Dale T. McKinley – Labour And Community In Transition: Alliances For Public Services In South Africa

Cover_McKinley_June2014This paper critically analyzes the context and practical experience of labour-community alliances to oppose privatization and promote public services, as they have evolved in South Africa since 1994.

While 1980s South Africa was rich in such broad and politically independent alliances against the oppressive apartheid system and the ravages of neoliberal capitalism, following the 1994 democratic transition the labour movement largely embraced the neoliberal corporatism promoted by the ANC-run state, which increased the social distance between employed workers and poor communities. Consistent attempts to repress community-led dissent in response to the political and socio-economic failures of the ‘new’ democracy, and the resulting delegitimization of community struggles related to the nature of public institutions and delivery of public services, undermined further the bases for unity.

This paper analyzes case briefs of the few labour-community alliances that exist today – the South Durban Environmental Community Alliance; the Cape Town Housing Assembly and South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU); and the Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition – as a means to surface their nature, challenges and successes. Collaboration is largely temporary and informal, involving small numbers of committed individuals from both ‘sides’.
Twenty years after the first free and fair elections in South Africa, the harsh realities are that strong, organic labour-community alliances have virtually disappeared and there is a growing disconnect between their respective politics and practical struggles. The positive past of labour-community mobilization in the country needs to be reclaimed both in thought and practice. If there is to be a coherent ‘alternative’ movement forward, labour and community have to find ways to talk with and learn from each other, to find a common language for and approach to, what kind of society, what kind of state and most crucially what kind of ‘public’ they desire.

See more at: http://municipalservicesproject.org/labour-and-community-transition

See also: http://www.dalemckinley.org/

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Kate Tissington On The Right To The City In South Africa

Urban land is of symbolic significance in South Africa because it is land that people of colour were historically denied access to. But the historically privileged still own, occupy and enjoy the best urban land.
The question is, why hasn’t our government been able to unlock well-located land in urban areas to provide housing for the people who need it most?
The historically disadvantaged continue to live on marginal land on the peripheries of South Africa’s cities and the apartheid city remains untransformed.

Both The South African Civil Society Information Service (SACSIS) and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung South Africa Office (FES) wish to promote discussion about the transformation of the apartheid landscape in an effort to foster social cohesion in South Africa’s still largely racially and economically segregated society. The organisations co-hosted a panel discussion to interrogate the issue on 17 April 2014.
The event was opened by Renate Tenbusch, Resident Director of the FES South Africa office and the panellists who spoke at the event included, Mark Napier: Principal Researcher at the Built Environment Unit of the CSIR and co-author of the book, “Trading Places: accessing land in African cities”; Thembani Jerome Ngongoma: Member of Executive Committee of Abahlali baseMjondolo (shack dwellers’ movement); Louise Scholtz: Manager at World Wildlife Fund South Africa and leader on joint project with National Association of Social Housing Institutions; and Kate Tissington: Senior Researcher at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa.

Overall, as a result of the contributions of this panel as well as questions and comments from the floor, it became clear that there is stasis, a lack of imagination and a lack of political will to house the poor and to transform South Africa’s apartheid cities. Much of this is happening within a highly corporatized free market environment where municipalities would rather sell off their land for short-term profit than invest in the long-term sustainability of their cities for inhabitants and future generations. Rent collection and maintenance of rental housing stock are activities that South African municipalities simply do not want to burden themselves with.
Kate Tissington argued that her organisation’s work was to help extend poor people’s right to the city. For example, by resisting evictions and pushing local government to provide alternative accommodation when people are being evicted or when shacks are being demolished.
The absence of a pro-poor developmental local government perspective to deal with the housing backlog is a fundamental problem, she argued.
The odds are against the poor in terms of improving their access to the city. There is major contestation over well-located land. But those with money are winning, as the drive towards gentrification targets better off residents.
Consequently, affordability is a major constraint. For example, more than half of Johannesburg’s inner city residents earn less than R3,200 per month. They are typically employed as domestic workers and security guards. Thus, there is a massive gap between what people are earning and what is made available to them in terms of housing options.

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Alexandra Lange – Radical Cities: Across Latin America In Search Of A New Architecture By Justin McGuirk – Review

Radicaltheguardian.com. July 2014. “Considering ideal conditions is a waste of time,” Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner write in their 2005 book, Informal City. “The point is to avoid catastrophe.” The two architects, partners in the international practice Urban-Think Tank, are known for the cable car system they designed for Caracas, connecting barrios in the hills with the city in the valley. Part of the allure of these cable cars, and U-TT’s work in general, is the way they make a virtue of leftover spaces. A shelter for a football field becomes a “vertical gymnasium”. A shelter for street children, built under an overpass, gets another football pitch on its roof. As design critic Justin McGuirk writes in Radical Cities, his survey of urban experiments in Latin America, in “engaging with the informal city, U-TT developed a methodology of maximising the amount of social activity that a tiny plot of land could deliver”. They went small – “strategic” and “urban acupuncture” are the terms du jour – looking at what the city had become, and what individual neighbourhoods needed, rather than masterplanning a cycle of demolition and straight lines.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/radical-cities

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“Urbanized” – Full Length Documentary Movie (New Urbanism)

Urbanized is a feature-length documentary about the design of cities, which looks at the issues and strategies behind urban design and features some of the world’s foremost architects, planners, policymakers, builders, and thinkers.
Who is allowed to shape our cities, and how do they do it?
By exploring a diverse range of urban design projects around the world, Urbanized frames a global discussion on the future of cities.

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Leslie Kavanaugh – My Choice On Sustainability

469992_409370629106980_1371061744_oThe word “sustainability” is perhaps one of the most frequently evoked, yet most ill-defined concepts in contemporary discourse. The concept can be made to apply to scales ranging from (anti-) globalization to eating healthily. Although the concept is far from new, being bound to the notion of human beings tied to and embedded in the earthly environment, in the last century cognisance of the scarcity of resources – both human and material – have brought to the fore real concerns about the future viability of the earth as a human habitat.

In the age of global markets for goods and services, underlying any attempt for a sustainable environment would be the maintenance of a fair trade organizations, protection against exploitation of labour and materials, and an equitable constructive finance system. One of the first policy documents developed in association with the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was Barbara Ward and René Dubos; Only One Earth: The Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet, (W. Norton & Co, 1972). http://www.iied.org/

More recently, the European Unions’ Institute of New Economic Thinking acknowledges that any “sustainable” development in sustainability must be accompanied by fundamental changes in economics and politics. http://ineteconomics.org

Other excellent resources for “thinking of the world as a system over time”, is the International Institute for Sustainable Development: http://www.iisd.org/sd/

The Earth Institute – Columbia University: http://www.earth.columbia.edu/sections/view/9

The ISE – Institute for Social Ecology: http://www.social-ecology.org/about/about-the-ise/

And not forgetting, Buckminster Fuller: http://bfi.org/ whose whole systems approach advocated in his book: Spaceship Earth. Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1963) revolutionized thinking about the earth as an interconnected system not isolated from the universe itself.

Technology in the last decades has certainly provided the means to provide sustainable economics, environments, and materials. A few websites for an overview:

Research for energy-optimised construction: New Technologies http://www.enob.info/en/new-technologies/

Alternative Energy Information Resources and Renewable Energy Technologies: http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/about/

And remembering that renewable energy is also about conservation of energy and building smart in a symbiotic marriage with the environment, sensitive the climate and orientation of the building, passive solar is often neglected in favor of more high-tech solutions. See for example, fifteen years Passive House in Darmstadt – Kranichstein: http://www.passivhaustagung.de/Kranichstein.html  Read more

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Online Journal: The Age Of Zinc

ZincWhat is the age of  Zinc?
Mjondolos, favelas, ghettoes, slums. Neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city, country to country. Such is the increasingly urban reality all over the world. The people in these neighborhoods are pioneers. Blazing new trails to access greater opportunity for their families, they are building new kinds of cities. Still, every day, recent arrivals in cities come face-to-face with severe exclusion from economies and services. This may be an age of technology and progress for some. For the one-seventh of the world that now lives in urban slums, it is both something more and something less: the age of zinc.

The urban pioneers are not just changing the face of the cities that they inhabit. They are also building new kinds of institutions and social arrangements that are changing us all. Cities and the urbanization of exclusion and poverty are producing new challenges to the way we think, govern, and live. This is a running journal of photography, storytelling, and assorted impressions of these phenomena.

Policy-makers, planners, academics, and other professionals, tend to see cities from the perspective of the “formal” world. These are cities where land occupation and employment is recognized by the law, methods of architecture fit into prescribed theories, and political and social organization is geared towards the primacy of either official government or official business institutions.

This journal is a discussion that attempts to see cities from the perspective of the “informal” world. The nature of both exclusion and innovation when the veneer of the “formal” is stripped away, can introduce us to new ways of thinking and acting. The biggest producers of low-income urban housing in the developing world are not government or private businesses, but the urban poor themselves. One billion people now live in slums, in a world with a world population that is more than 50% urban. The people in these slums face the attendant challenges of lack of access to water, sanitation, and public amenities. Yet they also comprise the economic, social, and political foundations upon which the cities of the Global South are being built. Though the “formal” world fails the urban poor on a continuous basis, the “informal” generates the solutions that point the way to a new kind of urban future.

Read more: http://ageofzinc.com/

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