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A celebration of the courageous citizens whose acts transform despair into hope

The 2022 Biennial Consultation on Urban Ministry will focus on the theme of Everyday Changemakers, considering how urban crises, injustices and brokenness can be transformed into hopeful alternatives by the small or big acts of courageous citizens.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a time of trauma, loss and grief for people and communities around the globe and has deeply altered the ways in which we relate to one another.
It has also become a time rich with grace and generosity.
The most vulnerable people in our cities and towns often became more visible, as they had fewer options to practise physical distancing or to isolate themselves. Some of those previously overlooked and unnoticed were understood to be essential-services workers. In spite of serious disruption, and often prompted by it, everyday people stepped up to care for their neighbours and cities, motivated by mutual concern and commitment to see and honour each others’ humanity.
In the face of huge uncertainty, these everyday changemakers emerged to create pathways of subversion, creativity and sustainability. Pockets of transformation occurred in cities all over the world, sometimes short-lived, but often replicated and formalised for a time beyond the pandemic.
The Biennial Consultation on Urban Ministry
The Biennial Consultation on Urban Ministry has brought faith- and community-based urban workers together since 1996. It is a space for dialogue and discovery, in which people who are committed to making urban change — mediating healing, justice and access to appropriate infrastructure — can share stories, exchange lessons learned, pause and reflect, and be open to fresh inspiration for the difficult journeys ahead.
Now in its 14th iteration, the 2022 Urban Consultation will focus on the theme of Everyday Changemakers, considering how urban crises, injustices and brokenness can be transformed into hopeful alternatives by the small or big acts of courageous citizens. Participants will be faith- and community-based workers, ministry and religious leaders, urban researchers, activists and ordinary people dreaming of extraordinary urban possibilities.
From 24 to 26 August, the Institute for Urban Ministry, with its partner institutions, will gather 200-250 people to mindfully reflect on how (South) African cities are changing, whilst discerning where efforts are implemented that help overcome urban challenges subversively, creatively, and sustainably — every day.
The consultation will showcase innovative interventions that transformed hopelessness into daring imaginaries of hope. It will include narratives from cities as diverse as Cape Town and Bujumbura, Tshwane and Lagos, Johannesburg and Nairobi.
It is an opportunity to join ...

Angry community shuts Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park gate, sets alight guard hut after repeated wildlife escapes

A guard hut was set alight and a park entrance gate shut to the public during a community protest at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi game reserve at the weekend, sparked by the recent escape of several lions and other dangerous wildlife species.
Police were also called in to disperse protesters after a community sit-in protest at the park’s western Cengeni gate near Ulundi on Saturday. The park, established 145 years ago to protect a remnant population of white rhinos, is Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife’s flagship wildlife reserve.
According to Ezemvelo, community members stole cellphones, food and a piece of sophisticated rhino anti-poaching equipment from the nearby ranger accommodation quarters. A guard hut next to the Cengeni entrance gate was set alight and solar panels used to power an electrified fence were vandalised.
The protest was sparked by a series of recent escapes by dangerous animals, including lions, rhino, buffalo and elephant. In one incident last week, a 45 year-old woman was hospitalised after being knocked over by a white rhino outside her home near the park’s western boundary fence.
A pride of five lions was shot and killed by Ezemvelo wildlife officers on 14 August after breaking out for the third time in a matter of weeks and killing several cattle.
Late last week, another two lions broke out and killed four more cattle. One of these predators was shot dead on Friday by wildlife staff, but anger in some communities was already high after two adult white rhinos broke out of the park and were seen close to residential areas.
Some members of the community were reported to have chased and fired several shots at the rhinos in the vicinity of a rural homestead, leading one of the animals to enter 45-year-old Zanele Mbhele’s yard. According to community members, Mbhele was lucky to have escaped death or serious injury after one of the animals charged towards her, ripping off her skirt with its horn.
In other recent incidents, elephants have also broken out of the park, prompting members of the Okhukho and Nqulwane community committee to lodge a complaint with the Public Protector and the board of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
In a formal complaint, committee members Msizi Myaka and Similo Khanyile said the repeated escape of wild animals and the poor condition of large sections of fencing around the park posed a serious danger to the lives of surrounding communities, who ...

Our skies are burning while our modern-day Neros fiddle at the UN Conference of the Parties

It is safe to say that all COPs since COP21 in Paris in 2015 have ended in global disappointment and despair. Expecting COP27 to be any different from all the preceding ones is to continue to give credence to the COPs as currently structured.
With the 27th meeting of the UN’s Conference of the Parties – otherwise known as COP – now only months away, it is pertinent to ask: Who benefits from these annual gatherings of world leaders who each year regather to renew their repeated pledges to tackle climate change? Blah, blah, blah was Greta Thunberg’s pithy comment on last year’s COP26.
A very short history of UN’s involvement in climate change
Now, more than at any time during the United Nations’ long 50-year climate change involvement, a critical look is pertinent.
The first international conference to address environmental problems directly was the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (the Stockholm Conference) in 1972.
In 1983, the United Nations convened the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). This commission addressed the further deterioration of the environment and depletion of natural resources and the societal impact of these conditions.
In 1988, the UN General Assembly endorsed the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s mandate remains preparing comprehensive reviews of, and recommendations on, the state of knowledge of the relevant sciences, the social and economic impact of climate change, and potential response strategies and other agenda issue items for future international climate change conventions.
The 1992 Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro, was the first international conference since Stockholm in 1972. Among the summit’s conclusions was that sustainable development was an attainable goal for all the people of the world. The summit also adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is the body responsible for the global response to climate change.
This international environmental treaty came into force in 1994, with 196 countries ratifying it. There are now 197 nations and territories – called Parties – which have signed on to the framework convention. The convention also created the COP: the decision-making body responsible for monitoring and reviewing the implementation of the UNFCCC. The first COP, in 1995, took place in Berlin.
This briefest background history provides a timely 50-year lens for evaluating the global climate change scorecard.
The sky is burning
The two most notable changes during this extensive period are (1) the world leaders attending the COPs now, ...

Ukrainian ‘The Womanly Face of War’ exhibition visits SA

Six months after Russia invaded Ukraine, we continue to see the daily realities of Ukrainian citizens living in a war. But ‘compassion fatigue’ from watching the news is creeping in. Now, a Ukrainian art collective exhibition has come to South Africa during Women’s Month — hoping to see ‘culture speaking to culture’.
‘People are not statistics, we cannot get used to them dying. There is nothing normal about these millions of lives being disrupted,” said Nataliia Popovych, Ukrainian activist and co-founder of Sunseed Art Collection. “We want to make sure people see a disrupted life or a simple story behind every statistic.”
Sunseed Art is a social initiative Popovych co-founded with artist and curator Olysya Drashkaba at the start of Russia’s invasion of their country. The aim was to enable Ukrainian artists to create artworks and sell prints abroad on a digital platform — allowing them to continue their trade and document the experiences of their fellow citizens. The proceeds go to the artists and several charities in Ukraine.
Drashkaba’s curated The Womanly Face of War exhibition is touring cities in South Africa during Women’s Month, trying to improve public understanding of the war in Ukraine, particularly on women and children.
Drashkaba said, “Beauty and freedom are two components we want to share and inspire people with. We choose the powerful voice of art, this international language, to talk about women’s pain, determination, bravery and utopian hope for justice and peace.”
Popovych said the collaboration between Ukrainian artists and South African civil society — initiated by Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation and the Ukrainian Association — hoped to foster “cultural diplomacy” and prompt heart-to-heart dialogue with South African society.
“And eventually that society will be able to influence the position of the South African government, which has so far been slow to condemn Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.”
The Womanly Face of War is based on four female artists’ personal perspectives of how the Russian invasion has affected women and girls, including the horrors of sexual and gender-based violence, and how mothers have been forced into perilous roles as fighters and life savers.
Popovych said the exhibition reflected on women’s archetypes in war and the roles they’ve been forced to fill. One artwork explores the role of the female warrior, with 50,000 women serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine — a very high number in a global context. “Our army now is reformed, and strong, and women ...

Vigilance is still needed on Kenya’s road to political reform

Hard lessons saw electoral reform in Kenya, but the safeguards are still a work in progress.
Kenya has held its seventh national election since the reintroduction of multiparty competition in the early 1990s. Elections in the country are never dull affairs. They are always contested by ever-shifting and unstable political alliances that employ vibrant campaigns to sway both core and swing voters. This happens right up to election day.
The 2022 race proved no exception. The election landscape has had many ups and downs, resulting from the country’s evolving institutional dynamics since the 2007-08 election, which triggered unprecedented post-electoral violence. These dynamics are driven in particular by the promulgation of a new constitution in 2010.
Many of its provisions regarding the bodies responsible for managing the election and adjudicating any disputes continue to underscore many opportunities – as well as challenges – that Kenya faces with democratic deepening. The constitutional reform process itself was enacted on the heels of a contested result in the December 2007 election between then president Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga. Odinga cried foul on Kibaki’s certified victory, resulting in post-election clashes. More than 1,000 civilians were killed and upwards of 700,000 displaced.
The fighting and ensuing political stalemate ended in February 2008 with the formation of a power-sharing government of national unity. It included Kibaki, Odinga and their coalitions.
Included in a reform package under this mediation, the government pursued constitutional revision. Passed by popular referendum in 2010, the constitution provides two relevant groupings of institutional reforms. These were designed to improve and streamline the electoral process to prevent another 2007-style debacle. As I argue in this article, the results have been mixed. Kenya is not unlike any other country where democratic deepening requires a “two-steps-forward, one-step-back” outlook.
A new electoral commission
The 2010 constitution overhauled the institution responsible for managing the vote and certifying the outcome. A new Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission replaced the Electoral Commission of Kenya. The latter had been responsible in 2007 for creating anxiety about the manner of tabulation and announcement of results.
The constitution and subsequent legislation improved managerial oversight and operations by specifying that the new electoral commission’s appointment of commissioners must be non-partisan. The institution is also empowered to regulate political party activities and implement procedures to improve voter registration and voting procedures. Most critically, it is charged with the tabulation, transmission and certification of results.
The ability of the Independent Electoral and ...

Provincial liquor boards need to be strengthened to effectively address alcohol harm

Stories about alcohol-related death have filled our news media with disturbing frequency lately.
Too many of us now know the names of taverns associated with death: East London’s Enyobeni Tavern, where 21 young people, almost all below the legal drinking age, died, possibly due to methanol poisoning; Nomzamo Tavern in Orlando East, Soweto, where gunmen shot 23 people and killed 15; Katlehong’s Mputlane Inn Tavern, the site of a double homicide; and Savannah Park in Mariannhill, KwaZulu-Natal, where seven people were killed at a tuckshop selling alcohol.
These stories, of course, are set against the backdrop of many other alcohol-related fatalities taking place in every community across the country. According to the South African Police Service (SAPS), 2019/2020 crime statistics, the number of confirmed incidents at liquor outlets alone included: 6,298 cases of assault and 11,128 cases of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, 348 cases of rape and 853 murders. Over just the three-month period of January to March this year, liquor outlets were the site of 1,944 cases of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, 59 cases of rape, 156 murders and 198 attempted murders.
Alcohol-related harm is far more pervasive, though, and includes road injuries and fatalities, violence in homes and communities – including gender-based violence (GBV) and alcohol-related disease and illness.
During Covid lockdowns, we learned that alcohol-related injury and death could be dramatically reduced. The media was filled with stories about how decreased access to alcohol was associated with empty casualty wards, dramatically reduced injuries and mortalities, and decreased rates of interpersonal violence, including domestic and sexual violence. According to an unpublished modelling study by Charles Parry and colleagues, during the first period of lockdown, two-thirds of an estimated 35,000 weekly admissions to hospital trauma units around the country disappeared, including 9,000 of which would have been alcohol-related admissions. Yet here we are, just a short while later, inundated once again with stories about alcohol-related fatalities and funerals. It does not have to be this way.
We write this in our capacity as staff and consultants working on an alcohol-related GBV prevention project with Agisanang Domestic Abuse Prevention and Training (ADAPT) based in Alexandra.
Reams of research over many years show that alcohol abuse is strongly associated with increased perpetration of GBV. A similarly large body of evidence shows us what needs to be done to reduce excessive alcohol consumption. The measures are relatively straightforward and not ...

Tembisa riots allegedly spurred by electricity tariffs, lack of indigent relief

Power costs and connection was said to be at the root of dissatisfaction.
When Tembisa exploded last week, resulting in four deaths, the Ekurhuleni mayor said she believed the protest was aimed at making the township “ungovernable” for the DA-led multi-party coalition.
But there were protests too in Geluksdal, where people burnt tyres and blocked roads, and complaints voiced in Kwathema and Tsakane.
One of the main causes of the unrest was that until May this year, all residents in Ekurhuleni used to get their first 100 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity free. But this was adjusted, the municipality says, when it implemented a National Treasury directive for which only indigent households with an income of less than R3,500 a month can qualify. The free allowance for qualifying households is now 50kWh per month, with six kilolitres of water, free sewage services and indigent burials.
The municipality says the change was communicated in the budget speech, on social media, media platforms and its website. Ward councillors were also meant to tell their constituents.
The process of applying for indigent relief started before the cut-off was made, but many were struggling to fulfil the application process and others were sitting in the dark awaiting approval.
As a result, weeks after the new policy was implemented, there were widespread protests and, in response, tear gas and rubber bullets. Protesters demanded that historic debt be scrapped, tariffs lowered, and the free 100kWh of electricity for all households brought back.
Many residents have been living without electricity because they cannot afford basic services, have historic debt, or have fallen behind on their payments.
City of Ekurhuleni spokesperson Zweli Dlamini said that in order to qualify for the free 50kWh allowance, people need to first apply at a municipal office with copies of their ID, proof of residence and proof of income. After filling out forms, a social worker is then assigned to investigate and authenticate the application. As soon as the application is approved, residents immediately qualify for free basic services. This should take about a month.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
When asked how many people had qualified, the municipality said it cannot yet say since the process had been restarted in May.
Those who owe the municipality and have defaulted will however have to apply through the department’s credit controller to make payment arrangements.
Then there are residents with no title deeds who face an additional bureaucratic struggle.
“We have ...

Pretoria patients incensed by delayed opening of Boikhutsong clinic

No explanation of delays from province or municipality.
It has been four months since the new Boikhutsong clinic in Soshanguve Block V was meant to open its doors. Patients say the current clinic building is in a terrible state and are demanding that the new facility start operating.
On Thursday, only emergency cases and women coming for antenatal care were allowed inside the old clinic. Scores of other patients, like those collecting chronic medication, were angered when staff turned them away. This follows a standoff earlier that morning and some staff left the premises due to safety concerns.
Construction on the new building started in May 2017. Earlier this year, spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development Bongiwe Gambu said that the anticipated opening date for the new clinic was the end of March 2022. Gambu had blamed delays on issues with the land acquisition and red tape between the provincial government and City of Tshwane.
A health worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that community representatives, staff and union representatives met with the Office of the Premier in July. He said the rights and dignity of patients and staff is compromised in the current clinic building.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
“We’ve killed many snakes because of where the clinic is situated. When you walk inside, the rooms are small. The air conditioners are not effective. We have a high influx of patients coming here,” he said
Chairperson of the Boikhutsong clinic committee, Tebogo Mokonyane, said, “Patients have to queue outside. The sewage system regularly bursts and the septic tank gets full. There are a lot of issues at the clinic. The building is no longer suitable.”
Mokonyane said the government has not explained why the clinic has not opened. “First it was issues of land acquisition. Now, we heard that the municipality has to start providing services to the clinic,” said Mokonyane.
Media liaison officer at the Premier’s office, Vuyo Mhaga as well as Gambu did not respond to questions by the time of publication. DM
First published by GroundUp.

Arson attack threatens fledgling Gugulethu beekeeping business

Police in the township didn’t take Vuyo Myoli’s complaint seriously, he says.
Last month we profiled Vuyo Myoli’s fledgling urban beekeeping business in Gugulethu. Named Beez Move, the hives are set up on school grounds near a train line and informal market.
Sadly, when Myoli came to work on Monday, he found that one of his two hives was burnt to the ground. He says that someone must have jumped the fence.
“I’m just lost and down,” he says.
Myoli says that when he got there, some bees were still flying around the embers following the scent of the honey. “They don’t realise that the other bees are dead.” He is unsure of why anyone would do something like this. The hives and honey weren’t stolen.
“I lost the bees. I lost the production. I lost the hive,” he says.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
After seeing the damage, Myoli went to Gugulethu police station to file a report but he says that he wasn’t taken seriously. “They made it out to be a joke. They don’t understand,” he says. Myoli says that he waited two hours before being helped and was told to return the next day, which he did.
Myoli says that the community just doesn’t understand the importance of bees which is why he wants to educate people.
Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi said that it is “unknown what caused the fire” and there are no suspects. He says that the Gugulethu police are investigating a case of malicious damage to property.
This is not the first time Myoli’s hives have been at risk. In June, people tried stealing his hives, but they were stung and dropped one of them, causing damage to the structure. “My bees are under threat,” he says.
Myoli says that it won’t be easy getting a new hive. “I need to raise money,” he says. He has lost about R4,000 worth of equipment and thousands of his bees are dead. Myoli has now moved his second hive to a safe location.
Myoli says that he is searching for a safer space for his operation. “I’m still going to continue catching bees in the township. They play a major role.” DM
First published by GroundUp.

Activists march over Gender Commission’s perceived backtracking on legalising sex work

They believe some members are using their positions to impose personal moral views on issues like sex work and abortion.
Activists at Sex Workers Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat), Sisonke and the Asijiki Coalition are accusing members of the Commission on Gender Equality of using their positions to impose their personal moral views on issues like abortion and decriminalising sex work.
“The Commission on Gender Equality has always been very supportive of decriminalisation [of sex work] after a lot of research and consultation. Now they have developed a committee that excludes sex workers who would be affected by their decision,” said Sweat director Emily Craven.
Craven was among about 60 sex workers and supporters on Thursday who marched through Cape Town’s city centre to the Commission’s provincial offices.
This follows a meeting on 15 June between the Commission and representatives of Sweat, Sisonke, Sonke Gender Justice and the Asijiki Coalition. According to Asijiki, the Commision informed them that a committee would be “considering further issues that had come to light” which affect the Commission’s position regarding the decriminalisation of sex work among other issues.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
“We can only conclude that the information that has come to the attention of the Commission which would prompt it to reconsider its position must be of overwhelming significance. We have asked the Commission to provide us with this new information which has resulted in the establishment of the committee as well as the Terms of Reference of the committee,” the organisation said.
The organisations then jointly wrote to the Commission on 6 July, asking for clarity on these issues. They have yet to receive a response. Then last week, they were notified of “a flurry of urgently scheduled Commission virtual consultations” after the Commission had promised to do in-person consultations with sex workers.
Sex worker and Asijiki’s national coordinator, Constance Mathe, said, “We did the presentation and sent a letter and they never came back to us. It shows the Commission does not care about sex workers who are dying and being raped.”
Sixolile Ngcobo, the Commission’s provincial manager, promised to give the group’s memo to chairperson Tamara Mathebula and CEO Jamela Robertson. The organisations have given them a week to respond.
GroundUp sent questions to the Commission. Their response will be included once it has been received. DM
First published by GroundUp.

Stuck in first gear — Cape Town bylaws criminalise houseless persons sleeping in cars

People living in their vehicles face fines of R300 to R500.
When Dane Herrington goes to bed, he moves his belongings, books and clothing to the front of his beloved 1984 Ford Sierra. He sleeps on a large mattress at the back. He uses a shower at a petrol station. For ten years, he has lived in his car.
Since 1989, when he bought the “The Great White” Sierra, the qualified horticulturist, who is now 64, has clocked up hundreds of thousands of kilometres in pursuit of short-term work opportunities in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Waterval.
Unable to secure long-term work, he found himself homeless, with only his car. It was “a slow descent to where I am now”, he says. He doesn’t want to live in a car, he says.
He has his old age grant, a little money from family abroad, and help from people in the community. He says the increase in fuel prices has hit him hard.
For the past few years, he has been living in and around Table View.
Herrington avoids shelters for the homeless. They are too “crammed”, he says.
“It’s not the environment for someone who’s living in his car. I’ve got possessions in there, and they could get stolen . Whether it’s parked on the premises or not, it makes no difference,” he says.
Herrington thinks the City of Cape Town should allow people who have only their cars to live in, to park at abandoned caravan parks or covered parking lots with ablution facilities, for a small fee. “If you’re running your car, you’ve got to have some money,” he says.
But City bylaws make it illegal to live in your vehicle on public property, except in a “dire emergency or in a designated rest area”. Wayne Dyason, spokesperson for City law enforcement, said fines ranged from R300 to R500.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
To avoid issues with police or “the ratepayers”, Herrington parks on the grounds of a church in the evening. He leaves around 4am, before people arrive.
He spends most of his day in the library, “my office”. He uses the facilities there to email. He is also working on a book — “Enjoy the Ride”.
How many people are now living in their cars, nobody really knows. Herrington says that there are plenty of people living in cars but “you just don’t see them . They park in certain places where ...

In the wake of the pandemic, a proposed new law to reduce school dropout is still falling short

Our politicians often speak about the triple threat of unemployment, inequality and poverty as roadblocks to development. Embedded in these deep-seated socioeconomic issues is the number of young people who are falling through the cracks of our schooling system with few pathways to finding sustainable economic livelihoods.
The social, economic and public health consequences of school dropout are far too serious to ignore. With this context in mind, we welcome well-intentioned attempts by the government to reduce dropout through proposed changes to the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELA Bill). But there are parts of the proposed new law that we need to get right urgently.
Clause three of the BELA Bill places new obligations on educators, principals and school governing bodies to track absenteeism as a mechanism to prevent dropout. This is a good starting point because we believe that monitoring learner attendance continually is an important intervention in dropout prevention work.
However, on its own, the proposed provision in the bill does not go far enough. Research and literature on school dropout tell us that adequate prevention measures require schools to understand, monitor and respond to the early warning indicators of disengagement and dropout.
Early warning systems and wraparound support services must form part of a national strategic approach to addressing dropout. To be effective, this approach must be championed by the government and schools must be capacitated to implement this intervention effectively. This would require strengthening existing systems, human resource capacity and processes at schools.
The factors driving dropout
A young person’s decision to drop out comes at the end of a process of disengagement influenced by push and pull factors in their home life, school or community. This protracted process can be tracked if schools know what signs to look for. Being aware of the early warning signs will allow educators to respond to a young person’s needs, whether psychosocial or academic.
The Covid-19 pandemic and disruptions to schooling over the past two years have made the issue of out-of-school learners more salient than before. Pupils with poorer access to resources, support networks and opportunities are less likely to withstand disruptions to their education, and more likely to drop out. The General Household Survey 2021 released by Statistics South Africa showed that 29.3% of 18-year-olds had dropped out of school while 46.3% of 19-year-olds had left.
Many pupils are too old for their grade because of high rates of repetition in our schooling system, ...

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