the superpower started to collapse in December 1991. More than a quarter of a century later Russia’s President Vladimir Putin seems to have new aspirations in Africa. This is in line with his desire to restore Russia to great power status.

Putin places a high premium on geopolitical relations and the pursuit of Russian assertiveness in the global arena. This includes reestablishing Russia’s sphere of influence, which extends to the African continent.

Like Beijing, Moscow’s method of trade and investment in Africa is without the prescriptions or conditionalities of actors like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Russia is gradually increasing its influence in Africa through strategic investment in energy and minerals. It’s also using military muscle and soft power.

Increasingly, the pressing question is: is the relationship between China and Africa as good for Africa as it is for China? The same question applies to Russia-Africa relations.

Energy and minerals

Interaction between Russia and Africa has grown exponentially this century, with trade and investment growing by 185% between 2005 and 2015.

Economically, much of Russia’s focus in Africa centres on energy. Key Russian investments in Africa are in the oil, gas and nuclear power sectors.

The fact that 620 million people in Africa don’t have electricity provides Russia’s nuclear power industry with potential markets. Several Russian companies, such as Gazprom, Lukoil, Rostec and Rosatom are active in Africa. Most activity is in Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Nigeria and Uganda. In Egypt, negotiations have already been finalised with Moscow for the building of the country’s first nuclear plant .

These companies are mostly state-run, with investments often linked to military and diplomatic interests.

Moscow’s second area of interest is Africa’s mineral riches. This is particularly evident in Zimbabwe, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia and the Central African Republic.

In Zimbabwe, Russia is developing one of the world’s largest deposits of platinum group metals.

Russia has also been reestablishing links with Angola, where Alrosa, the Russian giant, mines diamonds. Discussions between Russia and Angola have also focused on hydrocarbon production.Uranium in Namibia is another example.

Russia’s current controversial involvement in the Central African Republic (CAR) began in 2017, when a team of Russian military instructors and 170 “civilian advisers” were sent by Moscow to Bangui to train the country’s army and presidential guard. Shortly after that, nine weapons shipments arrived in the CAR.

Interest in the country has focused on exploring its natural resources on a concession basis. The murder of three Russian journalists in a remote area of the country last year focused the world’s attention on what looked like a Kremlin drive for influence and resources.

Military influence and diplomacy

Russia is the second largest exporter of arms globally, and a major supplier to African states. Over the past two decades it has pursued military ties with various African countries, such as Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Military ties are linked to bilateral military agreements as well as providing boots on the ground in UN peacekeeping operations. Combined, China and Russia outnumber the other permanent members of the UN Security Council in contributing troop to UN peacekeeping efforts.

Russia has also been actively supporting Zimbabwe. Shortly after it was reported in 2018 that China had placed new generation surface-to-air missiles in Zimbabwe, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that his country was pursuing military cooperation.

Significantly, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said that his country may need Russia’s help with the modernisation of its defence force during a recent visit to Moscow.

Russia, Africa and the future

Both Russia and China are keen to play a future role in Africa. The difference between these two major powers is that China forms part of the Asian regional economy. This will surpass North America and Europe combined, in terms of global power - based on GDP, population size, military spending and technological investment.

China and India have sustained impressive economic growth over many years. And, their enormous populations make them two world powers of extraordinary importance. Growth prospects for the Russian economy, on the other hand, remain modest - between 1.5% and 1.8% a year for 2018-2010, against the current global average rate of 3.5% a year.

Still, Russia remains a major power in global politics. For African leaders, the key word is agency and the question is how to play the renewed Russian attention to their countries’ advantage, and not to fall victim to the contemporary “geopolitical chess” game played by the major powers on the continent.

The Conversation

Theo Neethling receives funding from the National Research Foundation.

50 minutes 26 seconds ago
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