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  • Mobiles and Broadband for Service Delivery

    KwaZulu-Natal Finance MEC, Ina Cronje, says mobile technology and broadband need to be considered to latch onto “first class, real time” service delivery.

    Speaking at a breakfast meeting in Durban, Cronje stressed that the utilisation of technologies is paramount to maximise benefits from services for government planning.

    “In order to utilise the mobile platform, we as KwaZulu-Natal need to ensure that there is a pipeline of appropriate skills to develop the required mobile applications,” explained Cronje.

    To read the article titled, “Mobile technology considered for government,” click here.
    Source: 
    <br /> Citizen
    Article link: 
  • Guiding the Urban Agricultural Donkey

    The South African government has set itself the target of redistributing 30% of South Africa’s commercial farming land to black farmers by 2014. So far it has only achieved just over 4%.

    The easiest way to quickly reach the 30% target would be for government to find large amounts of cheap, unproductive peripheral land and allocate this to a few people. This land could be in the middle of the arid Karoo or the Northern Cape.

    However, many questions would need to be asked if such an approach was followed. Is this land suitable for significant agricultural activity; would the number of people allocated the land be able to make a decent living from it; where would the produce be sold; do the beneficiaries have adequate skills to use the land effectively?

    Perhaps the 30% land redistribution target needs adjustment. A more appropriate land redistribution target should not look at how many hectares of land have been redistributed, but should rather focus on how many beneficiaries are able to make a productive living from land they receive and contribute to the development of the country’s economy. The size of the land is of secondary importance.

    Agriculture closer to and within urban areas (called urban agriculture) provides an additional overlooked opportunity to address this revised target of increasing the number of productive farmers. Urban agriculture includes household gardening, community gardens, and small- to medium-scale farming activities for commercial, subsistence and/or recreational purposes.

    There are very few programmes which cater specifically for urban agriculture. However the Department of Land Affairs’ commonage programme is the one that is of relevance to urban agriculture. Within the Eastern Cape, the Siyazondla programme (with the provision of seedlings to households), and the Siyakhula programme (with assistance to gardening projects of between one and 49 hectares) provide examples of government programmes which can assist urban agriculture.

    Urban agriculture brings with it many advantages: processed urban solid and liquid waste can be used as nutrients and compost to improve soil fertility and productivity; food production and markets can be brought closer together, reducing travel costs and the need for middle agents; more varied crops can be grown to meet urban market tastes; urban farmers can still have access to urban amenities like schools and recreation facilities; and it is easier to set up and maintain value-added production activities like canning, packaging, drying, and other food processing activities in urban areas.

    Urban agriculture also provides numerous environmental benefits such as: energy consumption on transport can be reduced, thereby also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating against climate change; organic agricultural practices can be used in order to reduce the reliance on fossil fuel-based fertilisers; air temperatures and air pollution levels within urban areas can be reduced as urban agricultural land functions as green lungs for the city; and more wilderness areas can be conserved as pressure for agricultural activity to expand into these areas is reduced.

    Urban agriculture can be used to both help grow the local economy and contribute towards reducing poverty. As Goran Tannerfeldt and Per Ljung state in their book More Urban, Less Poor, “urban agriculture is just a small share of total agricultural production, but it can make a significant contribution to livelihood and health of many urban poor”.
    The policy issue is to facilitate, i.e. support, urban agriculture for the poor. This is a conclusion borne of years of experience working with the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) in many parts of the world.

    One of the main problems preventing the emergence of urban agriculture becoming widespread is the way that the urban land market functions at the moment. Most land owners on the edge of or in urban areas which is suitable for urban agriculture want to make money from selling or developing the land. Farmers are usually unable to pay the price that non-agricultural land users are prepared to pay for the land with the result that agricultural activity is pushed further away from urban areas.

    Municipalities face the same market forces when it comes to the use of commonage and other public open space for urban agriculture. There is no incentive for urban farmers to invest in the property they own or rent as there is always the threat that some developer will come and offer a land price the farmer or municipality cannot refuse.

    If as a country we seriously want to support urban agriculture so that it can help achieve a revised land redistribution target, we need to find innovative ways to obtain and keep land in and around urban areas for agricultural activity. We need to find ways to guide urban agricultural development into areas where we want farming to take place and guide residential, business, industrial and other development into other areas where we want future urban development to take place.

    The land market, like a donkey, operates according to its own rules. If a donkey owner wants to encourage a donkey to move in a certain direction, there are four things that the owner can do:
    a) build a fence so that the donkey can only move in certain directions;
    b) offer the donkey a carrot to move in a certain direction;
    c) hit the donkey with a stick when it goes in the wrong direction; or
    d) talk nicely to the donkey and educate it on the need to move in the desirable direction.
    There are similar techniques that government could follow to guide urban agricultural activity into certain areas.

    Government could:
    • invest in and develop the physical environment so that it supports urban agriculture in certain areas (‘fence’ approach);
    • entice, encourage, induce and incentivise land owners to undertake urban agriculture in certain areas (‘carrot’ approach);
    • restrict, regulate, control, and discipline land owners so that they are forced to undertake urban agricultural activities in certain areas (‘stick’ approach); and
    • pursue and attempt to convince land owners to undertake urban agriculture in certain areas by raising their awareness and knowledge of why urban agriculture is important ( ‘talk’ approach).
    Urban farming approaches

    The following list provides examples of the various approaches to get us thinking about how to guide this urban agricultural ‘donkey’. Note that some of the examples have elements of different approaches but have been allocated to one category for simplicity.

    ‘Fence’ examples

    • Plan and invest in new public transport, and bulk/connector infrastructure along certain corridors leading out of the city where urban settlement is planned to go, so that the ‘wedges’ in between these corridors can be developed for urban agriculture.
    • Plan, invest in and develop new urban villages, spatially separate but functionally linked to larger urban areas through public transport, water, sewerage, telecommunication and other infrastructure connections. Urban agriculture can occur around these villages.
    • Invest in targeted infrastructure projects in city areas where urban agriculture is to be promoted, for example: support solid waste composting, re-use of sewerage waste water, and physically secure agricultural lands, so that urban agriculture is more profitable in these areas.
    • Establish new urban agricultural land holding/banking agencies to buy land and lease it out or sell it on to urban farmers. Anticipate and plan for where future urban agricultural land should be located and buy this land at today’s agricultural land market prices. Sell and/or lease this land at cheaper prices to potential urban farmers.
    ‘Carrot’ examples
    • Create or promote the use of existing state subsidy mechanisms (like the commonage subsidy) which potential urban agricultural projects can access to buy urban land at market prices.
    • Tax urban agricultural land at a lower rate than other urban land users.
    • Reduce estate taxes on urban agricultural land so heirs to property do not sell the land to non-farm users for pay off ‘death’ taxes.
    • Get government (or non-profit organisations) to exercise pre-emptive rights to buy development rights when land owners in urban agricultural areas put their property on the market. The buyers of this land then can only use the land for agricultural purposes.
    • Create a mechanism where land owners can ‘donate’ in perpetuity their development rights (i.e. rights to develop at higher density on the land) to a non-government organisation or body. The owners of the land still retain ownership of the land, but the land can only be used for urban agricultural activity. The non-government body monitors that the land is used for agricultural activities.
    • Allow for land owners in urban agricultural areas to create voluntary agricultural districts or conservatories, which are registered with the local nature conservation authority. Members (land owners) from the conservatory then voluntarily manage the conservatory according to guidelines developed by the members.
    ‘Stick’ examples
    • Establish an urban edge boundary that prevents urban development occurring in areas where urban agriculture is to be encouraged, while at the same time making sure there is space in other areas where urban development will be allowed.
    • Zone land earmarked for long-term urban farming activity as an agricultural zone.
    • Establish land sub-division regulations which, for example, prevent land from being sub- divided below a given minimum plot size.
    • Create rules whereby any new property developer who wants to build higher income or commercial/industrial developments is required to also purchase (or at least contribute towards the subsidised purchase) of land or development rights that is to be used for urban agriculture.
    ’Talk’ examples
    • • Educate municipalities, communities, land owners, consumers and others on the importance of urban farming so that people understand the need for urban agriculture and the actions suggested above are implemented.
    If land markets are left as ‘business as usual’, market forces will continue to push agricultural activity into the periphery and the opportunities for and benefits of urban agriculture will be lost. The Department of Land Affairs, in consultation with other departments (e.g. the Department of Human Settlements), the community, property owners and other role-players need to urgently review governments land redistribution target and start exploring how urban land can be secured and held for agricultural purposes now and into the future.

    References
    Khuzwayo W (2008) ‘Land affairs must increase capacity to use funds, says Plaas’, Business Report (September 7, 2008)
    Tannerfeldt G and Ljung P (2006) More Urban, Less Poor: An Introduction to Urban Development and Management, London: Earthscan.

    Ronald Eglin is a Senior Projects Co-ordinator at Afesis-corplan. This article was first published in the June-July 2009 edition of The Transformer and is republished here with permission from Afesis-corplan.
    Author(s): 
    Ronald Eglin
  • Larger Cabinet Essential – Zuma

    President Jacob Zuma has dismissed suggestions his new executive is too big.

    Replying in the National Assembly to points raised during debate on his budget vote, Zuma pointed out that, “Let me assure the House once again that the changes we have made to the configuration of departments are guided by the need to improve service delivery, and to correct the weaknesses that the people had identified.”

    “We have done so fully aware of the financial implications of our decisions, and mindful of the constraints that the economic downturn has placed on public finances,” explained Zuma.

    To read the article titled, “Larger cabinet essential: Zuma,” click here.



    Source: 
    <br /> Citizen
    Article link: 
  • Xenophobia Blamed on Apartheid Legacy

    South Africa’s high levels of xenophobia are partially a result of the violent past of apartheid. This is according to Maxine Reitzes, an associate at the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS).

    Reitzes points out that, “Violence has been evidently accepted as a way to sort out problems.”

    Reitzes, who was addressing a seminar on xenophobia in Johannesburg, argued that people were defined during apartheid by who they were not and this carried over beyond 1994.

    To read the article titled, “Legacy of apartheid a cause of xenophobia: study,” click here.
    Source: 
    <br /> Citizen
    Article link: 
  • Success at a Price: How NGO advocacy led to changes in South Africa’s People’s Housing Process

    This brief report has been prepared by Susan Carey with the support of Planact and Rooftops Canada. It draws on the experiences of a group of South African NGOs involved in housing policy reform in order to inform future advocacy and policy processes. Valuable lessons are drawn out for NGOs, government and other stakeholders. We firmly believe that policy outcomes, program design and implementation benefit from transparency and sharing of information and experiences. This report demonstrates that not working this way has the opposite effect – desired outcomes are not achieved and there can be considerable delays along the way.

    The focus of this report is the Peoples Housing Process (PHP) in South Africa. Over the past few years, this has been at the mercy of numerous institutional processes and political wranglings that have had the potential to wear out even the most hardened advocates. But, a number of urban development NGOs working in the sector, stuck together and stuck it out. The new PHP policy and the accompanying growth strategy approved by Housing MinMEC in July 2008 is evidence of this. It was however a long, expensive, and difficult process.

    It is important to emphasise that this document is less about the details of the PHP and more about the advocacy and policy dialogue process so that others may benefit from this experience. It also acknowledges that the there is still a lot more work to do. Successful implementation of new policy requires a whole different set of resources, skills and support.

    To download the full report, 'Success at a Price: How NGO Advocacy Led to Changes in South Africa’s People’s Housing Proces', click here.
    Author(s): 
  • SAHRC Condemns Department Over Hearings

    The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is considering taking tough action against several provincial and national departments for their poor response to its request for submissions ahead of this week’s public hearings socio-economic rights.

    SAHRC CEO, Tseliso Thipanyane, points out that the commission will address the poor response from government departments by first appealing to the speaker of Parliament, Max Sisulu, to find out “what is going on and how the government proposes to resolve it”.

    Yesterday’s hearing was meant to be on social security, yet there was no representation from the Department of Social Development. This prompted Thipanyane to threaten stern action.

    “It is a criminal offence to obstruct the work of the Human Rights Commission,” says Thipanyane.

    To read the article titled, “Rights body chief reads riot act to state departments,” click here.

    Source: 
    <br /> Business Day
    Article link: 
  • DWEA Report Highlights Drinking Water

    The Department Water and Environmental Affairs (DWEA) has released its first annual report on the quality of drinking water. The report shows that only 22 of the country’s 284 municipalities achieved more than 95% compliance with the management of quality standards.

    The department’s chief director for water services, Helgard Muller, says that despite acknowledging that general performance by municipalities in the management of drinking water quality is still “unsatisfactory”, no punitive steps would be taken at this stage against those municipalities that put consumers at risk through negligence.

    “We have the legal tools to follow the prosecution route to enforce accountability, but our approach for now is to work with municipalities to improve their capabilities,” says Muller.

    To read the article titled, “Water still safe to drink from tap,” click here.


    Source: 
    <br /> Business Day
    Article link: 
  • Black Sash Comments on the 2009/10 Budget

    In the Black Sash we are keenly aware of the global economic crisis, and respect the fact that the Finance Minister Trevor Manual has had to perform a balancing act to manage competing interests and needs.

    In fact, the Black Sash believes that this Budget is arguably the most important in the history of our democracy, in that it shows how we as a society deal with one another at a time of crisis. In this light we commend the Minister’s rhetoric, which states that his first guiding principle has been the protection of the poor. 

    We are concerned, however, that this principle has not been carried through in several vital respects.

    The Child Support Grant

    We find it unacceptable that the Minister has not committed funding to extend the Child Support Grant to the age of 18 - reneging on the promise made by the President in his State of the Nation address just last week.

    This, despite the fact that he says there is "compelling evidence that the child support grant has contributed significantly to reducing child poverty.” Indeed, civil society has presented much such evidence over the past few years that social grants remain the single most effective intervention into poverty.

    We do not understand why the Minister is only giving the extension of the Child Support Grant “consideration” at a time when a commitment is what is urgently needed by the nearly two-and-a-half million children who fall through the security net just as they enter the vulnerable years of their adolescence.

    A mother in a village in the North West dared last year to take the Minister of Finance to court where she called for the extension of the Child Support Grant for all poor children under 18 years. In the absence of the Minister of Finance committing to an extension, the Black Sash calls on the Pretoria High Court to safeguard poor children's constitutional rights to equality and social security.

    Grant increases

    The 5.5% increase for old age pensions and the 4.5% increase in the child support grant are substantially below the current inflation of 10.3% (CPIX December 2008). Worse than this, it can never provide for the increased pressures on households that the global economic crisis will bring. 

    One in three South African households eke out their survival without a worker in the home. With a conservative estimate of unemployment at 23.2% (more like 40% when ‘discouraged’ workers are included) this leaves millions of able-bodied adults dependent on the grant money brought into the home by their most vulnerable members (the children and the aged).

    Unemployment 

    The Minister has quoted Ben Okri - “But if we refuse to face any of our awkward and deepest truths, then sooner or later, we are going to have to become deaf and blind.” Have we, as a society, become so used to extraordinary levels of unemployment that we no longer hear or see it as the appalling affront to human rights that it represents? 

    The Black Sash is deeply concerned that no new provision has been made to protect workers who are being retrenched in the face of the global financial crisis. 

    Communities, already mired in poverty, cannot afford for one more person to lose their job. And yet, we know that however creatively government and business attempts to deal with this problem, there will be job losses. 

    We are disappointed that the Minister has not announced any convincing plan to protect these families. He has not provided income support for the unemployed. He has not concretised the President’s commitment to rolling out increased levels of the Social Relief of Distress Grant (SROD). In fact the SROD did not feature in his speech at all. This, despite the fact that communities are currently experiencing major conflicts as the limited provision for SROD is depleted, demonstrating again the huge gaps in our Social Security provision.

    While we refute claims that the Expanded Public Works Programme’s (EPWP’s) will create jobs, we acknowledge the potential of such programmes to intervene against poverty. However, we share the Minister’s apparent lack of conviction that they will reach the ambitious targets set. Desperate people should not have to wait for inefficient bureaucracies to receive urgently needed income support. 

    Social solidarity

    We cannot forget that our national crisis of poverty and unemployment pre-dates the global financial crisis.  

    The Black Sash is concerned that the budget remains “deaf and blind” to the unemployed of our country - the millions who have been told for fourteen years - to wait for growth to trickle down into jobs, have once again been told to wait while we manage the global crisis and a shrinking economy.

    There has been a negligible adjustment to the tax regime where we have called for sacrifices by privileged members of our society, who by international comparison, have huge wealth and a very high standard of living.

    We are disappointed that the Minister has not challenged South Africans to exercise maximum national solidarity in this time of global crisis, in favour of the poor.

    Sarah Nicklin
    Media Officer
    Black Sash

    Author(s): 
    Sarah Nicklin
  • Motlanthe Speaks Out on Poverty

    President Kgalema Motlanthe has acknowledged that government is “painfully aware” that abject poverty and the level of inequality are too high. He was delivering his State of the Nation address in Parliament.

    Motlanthe says that income poverty especially among African and coloured communities has declined, partly as a result of higher rates of employment and access to social grants.

    He says that: “While the number of grant beneficiaries was 2,5-million in 1999, by 2008 this had increased to 12,4-million.”

    To read the full speech, click here.
    Source: 
    State of the Nation Address
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