Call for the establishment of an urban land commission

By Afesis-corplan

The idea of establishing an urban land commission to provide an appropriate institutional response to land redistribution in cities solicited a heated debate during the Urban Land Dialogue hosted by the South African Cities Network (SACN) in Port Elizabeth on March 27th. Geoff Bickford of the SACN argued that while the land debate often focused on rural land and agrarian issues, “yet over the coming decades, urban areas are set to change dramatically. More people live in cities and they require more houses and services, public transport, jobs, and places of recreation and learning – all of which take up space and need land.” He argued that the establishment of an urban land commission will provide the appropriate institutional response to land redistribution in cities.

The establishment of such an “urban land commission” builds on the recommendation made by the Parliaments High Level Panel on Key Legislation that calls for a “coordinating structure” led by the office of the deputy President to be responsible for driving a coherent and co-ordinated spatial framework for South across urban and rural areas of the country.

A lively debate on this issue ensued with one participant, Rofhiwa Taula, who is studying towards a degree in human settlement studies at the Nelson Mandela University (NMU), arguing that an establishment of yet another land commission will be a waste of tax-payers’ monies. “We need land transformation. It is must happen now to ensure that we avoid social instability. The proposed urban land commission is not going to help because we already have the Housing Development Agency which assists in facilitating state owned land to fast track the delivery of houses closer to economic opportunities; therefore, the land commission which we are now calling for will be useless.In short, the instrument is already there,we simply need to focus on implementing it” Taula argued.

Another participant, Moki Cekisani, argued for an equitable share of land in the country. He said that “the land question still causes a lot of division between black and white South Africans. It is ownership of the land that is still making us think about being black and being white. Whites own about 87 percent of the land blacks own 13 percent, even though they are the indigenous rightful owners of the land. This is what’s causing anger and division amongst our people in the country.”

Representing private property owners, Ron Pask of the Port Elizabeth Inner-city Housing (Pty)Ltd which is made up of some 4900 properties said 85 percent of the rates they paid to the municipality were spent on disadvantaged communities.

Representing and speaking on behalf of Afesis-corplan, Ronald Eglin argued that “there appears to be confusion as to what an urban land commission is all about, most people would agree that some form of institutional structure is needed to get government, the private sector and civil society stakeholders together to discuss what they would like the metro to look like in future and find ways to make sure that the right people are able to access the right pieces of land and use it for the right reasons.”

This dialogue was attended by stakeholders from NMU, Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality, Mandela Bay Development Agency and members of various other government, private sector and non-governmental organizations operating in and around the metro. Its objective was to advance the inclusive urban land transformation discussion.

Glenmore residents start petition to get their sports field rectified

By Afesis-corplan

The Glenmore sports facility remains inaccessible to members of the community wishing to use it despite Ngqushwa local municipality allegedly having spent R3-million to refurbish it. In response to a request for support by the Glenmore community, Afesis-corplan has been involved in attempts to get the Ngqushwa Municipality to engage and share information with the community on the project. This was done as part of Afesis-corplan’s Accounting for Basic Services Project which it is facilitating in Ngqushwa and Buffalo City Municipalities.

At the heart of the Glenmore stadium lies the fact that the community with a history of sporting tournament hosting and an active youth around sport now is without a sporting facility as a result of poor workmanship by the contractor that was meant to refurbish the stadium.

According to the tender documents the sports field was to have a new gate house, new male and female VIP ablution facilities, new change rooms, new netball court, new basketball court, new grandstands, new athletics track, refurbished pitch for soccer and rugby, irrigation systems and water fountain.

However when Afesis-corplan visited the field recently they found that poor workmanship had resulted in a building with structural defects and the sports fields had not been properly grassed.

The defects included, among others, an open hole in the ceiling of the changing room; roof leakages; visible cracks in the wall; windows that have been vandalised; uneven floor surfaces; inconsistent tiling; and spectators’ stands that were unstable and not safe for use. Furthermore the guard house next to the main gate had no window.

Speaking at a community meeting in March narrating the depth of the challenge Mr.MzameliGola who coaches the under 13 and senior soccer teams in Glenmore said that the aspirant soccer players walk a distance of 10km every week to get to Ndlambe village to play soccer on a field that is relatively improved simply because their own is in a terrible state, this after the supposed refurbishment.

Nontsikelelo Magobiyane who coaches the under 16 and senior netball teams agreed that this was the same case for the netball teams. She further alluded to the fact that as a result of this, many of the youth have dropped out of the teams she has been coaching because of the long distances they needed to travel for practice.

Glenmore, a village 20km outside Peddie towards Grahamstown, like many rural communities has very few recreational facilities. The sport field was seen by the villagers as a key recreational facility, one that would rally youth towards a good course.

One of the villagers alluded to how, as a result of the closed sports field, youth related social-ills have escalated in the area as a resulting of loitering about with no recreational activities.

All the community of Glenmore requires from Ngqushwa Municipality is information pertaining to what the contractor was asked to do, at what standards and whether in its assessment the municipality believes to have received value for its money. If not, the community wants to know what the municipality plans to do to hold the contractor accountable and wants to be part of seeking solutions that will eventually lead to the use of the stadium for its intended purpose.

The municipality has ignored and refused all attempts by both the community and its partner, Afesis-corplan, to access information that would assist in answering the questions the community has. Access to information is a constitutional guaranteed right under South African Law, one that ensures that communities like Glenmore are able to meaningfully participate in local governance. It is towards this end that we as Afesis-corplan are resolute in exercising our right in holding the relevant officials in the municipality to account.

With the support of Afesis-corplan, the community of Glenmore organised an Indaba on March 27 where the municipality and the contractor Onke Mgunculu of Mgunculu Trading were invited to attend but declined.

The Indaba is as a result of years of failed attempts to get answers from the municipality. The Indaba went ahead as planned and the community of Glenmore made it known that poverty and rural location will never be determinants of how government should treat its citizens in a democratic South Africa.

The people of Glenmore have now resolved to draft a petition to office bearers at Ngqushwa local municipality to rectify the sports field as soon as possible.

Afesis-corplan’s programme officer Lindokuhle Vellem said the two year delay in getting the sports field working again had had a negative social impact on the community of Glenmore.

“For a community that derived immense social and economic benefits from the sporting activities and from a thriving culture of active sport, the delays in the refurbishment of the sport field cannot be underestimated,” Vellem said.

Ngqushwa local municipality spokeswoman NcumisaCakweNgqushwa declined to comment on the state of the Glenmore sports field refurbishment and its state of readiness, despite numerous requests for comment by Afesis-corplan.

The Accounting for Basic Services project is a partnership between the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Afesis-corplan, the Built Environment Support Group, Planact and Isandla Institute with support from the European Union.

Cooperatives briefed on R600m mega farming project

By Afesis-corplan

THE Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency (ECRDA) will spend R600-million on a farming project targeting 12 villages in Tshabo, outside King William’s Town.

Afesis-corplan is drafting a social contract for the project through a public participation process to ensure that commitments made by the communities, represented by 12 cooperatives, and government are clearly understood.

The innovative agricultural enterprise called the Tshabo Rural Enterprise (RED) Hub is being implemented by ECRDA and will create manageable economic infrastructure out of the current inactive value rural assets of Tshabo .

It will also create 483 sustainable jobs excluding seasonal workers and bring much needed food and nutritional security for villagers.

The cooperatives will work in massive agricultural facilities that are going to be built in three villages.

The proposed facilities include a five star flora nursery, a flower packaging and processing facility, a 12 000 square meter snail processing facility, 20 hectares of hydroponics (a process of growing plants without soil) facilities and an agro processing facility.

Processed raw materials derived from the project will be distributed to the local and international market.

According to ECRDA the transformative project is aimed at unlocking Tshabo’s rural economic opportunities, while enhancing and creating an income diversity for locals.

The community will also be imparted with management skills and farmer technical expertise.

ECRDA has said the project will be private sector driven and promoted to ensure sustainable economic viability and compliance with legislative frameworks.

The sector will also work to secure off- take agreements with end retailers both in the country and abroad.

Afesis-corplan has been contracted to strengthen the community’s involvement in the project. The goal is to identify what the cooperatives will contribute to the project and ascertain the kind of assistance they will need.

Afesis-corplan’s programme officers Vusi Gqomose and Masixole Kente recently concluded separate visioning exercises with each of the cooperatives over a two week period.

“The purpose,” explained Gqomose, “was to get everybody to participate by sharing their dreams and vision for their families and community. This gave us an opportunity to understand what the people in these villages go through in their daily lives and how they think they can improve their situations.”

Kente said: “We are going to draft a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or social compact between the cooperatives, government and other private entities that want to assist with the project. This will explain how each stakeholder will contribute towards the success of the project.”

For their part, Tshabo residents said unemployment was high in their community and many saw the proposed project as a way out of poverty.

Resident Thandiwe Dwaba, 46, “If we can commit on this project, we will move forward. The main thing is cooperation and partnership, no squabbles. We must also agree on what product we need to farm and stick to that, because we know what our land can produce and not produce, for example we cannot farm mealies in this area because it does not grow.”

Dwaba said the community was excited about the project and how Afesis-corplan officers conducted the social facilitation.

“The information that they were sharing with us was easy to understand. You could see everyone was participating unlike in other instances where only a few people would speak. Everyone was involved in the social facilitation,” Dwaba said.

Another resident Nosiphiwo Viti, 65, said: “We have attended many workshops of this nature before and nothing came out of that. I just hope that this time around government will live up to its word and make this project a possibility. We will believe it when they start fencing the land they want us to work in, at the moment we are just hearing about the project.”

Zwelidanile Gxabalashe who was born in Tshabo in 1929 said he hoped the project will come to reality while he is still alive.

“Where there is smoke there is fire, I am hopeful. My only wish is that it happens when I am still alive. I grew up farming and I have livestock, now this project means that when I die my children will be left with something to do,” Gxabalashe said.

The Social Audit Network (SAN)

by Masixole Kente

The Social Audit Network (SAN) has recently launched a Social Audit Video and new logo.

The video showcases different social audits conducted in various locations by member organisations of the network around South Africa. Afesis-corplan is one of the founders of the SAN. The video shares a glimpse into the Social Audits conducted by Equal Education (in Gauteng and Cape Town), Afesis-corplan (in the Eastern Cape), the Social Justice Coalition and Ndifuna Ukwazi (in Cape Town) and Planact (in Gauteng). The video will be available to view soon on the new SAN website. The Social Audit methodology is a process used and accessible to communities to raise awareness and to engage government in a different manner about the challenges faced in poor communities such as issues around the access to quality basic services like housing, water and sanitation. Please follow this link for more information on Social Audit case studies in South Africa.

The Scenery Park Phase 3 Housing Story

by Masixole Kente

The construction of 947 houses for the Scenery Park Phase 3 beneficiaries in East London finally started in June 2017. These households  have been waiting for their approved houses for more than 20 years. Afesis-corplan partnered with the community in 2014 and built the capacity of the community to better engage with the Eastern Cape Department of Human Settlements around their housing needs. Currently the beneficiaries are hands-on in the process of monitoring the construction of their houses. Afesis-corplan recently compiled a short video clip that captures the journey of the Scenery Park Phase 3 beneficiaries and gives an inside look at the community’s struggles that began in 1994. Also see a previous video put together by Afesis-corplan called ‘A purposeful pursuit’ which gives a bit more detail about this story.

Mandela Day in Glenmore

by Lindokuhle Vellem

On the 18th of July, which is the international commemorative day for Nelson Mandela’s Birthday, the Afesis-corplan team travelled to Glenmore community in the Ngqushwa Municipality of the Eastern Cape. It was a fun day filled with singing and laughter, cleaning and painting. To end the day a huge Mandela cake was shared in memory of our fallen statesman.

Afesis-corplan has been working with the community of Glenmore through the Accounting for Basic Services (ABS) project. Through this work, the group approached Afesis-corplan to help revive their once vibrant CommunityAdvice and Information centre, which was last operational in the mid 1990’s. The day not only revived the centre, but the community’s belief in their strength and the length to which they can go in reviving their community.

The day was filled with the young and old working together towards a desired goal, which sets the stage for more collaborative development in the community. This is especially worth mentioning because of the history of division between the youth and the older generation. There’s quite a bit of unwritten history about the community that the young people in Glenmore are not aware of. As Afesis-corplan, we believe that as we endeavour to hold more of these collaborative spaces and conversations, the stronger Glenmore becomes and a space for passing down Institutional knowledge is facilitated. ABS starts with having stronger community links before holding an external body accountable.

“United we stand, divided we fall”.

Edging towards Site and Services

by Ronald Eglin

Numerous speakers and participants at the National Department of Human Settlements summit in Gauteng from 21-22 September 2017, attended by Ronald Eglin, indicated a growing appetite, both within communities and within government, to seriously consider the promotion of ‘site and services’ as a new approach to human settlement development in South Africa. A resident from Eldorado Park, south of Johannesburg, was quoted by one of the speakers as saying: “just provide us with serviced sites; we will then build houses for ourselves’.

There appears to be a growing realisation within the country that with housing demand sitting at about 2.1 million households (as reflected in governments housing demand data base) and increasing at about 200,000 households per year – and with the housing subsidy quantum now standing around R190,000 per household (including a contribution towards land purchase costs, services installation and the construction of the top structure); we as a country just do not have enough funds to build RDP houses quickly enough to house everyone. Some of the key recommendations emerging from the summit included refocusing on the upgrading of informal settlements, prioritising rental accommodation (especially in well located areas), improving the targeting of housing subsidies to those most in need, widening support for Human Settlements to include more emphasis on finance linked individual subsidies as well as serviced sites, and reviving the Peoples’ Housing Process with an emphasis on appropriate housing and development support to help people help themselves.

Afesis-corplan supports this shift to serviced sites, or what we and others call managed land settlement, but notes that this comes with a need for government to:

(1) relook at how land is made available for human settlement development so that well located land is prioritised for new settlement growth;

(2) find ways to encourage the densification of these site and service and other areas;

(3) expand the range of tenure options available to government and households for how land can be ‘held’; and

(4) partly restructure the role of the Department of Human Settlements from one of building houses to supporting people to build their own houses.

Afesis-corplan predicts that adopting such an incremental settlement approach will not only provide more people with at least basic services and tenure security – restoring their dignity of having a safe and legitimate place to stay; but it will also help towards the creation of more quality living environments.

Afesis-corplan calls on government to speed up the process of consulting on and finalising the new Human Settlements policy and associated legislation so that we as a country minimise the uncertainty associated with any transition period from the past of building RDP houses to one of emphasising informal settlement upgrading and serviced site development (and only top structures for the truly destitute, such as the aged, and disabled). In the short term we call on government to immediately start a series of site and service, development support, rental housing and other pilot projects to demonstrate how this new, more incremental human settlement approach could work.

Nuclear energy – do we need it?

by Ronald Eglin

“The nuclear energy debate is hotting up in South Africa” participants were told at a nuclear energy conference in East London on 13 September 2017. The conference was co-organised by Afesis-corplan and Earthlife Africa (Johannesburg).

In April 2017 Earthlife Africa (Johannesburg) and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute won a court case cancelling the nuclear energy agreement between South Africa and Russia. Government now has to restart the whole public participation process to determine if we need a nuclear energy programme in the country and if ‘yes’ restart the procurement process to identify who should build any new nuclear reactors. For more on this see this video on nuclear energy.

The debate around nuclear energy is an important one, even though on the surface, the public might feel that nuclear reactors in far off places of the country (like Thyspunt  just 70km south west of Port Elizabeth) do not affect them. Vladimir Slivyak and Chris Williams, anti-nuclear activists from Russia and the United States respectively, shared their experiences of dealing with nuclear energy in their countries.

Vladimir and Chris drew attention to the serious health and safety risks associated with operating and decommissioning nuclear reactors in their countries. See copy of Vladimir’s presentation here. They highlighted the unsolved problem of what to do with nuclear waste, some of which remains radioactive and a cancer health risk for hundreds of thousands of years. They cautioned South Africa to be sceptical of the job creation potential of nuclear energy, especially as it compares to alternative approaches like renewable energy, as many of the jobs in nuclear energy will be for higher skilled people and not those who need employment. Alternatively, more locals can be skilled up for jobs in the renewable energy sector.

It was highlighted that South Africa needs to decide if it can afford the high costs associated with building new nuclear reactors. There was even some speculation in the discussions that some countries that could be involved in building nuclear reactors in South Africa, like the Russians, did not envisage that South Africa would even be able to pay back any loans that they took out to build the nuclear power stations. If this is the case, what would these foreign countries gain by providing the South African government with loans they know will never be repaid? Will South Africa have to store these foreign countries’ radioactive waste for centuries to come?

The international guest speakers were not surprised at allegations of a link between nuclear energy and state capture in South Africa as the secrecy and large scale of nuclear build programmes makes nuclear energy an arena open for huge corruption all around the world.

Civil society needs to expose the truth when it comes to nuclear energy and let the public decide if they want to pursue a nuclear future (with its associated advantages and disadvantages) or pursue an energy conservation and renewable energy future. Our generation has to step up and decide the fate for generations to come. For more on nuclear energy see the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation and the Myths of Nuclear Power . To get involved and be kept up to date on what is happening around nuclear energy in South Africa see the Nuclear Costs SA campaign

JUNE 2017 NEWSLETTER: Afesis in Action June 2017

To catch up on what has been happening at Afesis-corplan, click here for our newsletter, Afesis in Action June 2017!

#COMMUNITYFIRST: Scenery Park community put their community first

#COMMUNITYFIRST was the brainchild of the Scenery Park Phase 3 beneficiaries as a symbol of their demand to participate and be included in the development of their own houses. The beneficiaries who had been waiting for the delivery of the houses for which subsidies were approved 20 years ago are wanting to participate in a meaningful manner in monitoring the construction process so that their houses are not left with defects as many projects they had witnessed. To do this, the community is using social accountability tools such as the social audit for monitoring purposes. This is one of the first few models in which the community had requested to include a community-driven monitoring process during construction, which is normally a technical process. For more on the Scenery Park project visit  and look out for the hashtag on our Twitter (@Afesiscorplan) and Facebook (Afesis-corplan) pages.