Secrecy vs democracy — the petition is exploding!

An attempt to use social media resistance to activate grass roots democracy in South Africa

Our petition is exploding! Over 21,000 signers in 24 hours! Let’s get to 50,000 and stop the bill. Send this on to everyone

Dear Friends across South Africa,

Right now a Parliamentary Committee is steamrolling through an unconstitutional secrecy bill that would undermine the very pillars of democracy — freedom of expression, free media and accountable government. But growing public pressure is pushing back and MPs are hesitating. Let’s build a nationwide petition of opposition and stop the bill. Sign now!

Sign the petition!

Right now a Parliamentary Committee is steamrolling through an unconstitutional secrecy bill that could take South Africa back to the dark days of impunity — allowing government institutions to operate without public scrutiny, and stopping the media from exposing corruption, and abuse of power.

But public pressure is pushing back! Last week, after hundreds of media outlets and civic organisations had submitted amendments to Parliament, COSATU, Fedusa and the former Minister for Intelligence Services, Ronnie Kasrils condemned the bill, and on Friday ruling party MPs were forced to prolong the Parliamentary debate. But security sector interests are at stake, and to ensure this current bill is stopped will require an avalanche of public opposition.

The bill would undermine the Constitution and destroy key pillars of a vibrant democracy — free media, open government and an informed public. Let’s tell the political leadership that the people of South Africa vehemently oppose this Bill. Sign now, then forward this to everyone — when it reaches 50,000 signers it will be delivered to Parliament, the Executive and key international allies:

Right now ruling party MPs are forcing the Committee to vote clause by clause on a secrecy bill that entirely counters the African and emerging economies movement towards more open government. The Bill would empower officials in nearly every state body to classify any document as secret on the basis of a vague definition of ‘national security’. Poor communities could be denied requests of information about service delivery, and if abused, a local clinic, municipal office or national ministry could use the bill to cover up corruption or misuse of public resources. The Bill would also lock up anyone who possess or publishes anything that is classified for a minimum of 15 years, even if that information is clearly in the public interest, deterring investigative journalists, and whistle-blowers from exposing official crime and corruption.

The Protection of Information Act of 1982 needs to be replaced, but there is a formula that would not flout citizens’ constitutional rights and protect secrets. A democratic and strong law would: have an independent panel appointed by Parliament to determine what secrets had a bearing on national security; only apply to institutions in the security sector; endorse public scrutiny of the intelligence agencies; and would ensure that legitimate whistleblowers that disclose secrets in the public interest are always protected..

Last year we worked with citizens and organizations across the country to raise the alarm and together we halted the bill’s progress. And last week a surge of public criticism pushed ruling party MPs to take their foot off the accelerator. People power works! Basic freedoms and democratic rights are on the line and we have no time to lose. Let’s build a monumental movement to oppose this regressive bill. Sign the urgent petition and forward this message to everyone:

South Africa’s Constitution is held up around the world as a model foundation for democracy. Let’s stand together now to protect it, and oppose those who are attempting to throw a shroud of secrecy over government and use this bill to protect power and privilege.

With hope,

Alice, Sam, Benjamin, Pascal and the rest of the Avaaz team


Call for info bill overhaul:

Cosatu vows to challenge a railroaded Info Bill in court:

Kasrils warns ANC on steamrolling secrecy bill:

S.Africa secrecy laws could freeze out investors and media:

ANC calls for delay on info bill:

Protection of Information Bill:

For more information from the Right2Know campaign to stop the Protection of Information Bill:

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A Not So Suburban Suburbia: Possibilities for Our Urban Future

More on retrofitting suburbia

There are nearly seven billion people on the planet, and more than half of them live in urban areas. Close your eyes and try to picture that. Do you see the towering density of Tokyo or Mumbai? Well, you’re partly right. Megacities with populations topping 10 million are part of the picture, but our urbanization rate also captures lots and lots of areas with populations as small as 2,500 (Instead of Cairo, think Bloomfield, Iowa, for example). What’s more, megacities are groupings of multiple cities and suburbs, and each of these is subject to changing local definitions. As Hania Zlotnik, a population expert from the United Nations, put it earlier this week here at the Aspen Environment Forum, the statistic that we’re more than half urban “hides more than it reveals.”

So if the mostly urban world isn’t going to be a uniform skyscraper forest, is it going to be a sprawling megasuburb with oceans of parking lots? Not necessarily. As Georgia Tech’s Ellen Dunham-Jones shows, there is a growing trend in the United States to retrofit suburbia in ways that incorporate what people like about more traditional urban settings (see video above). Abandoned supermarkets, shopping malls, and big box stores are being sliced and diced into walkable neighborhoods with street grids, mixed uses, and a comfortable feel. Rather than simply spreading out into fertile farmlands, these urban projects are targeting what Dunham-Jones calls “underperforming asphalt” – blank spaces within the urban boundary. As a result, the burbs are getting their own downtowns.

Read More

Mapnificent -a time-based transit map (via Urban Observatory)

STEFAN WEHRMEYER, a 23-year-old German programmer, has developed a Google Maps application called Mapnificent (harhar). It's pretty cool: it shows you the places in your city that you can reach in a given amount of time using public transport. This does not yet work in South African Cites , but is still an interesting application of already existing cloud network i.e. Google Maps  and the programming API has lots of potential for creating your ow … Read More

via Urban Observatory

Las Negras Waterfront by Jesús Torres García

A Spanish Beach – landscape architecture from a different perspective without the gloss – feels like here – there or it is very specifically there……. from landsezine

Landscape Architecture: Jesús Torres García
Location: Cabo de Gata Natural Park, Almería, Spain
Quantity Surveyor: Juan Diego Guarderas García
Collaborators: Silvia Cama · Barbara Costantino · Laura González Romero · Sara Pavón · Alba Márquez · Alba del Castillo
Builder: Grucal Andalucía S.A. / Juan José Viciana
Wood: Bédarmadera / Jesús Fernández Collado

We are particularly interested in the architecture of supports, or elements open to uses with the capacity to include wishes, activities and creativity of public interest and which, at the same time, are related to the control of empty spaces, its own size, its landscape and urban nature.

Read on and see more images

Interview with Nina-Marie Lister on Ecological Urbanism (via The Dirt)

More from a key academic contributor in the Landscape Urbanism – Landscape Urbanism debate

Interview with Nina-Marie Lister on Ecological Urbanism Nina-Marie Lister, MCIP, RPP, Affiliate ASLA, is Associate Professor of Urban & Regional Planning at Ryerson University, and Visiting Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design (GSD). She is a contributor to "Ecological Urbanism" and co-editor of "The Ecosystem Approach: Complexity, Uncertainty and Managing for Sustainability." Lister recently served as the Professional Advisor to the ARC I … Read More

via The Dirt

South African Landscape Architecture A Compendium and A Reader

A press release from the Institute of Landscape architects of South Africa (ILASA) of a unique and important  two volume series on the Landscape Architecture of Southern Africa which sets out to fill a gap in the history and theory of the field of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design. This collection should be on every Architects, City Planner, Environmentalist, Urban Designer and Landscape Architects bookshelf as an indispensable reference, both locally and internationally. Many of these projects which have one ILASA Awards of Merit over the last three decades have never been in any publication before now, with the possible exception of local magazines, and their unique African character and flavor thus deserve a wider audience showing there is more to Africa than the “Big Five’, Soccer and Crime! Well done to these authors who have laboured  to bring us this valuable collection.: 

South African Landscape Architecture: A Compendium

Compiled by Hennie Stoffberg, Clinton Hindes and Liana Muller:

The above two books are now in preparation at Unisa Press and are the first in what may possibly become a new series entitled South African Landscape Architecture. There is a need to collectively celebrate and document the achievements of South African landscape architecture academia and practice. The breadth of the profession sees practitioners and academics creating value in widely different spheres of the built environment. Continue reading

No more boring labyrinthine car parks…..

Inspiring designs for more interesting car parks and although we’d all like them to disappear off the face of our cities most of us can’t get by without our cars – so why not have  more livable and likable places to park them…. from the cool hunter

Great, aesthetically pleasing design needn’t be limited to traditional architectural forms such as houses and public buildings.

Continue reading

Sculptural Playground – Wiesbaden, Germany

via the cool hunter

As we continue to wonder why so much more time, energy and attention is lavished on adults’ play and entertainment spaces than on kids’ play and  entertainment spaces, we sometimes find a cool spot worth mentioning.

The “sculptural playground” Schulberg located in a formerly neglected area overlooking the historic centre of the city of Wiesbaden in Germany, is one of such great kid-friendly environments. It is both kid- and adult-friendly and big enough to hold even the most active kid’s attention for several visits.

Designed by Berlin-based ANNABAU Architektur und Landschaft, the pentagon-shaped play area mirrors the city’s historic shape. The playground consists of three elements: A suspended net walkway loop supported by two undulating lengths of stainless-steel pipe; an artificial landscape created inside the loop; and a wide boulevard with benches outside the loop. – Tuija Seipell

Designing the Post-Political City and the Insurgent Polis’: A Recorded Presentation by Erik Swyngedouw

From [polis} a  dissertation on alternatives to top-down design with the limited purpose of serving vested financial and political influences for the benefit of its population – this is particularly relevant to our situation here in Cape Town with the current emphasis on Central Improvement Districts, IRT systems which serve more affluent suburbs rather than the urban poor stuck in ghettos on the periphery and Soccer World Cup stadiums that are now white elephants and a financial noose around the cities neck while the profits accrue in the hands of vested international interests – is there a way to resist this is the focus of a recorded presentation by Eric Swyngedouw on “Designing the Post-Political City and the Insurgent Polis.” Swyngedouw is a professor of geography at the University of Manchester School of Environment and Development.

Swyngedouw points to a climate of global consensus that has become pervasive over the past twenty years, effectively suppressing dissent and excluding most people from governance. He explains this consensus as limited to a select group (e.g., elite politicians, business leaders, NGOs, experts from a variety of fields) and perpetuated through “empty signifiers” like the sustainable/creative/world-class city. He argues that this consensus serves a “post-political” neoliberal order in which governments fail to address citizens’ most basic needs in order to subsidize the financial sector and take on grandiose projects designed to attract global capital. He adds that the flipside of management through limited consensus is rebellion on the part of the excluded, which he views as insurgent architecture and planning that claims a place in the order of things. Swyngedouw calls for open institutional channels for enacting dissent, fostering a democratic politics based on equal opportunity for all in shaping the decisions that affect our lives. He envisions the city as “insurgent polis” — a new agora where democratic politics can take place, where anyone can make a case for changing the existing framework

Listen to the presentation and read more on [polis]