Monthly Archives: August 2014

Getting around in my gogo boot

I managed to see a bit of the country, giving myself lots of time to get to the gates.

Last week, Malcolm and I went to Pietermaritzburg and Durban to visit two Social Housing Institutions (SHIs). Both of these are in the process of significant expansion, in some case more than doubling in size over the next year or two. The meetings were to assess how NASHO might help with training, mentorship or even direct technical assistance.

It was nice to go east, towards the warm Indian Ocean. My sinuses got some relief, if only for 36 hours!

by the sea, by the beautiful sea...

by the sea, by the beautiful sea…

Malcolm and I parted ways in Durban, he headed to Cape Town (his home) and I went back to Joburg.

I was picked up at the airport by Pam, one of my new best friends who is a driver for Cabs for Women, an all-woman cab company. There are 12 drivers and I now know at least half by now (Thuli, Thobile, Pam, etc). They have been taking me to/from work and are all excellent drivers (fast and confident is the MO in Joburg). We talk about their kids & grandkids, my work, weather and traffic. And I get to practice my Isizulu!

Yebo, ngiyafunda Isizulu:

Yes, I’m taking some Zulu lessons. The clicks are hard, but apparently I’m doing quite well. My teacher, Cynthia, comes to my cottage on Saturday mornings and we run through some basic stuff and also talk politics, language, movies and books (that part in English, tho). By the time I leave, I plan to be singing The Click Song along with Miriam Makeba (of course, that’s in Xhosa, which is not Zulu, but same Nguni family).  Give a listen:

Further South this past Wednesday:

Down to Port Elizabeth, which is almost at the confluents of the Indian and South Atlantic oceans.

They call it the "windy city", not for nothing...

They call it the “windy city”, not for nothing…

I travelled down with Jacus Pienaar, a long time NASHO advisor on development issues. He was meeting with a new group that was trying to get their application in with a very short turn around time. I was meeting (on my own, big girl-like) with Imizi, a very impressive SHI. I came out of that meeting thinking they have somehow gotten all of it right from the start.

Very young SHI, only 2 years old, but their capacity to handle rapid growth and pay attention to operations means they have a smooth running organization. Their GM, Anthony Ngcezula, is obviously the right guy at the right place and time. I was so chuffed when he said that Community Development is his personal “baby” and he was talking about expanding their reach to the communities surrounding their buildings! After our meeting, we took a drive to their two properties and then had a lovely lunch at an outside restaurant. Tony Lloyd, their CFO , came along.

One thing I’ve noticed in my visits is that most SHI’s prefer to do new builds in greenfield areas. Well, no surprise, as we well know the pitfalls of acquisition/rehab (Stirling Tavern? Putman?, St. Elijah’s?). But the issue of “spatial inequality” is part of what the Social Housing sector is supposed to address, so the idea of adding to the affordable housing stock in built up areas where there are jobs/transport/services is losing ground now.  Also, way too much land is allocated to unused parking!!! I talked up community gardens and I’m gonna keep at it!.

Anthony & Tony at their Walmer Link project

Anthony & Tony at their Walmer Link project

Imizi has made it part of their mission to have projects reflect the racial diversity of their city. Unlike most other SHI buildings, where I’ve really only seen black people, Imizi’s make up is 66% black and 44% coloured or white. I noticed white, Afrikaans-speaking clients in their site offices, and hanging out laundry in the courtyards. When I asked Anthony how they achieved this diversity, he said they have done targeted marketing to certain areas and it has paid off.

He has also introduced a modest kind of rent scale based on income. This is not the way most SHIs interpret the Social Housing Act, but Imizi has decided to stick to their guns. Apparently, the SHRA is not disagreeing with them and it allows more flexibility for their tenants.

Insert community garden here!

Insert community garden here!

Marikana,two years ago
On August 16,  34 miners were shot down at the Lonmin mine in Marikana, about 125 kms from Joburg. They had been peacefully demonstrating for some days, wanting to speak to management about their working conditions. They had lost some trust in the union, and so were striking out on their own, so to speak.

It happened just one month after I returned from our Rooftops Study Tour and it shocked me at the time, it was like a snapshot from 30 years ago, except this time, the police were black! This is still a huge source of contention and there is a Commission of Inquiry still ongoing. Of course, the government is getting a pass so far. Zuma and his cohorts did not make any comment last week, on the 2nd anniversary of the massacre. And, no surprise, the opposition parties are having a heyday with it (and other ANC scandals, of which there are many).

If you have a chance to see this documentary, please do. It is chilling.

Port Elizabeth is also called “the friendly city”  And here are some of the friendly folks I met on a lovely drive by the sea with Jacus

Victor and Velma Vervet

Victor and Velma Vervet


cheeky monkey

cheeky monkey






That’s it for today, folks!


The lost weekend and most of the week too!

Doing my own laundry has proven a dangerous sport. Last Saturday morning, I was bringing the wet laundry out to hang on the rack when my foot tripped on the doorsill of the cottage and the result is a lovely new piece of footwear I will be sporting for the next 6 weeks!


Latest Fluevog…

My friend Alison took me to the MIllpark Emergency Clinic, where an x-ray revealed a break in the fibula. I’m getting various opinions about the usefulness of this bone (none, according to a couple of the doctors). But, whatever, I have to hobble around for 6 weeks.

Game changer, no doubt. The second doctor, who put on the “moon boot” told me I could drive with it (nuts, or what?). Sleeping is not great, and I also developed a sinus condition which is apparently “de rigeur” in Joburg winter.
The winter is extremely dry, so all membranes swell up. Then followed by post-nasal drip at night, resulting in cough, cough, cough, adding to the sleeplessness.

Yesterday, I managed to visit my boss Malcolm’s family doctor, who told me to “rest, steam and drink” and otherwise confirmed I did not have Ebola. Really nice guy and now I feel like I’ve got a   doctor, which may come in helpful!

All this means my VISA card has been burning up the machines big time. The price of services is actually quite reasonable ($48.00 for a full hour visit with the doctor yesterday, cheaper than a massage!). But every procedure at the clinic (checking in, seeing a doctor, having an X-ray, getting the moon boot) is done by a different service provider, so you have to pay separately each time. Totally inefficient!

On Monday, I will be attempting to fly out to Durban and Pietermaritzburg for a couple of meetings. Thanks to my new NASHO angel, Vanessa, who is being super helpful, I will be treated to wheelchair service by the airline.  Malcolm is meeting me in Durban, we’re driving to Pietermaritzburg, overnighting in Durban, then back home Tuesday.  We’ll see how that goes….

For the next little while, I am generally going to be dependent on the kindness of colleagues, new friends, strangers and people who think of me as a gogo.


Last week, Malcolm and I flew to Bloemfontein (fountain of flowers), also know in Sesotho as Mangaung (place of cheetahs). We met with a NASHO member, the Free State Social Housing Company (FRESHCO). They are one of six rapidly expanding SHIs (RESHIs) that NASHO wants to help through a training/mentoring/exchange program, which is actually the bulk of my work here.

This was our first meeting of the six and we test ran an informal evaluation process to see where they have most need of help. We expect some of them will have similar issues, but there will be differences. The Durban trip will be visiting two other RESHI groups.

FRESHCO has been around since 2009, but fairly inactive until recently. The municipality turned over part of it’s stock to it, about 350 units of (by now) pretty decrepit stock that needs major upgrade. FRESHCO also received approval to build 700+ new units and all this is currently underway.  The previous municipal stock has been pretty well “highjacked” by bad guys who are running a little fiefdom. The collection rate for those units is only 50%, while it’s at 98% for the new and/or refurbished ones. This is all political and part of the larger housing problem. Since some people receive free houses (called RDPs) and others live in municipally owned stock, they feel there is no reason to pay rent. So tenants go on “rent strikes” and politicians are reluctant to do anything.

So, give it to an SHI and they’ll evict the tenants, right? Yes, that’s the plan, except that it takes years and, in the meantime, the politicians start meddling around again, slowing everything down. The housing bureaucrats hide under their bureaus, hoping it will pass….

Anyhoo, the last of the evictions was due to take place on Friday, allowing FRESHCO to finish the refurbishing of the final old stock units. Here’s Malcolm and Mogopodi, in front of one the their new buildings.

Lehlohonolo and Malcolm at Brandwag

Lehlohonolo and Malcolm at Brandwag







On the left below is a “before” picture and on the right is the “after”

Handyman special

Handyman special











When asked about their plans for “community development”, staff pointed to a newly established recycling program. They are hoping that tenants will be encouraged to recycle as the proceeds from re-sale will help purchase things like playground equipment and clotheslines.  Apparently, it’s mainly the gogos who are into this program to date.

And here we’re having lunch (chicken, corn, roasted potatoes.

PK, Choice, Mogopodi and Lehlohonolo

PK, Choice, Mogopodi and Lehlohonolo







Madiba’s B’day, July 18th:

Mandela asked that everyone donate 67 minutes of their time on his b’day to help out in the community.

I decided my Rooftops stuff would count, so I walked to Cramers for my caffeine fix, There, I was given a lovely Madiba day souvenir (which didn’t last past July 18th!)

mmmmandela day

mmmmandela day


That’s it for now, folks.