The daily struggle of living in a wheelchair in a shack

1 day 22 hours ago
“The simplest things, like brushing your teeth, require work”

By Thembela Ntongana

Photo of a man in a wheelchair
Malibongwe Ntanjana lives alone in a two-roomed shack in Gugulethu. He uses a wheelchair since he was shot in a car hijacking two years ago. Photo: Thembela Ntongana

“If you are in a wheelchair and living in a shack, doing the simplest things, like brushing your teeth, requires work,” says 38-year-old Malibongwe Ntanjana.

He lives alone in a two-roomed shack in Gugulethu. He lost his ability to walk two years ago, when he was shot in a car hijacking. He was driving a taxi in Nyanga at the time.

A neighbour, who is jobless, fetches water for him to bathe. Ntanjana pays the neighbour what he can afford from what he earns working part-time at a nearby organisation that offers jobs to people living with disabilities.

He has been living on a “serviced plot” for over ten years. He has a title deed and is waiting for an RDP house to be built on the land. His shack has no electricity. There is a tap at the back, which he struggles to access. He has no toilet; he uses a bucket, which his neighbour empties regularly.

“I have been asking my ward councillor … He has never been here. He has been promising to at least give me a toilet I can use … for the last two years,” says Ntanjana. “When I bath I have to ask someone else [the neighbour] to come and throw away the water and empty the [toilet] bucket.”

Welekazi Dlikidla and her friend, Sylvia Dastile, live in a three-roomed shack with five children. Photo: Thembela Ntongana

Sylvia Dastile and her friend, Welekazi Dlikidla, have been living in a three-roomed shack on a piece of open land in Nyanga for over ten years. They live with five children; a sixth child is in a foster home and Dlikidla would like her back.

Both Dastile and Dlikidla are in wheelchairs. Dlikidla says she was born with her disability; Dastile was left paralysed by TB of the spine.

“We have to cross the road to access toilets [at an informal settlement] … The toilets are far from us, and when its raining we have no choice but to do everything here at home,” says Dastile.

“Getting into them [toilets] is also a mission, apart from the fact that they are sometimes locked … They are not made for people in wheelchairs. Sometimes they are dirty, but you have no choice,” says Dlikidla.

All around them are formal houses. “We have seen people move into the housing development where we were told our houses are – people in the same conditions as us, but we are not being called. We do not know if we will get houses because that development is almost done,” she says.

City of Cape Town Media Manager Luthando Tyhalibongo said the City was providing portable flush toilets to make informal settlement toilets accessible for disabled people.

“Over and above some of the pilot projects making informal settlement toilets accessible for the disabled, portable flush toilets are provided to those who are willing to make use of them. This type of sanitation is easily accessible to elderly people, children and disabled people, and allows people to avoid the dangers of walking to the toilet, especially at night,” said Tyhalibongo

The toilets are kept in homes and collected by the City, but some people have rejected them saying they are unhygienic.

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Lessons from the massive Siemens corruption scandal one decade later

3 days 5 hours ago
The headquarters of Siemens, Europe's largest engineering company, in central Munich. Shutterstock

Ten years ago a colossal corruption scandal involving Siemens, one of the world’s largest electrical engineering companies, shocked the world. The scale of it marked it out as the biggest corruption case of the time.

A few years later, Linda Thomsen, Director at the Security Exchange Commission described the pattern of bribery in the company as:

… unprecedented in scale and geographic reach. The corruption involved more than $1.4 billion in bribes to government officials in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas.

How did it happen and why is it important to keep this case in mind?

Prior to the corruption scandal, the reputation of Siemens was extremely good. It was renowned for its technological products and reliable services in telecommunications, power, transportation and medical equipment. It was common to see articles featuring its activities in remote areas, developing new high quality products and winning competitive bids.

So the world was taken by surprise when the police raided the company headquarters in Munich as well as other subsidiaries on November 15th 2006. The company’s first reaction was to claim innocence and to blame events on a small “criminal gang” .

For years the company had pretended to do business according to the highest ethical and legal standards. Since at least 1991, Siemens had developed corporate anti-corruption norms, fancy codes of conduct and strict business guidelines. It was even selected to become a corporate member of Transparency International’s German chapter in 1998 – a non-governmental organisation created to fight corruption.

The reality was completely different.

Since at least the 1990s, Siemens had organised a global system of corruption to gain market share and increase its price. It was able to get away with this because of big loopholes in the legal systems of a host of countries, including Germany.

Anti-corruption existed only on paper

Over many decades bribes became the accepted business norm at Siemens. They were channelled through hidden bank accounts, obscure intermediaries and pseudo “consultants”. When calculating the cost of a project, Siemens employees used “nützliche aufwendungen”, a common tax term literally translated as “useful expenditures” or internally understood as “bribes.”

The situation wasn’t helped by the fact that the law in Germany was written in a way that allowed bribes to be accounted for as tax-deductible expenses. This changed in 1999 when the country finally brought its law into line with the 1997 OECD Convention on Combating Bribery. This made it illegal to bribe foreign officials for a German company.

On the day the new law was passed in February that year, discussions began at the highest level at Siemens on how to handle the new regulation.

Time for justice

On July 5th 2000, Siemens issued a new corporate circular requiring operating groups and regional companies to ensure that a new anti-corruption clause would be included in all contracts with agents, consultants, brokers, or other third parties. The following year it issued new guidelines that stipulated:

No employee may directly or indirectly offer or grant unjustified advantages to others in connection with business dealings, neither in monetary form nor as some other advantage.

And on taking up a listing on the New York Stock Exchange in 2001, the company became subject to the 1977 Foreign Corruption Practice Act. In addition, from November 2003 the company was obliged to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, with a code of ethics that required chief financial officers and business heads to act responsibly and with integrity.

In July 2004 Siemens’ chief financial officer delivered a speech entitled “Tone from the Top”. The aim was to show that fighting corruption was finally a priority and contrary to the company’s principles of integrity.

In reality, as a German prosecutor was to comment later, the Siemens compliance programme existed only on paper.

Government investigations into corruption had been launched in Israel, Hungary, Azerbaijan, Taiwan and China while issues were also becoming apparent in Nigeria, Italy, Greece and Liechtenstein.

But, as American prosecutors discovered:

Siemens management failed to adequately investigate or follow up on any of these issues.

All over the word – from Bangladesh, Vietnam, Russia, and Mexico to Greece, Norway Iraq and Nigeria – Siemens paid bribes to government officials and civil servants. The magnitude of the bribery system was widespread. As Reinhard Siekaczek, a Siemens employee put it:

We all knew that what we were doing was illegal. Paying a bribe was customary in practically all business units at Siemens AG, except for business units that deals with lamps and such.

Action was finally taken against Siemens in a number of countries including the US, Germany, Italy and Lichtenstein.

Following the US and German prosecutions, Siemens paid more than $1.6 billion in fines, penalties and disgorgement of profits, including $800 million to US authorities. This was the largest monetary sanction ever imposed in a case under America’s Foreign Corruption Practice Act since it was passed in 1977.

Lessons from a corruption scandal

The Siemens case is emblematic of the past and we hope that it’s remembered and used to set up real compliance programmes. Without real counter actions, the risk is that the spread of corruption will continue as a virus, with companies imitating one other..

Another lesson is that the only real justice system taking on corruption seriously is the US. Only the US Department of Justice has been able to sanction corporations sufficiently. But the US shouldn’t be alone in punishing corporate misconduct. All governments should stop simply saying that corruption is bad. They should also show that it will be punished.

The Conversation

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

More than half the plots earmarked for backyarders in Cape Town’s southern suburbs are on wetlands

4 days 1 hour ago
Residents sceptical at briefing by project managers

By Barbara Maregele

Photo of man in front of screen
Abdul Dhansey of Delta Built Environment Consultants briefed residents on progress with the Greater Retreat Housing Projects. Photo: Barbara Maregele

More than 60 properties on at least 100 hectares have been identified for possible housing development in several Cape Town southern suburb areas. But more than half are on wetlands, residents were told at a meeting at the Grassy Park Civic Centre on Monday night.

At the meeting, called to brief residents on progress of the Greater Retreat Housing Projects, several residents raised complaints.

Abdul Dhansey of Delta Built Environment Consultants (Delta BEC), which is the project manager, said 44 of the properties belonged to the City of Cape Town, 13 to provincial government, three were owned by national government, three were privately owned and the ownership of one was yet to be determined.

About 50 residents were at the meeting with representatives from the provincial Department of Human Settlements, City of Cape Town and the team working on the project. The project, led by Human Settlements, follows a wave of protests in May by hundreds of Parkwood residents, mostly backyarders. They are frustrated by the lack of housing in the area and complained of high rental, electricity and water costs.

Last week, a Parkwood community leader told GroundUp that backyarders complained that they had been kept in the dark about progress with the project.

On Monday, Dhansey gave residents a snapshot of what the housing project could look like if at least half of the properties are used.

Dhansey said 66 properties on 279 hectares had been identified and assessed. Twenty-seven of the properties, on 127 hectares, were in Parkwood.

He said additional parcels of land could be added to the project in the future.

Dhansey said that the properties found to be more favourable would go to the top of the priority list. He said many of the sites might need to be rezoned for housing.

“One of the sites is in a critical biodiversity area and 34 had wetlands on them,” he said. “Where wetlands are present, this could pose a potential problem and maybe a portion of the site will not be used,” he said.

Dhansey said that if half the sites were acquired, “we could potentially build a total of 5,428 homes and units”.

“This would include a mix of free standing houses, semi-detached and walk-up apartment blocks. As we increase the density on the site, we can accommodate more units.”

“If you look at free-standing houses, roughly 2,000 units can be accommodated based on the scenario. Using the same scenario for four storey apartments, we could build about 8,000 units. This is just based on one development scenario,” he said.

Most residents applauded as Dhansey ended his presentation, except for several members of the Gatvol Capetonian group seated at the back of the hall. They also heckled throughout the event. Several police and law enforcement officers monitored the meeting.

At question time tensions flared as residents raised various complaints and objections, particularly with the establishment of at least two of the steering committees set up to represent residents on the project.

Resident Aubrey Roberts said, “There are people in Pelican Park who are on the waiting list for almost 30 years. It’s not fair that youngsters have houses there. We cannot allow this to happen again.”

Charles Daniels, of the Lavender Hill Civic Association, said residents in ward 68 were unhappy with the process followed for the project thus far. “We have asked for this presentation and details on each of the companies involved in this project because we don’t want any Guptas here. We haven’t received anything yet,” he said.

“They [government] are pushing this thing through without proper consultation. What happened at Steenvilla, where people have been evicted? At the end of the day, our people will be evicted again … They can’t come here and tell us what we want,” he said.

Parkwood resident Rashaad Allen said residents in his area were unhappy with the manner in which ward 66’s steering committee was elected. “They were elected in a private room, the community wasn’t invited. People in Parkwood are angry because they don’t think the people on the steering committee will represent them as they want. A letter was given to subcouncil about this issue,” he said.

Sharon Davids, a resident of Steenvilla, asked the Department to do an audit on the development to put a stop to evictions there.

In response to questions, Thando Mguli, head of the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements, said that the province had decided to prioritise people over 35 when allocating free homes.

On the steering committees, Mguli said they would return early next year to meet with wards separately to resolve the matter.

Published originally on GroundUp .

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Mortuary workers return to work after arrests

4 days 1 hour ago
“We are declaring a big war with the Department of Health,” says union

By Nompendulo Ngubane

Photo inside a morgue
Judge warned workers at the Fort Napier Medico Legal Mortuary in Pietermaritzburg to return to work or risk re-arrest. Workers say conditions at the mortuary (pictured above) are poor. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane (archive from 20 November)

Seventeen employees of the Fort Napier Medico Legal Mortuary in Pietermaritzburg, who were arrested on Monday, were released with a warning on Tuesday. They were arrested after the Department of Health issued an ultimatum to workers to return to work or face arrest.

Department of Health spokesperson Ncumisa Mafunda said that on Tuesday, 16 forensic pathology staff members from Gale Street Medico Legal Mortuary in Durban had also been arrested. According to National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) provincial secretary Phakama Ndunakazi, they were released the same day.

The Fort Napier workers had been on a go-slow since November. They have been demanding a wage increase, back pay and better working conditions.

“The 17 employees were released on Tuesday and given a strong warning by Labour Court Judge Witcher, and given a warning to either return to work, or risk getting re-arrested and expelled. The case was adjourned to 8 February 2019, on condition that they return to work and begin to function optimally,” said Mafunda.

“The department wishes to once again apologise to the public for delays that have been experienced regarding to the completion of autopsies, due to the ongoing go-slow by staff at five of its medical legal mortuaries.”

Ndunakazi said all the workers from Fort Napier had returned to work.

“Currently, we are conducting meetings with the workers about the way forward on the matter. This is not over. We are declaring a big war with the Department of Health. We will continue supporting the workers until their issues are resolved and attended to,” said Ndunakazi.

Employee Joshua Simelane, who is Nehawu chairperson in the Harry Gwala region, told GroundUp that the workers were back at work in Fort Napier.

“The workers were already reporting to the office. None of the staff members were absent from work. We were on a go-slow. There was not even one day where workers were absent. They were arrested from the office on Monday.”

A worker told GroundUp that working conditions were poor at the facility. “Our chairperson is busy compiling a report to the union about the current situation. There are green flies in the reception area. The air-conditioners are not working. One fridge is not working; it has created a smell. We don’t know what happened to it.”

The worker said some bodies had been removed from the mortuary by the department of health. “Families do not know where to look … They come to us and we have no answers,” said the worker.

Published originally on GroundUp .

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Inaugural Afrisam Concreativity Award

1 week 2 days ago

AfriSam recently announced the winners of its inaugural ConCreativity challenge at a prestigious awards ceremony held at Zeitz MOCAA, the largest museum of contemporary African art in the world.

Celebrating the various forms and potential of concrete, ConCreativity invited South Africans to capture the beauty of concrete through the lens of a camera.

“At AfriSam we believe it is not what concrete makes, but rather what concrete makes possible.  ConCreativity provided us with the opportunity to showcase the splendour of concrete, as captured by others”, says Ebeth van den Berg, AfriSam Group Marketing Manager.

From May to July 2018, entrants could submit their images according to the three monthly themes of existing spaces, abstraction and architecture.

With more than 1 000 beautiful entries received, the judges had the difficult task of selecting 18 finalists (6 per month) and from these, the final three winners.  The photos of all 18 finalists are currently on display until 24 December 2018 as part of the ConCreativity exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA – a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Congratulations and well done to the following winners who captured the possibilities that concrete represents.

AfriSam recently announced the winners of its inaugural ConCreativity challenge at a prestigious awards ceremony held at Zeitz MOCAA.

First place winner – ‘Iris’ by Lesedi Goulanka in the ‘Abstraction’ category.

WINNER: “Iris” by Lesedi Goulanka  (Category – Abstraction)

“Taking pictures broadens my perspective of life and changes the way I view things. I find comfort and joy through a camera lens. The sun doesn’t set without me taking a picture.”

Lesedi Goulanka is a 17-year-old aspiring photographer and entrepreneur who lives in Soweto. As a child, he would use his mother’s phone to take pictures and edit them to a professional level, an activity that helped him realise his passion for photography.

‘Iris’ depicts a staircase viewed through multiple circles carved out of concrete walls. He states that the stairs represent his goals and ambitions, whereas the circles are the obstacles that he needs to overcome in order to reach them. Much like a work of art, concrete and the entities that it forms may be interpreted in countless different ways. Thus portraying the medium as both highly functional, and infinitely beautiful.

2nd PLACE: “Under Pressure” by Unathi Mamane (Category – Architecture)
AfriSam recently announced the winners of its inaugural ConCreativity challenge at a prestigious awards ceremony held at Zeitz MOCAA.

2nd Place – ‘Under Pressure’ by Unathi Mamane in the ‘Architecture’ category.

“Photography is the universal language of our era.”

Unathi Mamane is a busy, vibrant and goal-orientated young woman who recently qualified as a professional accountant. Over the past few years she has developed an immense passion for photography, which she uses as an outlet to express her imperfections, fears and quirks. “The photos I take every day teach people to look again, look harder and truly see through their eyes,” she says.

Her image, titled ‘Under Pressure’, depicts concrete slabs that effortlessly balance and support the weight of a building. These slabs inspired her; she knew that they were more than the physical representation of mathematics – they revealed the true poetry of architectural concepts. Mamane was mesmerised by the way that the concrete slabs create an architectural masterpiece that is both functional as well as purposeful.




3rd PLACE: “Urban Treasures” by Stephan van Wyk  (Category – Existing Spaces)
AfriSam recently announced the winners of its inaugural ConCreativity challenge at a prestigious awards ceremony held at Zeitz MOCAA.

3rd Place – ‘Urban Treasures’ by Stephan van Wyk in the ‘Existing Spaces’ category

Stephan van Wyk runs a small design studio in Cape Town with his wife and 3 dogs. He inherited his 35mm camera, which is the root of his passion for photography, from his father when he was in high school. It took many years of exploring photographic techniques and tinkering for Stephan to reach this level of mastery, but it was made possible through sheer hard work and his eagerness to accept new challenges.

His captured image titled ’Urban Treasures’ showcases the iconic Afrikaans Language Monument in Paarl. The intricate play of line, shape and texture of the structure played central roles in making this photograph so significant.

He states, “I am most content viewing life through a lens and I always try to tell a story or capture an emotion in time. There is so much beauty around us – we only need to take the time to see it.”

In addition to having their winning photos featured as part of the ConCreativity exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA, the three winners each walked away with their share of professional photographic equipment.

“We are extremely proud of ConCreativity and the manner in which it has highlighted the important role concrete plays in our everyday lives.  Each entry we received not only demonstrated the functional value of concrete, but beautifully depicted how concrete has positively impacted the world around us.  It perfectly echoes AfriSam’s philosophy that there is so much more to concrete than cement, stone and water.  It truly does create possibilities.  We look forward to hosting another round of ConCreativity in 2019”, concludes Van den Berg.

The post INAUGURAL AFRISAM CONCREATIVITY AWARD appeared first on Leading Architecture & Design.

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

1 week 2 days 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

1 week 4 days 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

1 week 4 days 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

1 week 5 days 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

1 week 5 days 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.

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.


Creating the Furniture of the Future

1 week 6 days 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

2 weeks 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.
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.


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

2 weeks 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

2 weeks 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

3 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

3 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.


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Interiors: Plascon's 2019 Colour Trends

3 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?”

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dhk reveals residential design comprising four elliptical towers

3 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.


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

3 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.

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