Speakers Corner is equipped with elegantly decorated meeting rooms, a cosy library complete with hot desks, 24-hour security, CCTV, contract parking and fully serviced common rooms.
Bounded by Parliament and Church Square in the East City of the Cape Town CBD, Speakers Corner is one of the city’s oldest buildings and forms part of the heart around which Cape Town was built. It has recently been sensitively restored by Urban Lime properties to offer businesses a unique creative space, layered with history reflected in its design and décor.
“Every effort has been made to not only preserve the building’s past, with original elements like the floors, fireplaces, paint, windows and shutters being retained, but also its energy,” says Urban Lime Founder and CEO Jonny Friedman.
On entry, visitors are greeted by the original tiled flooring, the scent of freshly-baked goods wafting over from Victoire Patisserie, stunning art on display from Gallery Momo and a friendly concierge. The building features four other floors with an array of offices of varying sizes (ranging from 50m² to 2000m²) and with different views of the city. In addition, the third floor features a space that would be ideal as a sky bar and the fifth floor will soon be home to a fine dining restaurant.
Over and above offering alluring and adaptable spaces where creativity can flow, Speakers Corner is equipped with elegantly decorated meeting rooms, a cosy library complete with hot desks, 24-hour security, CCTV, contract parking and fully serviced common rooms, along with networking and social events for tenants.
At first sight, three fundamental ruptures occurred in modern Rwandan history: colonisation, starting at the end of the 19th century; the revolution of 1959-1961 followed by independence in 1962; and the 1994 genocide followed by the seizure of power by the Rwandan Patriotic Front.
Of course, these are breaks with the past. But I argue that there are also striking continuities spanning the entire period, from the mid-19th century to the 2010s. These include the concentration of power, intra-regime conflict, the salience of ethnicity, and the nature of the state.
Another characteristic – the pervasiveness of the military institution and of military ethics – disappeared during colonial days and the first two republics. But it resurfaced from 1994 onwards, resuming continuity after a century-long interval.
This longue durée view is very illuminating. It offers a better understanding of crucial characteristics of governance in Rwanda today, at home and in the region.
Concentration of power
A first continuity throughout the four periods (precolonial, colonial, post-revolution and post-genocide) is the concentration of power. The precolonial kingdom became increasingly centralised, particularly from the latter part of the 18th century.
In a structure like a pyramid, regional authorities were dependents of the mwami (king). Below them were hill chiefs who tightly controlled the population.
Authoritarian centralisation continued in colonial days in two ways. On the one hand, indirect rule reinforced and stabilised the power of the court and the chiefs. On the other, the Belgian administration was authoritarian and, like the indigenous one, ignored principles like the separation of powers and the rule of law.
The elective principle and checks and balances were introduced less than two years before independence. It’s therefore not surprising that, in Rwanda as elsewhere in Africa, the new political elites continued colonial modes of governance. In this respect, there is not much of a break between colonial rule, the de facto single-party first republic, the de jure single-party second republic and de facto single-party regime in post-genocide Rwanda.
Intra-regime conflict is a second continuity. Internal strife within the royal court and among ruling elites was common in precolonial days. Most successions to the throne were contested and led to bitter and often violent infighting, and even to civil war. Regime infighting resumed after independence. The gradual narrowing of the ruling party’s power base through the elimination of important constituencies eventually led to the downfall of the first republic.
A similar phenomenon occurred under the second republic. A number of regime leaders were arrested in 1980. Fearing a similar fate, others fled the country.
The Rwandan Patriotic Front has also fallen prey to intense struggle. This pitted factions against each other from the first days of the invasion. This evolution became more pronounced after 2000 and took a radical turn in 2010 when four leading figures who fled published a long diatribe against the regime.
A third major continuity is the importance of ethnicity, although it has had different political implications depending on the period.
Political ethnicity emerged clearly in the 19th century. The distinction between ethnic groups that earlier referred to political positions and economic and military occupations became institutionalised.
From the 1870s, the awareness of ethnic distinction spread all over the country and led to several revolts. The 1897 insurrection showed that the population was conscious of a great divide between the two ethnic groups.
Colonial rule further institutionalised and rigidified ethnicity. Belgium first entrenched Tutsi rule. However, in the 1950s it switched sides when democratisation and independence came to the fore.
Although there were underlying social, political and economic grievances, the revolution of 1959-1961 took place under an almost exclusively ethnic banner. On assuming power, the Rwandan Patriotic Front set out to pursue a policy of de-ethnicisation. But the denial of ethnicity is an essential element of the hegemonic strategies of the party-dominated elite. The claim that “there are no Hutu or Tutsi, we are all Rwandans now” allows them to hide a Tutsi ethnocracy.
The regime’s narrative merely reflects the public transcript. But the hidden transcript – that of oppressed Hutu and Tutsi – is very different.
A fourth strong continuity lies in the nature of the state which, unlike in much of Africa, is strong and well internalised by citizens.
Rwanda is not a colonial creation, and an ancient state tradition plays an undeniable role in the maintenance of an efficient pyramid-like structure. The Rwandan Leviathan is highly centralised and hierarchical – it reaches every inch of the territory and every citizen.
Echoing the situation in earlier days, a mere two years after the extreme human and material destruction of 1994, the state had been rebuilt, and Rwanda was again administered from top to bottom. Before – as after the genocide – the regimes displayed a strong belief in managing, monitoring, controlling, and mobilising the population. Both showed a strong belief in using the state in projects of economic and social engineering implemented under the stewardship of forward-looking and enlightened leaders.
A final determining continuity is the pervasiveness of the military institution and of warrior ethics and values. What is particularly striking is the re-emergence of this in 1994, after it had virtually disappeared during colonial days and the two Hutu republics. After that century-long gap, it reappeared almost seamlessly. Beyond the army as an institution, military values are disseminated throughout the entire society by the widespread use of means like ingando and itorero (re-)education practices.
History as a reference point
Clearly the continuities outweigh the ruptures. Except during the relatively brief period of colonial rule, Rwanda was, and is, a violent society. Throughout the entire period, central political power has been almost absolute. In today’s Rwanda, constant references to history, whether factually true or not, are used as a tool of legitimation. The idealised glorification of the precolonial era supports the political objectives and strategies of the current rulers.
Rwanda’s history matters in a concrete way. Hence efforts by the Rwandan Patriotic Front to impose and tightly police its narrative. The problem is that the public and the hidden transcripts often don’t tally.
Filip Reyntjens 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.
The winning students for the 2018 PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative were Navan Padayachee from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and Kayla Vieira, from Vega Johannesburg, pictured with PG Bison CEO Gerhard Victor.
The awards evening for the annual PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative was held earlier this month at the stylish new venue, The Birdhouse, on the 18th floor of the iconic skyscraper at 25 Owl Street in Milpark, with spectacular views of Joburg’s city lights.
Guests included industry leaders, member of the judging panel, members of the PG Bison team, colleagues and friends, and of course, the top 10 PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative finalists and their supporters.
The student design competition, now in its 26th year, has established itself as an integral part of the syllabus at the majority of design and architecture institutions across the country. Entries take the form of a design response to a semi-fictional brief devised by an architecture or design industry leader. This year, the brief involved the transformation of the old ‘Coke House’ at the now defunct Johannesburg Gas Works into a modern multipurpose exhibition space, focused on human interaction and showcasing a changing seasonal display of art and design. The brief instructed students to blend the historic landmark with new, modern and sustainable awareness of its environment while representing an ever changing and forward-thinking Johannesburg.
The winning students for the 2018 PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative were:
1st Place:Navan Padayachee from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Navan won a trip of a lifetime for himself and his lecturer, Lawrence Ogunsanya, to attend the 2019 Furniture Fair in Milan, Italy.
2nd Place:Kayla Vieira, from Vega Johannesburg.
Kayla won an all-expenses paid trip to the 2019 Design Indaba in Cape Town plus R3 000 in cash.
Although the standard of entries was high, a third prize was not awarded this year. The judges did, however, make three honourable mentions. They were Fathima Bibi Mula from the University of KwaZulu Natal, Juan de Villiers from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University School of Architecture and Luzuko Funda, also of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University School of Architecture.
All eight remaining top 10 finalists will each receive a R2 000 cash prize.
This year’s judging panel included Phill Mashabane of Mashabane Rose Associates, Livia Coetzee-Stein of DHQ Interior Brand Architects, Andrea Kleinloog and Megan Hesse of HK Studio and Dale Friedman of Paragon Interface.
The winning entry by Navan Padayachee sought to connect the ‘Coke House’ to its surroundings drawing on the concept of metamorphic sentience, which he explains as “the ability to experience a site through its transformation”. Navan’s entry was both culturally and historically sensitive, rooted in local context. By adding universal access to the building via a ramp and adding the subtle intervention of a transitional space at the entrance to the building’s the main volume, his design dramatizes the entrance before revealing the volume, in which the existing gas rig is displayed in reference to the building’s history. “I didn’t want to go the route of globalisation, because I feel that is killing culture,” he adds.
Navan says that he thoroughly enjoyed participating in the PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative. “It was nerve-wracking at times,” he laughs, but points out that the competition was an incredible opportunity to benchmark his progress as a student, which he found hugely affirming. On winning the PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative, he says “I kept in mind that this is just one project. I can always work and improve.” He plans to pursue an internship and following that, to complete his studies with a master’s degree in architecture.
Runner-up Kayla Vieira’s entry deftly tied together the building’s historical past and they city’s future as a vibrant cultural centre with an intervention based on the concept of a “modern mineshaft”. Kayla introduced an abstracted interpretation of a mineshaft, in reference to the building’s original function of supplying gas to the mining industry, to form a vortex-shaped sculptural form in the centre of the main volume of the “Coke House”. “I wanted to create a space that spoke to the historic essence of the building,” says Kayla. “But I also wanted to create a space that spoke to the new Johannesburg, which is vibrant and cultural.”
“I really enjoyed participating,” she says. “I had no expectations, so coming second was more that I could have imagined. I really enjoyed working on the brief. It allowed for a lot of creativity, which was a lot of fun.”
The PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative seeks to recognise and nurture the talents of future interior and industrial designers, architects and key decision makers in the South African design industry. PG Bison marketing manager Jason Wells says, “The PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative is a way for us to explore one of the central aims of our brand, which is to function as a design enabler, the means through which designers can realise their dream designs. PG Bison believes that by nurturing and helping to develop new design talent, we can contribute to the fields of design and architecture, and ultimately, to better built environment for all.”
The PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative is well known for creating opportunities for design and architecture students, and providing a platform for them to explore and express their design talents. Time and time again, this award has proved to be a valuable launching pad for the careers of student designers, many of whom have gone on to have successful careers and make a meaningful contribution in the fields of design and architecture.
Ghana has a serious flood problem. Over about 50 years, 4 million people have been affected by floods, resulting in economic damage exceeding USD$780 million. At least one major flood disaster has occurred every year over the past 10 years.
Floods are not uncommon in West Africa. Rainfall variability and land use changes have made them increasingly common throughout the region.
In Ghana’s urban areas, like Accra and Kumasi, floods are mostly triggered by seasonal rainfallcombined with poor drainage, the dumping of waste into waterways and the low elevation of settlements. In northern Ghana, some floods are caused by spillage from a dam in Burkina Faso.
The problem is Ghana’s government currently reacts to the floods using coping strategies. These don’t deal with the underlying risks, are expensive and don’t consider that floods will get worse. The government must take steps towards more proactive flood risk management.
After every flood, the country’s national disaster management organisation – along with the military, police, and other emergency personnel – is deployed for rescue and emergency relief.
The government then repairs damaged infrastructure, clears waterways and demolishes properties built close to drainage channels.
The problem is this doesn’t deal with the underlying causes of the floods, or prepare people for them. Money that could go towards future prevention is instead spent on perpetual cycles of recovery.
These coping strategies will get more costly because the flood risk is set to get worse. The amount of rainfall classified as “heavy” is projected to increase between 2010 and 2050, with the wet seasons projected to get wetter and the dry seasons drier.
This will be felt intensely in the urban areas as populations continue to grow. Already, about 40% of Accra is classified as “highly prone” to flooding. This will increase as, due to more building, less water will drain into the soil.
The case for flood risk adaptation
The government needs to make the country more resilient and able to withstand the challenges posed by intense and frequent floods.
The government has also taken on projects to protect against floods, but these are focused on the coastal areas. For example the Keta sea defence project.
The current greater Accra Metropolitan Area sanitation and water project is constructing drains and culverts in Accra. But this isn’t a major part of the project.
Much more needs to be done. Ghana must fully transition from coping strategies, to proactive, long-term measures. These include:
Structural flood protection measures – like storm drains or levees. These need to be constructed to protect all at risk areas, and not just the coastal areas
Improve early warning systems to ensure timely flood risk alerts. This should include; a 24 hour monitoring and warning service during peak rain seasons and an education program to help communities understand the risk, respect the warnings and know how to respond
Social protection – like affordable social housing – which will move more people out of informal settlements built in flood prone zones
Strategies aimed at improving the natural environment – for example, creating riparian buffer zones that protect and expand wetlands so that vegetation slows and absorbs flood waters
Encourage households to adapt and advise on actions they can take, like using more water resistant building materials
Proper waste management. Ghana has a huge solid waste problem. Poor disposal of solid waste often leads to the blocking of drains and drainage systems, preventing flood waters from flowing through
Moving homes and businesses out of flood prone locations. They can choose to do this, or the government can facilitate it by buying out at-risk properties
Build new homes on elevated ground or foundations
Strict planning to avoid construction in flood-prone areas
Deal with spillage from dams by building canals that channel the water. These can be dammed and the water used for irrigation.
The initial cost of adaptation measures will be expensive, but it will pay off. Research shows that for every US$1 spent on flood risk reduction, it saves at least US$4 to US$9 otherwise spent in an emergency response when disaster occurs. The Netherlands is a classic example of a country that has taken flood risk adaptation seriously. A quarter of the country is below sea level and 60% of its people in flood-risk areas but the measures it has taken have reduced the likelihood of major flooding.
Ghana can take advantage of predictions and past experiences of floods to aggressively pursue flood risk adaptation. Failure to do this will increase flood disasters, and social and economic disruptions.
Jerry Chati Tasantab is affiliated with the University of Newcastle. He receives the University of Newcastle International Postgraduate Research Scholarships (UNIPRS) and University of Newcastle Postgraduate Research Scholarship (UNRS External) for his PhD in Building since 2017.
Jason von Meding, Kim Maund, and Thayaparan Gajendran do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
309 homes destroyed in Overcome Heights informal settlement
By Bernard Chiguvare
Hundreds of people in Overcome Heights informal settlement, Vrygrond, were left homeless when their shacks burnt in a fire that started on Thursday afternoon. According to the City of Cape Town, 309 homes and 842 people were affected.
The City is providing starter kits to rebuild dwellings; removing fire debris, and the City’s electricity, water and sanitation departments are assessing the damage to restore infrastructure.
This is the third major fire in the past week in Cape Town informal settlements which have left thousands homeless.
Residents carry out their burnt belongings.
Addressing the media at the scene the Western Cape MEC for Human Settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela said the Provincial government has already drawn up the Greater-Retreat Development Plan to improve access for Overcome Heights, Seawind, Lavender Hill and Vrygrond areas.
Madikizela wanted machinery to clear the area before the City distributed any materials, but residents refused to allow the caterpillar vehicles into the area. They feared they would be allocated smaller plots.
A large section of the informal settlement was gutted by the fire.
Zimkhitha Plaatjie, a community leader, said, “We appeal to the City to make available land that can accommodate us. There should be roads for easy access whenever there are fires.”
Nokuthuwa Klaas lost her microwave, refrigerator, clothes and food in the fire. “I am a domestic worker and my husband is a gardener. It will take time for us to acquire the same household stuff we lost in this fire. The money we get is very little; it is only sufficient for feeding the family,” she said.
Klaas said it is the third time she is a victim of fire. She appealed to the City to come up with plan for formal houses.
Some residents managed to save what little they have by moving it onto a nearby field.
Vuyani Nkumanda said, “When I noted the spaza shop next to my shack was burning, I tried pushing down nearby shacks so that the fire could not go beyond. It was too late. We had to give up. I called the fire brigade but they struggled to get through.”
“I am working at a company that can supply fire resistant substance. We can spray the substances on the building materials,” he said.
A woman weighs herself inside her burnt home.
Resident Given Zuko Ngejane, whose shack escaped the fire, said he believes there is no political will to put an end to fires in informal settlements. “When there is a disaster like this all we see is the ruling party in the Western Cape coming in, in numbers, and giving empty promises. This is not the first fire in the area and we know there is nothing new they will say to us,” said Ngejane.
Western Cape Minister of Human Settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela addressed residents on Friday.
The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), Gift of the Givers, the South African Red Cross Society, as well as some supermarket retailers are assisting with humanitarian relief.
The Western Cape has seen numerous fires in townships in the past week including Khayelitsha and Philiippi.
Pit toilets finally repaired at Eastern Cape school where caretaker nearly drowned
By Phathiswa Shushwana and Chumani Mazwi
In August 2015, Mntundini Saphepha went to use the pit toilet at Kalalo Junior Secondary School in Elliotdale, Eastern Cape. The floor collapsed and he fell into a pool of mud and human waste.
Saphepha told his story in an affidavit to the Bhisho High Court during a hearing on Norms and Standards for school infrastructure in July this year. “I fell into a pool of mud and human waste up to my chest. It was so disgusting and there was even sanitary pads floating in the waste. I was drowning.”
It took Saphepha 25 minutes to free himself from the pit.
“I took off all my clothes and I poured water all over myself. I quickly called home and asked someone to bring me some clothes to change into.”
He called the school clerk who took a long pole to measure the depth of the pit. “It was about two metres deep.”
“I was scared to death when it was happening. I was in there for so long. I am so embarrassed by the whole thing.”
“I didn’t eat the whole day and half of the next day. I was so disgusted as I thought I might have digested some of the pool of mud and waste. I am now always anxious and nervous every time I have to use the bathroom.”
Saphepha said district officials had visited the school on 7 September 2015 and promised to build a new staff toilet.
New toilets were finally built in March 2017. The school now has four toilets: for boys, girls, people with disabilities, and staff.
When GroundUp visited the school this week, learners and staff said the new toilets were more hygienic and safer.
Grade 8 learner, Nosipho Mtsikini said, “The new toilets are clean and do not smell, we can also wash our hands in the sinks so that we will not get germs.”
School principal Matiti Sithembiso said, “These new toilets are safer than the previous toilets. There are slabs underneath to the toilet to support it from collapsing.
“We can rest assured that what happened to the caretaker in 2015 can never happen to anyone in this school again.”
But thousands of other South African schools still have unsafe pit toilets and though the judgment in the Bhisho High Court on 19 July compels the department to implement its Norms and Standards policy, the education department has decided to appeal the judgment.
In this week’s mini-budget, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced that in 2018/19 funding for sanitation projects in schools would be “reprioritised”. “Over the medium term,” he said, “government, donors and private sector companies will fund these projects and test new sanitation technology.”
He said R3.4 billion had been allocated to the education infrastructure grant for construction and maintenance of schools, including sanitation.
But Equal Education, which has been fighting for Norms and Standards, said the Minister’s speech did little to make the commitment to safer schools a reality.
“While he did not announce any further cuts to the education infrastructure grants, the R800 million that has been re-prioritised towards school infrastructure, provides little reprieve after the 2018 budget announced a R7 billion budget cut to infrastructure grants over three years,” Equal Education said in a statement after the budget.
“The irony of the Minister’s promise in the wake of the same government’s decision to appeal a court order compelling it to implement the Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure, also cannot be overstated.”
Several children have fallen into pit toilets in schools and some have died according to civil society organisation SECTION27:
• In 2007, six-year-old Siyamthanda Mtunu, a learner at Dalasile Primary School in the Eastern Cape, was using the toilet when the walls of the cubicle collapsed on him. Mtunu died on the way to the hospital.
• In 2013, seven-year-old Lister Magongwa, a learner at Mmushi Primary School in Limpopo, was using the toilet when walls of the cubicle collapsed on him. He died in the ambulance on the way to hospital.
• In 2014, five-year-old Michael Komape, a learner at Mahlodumela Primary School in Limpopo, fell into a pit toilet at school and drowned.
• In 2016, five-year-old Oratilwe Dilwana, a learner at Tlhotlheletsang Primary School in North West, fell into a pit toilet. Oratilwe swallowed human waste and sustained severe head injuries. His mother told GroundUp he is now afraid of toilets and he has learning problems.
• In 2018, five-year-old Lumka Mketwa, a learner at Luna Primary School in the Eastern Cape, fell into a pit latrine and died.
“The decision today is unjustifiable. Council is a total and utter shambles,” says housing activist
By Aidan Jones
The Cape Town City Council was scheduled on Thursday to announce its decision on the sale of City-owned land to housing non-profit organisation Communicare for redevelopment for social housing. But the decision was pushed back to the next council meeting because “the DA caucus has some queries around the technical aspects of the report” said ward councillor for the area Dave Bryant (DA).
The land in question is Salt River market along Voortrekker Road, located on two MyCiTi bus routes and alongside Salt River Rail Station. It is a site that councillor Brett Herron said “is the perfect location for a higher density mixed use, mixed-income development in the inner city”.
The matter was referred back by councillor Angus Mckenzie “for further technical clarification”. Mayoral Committee Member for Assets and Facilities Management councillor Stuart Diamond said “this will allow us to thoroughly understand the integrated housing model proposed by our social housing partner [Communicare]”.
CEO of Communicare Anthea Houston said of the delay, “This is a set back for those in need of affordable housing opportunities in the city … It would be huge loss to Cape Town if they pull out now.”
Some civil society organisations were outraged. “We are in the midst of a housing crisis and nothing can excuse council’s lack of urgency and vision when so many people are being evicted,” said Jared Rossouw, co-director of Ndifuna Ukwazi. “The decision today is unjustifiable. Council is a total and utter shambles.”
“This is deeply disappointing and worrisome. It has been in the pipeline for over ten years and been through two political party administrations,” said Helen Rourke, programme manager at the Development Action Group. “We appeal to the City Council to expedite the review of this application and resolve any unanswered queries,” she said.
“I fully support it and want to see it happen as soon as possible,” said Herron of the proposed project. “We have an affordable housing crisis in our city and this is a project that will help us address that crisis.”
Rossouw said that if the project is approved by a council, “It would be a first for the city and set a precedent for social housing across the country.”
How social housing could work
“We [Communicare] have spent R2.1 million so far in planning this project with extensive input from the City since 2014,” said Houston.
She said the site could accommodate “about 750 units if nine storeys are built”. The plan is for 30% (210 units) to be used for social housing (for households earning under R15,000 per month) and 14% (105 units) potentially serving the gap market (households earning under R22,000 per month). “The remaining 435 units would be market rentals,” said Houston.
“This kind of social housing can go to four storeys or higher, as opposed to Breaking New Ground houses or other programmes which don’t have funding to go much above one level. We need dense, tall buildings in well-located areas so you get more use out of the same amount of land,” said Rossouw. “And the only way to make this feasible is to cross-subsidise.”
Cross-subsidisation means having tenants from across the income spectrum, with those in higher brackets subsidising the rent of the lower income tenants. “Mixed-income works because it is a model that makes good long-term maintenance of the structure possible,” said Houston.
Rossouw said, “There are some councillors who want to sell the land at market value to private developers because it will generate more revenue for the City, and there are others who realise that selling it at nominal value will help address spatial apartheid.”
“As ward councillor I remain committed to the provision of well located affordable housing and remain confident that this project will prove to be a great success going forward,” said Bryant.
GroundUp has written previously on the viability of subsidised social housing before – see here.
The next council meeting is scheduled for 13 December 2018.
Ward 58 councillor Mendiswa Makunga (ANC) stops assistant giving her phone number to GroundUp
By Joseph Chirume
Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in Eastern Cape is struggling to clear dumping sites. Residents say they have no option but to dump rubbish in the open spaces as the public collection centres are overflowing. They say rubbish has been accumulating for more than three months.
This week Ward 38 councillor Edward Harker (DA) embarked on a cleaning operation in Jacksonville, using his bakkie to ferry rubbish to the municipal dump. “Rubbish is found everywhere; in the main roads and between houses … The municipal workers came to collect the rubbish last week but they just clear a few streets and disappear,” said Harker.
Nomusi Makazi of Ward 56 in Motherwell, referring to a dumping site in Mkombe Street, said the refuse collection department cleared one area and skipped other places and took a long time to come back.”
A resident who did not want his name mentioned said, “Many people have now resorted to dumping close to the councillor’s gate. We hope this will take the message straight to the municipality. We are fed up with this situation.”
Rubbish is also piling up in Powerline informal settlement in Motherwell.
Mavis Nhlapo said, “Our children have no playing grounds and end up playing at the rubbish hills. The places are dangerous and pose a health risk … The situation is out of control. There is a municipal front loader that often pushes the rubbish into one heap. It just leaves it like that. There used to be trucks that would carry the rubbish away, but they are no longer coming. At times we burn the rubbish at night.”
Marx Qandana, a ward committee member, blamed residents. “Residents are illegally dumping their rubbish in open spaces. The municipality is collecting the rubbish but residents keep dumping in this area … Some residents even swear at us when we restrain them from dumping.”
GroundUp went to the offices of ward 58 councillor Mendiswa Makunga (ANC) whose assistant phoned the councillor in our presence explaining it was a service delivery question. The councillor forbade the assistant to give GroundUp her number.
Spokesperson for Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Mthubanzi Mniki said he was still investigating.
When Mniki was asked on 26 September about mounds of rubbish that had accumulated for months on the corner of Maphikela and Maxabashawa Streets in NU10 and in Powerline Informal settlement, he said the illegal dumping sites would be cleared by the Addo Road depot in the week of 2 October.
But a resident in Maphikela street said, “The front loader only came to push the rubbish away from the road and put it close to the back of houses.” Nothing had been collected to date.
“The conditions are shocking. As the government we are ashamed,” says KZN Premier
By Nompendulo Ngubane
Beneficiaries of Msunduzi municipality’s Wirewall Rectification Programme in Phase 4, Imbali, have been living in unfinished houses for years.
Municipal spokesperson Ntobeko Ngcobo said the project started in 2007 to fix homes built by the provincial Department of Human Settlements between 1997 and 2002. She said the “R162-million project” was implemented because the municipality discovered that the previous homes “were not suitable for human occupancy”, with protruding wires “causing electrical problems and shocking people”.
However, the project was halted in 2010 due to “underperformance by the contractors”. Ngcobo said a new contractor was appointed in 2013 and work on the project resumed. “But there are delays due to challenges like demolition approvals and missing beneficiaries,” she said.
The two-storey houses have several rooms. Each family has their own entrance with a kitchen, two bedrooms, living room and a bathroom. But many of the houses were left roofless and without doors and windows.
Bongiwe Madlala lives with her family on the ground floor of one such house. “We were told that the houses would be demolished [for fixing]. They were already giving us problems. We were getting electric shocks when using electrical appliances.”
She said that in 2011 they moved out to rent a house while theirs was being rebuilt. “Then the project stopped. We didn’t know what went wrong,” said Madlala.
She said she could not afford to continue paying rent so they had no choice but to return. “There were no windows and doors. The top floor was not finished, so when it rains water drips in from the roof. Everything from the walls to the floor becomes wet. It’s not safe to use electricity, and the wall is covered in mould.”
She is scared that the ceiling will fall on them one day. “The cracks are now visible … It leaks for days after rain.”
Stholakele Gumede lives in the same situation nearby. “I have decided to tighten the windows with wire. When it’s windy they shake. When it rains, we put buckets on the beds,” said Gumede.
“We don’t know what the problem is. The project has been stopped on numerous occasions. We were told that the houses were not properly done by the previous construction companies,” she said.
Madalala said, “The only thing we want is for these houses to be completed. We are sick because of the conditions we are living under. The government must finish and build these homes properly.”
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu visited Phase 4 last month. He told residents, “The conditions are shocking. As the government we are ashamed … We apologise to the residents.” He promised residents that he would take the matter to the Department of Human Settlements. “I want to know all the details of what happened since the project started years ago.”
Spokesperson for the provincial Department of Human Settlements Mbulelo Baloyi said, “We have responded to the Premier’s office and told them that the department is working on a plan to tackle the problem.”
About 30 residents of Freedom Park in Johannesburg South barricaded the Golden Highway with burning tyres and rocks on Monday morning to demand land for houses.
After protests in May over land and housing in Johannesburg South, the Gauteng provincial government adopted the rapid land release programme. The programme is designed to identify land for redistribution to people who want to build their own houses. In Johannesburg South, some farms have been identified as land for redistribution.
In May the Gauteng Executive Council said in a statement that the land belonging to local, provincial and national government would be made available for people in the province “wanting to build houses for themselves, urban agriculture, township businesses, sports and recreational purposes”.
But Peter Monethe, chairperson of the Black Consciousness Movement in Freedom Park, told GroundUp that the community had not heard from Member of Executive Council for Human Settlements Uhuru Moiloa since the programme was announced.
According to a statement released by the Gauteng provincial government on 13 May, at a meeting with residents from Freedom Park, Eldorado Park and surrounding areas at the Eldorado Park Stadium held on 12 May, Moiloa said the provincial government had acquired land that would yield close to 60,000 housing units. “This is a commitment that we are making to these communities,” he said.
Monethe said at the rally residents had asked for an exact date for the start of the project. “We were told not to worry because they would communicate and work with us,” said Monethe.
Since then, Monethe said he had sent a proposed development plan of the land to the Gauteng Human Settlements department but had not received a response. He said the community had also tried to deliver a memorandum to Moiloa at the beginning of October but they had been told he was not available to accept the memorandum.
“They don’t respond to our memorandum, calls or emails … There is no communication about progress and this is why we decided to take to the streets because of the growing frustration,” said Freedom Park resident Lehlohonolo Makhele.
“We want the MEC to come to Freedom Park and to tell us an exact date when we will be moving onto the land, that is all we want,” he said.
Pulane Motja has lived in Freedom Park for 18 years. She lives in an RDP house with her husband, two children and eight other family members. She works part-time as a domestic worker when she can.
She said her mother-in-law had sold the RDP house and now the family was facing eviction. “We will have no place to go if we are evicted … We need the land so that we can build a shack while we get enough money to start building our own house,” she said.
Motja said she wanted Moiloa to respond to the community and give them the land that they had been promised.
GroundUp had not received responses from the Department of Human Settlements, the Premier’s office or the Gauteng Executive Council’s spokesperson by the time of publication.
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