Friday, June 29, 2012

Moms, kids die in blaze

Four people, including two children, died in a fire that razed a shack in Crossroads in Nyanga early on Friday.

This is the second fatal fire in Nyanga in 24 hours. On Thursday, Sivile Ngesi, 36, also died in a fire in the area.

Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, spokesman for the City of Cape Town’s disaster management centre confirmed that three people had died in Friday’s fire. He identified them as Noxolo Nyakaza, 33, her three-year-old daughter Akana and another unnamed three-year-old girl who was visiting from Khayelitsha.

However, Nokwanda Mtiya, who lives in the shack next to Nyakana’s, said another woman named Phumela had died in the fire. “She was visiting from Khayelitsha with her daughter… but I don’t know the child’s name,” Mtiya added.

Mtiya said when she opened her door the air was still smoke-filled.

She had been woken by screaming and when she went outside all she could see was flames.

Jackson Gqiga, one of the neighbours who helped to put out the fire, said it had started shortly after 2am. “I saw flames coming out the windows and we helped to put the fire out using buckets and hosepipes.”

Peter Moyosvi, owner of the property where Nyakana was a backyarder, said he was also woken by screaming and when he got outside it was too late. “The fire was already too big.”

Moyosvi said Nyakana had been living on his property for about two years and she was a “good person who kept to herself”.

Solomons-Johannes said the cause of the fire was unknown. Nyanga police had opened an inquest docket.

Fires in informal settlements in winter pose a big problem because people tend to take their fires indoors, said Cape Town Disaster Management spokeswoman Charlotte Powell.

“There are a number of factors involved. People buy non-approved, unsafe paraffin stoves because they are cheaper, for example. These are often dangerous and not SABS-approved, but because they’re available at the spaza shops... poor people buy them as their cheapest option.”

Paraffin was commonly used to cook and to heat. If a paraffin stove or heater was knocked over, the paraffin would run out, spread and catch fire.

“There is no legislation that allows the authorities to prevent the sale of unsafe stoves or other equipment.

This, coupled with the fact that informal houses in Cape Town were mostly built of highly flammable materials, made for a lethal mix, Powell added.

Protest damage over R2m

Recent protests around Cape Town have resulted in damage of more than R2 million, the city said on Thursday.

Traffic signs and signals had been vandalised and roads had been damaged by burning tyres, transport and roads mayoral committee member Brett Herron said. The repairs could take up to three months.

Herron said this affected road users' safety and service delivery, as money allocated for goods and services would now have to be diverted for repairs.

He said the situation was ironic as the protests had largely been centred around the need for improved services.

“We are appealing to protesters to take responsibility for their actions and to conduct their protests peacefully. The senseless destruction of city infrastructure serves no purpose and finds us taking steps backwards instead of forward.” 


Man dies in shack fire

Cape Town - A man died after a fire swept through his shack at an informal settlement in Nyanga on Thursday, the city of Cape Town said.

“The swift response of the fire and rescue services prevented the fire from spreading to other structures,” said disaster risk management head Wilfred Solomons-Johannes in a statement.

The cause of the fire was unknown.

The deceased has been identified as 26-year-old Bhukile Ngesi. - Sapa

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Relief for residents after rain

Non-profit organisations yesterday distributed 5560 blankets and about 11120 meals to more than 5500 people living in informal settlements in Cape Town who have been affected by rain.

Ebrahim Smith, disaster co-ordinator for the Mustadafin Foundation, said the worst affected area was Zola Section in Khayelitsha.

Here, according to statistics provided by the city, about 3000 people were affected.

Smith worked in Khayelitsha with his team and said shacks were flooded up to residents' shins.

"Because their homes are built in low-lying areas, the water comes up from the bottom. The water can't drain and obviously it rises up into their homes.

"A lot of these shacks are not built on a foundation, so everything is wet in their homes," said Smith.

But Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, acting head of the city's Disaster Operations Centre, denied any flooding.

"They are just experiencing discomfort because they are living in wetland or low-lying areas," said Solomons-Johannes.

"The city has made attempts to relocate them, but they don't want to move. That is the big problem."

He said there had been a "significant reduction" in flooding in the last three years.

In 2009, 11500 informal structures were affected, in 2010 that number dropped to 3400, and last year only 2600 structures were affected.

When the city announced this year's "w inter p lan" last month to prepare for storm damage such as flooding, mayoral committee member for s afety and s ecurity JP Smith said its anti-land invasion unit has prevented many people from building homes in flood-prone areas.

Despite the number of problems caused by the rain in the city, Jan Vermeulen, senior forecaster for the SA Weather Service, said it did not record abnormally high rainfall.

He said the service did not expect heavy rainfall for the remainder of the week.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

5,000 people hit by flooding

More than 5,000 people were affected by overnight flooding in Cape Town, the city's disaster risk management centre said on Wednesday.

Spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said 5,560 people were helped in Nomzamo, Monwabisi Park and Site C in Khayelitsha.

All would be provided with food and blankets.

The city anticipated light showers over the next two days and there was a possibility of heavy rain on Tuesday.

The city would issue a weather advisory if necessary. – Sapa

Nyanga Housing Delays Anger Residents

Cape Town — "Every time we think we are getting somewhere, we just go right back to square one." These are the words of Thembisa Maso, a KTC resident and mother of three who has been waiting for her house to be completed.

Maso is one of 57 residents who is part of the Masizakhe People's Housing Process (PHP) project. The residents say their houses were left unfinished in 2001.**

"We want to know what is happening with the project. I live behind my unfinished house in a shack with two of my children. I had to send my other child to live with my sister because we suffer in this shack during winter when it rains," Maso said.

She said she was part of the project which was approved in 2001. Two hundred and fourteen houses were supposed to be built in total but more than 50 houses were left unfinished. Some residents finished the houses themselves with their own money.

The houses, situated in the Nyanga area, are hollow structures made with grey bricks, with frames for the doors and windows, and no roof.

"We have been back and forth to the Department of Human Settlements. We are either chased away or told the same thing, that the matter will be investigated. In 2008 someone came to check the houses and photographs were even taken of the structures, but nothing came of that. We are tired of this running around. We just want to know what is going on and when our houses will be finished," explained a visibly angry and frustrated Maso.

Agnes Fuma, 65, who is also one of the project's beneficiaries, said the only thing she was provided with from the project was sand and building bricks.

"I built the actual house myself. I got someone whom I paid to build my house for me, from the roof to the windows and doors. It was all me," said Fuma.

Bruce Oom, spokesperson for the Western Cape MEC for Human Settlements, Bonginkosi Madikizela, said the houses were left unfinished by the contractor responsible at the time.

"The intention of the original PHP projects was that the community would be empowered by taking a role in appointing and managing the contractors.

However, this led to some problems with service delivery. The Department now takes a more hands-on role in appointing and managing contractors," explained Oom.

Oom said subsidies for the project were paid out to the accounts administrator (which was the City of Cape Town), yet due to the contractor leaving the work unfinished, not all the money in the project was paid out by the City.

Oom continued, "The City has subsequently repaid the unspent funds to the Department. The Department is currently assessing the outstanding work needed on the site, and identifying the costs needed to complete the units, so that the people who most need houses can get them. Once the current assessment is completed, the Department will then be in a position to revise the subsidy and reissue it so that the units can be completed."

He said the assessment could likely take several months or longer because after it there would need to be a tender process to appoint a contractor.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

‘Tear down Cape Town Stadium’

The man who forced President Jacob Zuma to appoint an arms deal commission wants Cape Town Stadium demolished.

Anti-arms deal campaigner Terry Crawford-Browne has fought for the government to come clean about the multibillion-rand arms procurement programme, and has now accused Fifa of foisting an equally wasteful multibillion-rand project on Cape Town.

“It’s very clear: this is about section 217(1) of the constitution, which says government procurement should be open, transparent, fair and cost-effective. This building of Cape Town Stadium was none of these,” he told the Cape Argus on Tuesday.

“It failed the constitutional requirement and was rammed down Cape Town’s throat.”

Crawford-Browne alleged that Fifa had “blackmailed” Cape Town into building the stadium in Green Point, when all Capetonians knew that existing stadiums in Newlands, Athlone and Khayelitsha could have been upgraded at “a fraction” of the R4.5 billion cost of the new stadium.

“It’s absolutely bizarre that we allowed Fifa to determine town planning.

“And now we have a white elephant. Are we going to throw good money after bad trying to make something unworkable work?” he asked, in reference to ongoing attempts to devise plans to make the stadium pay for itself.

“When they had the World Cup in Japan and Korea, Korea used the occasion to brand Samsung and LG, and they then demolished the stadiums, knowing they would never be able to fill them.

“I gather that in Qatar, they’re going to have temporary stadiums that they’ll demolish, too. We can still do something about this situation in Cape Town: we should bite the bullet now and demolish it. It’ll never pay its way,” Crawford-Browne said.

Anton Groenewald, the executive director in the city’s tourism, events and marketing department, said the stadium’s current range of potential uses was bound by 14 restrictions that were part of the province’s Record of Decision (ROD) that authorised the building of the stadium. These limited the ways in which the stadium could earn money.

“These conditions ideally need to be lifted if we are to use a large part of the stadium’s income-generating capacity.

“These ways of making the stadium commercially viable will only be realisable post the lifting of ROD restrictions,” he said.

Shops looted as protest turns bad

A service delivery protest by Botrivier residents turned ugly on Monday when six Somali and Chinese shops were looted and police had to use tear gas, rubber bullets and blue dye to try to disperse the crowd.

The police confirmed that 32 men and 12 women were arrested and were expected to appear in the Caledon Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

Botrivier police spokesman Cyril Coetzee said police would continue to patrol the area during the night.

The protest started early on Monday morning and continued for most the afternoon. Residents are demanding that the Theewaterskloof municipality deliver on promises of housing, toilets and tarred roads.

It was the second protest in less than a month.

Chen Xi Ynu, who operates one of the looted shops, said she woke up to the sound of rocks landing on her roof. When she heard someone break the door, she ran away while her husband called the police. She said they have been in the area for just more than a year and had lost everything.

Barbara Matomela rented a room in her house to a Somali shopkeeper.

The shop was trashed and looted and Matomela said she did not know where her tenant had run to.

“He was alone in the shop when they (the looters) came, as his brothers were away. They (the brothers) did not even realise they were going to be targeted.

“They also wanted to join the march because we all thought we were marching against the municipality.”

Community leader James Pheiffer said: “The residents are angry with the municipality which made a lot of promises for houses, toilets and tarred roads and never delivered. This is not about the ANC or DA or Cope. People here are unhappy and they came together as a community for the protest,” he said.

- Cape Times

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Africa faces nightmare of urban sprawl

Africa’s cities are growing very rapidly. By 2050, 1.2 billion people, or 60 percent of all Africans, will live in urban areas. For the UN’s human settlements programme – known as UN-Habitat – the challenges are to help Africans to better harness the productive potential of their cities and to cope with the increased demands for municipal services and decent housing.

Joan Clos, a former mayor of Barcelona, Spain, and since 2010 the executive director of UN-Habitat, spoke to Africa Renewal’s managing editor, Ernest Harsch, at UN-Habitat’s headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

Q: How has the exceptionally rapid growth of Africa’s cities affected general approaches to urban development?

Clos: We are seeing an unprecedented pace of urbanisation in Africa. We have seen similar movements in other continents before.

But what is different in Africa is the speed of the process. The response to that is to improve urban planning, to plan for city growth. It is necessary to introduce as soon as possible urban planning on a massive scale in Africa.

Q: In some countries in Africa, where urban planning is being attempted, it often seems slow and bureaucratic, and by the time it reaches implementation, growth has outstripped the plans. Can planning efforts really keep up?

Clos: The first step is the limitation of public space in relation to private space. This is something that has to be done by the government, because there is no other entity. The problem is that if the government is unco-ordinated, or it doesn’t have the instruments, the speed of planning is much slower than the speed of city growth.

The only solution is to speed up the planning process, because you cannot stop in-migration. If it’s complex because it involves different ministries, it needs to be simplified. And if it’s too dependent on central government, then it should be delegated to the local authorities.

When you see economies, like the African ones, growing at 6 percent to 7 percent, there’s no excuse. You cannot have such a rate of growth without at the same time putting in place urban planning instruments.

Q: In some cities in Africa, particularly major ones, there have been efforts to revitalise centre cities, to attract foreign investors and businesses. Sometimes, when this has been done in a top-down fashion, local communities have resisted. How can this be avoided?

Clos: It is a question of the maturity of the political system. In a weak system, sometimes the way they do planning is by authoritarian means, without taking into account the rights of the people. There’s no need for practices that don’t take care of the affected people.

Urban planning can help generate wealth. And when you generate wealth, there’s always the possibility of distributing it. But if someone tries to develop the city and capture all the wealth for himself, then conflict is sure to arise.

There are many examples (of good planning) in Africa, but mostly at the small scale. They are not perfect, but are advancing in a good direction, in Morocco, Mauritius, Rwanda. What we still don’t see is a pro-active approach, of national governments developing national urban policies to cope with the challenging future of African cities.

Urban planning is not something for tomorrow. It should be there today, this afternoon.

Q: How does climate change affect urban development?

Clos: The typical unplanned city, which has no streets, no drainage system, or is built on slopes, is very susceptible to climate change. It’s very prone to huge catastrophes.

The solution to the risk of climate change, again, is urban planning. This is one additional reason why governments will be pushed to do something in favour of urban planning, to protect the population against climate change disasters.

These are now typically considered to be natural disasters. But in the future they will be seen as a failure of government. In a lot of countries in the world, people at first saw them as natural disasters, but they later… looked at the government and said: “No, no. It’s wrongdoing. It’s a lack of planning, a lack of foresight by the government.”

We have seen earthquakes with very high tolls of victims, and similar… stronger, earthquakes elsewhere, with very few victims. The natural disaster, the quake, is the same. What is different is the outcome.

Q: Many urban Africans currently are obliged to live in slums. Could you talk about UN-Habitat’s approach to participatory slum upgrading?

Clos: In a sense, the slum is a failure of the state. In most slums the state doesn’t intervene. Legitimacy inside of the slum rests with the community. If you want to improve the conditions of the slum, you need to establish a dialogue with the community. They are the ones who will understand it, the ones who have the legitimacy to perform it.

When you introduce streets and latrines, and put lights in the streets, immediately you have shops that emerge, you have more economic activities. There’s a virtuous circle of self-improvement.

Q: Do upgrading slums and urban planning also involve land tenure reform?

Clos: Yes. Security of tenure is very related to urban planning. First you need to identify the plots. We are advising governments, regional authorities and local governments, through different legislation and land tools, to have a proper census of urban plots. The next step is introducing urban planning. This includes introducing public space, mainly streets. This sometimes affects existing plots, so you need to readjust land ownership. And that requires a legal instrument – which is lacking in most of Africa – by which a pool of owners can readjust their share of the property in a way that they don’t lose value.

Q: In many African countries there have been moves toward the decentralisation of government institutions. How does that relate to urban development?

Clos: I don’t like the word “decentralisation”. It doesn’t explain well what is happening. I prefer to say “local government empowerment”. The weight of central government is so weak that you cannot really talk about decentralisation.

What is new is that national constitutions and national political agreements now allow for the empowerment of local authorities. This allows more forces in society to develop. It empowers local governments to have local taxes, to create local fiscal systems. That requires some kind of inventory of businesses.

Q: What about urban governance?

Clos: This process will also bring an improvement of governance. Of course, there are going to be scandals, problems. But in general the tendency that I foresee is toward an increased complexity and completeness of institutional relationships and capacities in a more modern state. The only way to fight corruption is to improve your institutions. This is something that will be demanded by the population.

Municipal services, as any other good, also need to be financed. I would expect that with the growth of African economies, room will be created for financing urban services.

This piece was produced by the UN’s Africa Renewal Features Service. - IOL

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I don't want thieves in my department - Sexwale

HUMAN Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale yesterday lashed out at government officials who were "failing to deliver quality and dignified" houses .

"This is one of the beautiful projects done with your money. Your taxes should be utilised properly," he said.

"I don't want thieves in my department. Parliament gives us money and that money goes right to the provinces, where it should be properly utilised. My job is to follow where that money went and see if it had been properly utilised."

Sexwale said he was against the building of poor quality houses.

"We don't want houses that are incomplete, houses that fall six months after completion. We are building dignified houses that people should be proud to own," he said.

Sexwale said they had arrested businesspeople and lawyers who had defrauded the department by failing to complete their projects.

Sexwale was speaking during the official handover of 228 housing units in Masimong in Welkom. He was accompanied by businessman and Harmony Mines chairman Patrice Motsepe.

Harmony Mines has contributed R150-million, which is half of the amount spent on the project, and also provided the land on which the houses are built.

About 233 units will be completed later as part of Phase 2 of the project.

The rental units were built after the mine was closed and are meant to accommodate people working in and around Welkom.

Rent will vary from R500 to R1200 a month.

The units comprise bachelor units, double and three-bedroom units. Each unit is equipped with a stove, cupboards and a washing machine.

Motsepe, who was accompanied by his wife Precious, said he was proud of the partnership with the government.

"Our people hope that the government will change their lives. This initiative is among those that improve their lives. There is a duty for all of us businesspeople, the tripartite alliance and government to improve our people's lives," Motsepe said.

He urged other businesspeople to work with the government in changing lives in the country.

Cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Olly Mlamleli said the rental units had brought dignity to the people of the Free State.

"People here need housing and nothing else. We are changing people's lives from hostel to dignified housing units," she said.

Sexwale lauds Sowetan for housing exposés
MINISTER of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale yesterday praised Sowetan for its reports on poorly built RDP houses and the sanitation crisis.

Sexwale was speaking to Sowetan in Welkom during the handing over of rental units in the area.

"Well done on your exposés about the poorly built houses. I follow Sowetan's stories about the poorly built houses and poor sanitation. The newspaper's articles have resulted in the formation of a task team led by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela," he said.

Sexwale said the task team was investigating incomplete houses and the sanitation crisis in the country.

"You must continue telling us where we are not doing (the right thing) as government. We are going to fix those unfinished houses. We want skilled contractors that have money so that we can retrieve our money if they fail to complete their projects.

"One wonders why fly-by-night contractors are given jobs to build houses. They abandon their projects . such people must be blacklisted from doing business with government," he said.

De Lille gags Smith in carbuncle dispute

MAYOR Patricia de Lille has gagged councillor JP Smith after he openly criticised the city’s plan to push for more commercial activity at Cape Town Stadium by allowing ventures like night clubs and restaurants.

Yesterday De Lille ordered her mayoral committee not to comment on the Cape Town Stadium matter and for only mayoral committee member for tourism, event and marketing Grant Pascoe to be the spokesman on the issue.

This follows Smith’s defiant stance against the plan to make the R4.5 billion stadium financially viable by amending the current record of decision which he was part of a few years ago.

The city wants to overturn regulations banning commercial activity at Cape Town Stadium and build a nightclub, restaurants, coffee shops and sports bars in an attempt to make the struggling venue commercially sustainable.

Before the stadium was built many Green Point residents were opposed to it, citing high costs, noise levels and traffic volumes, and concerns about sustainability.

To appease residents, the province imposed restrictions, banning commercial outlets and the hiring out of office space to third parties.

Smith said earlier that he opposed the move as a matter of principle because he helped put together the previous record of decision which the city wants to amend.

Smith is understood to have turned down a request for a radio interview to speak on the matter after all media queries were directed to Pascoe.

Asked if this was a “gagging order” on Smith and other councillors who might have an alternative view on the city’s plan, De Lille’s spokesperson Solly Malatsi said “absolutely not”.

“Cape Town Stadium is a strategic asset that falls under the authority of (Pascoe) as the political head of the tourism, events and marketing directorate.

“Therefore he is the designated spokeman on the issue,” said Malatsi.

Approached on the matter, Smith declined to comment.

“I was requested to refer all queries to Grant Pascoe. That’s all I can say,” said Smith.

Pascoe said all De Lille did was ask the mayoral committee members “not to go to the media with this thing”.

“The executive director (Anton Groenewald) and myself are to comment. But alternative views are not being disallowed.

“There will be a consultative process and it will include Green Point ratepayers.

“But anything official, I’m the spokeman,” said Pascoe.

Green Point Ratepayers and Residents Association chairperson Bob Goebel said he had a number of questions.

He said changes could only be made by an act of province.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hemp Homes Grow a Movement [Video]

Push Design made news with a beautiful Hemp House in Asheville, North Carolina.  It received significant media attention — notwithstanding a multitude of jokes conflating industrial hemp and marijuana.  Now, hemp is being used for more projects, as shown in the above video from CBS Minnesota.  Due to strict regulations, hemp is imported and mixed with water and lime to create a light, insulating, concrete-like mass for walls.
Proponents of hemp as a building material say it’s non-toxic, mold-resistant, mildew-resistant, non-flammable, formaldehyde-free, and perfect for people with chemical sensitivities.
So there’s a movement abreast in the United States to allow hemp growth so that, for example, the plant can be used to create more affordable building materials.  Makes sense, right, local production!  There’s also a movie documentary in the works —Bringing It Home — about industrial hemp, healthy homes, and a greener future for America.
If you’re aware of an issue with hemp that requires a prohibition on domestic growth, by all means, share that below.  Otherwise, everything I’ve read speaks to nothing but benefits, especially when used as a building material.  So if you have a hemp material or project,share it with us, because I’d like to help elevate the discussion in whatever way possible.
Credits: Hemp House by Push Design with Hempcrete.

- Jetsongreen

Protesters fail to halt air traffic

Police were deployed along the perimeter of Cape Town International Airport on Monday after protesters from the Malawi Camp and Freedom Farm communities set piles of tyres on fire hoping the thick pall of smoke would disrupt air traffic.

The Freedom Farm community borders the airport.

Airports Company of SA spokeswoman Deborah Francis said the burning tyres placed against the periphery fence were extinguished.

No damage had been caused to property.

“None of our operations were affected and all our flights and operations ran smoothly,” Francis said.

Earlier, motorists were diverted from Modderdam Road after residents set traffic lights on the Stellenbosch Arterial intersection alight and threw rocks at passing motorists and police.

Police used stun grenades to break up the protest over demands for housing that has flared intermittently since last week.

As tensions in the Malawi Camp area settled, residents of Freedom Farm gathered to demand homes.

Local councillors, who have been trying to resolve the standoff, say they are trying to find out why people, who have lived there for over 20 years, are still without houses.

But Asa Abrahams, councillor for Ward 24, which includes Freedom Farm, said she also wanted answers from the community.

She said that even though 331 out of 505 families who had been assessed as needing houses had been given houses in Delft, a recent survey showed that the list of those needing houses had grown to 547 families.

“We want to know how this happened.”

City officials had met with officials from the provincial department of human settlements to discuss the matter. She said there would be an investigation into how the situation came about and the results would be presented to residents during community meetings in the area.

Karen Nissen, a community leader in Malawi Camp, said their councillor, Jermayne Andrews, had said she could meet them only on Wednesday, which angered residents.

Andrews, councillor for Ward 22, said she had tried to go to the area on Monday morning but the police would not let her through.

WC verifies housing lists

The Western Cape Human Settlements Department has begun verifying housing beneficiary lists for residents of the Malawi and Freedom Farm informal settlements.

Earlier on Monday, community members from both settlements protested by blocking parts of the Stellenbosch Arterial, Modderdam Road and 35th Avenue.

They were demanding access to basic services and decent housing. 

According to officials, at least 10 people were arrested in demonstrations.

Western Cape Human Settlements spokesperson Bruce Oom said, “Once verification has been completed, Minister Bonginkosi Madikizela will go to the community and inform them of who qualifies.”

The province’s housing backlog stretches back 24 years, with around 500,000 people waiting for homes.

In the City of Cape Town alone, some 400,000 residents are waiting for houses.

Cape Town: Revolt over city carbuncle proposal

Councillor JP Smith has taken a defiant stance against the plan to seek changes to the record of decision so it can try to make Cape Town's R4.5-billion stadium financially viable - and has stormed out of a mayoral committee meeting called to discuss the matter.

The City of Cape Town wants to overturn regulations banning commercial activity at the Cape Town Stadium and build a nightclub, restaurants, coffee shops and sports bars in an attempt to make the struggling venue commercially sustainable.

After the mayoral committee meeting last week, Smith called Dr James Loock of the Green Point Ratepayers and Residents Association and expressed his opposition to the city's plan to ask the provincial government to change the record of decision on the stadium precinct.

Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety and security and former ward councillor for Green Point, apparently told Loock he had walked out of the meeting "because it is a betrayal of the trust and agreement with the ratepayers".

Mayor Patricia de Lille says Smith may speak on the matter only in his personal capacity.

Many Green Point residents were opposed to the building of the stadium, citing high costs, noise levels and traffic volumes, and concerns about sustainability. To appease residents, the province imposed restrictions, banning commercial outlets, and the hiring out of office space to third parties.

But an independent business consultant hired to develop a business model for the stadium and Green Point Park has suggested several options.

In an e-mail to members of the ratepayers' association, Loock wrote: "JP called me, very concerned, about the mayco meeting he walked out of because the city is planning on asking province to change the record of decision and go against our decision to limit the extent to which commercialisation of the common can occur. He said ... he walked out because it is a betrayal of the trust and agreement with the ratepayers."

Loock wrote that Smith, who counts Green Point as one of his constituencies, "suggested that all the relevant ratepayer organisations get together and make a joint position statement".

Smith said his discussion with Loock had been "a private conversation. But I did excuse myself from the meeting because I did not support the item. I was the subcouncil chair at the time when we did the (record of decision)."

Smith said mayco did not hold a caucus before the item was put on the mayco agenda.

"There's no caucus on planning items... so I'm not thwarting any caucus position.

"The community is going to engage with city officials.

"But no one wants to see any additional structures being built on the common and there must be activities within the stadium to make it more financially viable."

Mayor Patricia de Lille said: "The only relevant fact here is that mayco formally agreed that the city would approach the provincial government with a view to initiating an extensive public participation process that would consider the possible commercialisation of Cape Town Stadium."

De Lille said any councillor who held an alternative position "can do so only in their personal capacity".

Grant Pascoe, mayoral committee member for events, marketing and tourism, declined to comment on Smith's comments and walkout.

"Mayco took a decision and is to recommend that the council mandate the executive director to start a process of engaging the province to seek amendments to the record of decision and also put together a consultative process," said Pascoe.

Green Point ward councillor Beverley Schafer said she could not comment on the mayco divisions, but was working closely with residents.

"We are negotiating, putting together a position on how my ward feels and what they believe would will be acceptable," said Schafer.

Anti-corruption hotline report not so hot

Eight years after it was set up, the government’s national anti-corruption hotline has managed to claw back only R110 million in public servants’ ill-gotten gains.

Fewer than 1 500 officials have had action taken against them.

And two out of three corruption cases referred to national and provincial departments for investigation since 2004 are still outstanding – because the referrals are simply ignored.

In its latest review of the hotline it has managed since 2004, the Public Service Commission complains about the same problems it identified in 2008.

It says departments “generally do not” investigate the cases referred to them. They put this down to a lack of investigative capacity, or specialised units.

This comes while billions of rand in public funds is being lost every year to corruption, incompetence and negligence in the public service.

Former head of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) Willie Hofmeyr said last year that 20 percent – between R25 billion and R30bn – of the government’s procurement budget alone – was siphoned off each year.

This was through officials’ fingers in the till, providers overcharging for goods and services or officials failing to properly monitor how money was being spent.

The Public Service Commission’s third report – released every two years – measures the hotline’s effectiveness from its inception in September 2004 until the end of August 2010.

“Investigators do not receive adequate resources from their departments to conduct full-scale investigations… Furthermore, investigators often do not have the requisite knowledge or skills to deal with complex cases of alleged corruption,” the report says.

The commission also complains that departments fail to give it proper feedback on cases that just need department records to be checked, such as social grants, RDP housing and ID fraud.

A means for people to call in with tip-offs about fraud, corruption and other abuses in the public service, the hotline’s effectiveness depends mostly on officials in national and provincial departments properly investigating cases referred to them – and ensuring action against guilty officials.

“It is, therefore, of concern that the commission received feedback on only 2 948 cases – 37 percent of the 7 922 cases that were referred,” the report says. More significantly, of the nearly 8 000 cases referred for investigation, only 23 percent (1 821) were concluded.

Previous studies by the commission “have shown that departments generally do not investigate cases of alleged corruption reported (on the hotline) and referred to them”.

Over the eight-year period under review 106 799 calls were made to the hotline, including general queries, requests for feedback and hoax calls.

These generated 10 700 cases of alleged corruption, reduced to 7 922 after the PSC evaluated them.

In all, over the eight-year period, 1 273 officials were charged with misconduct for corrupt activities – 600 in provincial departments and 673 in national government.

Sanctions were as follows:

* 603 officials were sacked;

* 226 were suspended;

* 134 were fined (three months’ salary docked);

* 16 were demoted;

* 330 given written warnings;

* 190 were prosecuted.

Cases of alleged corruption reported to the hotline involved mostly fraud and bribery (1 522), abuse of government resources (995), mismanagement of government funds (889), ID fraud (781), procurement irregularities (720), appointment irregularities (627), corruption relating to criminal conduct (588), unethical behaviour (600), RDP housing fraud (450), social grant fraud (440) and service delivery (310).

While it mentions “notable gains”, and claims the hotline has proved to be an important tool in fighting corruption, the review reflects little progress in resolving key challenges the commission identified as far back as 2008.

Key constraints remain a lack of investigative capacity in the departments and entities that must investigate the cases referred to them.

Worryingly, the report also notes departments reporting that whistle-blowers were “sometimes intimidated by senior officials and executive authorities” – politicians – when they informed on or were investigating corrupt activities.

“Perhaps lack of protection of the whistle-blowers is the key reason why many callers prefer to remain anonymous when they report cases of alleged corruption,” the report says.

Warning that failure to investigate and act against corrupt officials could undermine public confidence in the hotline, the commission makes several recommendations.

It wants “urgent attention” to be given to regular performance audits by departments of cases referred; proper feedback to the commission

and departments setting up systems to track and analyse corruption trends to devise strategies to counter them. It also recommended a review of the Protected Disclosures Act to shield whistle-blowers from victimisation, so their identity could remain confidential.

Monday, June 18, 2012

10 held in Cape Town protest

Ten people were arrested in a protest in Modderdam Road, Cape Town, on Monday, Western Cape police said.
Warrant Officer November Filander said about 300 people gathered at the corner of Stellenbosch and Modderdam East roads from 2am in a protest over housing.
He said the road was blocked with burning tyres and cement blocks. Residents of the informal settlements Freedom Park and Malawi Camp threw stones and destroyed a few traffic lights.
They later dispersed and the road was reopened to motorists. – Sapa

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Cape Town protesters block highway

Protesters burnt tyres and blockaded the N2 near Khayelitsha on Saturday, a Cape Town traffic spokeswoman said.

“There is a protest march on the N2. There were reports of stone throwing and burning of tyres,” said Chief Inspector Merle Lourens.

The protest started after 3am.

She said the centre lane of the N2 going towards Cape Town was closed as a result of the illegal protest. Protesters had dug a hole on the highway and the city had dispatched repairmen to fix it, said Lourens.

The reason for the protest was unknown but police were monitoring. - Sapa

Friday, June 15, 2012

Water scarcity drives protests: study

A lack of adequate and safe drinking water played a significant part in service delivery protests across the country, the Water Research Commission said on Friday.

This emerged from a study it had commissioned on “Social Water Scarcity and Water Use”.

“When government has not met expectations, citizens have responded by blaming government structures for non-delivery of services,” the commission said.

Researcher Barbara Nompumelelo Tapela investigated selected rural and urban case studies in the North West, Western Cape, and Limpopo provinces.

The study sought to deepen understanding of the links between water scarcity and societal expectations for service delivery.

In many cases, government officials had responded by disengaging from citizen groups or shifting blame.

This gave rise to increasing frustration among citizens.

In this way, a self-reinforcing cycle leading to poorer delivery was created.

Officials were even less likely to communicate with the public or co-operate with each other.

Public frustration increased as long-standing problems were not resolved.

This led to disregard for the law.

In some cases, there were violent protests against a system which people did not feel respected them.

In Sannieshof, North West province, residents did not have adequate access to water.

Water infrastructure had been neglected for years.

A particularly pressing issue for residents was the lack of a proper water and sanitation plan.

Unmanaged raw sewage had affected the area's water quality since 2007.

Pelindaba residents relied on communal taps or stand pipes for water access.

Three taps serviced a population of more than six hundred households.

One respondent pointed out that there were 10 communal taps but only two were functional.

All respondents agreed that they had experienced a water-point breakdown at some stage over the past year.

Khayelitsha, in the Western Cape, had experienced exponential growth in population since 1986.

Only 30 percent of households had yard and in-house water and sanitation facilities.

About 70 percent of households used communal taps or stand pipes for water supply.

They had inadequate or no access to sanitation.

A Khayelitsha resident of QQ section said: “The first thing is that we don't have toilets. We defecate into buckets inside our shacks. It is completely unacceptable for an adult to be defecating inside living areas. The whole shack becomes smelly.”

Protests by Khayelitsha residents had not had positive results.

This was due to the fluidity and lack of community organisation in informal settlements.

Residents of Muyexe village in Giyani, Limpopo, complained of water scarcity.

“How can a person survive without water? It is an essential source of life,” one respondent complained.

Women spent more time fetching water than men, and experienced waiting times extending well into the night.

“This exposed women to a range of risks to personal safety and security,” the report said, particularly with regard to livestock.

In some cases, water needs expressed by the community were not prioritised by municipalities.

There were discrepancies between water use data at planning levels and data collected on a micro-level, the commission said. – Sapa

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Horrific conditions led to protests

Rosetta Afrika, 44, lifts two wooden boards in her backyard to reveal a hole in the ground, which is to be her toilet for the next six months.

Afrika and her neighbours in Malawi Camp, on the corner of Modderdam Road and Stellenbosch Arterial, have no electricity, running water or toilets. They either have to relieve themselves in buckets in their homes or dig holes outside to use as toilets.

She was one of the residents from Malawi Camp and the neighbouring Freedom Park who took to the streets in a service delivery protest on Wednesday.

Nceba Ngongoshe, a Freedom Park community leader, said they wanted an investigation into the allocation of new houses in Delft to residents who they said had only lived in the area for a few years while those who have been on the waiting list for 20 years are still waiting. He said they were “fed up” and would continue protesting till they got answers.

Across the road lies Malawi Camp, where Afrika and her neighbours, spurred on by what they saw in Freedom Park, also started protesting.

Gordon Khudunyane, a community leader in Malawi Camp, said they also wanted to know why their water had been cut off a month ago.

The tap a few feet from Afrika’s house is not working, neither is one a few metres down the road. They have to walk a long way to get water.

She shares her two-roomed shack with her husband, three children and her three-year-old grandson.

Afrika showed the Cape Argus a document from 1996, which showed she’s on the housing waiting list.

She is still waiting, while newer arrivals get houses, she says.

Modderdam protest cleared

About 100 people blocked roads with burning tyres in Modderdam, Cape Town, on Thursday morning but later dispersed, Western Cape police said.

Warrant Officer November Filander said residents gathered on the corner of Lavis Drive and 35th Avenue to protest over a lack of housing.

He said stun grenades were used to disperse the crowd as they were throwing stones. The road was cleared by 7am. No arrests were made.

On Wednesday morning, about 150 people protested nearby at the corner of Stellenbosch Road and Modderdam East road.

Filander said residents were apparently unhappy about their living conditions and also wanted houses.

A 19-year-old man was arrested for public violence.

A councillor arranged a formal meeting with the community of Freedom Park and Malawi Camp and the crowd dispersed around 9.30am. – Sapa

Get ready for more rage

The number of violent service-delivery protests spiked this month and more can be expected.

The use of tear gas, stone-throwing, setting up barricades of burning tyres and community anger have become common around the country and Kevin Allan, of Municipal IQ, which monitors 283 municipalities and keeps track of service-delivery protests, says they are becoming more frequent.

The organisation found that 2012 accounts for 14% of the protests recorded since 2004 "with May 2012 recording more protests than any other month since 2004".

Most of the unhappiness arises from urbanisation - the flocking to the cities of people from poor rural areas to find jobs. They are forced to live in informal settlements lacking basic services.

Yesterday, there were service-delivery protests in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The police were called in to deal with disruptions in Delft and Elsies River, in Cape Town, and at the Zandspruit informal settlement, northern Johannesburg. In Johannesburg, police fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets to restore order.

Municipal IQ economist Karen Heese said protests had many underlying sources.

"[The causes of] the protests in May were as diverse as they were common. From demands for housing in Cape Town to a cluster of North West protests for tarred roads. The worrying [common] theme was that they were violent and demonstrated high levels of frustration," she said.

Western Cape has had more protests this year than any other province. The Free State is in second place; North West and Eastern Cape are joint third.

"Protests erupt for various reasons and there isn't a strong central theme apart from the fact that people are protesting about a lack of services," said Allan.

"What varies greatly and what isn't quite understood is what the drivers of protests are. We know that in Western Cape one of the key drivers is political activity. We know that a lot of protests are set off by conflict between the DA and the ANC. However we can't say definitively that this is the core reason."

But he said conflict between ANC factions has also led to service-delivery protests. This was particularly so in North West in 2009, the year Jacob Zuma became president.

Many promises were made by politicians in 2009 ahead of the national elections, when service-delivery protests were common.

But Allan said it is likely that 2012 will "eclipse the peak records of 2009 and 2010".

Protests started at the crack of dawn in Western Cape yesterday. In Delft, 150 people gathered to protest for better living conditions and for housing.

A 19-year-old from the Malawi squatter camp was arrested for public violence after he was caught setting tyres alight.

"The local councillor arranged a formal meeting with the community of Freedom Park and Malawi Camp to address their unhappiness," said police spokesman Warrant Officer November Filander.

At 9.30am the crowd dispersed but just 30 minutes later Elsies River residents gathered to stage a symbolic "mass funeral" at the municipal offices.

Residents burned their municipal arrears slips in a cardboard coffin.

"We are not going to pay the government our arrears. Eers kos dan arrears (first food and then arrears)," said community activist Mario Wanza.

Tomorrow similar funerals will be held in Netreg, Bonteheuwel and Langa, on the Cape Flats.

In Johannesburg metro police tried to bring the situation in Zandspruit under control.

Residents barricaded roads and threw stones at cars. Motorists were turned away from Beyers Naude Drive where protesters were burning tyres.

Johannesburg metro police spokesman Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said: "The situation was under control in the morning but then got out of hand with renewed protest action from residents."

Residents said they have been forced to make use of the bucket toilets system.

John Mukwevho, a resident, said: "There is waste everywhere you walk in the area.

"The police come here and tell us to go home but they have no idea what we are going back home to."

The police arrested 12 people for public violence in Zandspruit.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Company Uses Hemp To Help Build Homes, Despite Costly Regulations

Chances are pretty good that if somebody asks you about hemp, your first thoughts might land on the weed that gets rolled into joints. And that’s the unfortunate reality plaguing proponents who seek to strip federal regulations on industrial grade hemp.

“You don’t want to tamp too much or we’re going to lose our insulation properties,” said Ken Anderson as he oversaw the installation of a cement-like hemp mixture into a wall cavity. Anderson’s company, Original Green Distribution, instructed builders Tuesday on the correct use of its product, HempStone. It is a breathable material made of hemp fibers and lime that Anderson sees as a safer and more efficient alternative to conventional building materials.

“Not only does it have great R-value, it also has thermal mass, which will then capture heat and bring it in when it’s cooler in the house and also transfer heat through the house,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s company promotes industrial grade hemp as the perfect building material. It’s non-toxic, mold and mildew resistant and non-flammable. A fully encapsulated wall will not ignite even when the hot flame of a soldering torch is held to the surface for five minutes. In comparison, conventional building products can give off toxins like formaldehyde, which get trapped in today’s air tight construction. So contractors say families are requesting hemp materials for health benefits alone.

And when the hemp fibers, called the hurd, are mixed with lime and a bit of water, the hemp mixture sets up like concrete. The mixture, however, is seven times lighter than concrete.

A 3,400-square-foot hemp home was designed by green builder Anthony Brenner in Ashville, N.C. He says home is heated and cooled for about $45 a month.

“It’s easily about 75 percent less to operate that home compared to a conventional home,” he said.

But until federal laws banning hemp production change, all the raw materials used for hemp construction have to be imported. That’s keeping the cost up and Anderson’s industry from getting off the ground.

“Right now, because of the cost prohibitiveness, we have to sell to a higher end market, whereas this material should be available to everyone,” Anderson said.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Two children killed in shack fire

Cape Town - Two siblings died in a shack fire in Thembalethu, the Western Cape's George Municipality said on Saturday.

Steven Erasmus, a director of planning and housing in George, said it was unclear how the Friday night fire started.

“People reported that two children died from the fire, a four-year-old and an 11-year-old,” he said.

“There is speculation that the children were on their own. When the police complete their investigation it could potentially be a crime scene.”

Erasmus said once his department had located the remaining family members, they would offer them shelter. - Sapa

Floods cause chaos in Cape

The SA Weather Service has issued a warning for very cold, wet and windy conditions, with a 60 percent chance of showers, until Saturday morning.

Wind speed will remain at 30km/h with a minimum temperature of 11°C until a drop to 10°C on Sunday. Heavy rainfalls are expected to drench the Cape Metropole, Cape Winelands and Overberg districts today.

The weather service has warned of a gale-force north-westerly wind reaching 40 to 45 knots at times, and of rough seas with swells of up to 6m off Cape Point. Clear skies will arrive by Sunday...

Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management Centre reported flooding across informal settlements on the Cape Flats on Thursday.

Charlotte Powell, spokeswoman for the centre, said it had received reports of flooding from Philippi, Strandfontein, Khayelitsha and Delft.

“We don’t have exact numbers of how many homes have been affected, (but) we can expect numerous dwellings to be affected by the floods,” she said.

“We also received reports that the Vygieskraal River’s banks had burst. However, when we did our investigation we found that the river was just full.”

On the other side of town, the River Club in Observatory was forced to close when its parking area was flooded as the adjacent Liesbeek River’s levels rose.

People were turned away at the club’s gates and those who insisted on going in were warned by the security guard that they were doing so at their own risk.

The club’s manager confirmed that the club was closed because of a flooded parking area but refused to comment.

Powell said Voorspoed High School in Hanover Park had also been affected by the storms on Thursday.

“We have means in place to deal with the floods. People are still coping. It’s not yet necessary for us to activate our emergency shelters or evacuate people from informal settlements,” said Powell.

However, a Cape Argus team witnessed some residents in Brown’s Farm, Philippi, living in pools of water after the rain, and clearly in need of temporary relocation and dry clothing and provisions.

Vumeka Mguye, of Block 6, had to wear gumboots to walk around her house.

“I woke up at 7am and there was already water inside my house. I had to get my daughter ready for school in that dam.

“I’ve asked one of the few neighbours whose houses aren’t flooded to babysit (my children) because they can’t stay here. We don’t even know where we’ll sleep, my place is filled with water,” said Mguye.

Mguye said gumboots and clearing water out of her home were the order of every day during winter.

“We’ve been living in this water since 2004. The water comes in through the front door and the back of the house. Our cupboards are wet, are clothes are soaked. I’m always in and out of the clinic during this time because of my flooded home,” said Mguye.

Nosakhele Mqhakayi, 35, of Section 2 in Philippi, said winter made it difficult for her to raise her children.

“It’s not good to have small children in a flooded house. Five of them sleep with me in one room. Water leaks into that room from the floor, through the roof and the walls. We constantly have to scoop water from the floor with a bucket,” said Mqhakayi.

By 1pm Mqhakayi and her children had already scooped 78 litres of water from their bedroom floor.

“I’ve had to, somehow, cover the walls up with whatever material I can find. I have a disabled child who has to sleep in that room with me,” said Mqhakayi.

The Disaster Risk Management Centre said it was on high alert and well prepared should disaster strike.

“We’ve got plans in place and we’ve put our NGOs on high alert. We’ve made sure we’ve got enough food, blankets, clothing, etc, to provide relief,” said Powell.

She urged residents to report emergencies to the city’s 107 line.

“This line should be used if one’s life or property is endangered – dial 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone. Flooding, blocked drains and service disruptions can be reported to the city’s Customer Contact Centre at 0860 103 089,” said Powell.

Ways to weather the storm

The City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre has urged Capetonians to exercise caution during bad weather by following these guidelines:

* Use sandbags to protect critical areas.

* Keep a careful eye on open flames and extinguish fires before going to bed.

* Private home owners living close to the beach need to be prepared for possible storm surge impacts to their property.

* Motorists should slow down and maintain safe following distances on roadways.

* Avoid areas such as the Sea Point Promenade, Kalk Bay, Atlantic Seaboard, False Bay coastline and Strand/Gordon’s Bay beachfront due to possible storm surges

Enquiries and/or complaints regarding burst and leaking water mains, faulty and leaking water meters or blocked and overflowing sewers can be reported by SMS to 31373.

Enquiries and/or complaints regarding electricity faults can be reported by SMS to 31220.

The City’s Transport Information Centre can be contacted at 0800 65 64 63 for information on delays on roadways and deviations.