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City of Joburg to brief residents on planned water disruption
21 June 2019, 9:07 AM

The City of Johannesburg will on Friday, outline interventions to lessen the impact of the impending water-shedding on its residents next week.

Rand Water, the bulk water supplier for the city, announced a major water supply shutdown which is expected to last for 54 hours beginning Monday. Residents might experience water shortages or low water pressure.

The shutdown is part of Rand Water’s infrastructure maintenance programme which will see the installation of a 2 500 millimetre Butterfly valve from Lethabo to the Vereeniging pumping station.

The City of Ekurhuleni will also be affected and they anticipate low water pressure in some arrears of the East Rand for the duration of the maintenance and afterwards while the system recovers.

Despite health evidence against e-cigarettes, use among teens surge
31 May 2019, 9:53 AM

 

While the risks and merits of e-cigarettes – or vaping – continue to be fiercely contested, medical evidence is stacking up to suggest that vaping could be as harmful as cigarette smoking. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health recently published findings that indicate bacterial and fungal toxins harmful to humans were found in leading e-cigarette brands. Dr David Christiani, study author and professor of environmental genetics at the Harvard School of Public Health says that people should not assume e-cigarettes are safe, calling for better education and more regulation.  “There needs to be much stronger regulation of the production and purity of the compounds used in e-cigarettes.”

The research included the examination of 75 popular e-cigarette products, including 37 single-use cartridges and 38 e-liquids from the top 10 selling United States brands.  Seventeen products out of the 75 analysed were found to contain traces of endotoxin, a potent inflammatory molecule found in bacteria.  61 products contained traces of glucan; a toxic substance found in the cell walls of most fungi. Exposure to these microbial toxins has been associated with a myriad of health problems including reduced lung function, asthma and inflammation.

The emerging facts are alarming given that the popularity of vaping is growing around the world, especially among young people.  Last year e-cigarette usage by United States high school students dramatically increased to 20.8% (3.05 million students) from 1.5% in 2011, and a World Bank report places e-cigarettes as the most commonly used tobacco product among young people in that country.  In Canada, e-cigarette use was the highest in the 15-19 and 20-24 age groups, and in the EU, 25% of people aged 15-24 years had tried e-cigarettes.  Of the latter group, most people (77%) opted for non-tobacco flavours such as fruit, candy, mint or alcohol – which the Harvard research shows have the highest endotoxin concentrations.

Closer to home, the e-cigarette market is growing steadily and while anecdotal evidence suggests that South African children and teens are as attracted to vaping as their global counterparts, research on the local e-cigarette youth market is lagging.  According to Zanele Mthembu, Development and Public Health consultant for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), the country may be sitting on a silent epidemic which could worsen given the fact that major e-cigarette companies are eyeing the continent for market expansion opportunities.   “In South Africa, we’re seeing e-cigarettes marketed in upmarket malls as an aspirational product and the colourful packaging is made very desirable to the youth. In addition, there a worrying trend of marketing on social media and we’ve just seen Philip Morris International caught red-handed marketing IQOS to young people on social media using influencers.”

 

Ayame Tachibana, a 27 year old Japanese model who is marketing a new cigarette alternative from Philip Morris International.

 

According to Mthembu, the growing market of teenage users also shows a significant lack of knowledge about e-cigarettes. The results of a US-based annual survey of 45 000 teenagers announced in December last year by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicated that teens are attracted to the marketable technology and flavourings of e-cigarettes but appear unaware of whether or not they are using a nicotine-free option.   This means that many teens are unknowingly inhaling highly addictive nicotine when they vape, often taking in high levels.

E-cigarette makers such as Juul Labs have come under fire for the popularity of their products that are attracting teens with sweet flavours. In America, the US Food and Drug Administration announced curbs last year on sales of flavoured e-cigarette products, responding to concerns of underage use reaching epidemic proportion.  Juul takes this in its stride.  According to Juul EMEA president, Grant Winterton, the company will launch this year in multiple Asian locations with the Middle East and Africa planned for 2020 and 2021:  “There is no one who is not on our radar if you look forward over the next 4 to 5 years.”

However, Mthembu says that companies such as Juul might be in for a surprise in South Africa due to the pending Control of Tobacco and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill. “When the Bill is passed, e-cigarettes will fall under the same regulation as cigarettes and South Africa will join 83 other countries in controlling their use. Like cigarette regulation, under the proposed new Bill, the areas where you can vape will be restricted and more stringent rules on marketing and packaging will apply.  Furthermore, no advertising at point of sale will be allowed.”

Mthembu concludes, “We have long been aware of the health hazards of tobacco, which kills over 42 100 South Africans each year. Now, emerging research shows that the health hazards of e-cigarettes could also be significant. Without robust regulation, are we comfortable to sit back and let our children be the test dummies for the long-term health impact of e-cigarettes?  This would be a cruel legacy indeed for South Africa’s youth. We must remember – less harm does not mean harmless. We are urging government to process the new bill with speed in order to protect the health of the nation.”

Zanele Mthembu is an Advocacy Consultant for Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Meet South Africa’s new provincial executive members
30 May 2019, 11:50 AM

Over the past week, once the festivities of the inauguration of President Cyril Ramaphosa on Africa Day, the premiers of the country’s nine provinces had to hastily move to announce their respective executive committee members.

Most provinces went for a six female/ five male spilt while the Northern Cape reduced its number of portfolios from ten to nine.

Here is a look at the various provinces’ executives:

An Open Future for South Africa: On the Possibility of Loving and Growing Together
25 May 2019, 6:54 AM

I have spent the past two decades living in southern Africa, and often joke about being a “romantic, rather than economic, refugee.” I feel very at home in SA and in the region, as do my children who know this to be home.

As Africa Day rolls around yet again, an incident two days ago feels relevant to reflect upon. I was in a grocery store paying for my purchases when the checkout lady asked me “What language do you speak? ”

This is a situation that I know and have become accustomed to over the years, so I prepared myself for the usual banter about why I look or sound different, and whether it is an American affect (I suspect usually presumed because of my height, girth, and/or my confusing accent) or from some “African” country (presumed from my facial shape, body type, complexion, or yet again this “other” accent even when I politely offer my greeting in isiZulu or seTswana). But as I launched into my usual spiel, the lady stopped me and said – “No, I meant because of the way you are handing me the money; where are you coming from?” (tshwaragano; the respectful way of handing over money or anything really to somebody else in Tswana culture). Oh! I was pleasantly surprised to have a new conversation. “I speak seTswana”, I said (only a slight exaggeration), “My mother in law is from Botswana and is very firm about us showing respect, and it is important to her that my children also learn these cultural practices. In order for them to learn it, I also had to maintain it.”  She then asked “So do you guys live in Botswana?”, to which I replied “No, we live around here – in Joburg.” She seemed very pleasantly surprised (I suppose at the quaint mannerisms being carried forward right under her nose), and we carried on from there.

This brief encounter was an encouraging reminder to me of the richness of African connections across space and time which reflect the future that I hope my children will live. As a Kenyan-born woman, married to a moTswana man whose family spans from Mafikeng all the way through the north of Botswana (as far as the village of Sebina, from whence our family name descends, and where our people are in fact baKalanga, a group that extends even further into Zimbabwe), I have spent the past two decades living in southern Africa, and often joke about being a “romantic, rather than economic, refugee.” I feel very at home in SA and in the region, as do my children who know this to be home. They know that they are from South Africa, and that Nkuku lives in Botswana, and that Cucu lives in Kenya, and that they are African – in all of its diversity, complexity and richness. Unfortunately, “what they [actually] speak” has become mostly English due to our motley cultural circumstance (Gogo, who lives with us speaks to them in isiZulu, which they also learn in school), but this is a troubled consequence that we are consciously engaged with.

So what is the future of being African in South Africa? The morning after my Woolies encounter on cultural hand-gestures, I was subjected to what I felt was a rather problematic discussion on the radio about how people feel about the seemingly-ominous prospect of SA opening up her borders. While I do agree that it is a serious and complex issue to contemplate, I felt that what was being expressed by the speakers were unsubstantiated, xenophobic-leaning assumptions and stereotypes about African behaviour, tendencies and impacts on SA. I could have changed accents and place-references and been listening to the most red-faced, right-winged of Brexiters. So much for enlightened Pan-Africanism or Thabo Mbeki’s African Renaissance! So much for ubuntu. So much for me and my children who love and live in SA and have the same aspirations, hopes, troubles and fears as every other South African. And so much for people like me who also believe that SA’s future is intertwined with its continent’s, and with humanity’s, and with the planet’s. That we will seek to address our development, our poverty, our inequality, our climate risks, and every other opportunity or trouble that we can imagine by working together, not by working apart. This is a human, not a political belief. But the conversation I heard, a douse of cold water… it roused fear of the sort that calls for Trump-esque walls rather than a spirit of humanity and oneness that invites novelty and possibility for a new Africa.

There are logical political, economic and other analyses that explain how the future of South Africa is an African future, not that of a unique island south of the continent… however, for me what is most compelling on this Africa Day is the human argument, and the invitation of openness and possibility. Perhaps the borders becoming more rather than less porous will offer us the most important gift of all: innumerous connection to other humans not defined by colonial territory, but by interest, and maybe even by love.

 

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Dr Geci Karuri-Sebina is an Associate with South African Cities Network, a peer-based network of SA’s largest cities, and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Wits School of Governance.

African Cities – The roots of the African tree of life
24 May 2019, 8:24 PM

Despite the progress, unfortunately, most of our cities are still highly spatially fragmented due to segregated and class-based colonial planning systems, and in South Africa, apartheid planning policies.

On 25 May we celebrate Africa Day. We say, in the words of the African Union Anthem: “Let us make Africa the Tree of Life.”

African cities are important roots that feed the African Tree of Life. Their economies, culture, and creativity represent some of the fruits of this tree.

President Nelson Mandela said: “… human civilisation rests on foundations such as the ruins of the African city of Carthage. These architectural remains … all speak of Africa`s contribution to the formation of the condition of civilisation.”

According to the UN, Africa is expected to be the fastest urbanizing region between 2020 to 2050.

By 2050 most of the world’s urban population will be concentrated in Asia (52%) and Africa (21%).

Currently Africa has only three megacities (cities with a population of more than 10 million), namely, Cairo, Kinshasa and Lagos.

By 2030 three more megacities will be added, namely Johannesburg, Luanda, and Dar es Salaam.

Most of the fastest growing cities with a population of less than 1 million are also located in Asia and Africa.

Ensuring that these most rapidly developing cities in the world develop sustainably, is of vital importance, not only for our continent, but for our planet.

Despite the progress, unfortunately, most of our cities are still highly spatially fragmented due to segregated and class-based colonial planning systems, and in South Africa, apartheid planning policies.

It is imperative that we develop national urban policies that indeed promote spatial transformation and thus forge a new economic and social landscape.

We must find African solutions to African challenges – that are also global challenges. To do so we must learn from each other.

There is no reason why African cities cannot rank amongst the worlds most liveable cities.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals recognize the importance of urban areas – Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The New Urban Agenda is the global plan to realise this goal.

AU Agenda 2063 recognises that: Cities and other settlements are hubs of cultural and economic activities, with modernized infrastructure, and people have access to affordable and decent housing including housing finance together with all the basic necessities of life such as, water, sanitation, energy, public transport and ICT.

One of Agenda 2063’s key objectives is to: Provide opportunities for all Africans to have decent and affordable housing in clean, secure and well planned environments.

In pursuit of this vision South Africa has adopted an Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF).

The IUDF marks a New Deal for South African cities and towns. It will steer urban growth towards a sustainable model of compact, connected and coordinated towns and cities in line with out National Development Plan.

 

We will strengthen rural-urban linkages, promote urban resilience, create safe urban spaces and ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable groups are addressed.

The objective is to transform urban spaces by:

  • Reducing travel costs and distances;
  • Preventing further development of housing in marginal places;
  • Increasing urban densities to reduce sprawl;
  • Improving public transport and the coordination between transport modes; and
  • Shifting jobs and investment towards dense peripheral townships.

 

Achieving this vision of spatial transformation will require the social compact that President Cyril Ramaphosa is calling for between all spheres of government, the private sector, labour and civil society, and most importantly the citizens of our municipalities.

Indeed, while we think and cooperate internationally, continentally and nationally, we must act collaboratively through the local sphere of government.

 

Andries Carl Nel is the Deputy Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in the Republic of South Africa. He was the Deputy Minister for Constitutional Development from May 2009 until 9 July 2013 and has been a member of Parliament for the African National Congress since 1994

 

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