Tag Archives: South Africa

The Necessity of Advocacy: Discussing the Politics of Landscape Architecture

The role of advocacy and political engagement  here espoused by ASLA in the USA is as needed in South Africa, where the demands and needs of the needy poor is sidelined by the greed of the avaricious in business and politics.
Posted by Jonathon Geels on Land8

land8cover
“When people think about what influences elected officials, nine times out of ten their first thought is money… Clearly, skepticism reigns supreme when it comes to our views of how to influence a policymaker.” – Stephanie Vance, “Citizens in Action”

Despite being “for the people, by the people,” our representative democracy can seem distant. It can appear inaccessible and elitist, particularly when sensationalized by the “yellow journalism” of contemporary news media. Lobbying, and by extension advocacy, further brings to mind a hidden element of governance. Because of that, they are both practically four letter words. While this presidential election cycle has brought to the forefront the concept of politicians being “bought” by powerful lobbies, simply viewing government as a trade deal undermines the value of advocacy and professional lobbying.

I attended my first ASLA Advocacy Summit with a similar perspective and with a far greater understanding of the concurrent Awareness Summit. At the same time, I approached the event both grateful for being there and committed to gleaming every ounce of value out of the experience for the chapter I represented*. Of the dual arms of chapter outreach, Awareness (Public Relations) is sexy and glam; who doesn’t want their picture on television? Advocacy, because of the distance of government, lacks the same initial luster. Even as I listened to a professional lobbyist describe the services that he offered the society, I still had misgivings. As he outlined case studies in landscape architecture licensure battles that had littered the ground of advocacy for the society in recent years, I was unconvinced. In a state that seemingly had a shield to any licensure attacks – Indiana has a combined board with the architects who were not likely to come under any sunset issues – it was hard to reconcile the cost of lobbying. Despite the need for vigilance, the issue of licensure did not have the same sense of urgency in my state as with other chapters. Without the urgency, advocacy remained a back-burner issue, especially compared to the draw of World Landscape Architecture Month or the need for continuing education credits and networking value of the state’s Annual Meeting.

As the presenter shifted to outline the tangent benefits of advocacy and lobbying, one line was burned into my mind: “Raising the profile of the profession.” That even without a specific “ask” or dramatic need, landscape architects would benefit from engaging policymakers if for no other reason than to make the profession more prominent in the eyes of those individuals who controlled much of the direction of the built environment through the allocation of funds or the implementation of guiding policies. This was a seminal moment for me and one that changed the way that I viewed professional practice. I began to see advocacy as a partner to awareness and public relations. At the same time, I began to view Government Affairs as the natural progression in the pursuit to work as a landscape architect. It’s a complicated feeling to watch the built environment evolve, knowing that your own involvement could improve the quality of place or positively contribute to changing public health, safety, and welfare. This was a moment of clarity, like Neo seeing the Matrix for the first time. Everything was different. I was already aware of the problems that plague the profession – lack of understanding, vague licensure laws, engineering bias; finding problems to solve is easy. Inherently, landscape architects also know that layering in solutions to the problems would produce systemic benefit. But it was through advocacy to local, state, and federal policymakers that landscape architects would have the opportunity to be a constant part of the conversation. Through better advocacy, landscape architecture can become a baseline expectation, not just an add-on or luxury component or easy to value-engineer out.

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Trevor Manuel – Minister of Planning: South Africa

From Daily Maverick – an interview with Trevor Manuel Minister of Planning – South Africa – on what the planning commission means and what it intends for working on South Africa’s extremely unequal demographics and poverty.

ryland fisher Trevor Manuel interview.jpg

Interviewing politicians can be difficult, because they hardly ever give a straight answer, and Minister for Planning in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, is a consummate politician. But in a wide-ranging interview, he spoke as openly as possible, among others, about how he has won over sceptics over the years, first as minister of finance and now as planning minister, about his displeasure at ministers whose utterances go against the Constitution, his anger at the policemen who killed a Mozambican man in Daveyton last week, his resignation in support of Thabo Mbeki and how his current job is very different from his previous one as minister of finance. He remained hesitant to speak about his future, however. By RYLAND FISHER.

We interviewed Manuel in his office at Parliament on Friday morning, a few hours after he had hosted a report-back meeting in the Rocklands Civic Centre in Mitchells Plain where he spoke about the need to rekindle the activism that was prevalent in the 1980s.

Below is an edited extract of the interview:

RF: When you were appointed minister in charge of planning in President Zuma’s Cabinet, there were obviously some sceptics who did not quite understand what it is that you had to do. Now that the National Development Plan has taken centre stage in our political life and, indeed, our economy, do you feel vindicated?

TM: I don’t actually set out with that objective. I think that too frequently we start out not being given the benefit of the doubt. What it entails is just working hard to get things right and if, in the process, you disprove the sceptics, that’s okay, but you start out to get things right.

In the last few years of Madiba, in spite of the fact that many people told him he was crazy to appoint me minister of finance, I did not set out to prove the sceptics wrong, but I hoped that through my efforts I would be able to win the trust of Madiba and the organisation that gave me the opportunity to do so. What is important is that one is able to take decisions and learn in the process.

I understand very clearly that if the only thing you want to do in a position of leadership is to please people, the quality of your leadership is going to be severely compromised. If you try and do things that go against the grain of your belief system, then you will be unhappy and feel compromised.

If you want to deal with these issues, you have to ask questions constantly about what your reference points are, about what is your value system. Some people use the term “compass”: so where are you heading and why?

The ability to think past ideological rigidity is also important.

If I take these points and try and use them to answer the question about the National Development Plan, it makes for an interesting read.

The commission [National Planning Commission] itself is an interesting construct. I’ll be bold enough to say that my initial thought was to have the commission structured more along the lines of the Indian Planning Commission which has about half a dozen ministers on it. It is chaired by the prime minister and often the president or the deputy president could chair it and I would do the spade work inside. I lost that battle, and it was not about wanting to be a prime minister. It was about wanting to follow a construct whose relationship to implementation would be understood.

The second thing about the plan and the commission is that its composition actually lives out !ke e: ǀxarra ǁke (Khoisan for “diverse people unite”). It is quite a diverse group of people and that’s a real strength.

When we approached people to participate, on the recommendation of the president, some of them said: “Why are you approaching me? I’m not even an active member of the ANC.” However, everyone accepted. There were some people who felt rejected by the ANC. In putting this together, a lot of these people got a new lease on life and have given the commission a new lease on life. It has been very important for that reason.

The third issue is that, in many ways, when, 13 months into the process, the diagnostic report was released, it was a coming out for the commission. If people thought it was a lapdog, then the release of the diagnostic report – which deals with issues such as the unevenness of the public service, the breakdown of unity, the need to tackle corruption, etc. – spoke volumes about the way so many South Africans feel.

But it also spoke to the fact that the president, in inviting the commission to take a long-term, independent view, was actually not curtailing that. There was no censorship about the views of the commission. He allowed it to happen and has built on the momentum created by the National Planning Commission. It is going to be quite important because it was a commission started on his watch and it has been allowed to generate the unity and momentum. It is something that he wants to see through and that is very positive.

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Entrepreneurs in chains

A rant at the bureaucracy that chains entrepreneurs in South Africa sent to me by a farmer friend who is at the mercy of these chains yet continues to farm, process and pack agricultural produce –    by Clem Sunter: Scenario planner, speaker and best-selling author.

This article is prompted by two conversations I have had recently; one with a young Chinese woman at a lunch with friends last Sunday and the other with a South African businessman who has just returned from Lagos in Nigeria.

In the first conversation, the lady said that despite the strong political hold that the Chinese Communist Party has over the nation, in the minor towns and villages across the country economic anarchy reigns. This has been incredibly beneficial in that it has led to an entrepreneurial revolution which has propelled China to No 2 in the global economic order behind the US. It may not be the sole cause because you have to consider foreign investment in China as well, but sure as night follows day it has helped.

The businessman said that he had gone to Lagos expecting another down-at-heel, demotivated Third World city. Instead, he discovered one of the most exciting places he has ever visited, putting it on the same pedestal as Hong Kong. He found the entrepreneurial energy irresistible in Lagos. Everywhere he went people were buying and selling things in an unregulated environment other than the prime rule of cash on delivery. He now considers Johannesburg’s boastful slogan of being the leading business centre in Africa to be totally empty. He sees the future of African capitalism as Lagos. Johannesburg belongs to the history book of colonial capitalism.

What both these people’s opinions had in common was the idea of economic freedom – not the one peddled by Julius Malema of transferring assets at no cost between rich and poor with an increasing role for the state. The one they have in mind is breaking the oppressive chains binding the small business owners in this country. True liberation will only come when all those creative souls who are not politicians, not civil servants, not directors or employees of large, established businesses, not unionists or union members, not the recipients of regular monthly pay cheques, are put on a par with those inhabiting parliament and the formal economy.

Consider the following chains that currently shackle South African entrepreneurs:

1. The snobbish attitude of the political and business intelligentsia in this country which at worst consider entrepreneurs to be criminals and at best greedy little capitalists that need to be tolerated as a sideshow. Whichever, they have to be regulated as an irresponsible underclass.

2. All recent national plans. They have emphasised the developmental state which is a euphemism for more chains and more regulation and more economic prioritisation. The people writing these plans have never personally had to create wealth themselves in order to be paid. As recipients of regular salaries, they have no idea of the risks involved in being an entrepreneur. Remember it is economic anarchy in China which has largely contributed to its economic miracle. Nassim Taleb puts it a different way in his books about black swans and randomness: it is all a matter of luck as to which businesses grow into major international concerns and which fail. The best policy is thus to have an environment which maximises the number of new businesses without any preferences for particular industries. The lucky ones will make it and you have no idea beforehand which they are.

3. The vast bureaucracy surrounding the establishment and ongoing operation of a small business in a legal manner. We are now regarded as one of the most hostile countries in the world for entrepreneurs. Most small businesses here only have one employee – the owner. The reason is that nobody wants to take on extra people with the potential hassle of going to the labour court if these people fail to perform. Below a certain size, entrepreneurs should have total freedom to hire and fire as it is their business and their money after all. It is not the taxpayers’ money.

4. The culture of non-payment to small business which thrives in the world of big business and government. In big business, standard payment terms can extend to 120 days while some state entities like hospitals never pay which is why they are in such trouble. The whole process of being approved as a vendor is now used an excuse to defer payment. Can you imagine going to a supermarket and walking out with a trolley full of goods and saying to the security guard that you will pay as soon as the supermarket fills in the appropriate forms to become your approved vendor? Big companies do this all the time to small service providers.

5. The tight-fisted approach of all providers of capital to entrepreneurs in South Africa. The financial universe here resembles a well-heeled club that is happy to extend credit to members. But woe betide uppity non-members who rudely knock on its doors making unreasonable requests to finance small business ventures. What a lack of manners! Why don’t they just disappear and borrow from their equally vulgar and impecunious friends?

I can go on, but we have completely lost the plot. Until we fundamentally change our mindset in regard to entrepreneurs and regard them as the centrepiece of this nation’s future economic prosperity, we are finished. Nigeria will overtake us in the next 10 years as the continent’s largest and most vibrant economy and leave us eating dust.

Useful resources:

Mind of a Fox We are foxy, game-playing strategists and the authors of two number 1 best selling books

African Oasis:Babylonstoren

An “African Oasis” designed by a Frenchman in a “Cape Dutch” farmstead just outside Cape Town  filled with Western fruit trees, herbs and vegetables – true globalization… from Garden Designnow what is African About this one might ask?

PHOTO BY: Courtesy Babylonstoren

A map of the garden. Image courtesy of Babylonstoren.

Babylonstoren means “Tower of Babel” in Dutch, and the eight acres of gardens at this restored 18th-century Cape Dutch farmstead and hotel in South Africa’s Drakenstein Valley are, like their namesake, both monumental and tantalizingly unfinished. And yet, a walk through the grounds may help visitors do what that skyscraper of legend could not: touch heaven.

“Perhaps people find it peaceful because it’s not aggressive,” says Babylonstoren’s landscape designer, French architect Patrice Taravella. “Beauty is not an objective, it is the result.”

Babylonstoren garden

In the geometric gardens of Babylonstoren, a farmstead and hotel near Cape Town, South Africa, pathways paved with recycled peach pits crunch underfoot beside a gurgling, stone-lined stream that serves as the gardens’ gravity-aided irrigation system. Photo courtesy of Babylonstoren, photo by Cactus Branding

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Trevor Manuel’s South African Government NPC goes YouTube

It is very encouraging in the sea of “bad mouthing” that african polticians and govenments get, that an initiative such as the National Planning Commission should exist and that it should have at its head the likes of the very highly regarded and successful ex-Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel, who is widely regarded as being responsible for the best run of the SA government departments, namely SARS ( the South african Revenue Service), now in his position as National Planning Minister he is innovatively tackling one of the most daunting jobs in any country and especially in South Africa with its legacy of colonial and apartheid divisions, newly resurfaced racism and general 21st century cynicism  and apathy. From the Daily Maverick

South Africa faces nine key challenges – that’s the word from the National Planning Commission. But to get the critical buy-in from everyone concerned, it first needs to inform and explain; the NPC has turned to YouTube for help. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.

Trevor Manuel’s first job is explaining what the future holds. A 10-minute video posted by the NPC on YouTube explaining what it’s all about, and what the nine challenges are is the first step in the commission’s long walk to win the hearts and minds of everyone. It needs to explain why it exists, and in a manner clear and compelling enough so ordinary South Africans can buy into the plan.

A 10-minute video posted on YouTube comes closest to explaining what the commission is, what it is trying to achieve and why anyone should care. It shows an artist drawing out a summary of the speech given by Manuel, who explains (once more) what the commission is all about.

The video is in line with what we’ve come to expect from the NPC – innovative and compelling rather than in-your-face and brash. It’s not a big-budget production, but it gets its message across clearly.

Watch: 9 challenges facing South Africa – diagnostic report:

Want to read about it – the full skinny on the Daily Maverick

Moses Mabhida Stadium Precinct | Durban South Africa | Iyer Urban Design Studio

A post on World Landscape Architecture of the ILASA Award Winning Landscape Project:

Moses Mabhida Stadium Precinct  | Durban South Africa | Iyer Urban Design Studio

Already a celebrated icon in the Kwa-Zulu Natal landscape, the Moses Madiba Stadium and precinct, built for the Soccer World Cup 2010, in the words of the jury “is commended because of its multi-disciplinary design approach that has made the most of urban design, architectural and landscape architectural skills, driven by a visionary client. “

“The urban and landscape design at Moses Mabhida Stadium Precinct allows for ongoing integration with the broader city and coastal corridor. The design is focused on the creation of an accessible, well-made and generous public-space system. The landscape design is contemporary and executed on a bold scale with continuity of approach, aesthetic appeal and response to local place and function clearly visible.”

“The stadium precinct comprises many remarkable spaces and places. These include the uncluttered concourse level surrounding the stadium and the polished concrete podium that serves as a raised plinth with planted embankments resembling a dune. This podium defines public and semi-public movement with the base assigned highest levels of being open to the public. (“publicness”.)

Moses Mabhida Stadium Precinct  | Durban South Africa | Iyer Urban Design StudioSite context to Durban city

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elmo swart architects: wright conversion

I have not posted any domestic architecture for some time but as it’s where we live…. I found this interesting transformation  of a traditionally based house into a contemporary icon by elmo swart architects in durban, south africa


‘wright conversion’ by elmo swart architects in durban, south africa
all images courtesy elmo swart architects

‘wright conversion’ by south african architects elmo swart architects is an expansion project to
a three-bedroom thatch cottage in durban, south africa. including the addition of a new bedroom,
two studies, a multi-use entertainment space and an art gallery, the design features a continuous
surface that wraps around the structure to form a fluid floor, wall and roof form.

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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:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/south_africa_stop_the_secrecy_bill/?vl

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:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/south_africa_stop_the_secrecy_bill/?vl

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

SOURCES

Call for info bill overhaul:
http://www.iol.co.za/business/business-news/call-for-info-bill-overhaul-1.1080343

Cosatu vows to challenge a railroaded Info Bill in court:
http://mg.co.za/article/2011-05-31-cosatu-vows-to-challenge-a-railroaded-info-bill-in-court

Kasrils warns ANC on steamrolling secrecy bill:
http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/article1097447.ece/Kasrils-warns-ANC-on-steamrolling-secrecy-bill

S.Africa secrecy laws could freeze out investors and media:
http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE7510KP20110602?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=

ANC calls for delay on info bill:
http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/ANC-calls-for-delay-on-info-bill-20110603

Protection of Information Bill:
http://www.info.gov.za/view/DownloadFileAction?id=118894

For more information from the Right2Know campaign to stop the Protection of Information Bill:
http://www.r2k.org.za/home


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To contact Avaaz, , write to us at www.avaaz.org/en/contact or call us at +1-888-922-8229 (US).

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 South African Landscape Architecture A Compendium and A Reader

Urban planning in South Africa

The issues raised herein this poscast have been repeatedly made by amongst others University of Cape Town’s  Prof. Dave Dewar and Fabio Todeschini and published in a their 2004 book Rethinking Urban Transport after Modernism 
at  are Posted by Arina on  World Landscape Architecture

Existing condition of Cosmo City ext 17 (Lion Park) for the Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality. Provided by Michael Hart.

Do the same urban planning ideas apply everywhere? Hear examples from the interview with Michael Hart at http://bit.ly/

Urban planning ideas are sometimes applied between one region to another without any adjustments to the local culture and climate. The example of such a direct transfer is South Africa, where English planning was implemented. Does it work?

Michael Hart points out that urban planning that focuses on the automobile is not appropriate for South Africa, since car ownership is very low. Nonetheless, existing local standards and guidelines are dictating automobile-driven planning. There are other issues that have been overlooked, such as the availability of the energy and water. Although there are alternative solutions for energy in rural areas, they are too expensive and rarely implemented.

One of the projects worth looking at is the Urban Design Framework for an integrated mixed-use housing development in Cosmo City, Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality. Currently there is an informal settlement in that area, with approximately 7,300 people. There are no roads or infrastructure. Houses are built by owners from available materials. The local municipality is planning to redevelop this area in the future and promises their residents improved housing.
Michael and his team were hired to study existing conditions and develop a framework that could be implemented in that area.

Michael Hart hopes that in the future he will see a lot more sustainable projects in South Africa that will take local culture and environmental constraints into consideration.