SLEEP has been a rare commodity for Joburg’s mayor, Parks Tau, his portfolio heads and City officials over the past few months as they have engaged with residents, stakeholders and various experts on the City’s Growth and Development Strategy (GDS) and how it will guide Joburg into the future.
There were nine themed weeks dedicated to discussion surrounding challenges and solutions in key areas that Joburg will focus on going into 2040. The themes were: liveable cities, resource sustainability, health and poverty, governance, transport, community safety, environment, smart cities and economic growth.
Numerous outputs were received and recorded throughout each of the weeks, all of which will be taken into account and added to the revised document, which will be launched on 20 October.
Liveable cities was the first area to come under the microscope, from 10 to 13 August. Activities during the week included a fun race across Joburg, as well as consultations with a variety of stakeholders and the opening of an early childhood development centre in Cosmo City.
The fun race, called Jozi Mojo, involved two teams racing around Soweto and another two tackling the inner city and surrounding suburbs.
Teams needed to solve clues, which led to well-known landmarks such as Nelson Mandela’s house in Vilakazi Street, Regina Mundi Church and Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication, all while racing against the clock. Those who explored the inner city and suburbs stopped at places such as Zoo Lake, and had to travel through areas such as Braamfontein and Hillbrow.
Observations that arose from the Soweto leg of the race included roads that were in poor condition, a lack of signposting and by-law transgressions, especially by street vendors. Teams who explored the city centre found a shortage of working traffic lights, severe congestion, sewerage water running through the streets and accessibility problems for people with disabilities.
During consultations with residents, quality of life was identified as the core feature of city living. Access to infrastructure, food, affordable housing, employment, green spaces and clean air all contribute to a good quality of life.
Portfolio head of housing, Ruby Mathang, said at a discussion on 10 August: “The city is indeed a living organism. It is about the people, the buildings, the availability of social amenities and how people access these amenities. A city is about where people live and more importantly, how they live.”
The week, therefore, focused on four main areas: living space and shelter, movement, public spaces and places, and infrastructure.
Water and energy form the cornerstones of resources that people need to survive, so the second themed week of resource sustainability from 15 to 19 August was a particularly important one.
School visits, community engagement in places such as Orange Farm, Alexandra and Diepsloot and workshops on water, waste and energy comprised the bulk of activities during the week, with various challenges and solutions being identified.
Illegal dumping, especially in areas like Orange Farm and Alex, was a key concern, as were the associated pests and the prevalence of disease and illness that arise out of the waste.
Recycling through separation at source and at Pikitup’s garden sites were applauded as effective ways of dealing with waste, even though the City’s ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of waste that is generated.
However, panellists throughout the week warned against placing too much value on waste that could be recycled as it could create a market that was contrary to the eradication of waste.
Residents’ minds were put at ease that we would not run out of water; water security would come at a high cost, though. The quality of available water, contamination of our water sources through acid mine drainage, and billing and metering emerged as some of the biggest challenges that the City would face.
Public-private partnerships to deal with acid mine drainage and rainwater harvesting at household, business and government levels were mooted as possible solutions to the problems.
Energy is also a key concern for the City, especially as Joburg is a particularly carbon intense economy. Problems such as illegal electricity connections, vandalism, network overloading caused by backyard shacks and issues of affordability plague the City.
Improving infrastructure and changing people’s behaviour were put forward as the simplest solutions in all three areas of water, waste and energy.
Health and poverty
Health and poverty are Siamese twins in terms social development. The week focusing on these two factors ran from 22 to 27 August, and once again focused on community engagement in poorer areas such as Orange Farm and Alexandra.
Speaking at the indaba on 27 August, the member of the mayoral committee for health and human development, Nonceba Molwele, said: “We saw the warmth of people even though they stare at poverty daily, and we were encouraged to see old and young involved in discussions. It was a learning curve for all officials.”
Several of the problems that the City faces include lack of access to healthcare and social services, especially by migrants, and widespread food insecurity.
Granting residents land to farm, especially in Orange Farm, was pinpointed as a way of combating food insecurity; attracting formal businesses to informal settlements and improving clinic access to both locals and migrants were also put on the table as solutions, among others.
Issues such as a lack of confidence in the City by its residents and corruption lurking like an iceberg ready to sink the ship provide major challenges that Joburg needs to overcome in terms of governance.
Examining these problems took place during the fourth week of the GDS outreach programme, which ran from 29 August to 3 September.
Fraud and corruption had a massive impact on the running of municipalities, said the chief executive officer in the Office of the Public Protector, Themba Mthethwa, the biggest of which was loss of confidence in public institutions.
“It erodes stability and trust and it damages the ethos of democratic government,” he said at the governance indaba on 2 September. Training management and staff, improving security measures and implementing a strong whistle-blower policy were only a few of the ways that it could be overcome.
Oversight was also recognised as an important aspect of governance. A consultant in parliamentary oversight, Kay Brugge, said: “Oversight seeks to secure service delivery and good governance. It is, in essence, an evaluative exercise which has a positive impact on accountability and responsibility.”
To strengthen oversight, further public participation is needed.
Sitting in traffic aimlessly, with pollution billowing out of each car’s exhaust pipe, forms no part of the City’s vision for its future. During transport week, which ran from 4 to 9 September, residents and City officials focused on finding solutions to combat transport issues.
Congestion is a growing problem on the city’s streets, and one that the City does not want to carry forward into 2040. Solutions such as people living closer to where they work and using less carbon intensive forms of transport were put forward.
Lisa Seftel, the executive director of transport in the City, said at the indaba on 9 September that investments needed to be made across the city, including in townships, to bring employment opportunities to where people live so that they did not have to commute.
Walking and cycling also needed to be turned into viable opportunities, she said. “Walking and cycling does little to harm the environment.
“We need to create the demand for bicycles so that everything else will come on speed,” she added. “If the government subsidises bicycles for schoolchildren and poor people, it will improve accessibility and it will allow people to move around.”
Public transport was proposed as a viable solution too. A well-planned and integrated transport system is the end goal for 2040, with a clearly defined role for each mode such as Rea Vaya, smaller buses, rail and minibus taxies.
It needs to be affordable, convenient, safe and reliable in order to attract all income groups. Alternative fuel sources were also pinpointed as being able to play a larger role in the future.
Crime is a key concern for the City, so community safety week focused on ways to cut down on the levels of crime and violence. It ran from 12 to 17 September.
Member of the mayoral committee for public safety, Matshidiso Mfikoe, spoke at the wrap-up session of the week on 17 September: “New insights into crime prevention by way of urban design and management have been investigated and discussed during this week, along with creative ways of taking back the streets.”
Insights included a need to involve residents in crime prevention initiatives so that they felt they were part of the solution, and to bridge the gap between residents and law enforcement officials. Real security could not be achieved if communities were scared of law enforcers, said Janet Love from the South African Human Rights Commission.
A school safety campaign and competition were also launched during the week to get the city’s children involved in mapping out what would make a safer Joburg.
Climate change is no longer a debate. Neither is the fact that we would need three planets just to survive if everyone in the world lived the same kind of lifestyle as Joburgers. Needless to say, there are numerous challenges for the City to overcome.
Linking with several concerns that arose in other themed weeks, such as resource sustainability, food security, acid mine drainage and biodiversity, it is clear there are key challenges that the City needs to consider in environmental terms.
“Recognising, safeguarding and using the potential and diversity of nature are critical for food security and sustainable agriculture,” said the director of natural resources in the environmental management department, Sydney Nkosi, at a session during the week, which ran from 19 to 23 September.
Acid mine drainage was a serious environmental problem as it posed a threat to the city’s biodiversity and water resource management. A holistic approach was a necessity, said Bisrat Yibas from the Council of Geoscience.
Possible solutions included neutralisation, desalination, in-situ treatment and the continued use of pumping.
South Africa is the third most biologically diverse country in the world, following only Indonesia and Brazil, so it is important that we conserve and protect our resources. Threats to biodiversity include unsustainable development, mining, pollution, alien invasive plants, poor decision-making and a lack of education.
According to Lemson Betha from the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa, it was 10 times more expensive to clean up the environment than it would be if preventative measures were implemented from the beginning.
Incentives and rebates, as well as fines and penalties, were raised as possible solutions in getting residents’ co-operation to take care of their environment. Education was also pinpointed as a vital component towards improving conservation of the environment.
Technology has long been hailed as the way forward. During the smart cities week, which ran concurrently with the economic growth week from 26 to 30 September, the City examined how it could use technology to improve service delivery in all sectors.
“It cannot be smart cities for vanity’s sake,” said Tau. “When we talk about solutions, they should be developmental and must respond to developmental challenges such as poverty and disease.”
Initiatives such as the City’s broadband project and Pail (Public Access to Internet in Libraries) will contribute greatly to Joburg’s vision of being a smart city by delivering centralised information and communications technology and enabling all citizens, especially the poorer ones, to gain access to and participate in the City’s activities.
Health care will also be improved through the use of technology. Already there are initiatives in place, such as Health TV in clinics, but these will only be enhanced through the implementation of health information technology.
The broadband project will benefit individuals, enterprises and governments through its ability to connect emergency rooms in rural or isolated areas with specialist doctors. It will also allow patients to access their health records online.
Smart metering, utilities and investment were put forward by the member of the mayoral committee for finance, Geoffrey Makhubo. “We have to be smart to continue to attract investment, and we cannot be smart in isolation.”
Economic growth is imperative if Joburg is going to be able to continue providing services to its citizens. The week dedicated to this theme focused on whether the City would be able to meet its growth targets and the best ways to turn it into a global economic powerhouse.
Inequalities are rife in Joburg, so it is vital for the City to focus on those who need the help the most. This means focusing on the informal economy, as well as small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).
Entrepreneurs suggested that the City should increase its support of these organisations and the informal sector by extending services such as the Business Place, which is a network that supports those starting up SMMEs and helps them to grow their business.
Introducing it to places such as Orange Farm and Diepsloot would go a long way in helping aspirant entrepreneurs. Creating a centralised database or portal where opportunities for SMMEs could be listed and where supply chain management could be integrated would also be helpful.
International conference and summit
Experts in city development strategies from all over the world landed in Joburg to give their opinion too at an international conference on 4 October and a stakeholder summit on 5 October.
Juma Assiago, an urban safety and youth expert at the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), suggested that the City should look at ensuring public safety as part of building its image. “We should link the idea of crime, safety and security to city branding,” he said.
The managing director of the global health coalition GBC Health, Michael Schreiber, looked at building a healthy city. Illness and disease, including non-communicable diseases, are driven by access, or lack thereof, to health care. For this reason, Schreiber identified areas where action needed to be taken, which included the inclusion of private sector resources, improvement of living conditions, and preparedness for disasters and emergencies.
“Don’t be overwhelmed by all the challenges that face you. Rather focus on concrete ways that you can change; one day you’ll wake up and the list of problems won’t be as long,” he advised.
Yunus Carrim, the deputy minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, examined tensions within City governance. “Governance, no matter how stable, is about managing tensions – between now and the future, ideas and practice, government and governance,” he said. “These tensions can be disruptive or constructive, though.”
A particular challenge for governance was that cities were expected to provide housing, transport and other services that actually formed part of the function of provincial and national government.
This, he concluded, meant that solutions should be differentiated according to municipality as there was no one-size-fits-all resolution. However, he also felt that it was necessary for there to be tension within City governance. “Without the inevitable tensions in City governance, there can be no progress,” he said.
All inputs from the GDS outreach programme are being considered and will be included in the final document, which will be launched on 20 October.