Monthly Archives: October 2014

And just when I was about to hang up laundry…

Is this Beijing...??

Is this Beijing…??

Last Thursday at around 4:30, a huge sandstorm enveloped Joburg! No one has taken responsibility for it yet, but the folks at the laundromat were blaming the Free State.

And when all else fails, go for more bureaucracy!

Last week, the Minister (Lindiwe Sisulu) held a housing Indaba, a big picture consultation with all  interested parties. The Minister feels that the housing issue needs to be ramped up and that the results need to be seen, and soon.

NASHO’s ED, Malcolm McCarthy, made a presentation and felt that spending a couple of days there was worthwhile on the network front. The Minister promised him lunch soon. All the presenters, including NASHO, had to sign a promise to achieve certain goals.

Coming out of this , the Minister said: “We have agreed that the department of human settlements will establish the ombudsman office for the housing sector by 14 November 2014 to monitor the implementation of all policies and the resolution of this indaba.”

I can see it now. Another layer of bureaucracy will no doubt lead to demands for whatever is the  equivalent of a Royal Commission!

Oh, and she also announced that there will be priorities to address the housing needs of “pensioners, orphans and veterans”.  Augh!  What about women, most of them holding up the hard end of the world here, and looking after orphans and pensioners while they’re at it!

 What’s in a name, you say?



Well, if you were born Zulu, it usually means quite a bit. My teacher, who changed her name to Cynthia from Ntombizanele, brought a list of over 120 names for me to learn about. Here are a few of my favourites:

Dingane (m) – one who is searching
Khanyisile (f) – bringer of light
Lwazi (m) – the one with knowledge
Nobuntu (f) – mother of kindness/humanity
Nomvula (f) – mother of rain
Most names reflect something that was going on for the family, a wish for someone to provide or just a statement about things as they are. Some early form of birth control names like:
Sanele (m) – we are satisfied/have enough
Siphelele (m) – we are complete
And, as expected, some names speak to how girls are regarded, like
Ntombizanele (f) – enough girls

My homework this week is about learning times of day and practicing my verbs. I have to make sentences and came up with a few, including: “Ngiphuze kakhulu no Sisifo izolo ebusuku”, which I think means “I drank too much last night with Sisifo”.

Water, bringer of life.

Rooftops Canada’s campaign this year will help bring water to our housing cooperative partners in Kenya. Imagine yourself coming home after a day at work and then having to walk a couple of kilometres to get water for your family, carrying a pail of it on your shoulder in the dark before being able to make supper.
Our Kenyan partner, the National Association of Coop Housing Union (NACHU) helps its members build boreholes and wells so that women’s lives are improved. The ability to have enough accessible water to grow food, cook, bathe and do laundry is life changing.

Please watch this short video, then go to the link to donate. You will see a list of fundraisers in a box on the right hand side and may recognize some names (Jo Ferris-Davies, Barry Pinsky, Janet Kreda, Calinda Brown, Hugh Lawson).

Link to Rooftops Campaign page: 


Speaking of the power of water….

Water and metal sometimes meet in unusual ways and the results can be amazing. My oldest friend Marie-Té, who is a long time west coast hippie, sent me a picture of something she found on the beach in Kaslo. I’d like someone to use it as a book cover someday….

Africa on the beach in Kaslo

Africa on the beach in Kaslo

That’s all for now folks!









Sitting on the patio at Picobella’s, having a beer….

Oh look, two shoes!

Oh look, two shoes!

Yes, the boot came off last Wednesday! The doctor said I could do anything “in moderation”, so I spent the evening dancing in the aisle at a Sipho Mabuse concert. Listen to this and try not to dance:

Work is ramping up

I had my first workshop with the RESHI (Rapidly Expanding Social Housing Institutions) participants on September 23rd. It was held in Durban, although I’m trying very hard to get something held in Cape Town (haven’t been there yet!)

There were 10 folks around the table, plus Malcolm and I. We reflected back what we heard as we met with the groups back in August. The idea here is to build a program (or programme, as they like to spell it here) to help these SHIs to have the capacity to manage a huge increase in stock over the next year or two. After the presentation, we used the old flip chart system to get folks to identify their priorities. This was with the use of different coloured sticky dots, a method which Derek Ballantyne and I named “Dotmocracy” back at a CCOC retreat in the Gatineau Hills.

Everyone got a bag of gummy bears and a little hard bouncy rubber ball. Felt like I got my facilitator groove back!

Once I’ve figured out how to attach a PPT to a blog post, I’ll attempt to bore you with that!

So, anyway, I think the workshop went well and we shall see how the follow up goes. Next meeting is early November, in Joburg.

The vervet "townies" in Durban...

The vervet “townies” in Durban…

Other stuff is coming up too. Trying to set up a meeting with the Joburg SHIs to discuss the role of social housing in urban regeneration.

And Harmen Oostra, a Dutch transplant for 12 years, who just returned to Holland before I got here, is in the country for some weeks. So I have the opportunity to pick his (very knowledgeable) brain. When I got here, I was introduced as “Harmen’s replacement”, but I had to insist this was not the case. I cannot possibly replace this guy!

On Friday, Harmen asked me what I was going to do once my year was up and I said “Go home”. He suggested I might try to extend or do stuff from home once I’m back. I guess this is what happens to a lot of “Technical Advisors”.  Hmm…..

Dinner with my neighbour

And I mean my neighbour on Willow Street, Robert Fox!  Robert was in town for some OXFAM meetings last week and we had a lovely dinner at The Leopard (my “go to” Melville resto) and he delivered my CCOC 40th Anniversary t-shirt, some CCOC tenant handbooks and Crema (hair conditioner to help with my dry weather follicles ). Robert is stepping down from OXFAM in four days and taking 6 months of well deserved R&R.

CCOC Fashionista

CCOC Fashionista









How the other half defecates…

Although 81% of lower income households in South Africa (less than $6,000K annual income) have a cellphone, the statistics on toilets is interesting too!600x660


And while we’re on the subject of sh..t

The Zuma government, bowing to the gods of capitalism rather than those of democratic discourse, have refused entry to the Dalai Lama. Yup, the government that is just celebrating 20 years of democratic freedom and all that that means, has decided that the Nobel prize winner can’t come to a meeting of all Nobel-ists that was to be held in Cape Town.

Now the meeting has been cancelled and Desmond Tutu (another Nobel winner) has come out saying: “I am ashamed to call this lickspittle bunch my government”. Right on, Des!

For more on that, check out:

I thought I would do some traffic calming…

When I arrived, I used to deliberately walk slowly across intersections and glare at motorists. My colleagues had trouble restraining their snickering and mumbled something about whether I had suicidal thoughts.

Turns out I gave up after a few near misses. Pedestrians have found a way to survive in Joburg traffic and it’s quite a feat. Many will cross on  a red light, but somehow they know to get out of your way if you’re driving.

Vehicles rule and it’s apparent that drivers have no compunction about taking up space. Here’s the sidewalk in front of my house:

Take that, you damn pedestrian!

Take that, you damn pedestrian!

That’s it for now, folks!