Week 14 Transportation Hubs

Metro_overcrowd

Throughout Cape Town there are multiple transport hubs that serves a large amount of people everyday. People from inside and outside the city depend on these transport hubs to commute to work, school, or other places in the city. Whether people use one of a combination of the train, mini bus taxi, MiCity bus, and/or golden arrow bus, these transport hubs are critical for having nearby access between trains and buses. People coming from the townships spend the most time commuting every day. Train carts are outdated and are seen unreliable by a large population of people living in Cape Town. Delays are a frequent problem, which is why people choose not to take the train in Cape Town.

Not all hubs have access to other parts of the city. In some places, people have to take a longer commute because there is no direct mini bus or bus access to a part of the city. For many low-income people they cannot get to their destinations directly so they have to transfer. They have no choice but to wait for the trains and buses because they have to get to the city to work and provide for themselves and families.

Safety is a major problem many of the hubs encounter on a regular basis. The main concern is theft. Traveling alone is not really recommended and especially when it begins getting dark out. Pickpocketing is common to happen. People are even stealing pieces of the train tracks and selling the metal to make some quick money. Depending on the location of the station, there is a difference in who is using the train at that area. Some neighborhoods are transforming and the stations are being updated more than other stations that have higher demands.

The station I got to observe was Bellville. I went inside and talked to people who worked for protective services to learn more about Bellville station. The trains have been around for more than fifty years and the Bellville station has been around for more than sixty years. The station has a capacity of eight hundred to one million people moving around every day. The surrounding area is residential and seventy percent of the people that live in Bellville use a train, bus, or taxi to get to work. When it comes to safety, eighty percent of the security at night in the station is private because it is cheaper than paying a staff worker. The biggest Metro_overcrowdproblem in the station is robbery and assault. The staff has meetings with police every morning at 8 am to decide on which areas at the station to be overlooking the most based on where people are being robbed at a higher rate. Security walks at the platforms to ensure the safety of passengers and prevent infrastructure theft. Security is also there to help out and they assist people at the station and at the taxi and bus rank when they are lost so they can get on the right one safely and on time.

Transit oriented development has to integrated into these central hubs for cities to effectively move people where they need to go. Public transportation has to work together and the buses and trains need to be invested in more. The infrastructure is outdated and it is time for cities to have faster and safer trains for people to reliably depend on public transportation. As an outcome, the more people who begin to use public transport will decrease some number of cars from the road and help alleviate traffic.

Week 14 School Problems in Cape Town

Hout Bay

During a social justice panel we got to learn about some of the problems that have been happening with the schools in Cape Town. Amanda is an attorney who works with the cape flats. She discussed about an initiative called Equal Education that started in 2008. It provides clinical and advocacy services. Equal Education focuses mainly in the western cape and fights for safe schools and better school infrastructure.

Many schools do not have the resources needed to provide an adequate education to its students. The lack in resources and supplies hinders what and how the students are learning. Twenty-two thousand schools or ninety percent do not have a computer lab. Three thousand five hundred and forty-four schools have no electricity supply and eleven percent of those schools have an unreliable water supply. In 2009, it was reported that only seven percent of schools have libraries. Students do not have enough resources to be in a learning environment even if they wish to learn. The books are outdated and the students do not have the access to read more books without a library inside the school.

The school system works in schools zones. Unfortunately, students are denied access to better schools because they live in a poor neighborhood. Many good students plea to go to a better school where they know they will get better educational opportunities, but their background limits them. The resources exist, but there is a limit in the resources when it comes to redistributing them in the city. The rich get all the resources and the poor get stuck with very few to no resources.

Schools are a way out of poverty for many young children living in poor neighborhoods. Students face barriers at a very young age that prevents them from getting the best education possible. They have no choice but to attend a school with very few resources and they get stuck where they lose interest in school and eventually start causing trouble. Schools in poor areas should be providing the opportunities to all its students that a school in a richer area is. Education is a right all children should be entitled regardless of where they live.

Week 13 Food Security in Cape Town

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In Cape Town many families, primarily low-income families, do not have access to nutritious food. I visited the Oranjejezicht City Farm, which is a small scenic farm in the middle-class suburb of Oranjezicht. Before the land was converted it belonged to a family and was a farmland. The municipality then purchased the land in 1948. It was then being misused and drug deals and homeless people were occupying the space. To decrease this type of usage, the city transformed the land into the Oranjezicht City Farm in late 2012 and early 2013.

The non-profit project working in the garden is called OZCF (Oranjezicht City Farm). They celebrate local food, culture and community through urban farming. The location is stunning, on one side is a beautiful view of Table Mountain and on the opposite end is a view of the dock and the ocean. They barely have three years since they started, but they sell the small amount that they grow to the community at the waterfront on Sundays. The organization wants to expand and be able to provide more fresh food services to the bigger Cape Town community.

The garden emphasized the importance of people growing their own food. Genetically modified fruits are not healthy for the body. The body needs nutritious fruit and it is better when people learn from where their food is coming from. Farmer Mark is the main farmer of the field and he shared his insight on the connection people automatically have to nature. Farming is a skill many people in cities do not learn. Nature itself is peaceful and communities need spaces like public gardens. People from the community maintain the plants and they get to share a space that builds a stronger sense of community.

Next to the garden is a primary school. The organization wants to work and collaboration with the school to educate the students about farming. The school would then extend with the garden and it will give the school direct access. Students will work in the garden and help expand and maintain the garden. Not only does the garden serve a function for the community, but also it has a larger purpose where it can benefit future generations.

Green urban spaces are important to add into communities. Public gardens can revitalize unused land in low-income neighborhood and bring people together. Also, the community will have access to fresh fruit and vegetables. Farming is needed in the city and people should be knowledgeable when it comes to growing their own food. Communities will benefit greatly in the long run and they will have access to fresh food at public spaces. Communities will become stronger and people will take agency in what they grow and eat.

Week 13: Jews in South Africa

At Trinity, I am actively involved in Hillel. I have learned that the Jewish Diaspora has spread Jews far and wide. Last March, I participated in Hillel’s Alternative Spring Break to Colombia, where I learned that Jewish communities thrive in Medellin and Bogota. When a session was offered about Jews in South Africa, I jumped at the opportunity to attend.

There are 70-80,000 Jews in South Africa. In 1970, there were about 120,000. Numbers have declined because of emigration to the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Jews first arrived in the 1820s, when the British sent settlers to South Africa. In 1841, seventeen Jews founded the first Hebrew Congregation in Cape Town. Today, it stands at the entrance to the Jewish Museum in Cape Town’s downtown. When diamonds were discovered in South Africa, more Jews arrived from Europe. Many became extremely wealthy and founded successful companies. One of these was Sammy Marks, who eventually served as senator for the first Parliament in South Africa.

Successful Jewish business in South Africa

Successful Jewish business in South Africa

Between 1880 and 1914, the Jewish population grew from 4,000 to 40,000 with the arrival of immigrants from Lithuania, who were escaping pogroms. Because of their similar cultural backgrounds (they spoke Yiddish and were generally pro-Zionist, for example), they were quickly able to create a tight-knit Jewish community in Cape Town. Despite discriminatory policies that labeled them as “aliens,” Jews became involved in South Africa’s industrialization. They worked in clothing, textile and furniture manufacturing; hotel management; advertising and entertainment. In most cases, they were able to rise to middle class or upper-middle class status.

When apartheid was instituted in 1948, many Jews supported the anti-apartheid movement. In fact, Jews were largely represented among the white citizens who were arrested for involvement in anti-apartheid activities. Nelson Mandela wrote: “I have found Jews to be more broadminded than most whites on issues of race and politics, perhaps because they themselves have historically been victims of prejudice.” His defense attorney, Isie Maisels, was Jewish.

Today, the South African Jewish Museum and Holocaust Center stand as sites that commemorate Jews in Cape Town. Together they help keep Jewish history alive in the Mother City.

Week 12: Equal Education Law Center fights for justice in South Africa

Our final Social Justice Panel included a number of impactful organization leaders who spoke about their work in improving South Africa’s education system, bringing more effective sanitation to informal settlements and ending gender violence. Amanda was a speaker from the Equal Education Law Center. She has been involved in the Equal Education (EE) movement since her days as a student at the University of Cape Town. This movement fights for quality and equality in the South African education system. Amanda shared shocking statistics with our group: across the country, there are nearly 4,000 schools with no electricity, 2,000 with no water, 22,000 with no computer access and 11,000 with no toilets. The movement was born out of the need for infrastructure in schools but also works toward improving the general state of education.

Poster highlighting inequality in education

Poster highlighting inequality in education

EE’s primary strategy is to protest. We learned that in 2011, EE held a three-day sleep-in outside of Parliament to demand the implementation of minimum norms and standards in school infrastructure. The Law Center was born out of the movement’s need to protect people’s constitutional rights through litigation. Amanda shared that the Center handles many cases of discrimination, especially against African foreign nationals who are denied access to public education because they do not speak Afrikaans or cannot pay school fees (in South Africa, there are types of public schools that ask for school fees; if families cannot pay these, they can ask for government waivers). They also work with single mothers, who are harassed by school administrators when they cannot pay entire school fees. The Law Center is fighting for single mothers to be more easily exempted from paying school fees. Finally, they recently worked on a case in which a teacher hit a thirteen-year old student with a metal pipe, causing her to lose movement in her right arm. This teacher was found guilty of using corporal punishment (outlawed since 1996) and let off with a warning. She was thereafter allowed to return to the school where she worked, causing the student secondary trauma. EE is working to bring justice to this young student.

Protest by Equal Education

Protest by Equal Education

Amanda said, “Poor people are not voiceless; their voices are simply not heard. We work alongside people to give them a space in which they can take up their issues.” This statement was very impactful to me because across the cities we have traveled to, we have visited a number of communities where people are facing diverse urban struggles. Before this program, it would have been easy to say that people facing these kinds of struggles are “voiceless” but after meeting them, it is clear that they do have a voice – they are simply ignored by those in power. Additionally, in many cases, members of these communities cannot protest, either because of a very real fear of oppression (as I learned in Ahmedabad) or because of time constraints posed by responsibilities to work and family. The organizations I have met with have worked with these communities to provide them with a platform, which has helped put them on the path to accessing a more equal citizenship.

Week 12: Empower Shack offers a new vision to informal settlements in Cape Town

An important component of IHP has been housing site visits, during which we learn about struggles marginalized communities face when attempting to secure housing. In South Africa, housing is a constitutional right. When democracy was established in 1994, the new government guaranteed everyone access to adequate housing. However, for millions across the country, this promise has not been delivered.

Aerial view of Khayelitsha

Aerial view of Khayelitsha

In Cape Town, twenty percent of the population lives in over two hundred informal settlements. I visited Khayelitsha, the largest and fastest growing township in South Africa for my site visit. Khayelitsha was the result of one of the apartheid regime’s final attempts to enforce the Group Areas Act, a law that assigned racial groups to different residential and business sections. The government saw the community as a solution to two problems: the growing number of migrants from the Eastern Cape and overcrowding in other Cape Town townships.

Khayelitsha is divided into several sections and subsections, with special assignations for housing meant to be temporary. I visited Section C’s BT area, where an organization named Empower Shack is working with community members to upgrade their living conditions. Their models are fire and flood resistant, which is significant since these are real threats for Khayelitsha residents. They are also affordable, since their market price is heavily subsidized by non-profit organizations. Additionally, Empower Shacks have toilets. Before the new homes, three hundred people shared fifteen toilets in the BT section. According to the community leaders we spoke to, walking to these toilets at night was very dangerous because the darkness made it more likely for residents to become victims of robbery or sexual assault.

Empower Shack we visited in the BT section

Empower Shack we visited in the BT section

The vision of the BT community is to use Empower Shacks to re-block their neighborhood. The new layout will include clear-cut roads, which will allow for emergency services to access the area with ease and more lighting, which will help to prevent crime at night. Since many of the residents moved to the area in the 1970s and 80s after migrating from the Eastern Cape and have lived in difficult conditions since then, Empower Shack is giving them a platform on which they can self-organize and make decisions that contribute to the overall improvement of their section of Khayelitsha.

Week 11: Cape Town’s current politics and spatial segregation


Upon arriving in Cape Town, I was shocked to learn that in this country, as in Brazil, people are crying out for the president’s impeachment. Jacob Zuma, leader of the African National Congress (ANC), has been President of South Africa since 2009. While he has faced a number of corruption scandals over the years, his political career may have just hit an all-time low: the high court recently ruled that he had violated the Constitution in his handling of a case accusing him of using millions of tax dollars to renovate his private home. This led the opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, to begin impeachment proceedings against him. However, the ANC defeated their effort by claiming that Zuma had acted illegally because he had received poor legal advice. The leader of the Democratic Alliance said: “Today it will be recorded that A.N.C. members of this Parliament chose to defend a crooked, broken president instead of the Constitution and the rule of law. Today will signal once and for all that the A.N.C. has lost its way, and that there is no way back.”

Political cartoon depicting President Zuma being chased by his corruption charges

Political cartoon depicting President Zuma being chased by his corruption charges

This introduction to South African politics definitely left an impression! But of course, it is important to rewind. I will focus on the lessons I learned regarding Cape Town’s spatial segregation, because I have always been interested in the ways in which the legacy of apartheid has shaped the city’s urban landscape. When apartheid was established in 1948, the government sought to separate people along color lines. Thus, neighborhoods were designated for whites, coloreds (mixed race people) and blacks. The darker people were, the further they were pushed outside of the city. In post-apartheid South Africa, urban planning has failed to undo what was established before democracy. Why? For one, the re-organization of the government led to administrative and legislative turmoil. New national policies were eventually written for every sector, except planning, which came years later. This meant that planners were in limbo until new urban planning policies were decided. Additionally, housing policies under the new democratic government have largely failed to support the implementation of mixed-use housing, which would allow for integration. In other cases, they have reinforced apartheid era segregation. For example, while Mandela’s Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) has led to the construction of 3.6 million new homes for the poor across the country, the majority of these have been built at the edges of the cities. This has forced South Africa’s most vulnerable members of society to remain in the undesirable corners of the urban landscape, far from the center, where opportunities lie.

Thus, during my first week in Cape Town I became painfully aware of the city’s spatial segregation. I visited neighborhoods in the Southern Suburbs that are nearly entirely white. I lived in Bo Kaap, a neighborhood that is largely Malay, or populated by descendants of South Asian Muslims. It was declared an exclusive area for Cape Town Muslims during the apartheid regime. I also learned that “townships,” or areas designated for black, colored and Indian people, remain disadvantaged to this day because of their location on the periphery (which limits their access to transportation and causes them to have longer commutes to work in the city center, for example), lack of quality infrastructure and ongoing issues with gang violence and crime.

Bo Kaap neighborhood

Bo Kaap neighborhood

As Alex and I complete the final leg of our program, we are interested to continue observing the spatial segregation patterns we see in the city as well as compare those that we see in our homestay neighborhoods, Bo Kaap and Langa, a black township.

Week 10: Farewell, São Paulo

Alex and I bid farewell to São Paulo with heavy hearts. Not only because it is an amazing city but because we there during a historic time of political unrest against the current government. In fact, on the first night we arrived in our home stays, there was a ruckus of pots and pans being banged to protest President Dilma. Two weeks later, when ex-President Lula da Silva was taken in for questioning in connection with charges of corruption, the neighborhoods audibly rejoiced. While it seemed that there was a united front against the government, our middle-class neighborhoods only told one side of the story. When we met activists, such as those involved in the Black Movement, they did not share the same disdain for Dilma. To them, the impeachment proceedings against her were a reaction against strides made by the Worker’s Party. Although as IHP students we were prohibited from participating in political protests or rallies, there were two major ones that took place while we were in São Paulo. One was against Dilma’s administration and the other was for it. The turnout for both was over one million and chanting could be heard across the city. With the city as politically charged as it was, it was truly an interesting time to be there.

Protest against President Dilma

Protest against President Dilma

Rally in support of Dilma

Rally in support of Dilma

During my last week in São Paulo, I also became familiar with the Black Movement through my case study. I learned that it is very difficult for black students to reach top universities such as the University of São Paulo (USP) because of an admissions process that favors the rich. In Brazil, it is usually the case that public universities are the best in the nation but that students can only reach these once they have had a private education that has prepared them for the rigorous admissions exam that these require. Thus, those who attend public high schools, such as poor black youth in the periphery, are at a disadvantage. In the case of the students I met, they said that it is very unlikely to find black people at universities like USP because of the hierarchy created by the admissions exam. Yet, they had made it. But once they were in, they faced explicit discrimination. Whether it was because of racist graffiti in the bathrooms or comments made by professors, the students I spoke to found it necessary to create a Black Occupation at their university in order to call attention to the conditions at USP. Their tactic was to occupy classrooms in order to make the majority white students and white professors aware of the lack of diversity at their university, both in student and faculty demographics. When asked about their vision for a just city, they responded that a just city was one in which there was no need for Black Occupation.

"Group invades Administration class at USP to debate over racist quotas at universities"

“Group invades Administration class at USP to debate over racist quotas at universities”

As we prepare ourselves for Cape Town, Alex and I carry the conversations and experiences we had in São Paulo with us. Although Cape Town is a city with its own political, economic and social issues, we are curious to learn about connections between the two.

Week 10: Case Study: Graffiti, Pixacao, and Skateboarding

During my case study I got the opportunity to meet a graffiti artist, a pixador, and a skateboarder. All three had very interesting stories and motives for the art. The graffiti artist was a female, Carol, who goes by the street name “skinny”. She likes to represent the war between men and women. She sticks to painting mainly women and she has artwork throughout the city. Bruno, a pixador, goes by “Locuras”. He originally started as a pixador and now he makes documentaries about pixacao. Daniel went professional in skateboarding five years ago and is working with the city to increase access to skateboarding in the city. They all love doing what they do because they are able to express themselves freely throughout the city. Each person is able to explore new parts of Sao Paulo that they would not have been able to if it was not for their skills. Also, these three forms of expressions encounter a lot of restrictions from society.

Graffiti has become more acceptable throughout the years. Graffiti artist are getting approval from city hall to paint murals on public space. When they want to paint a wall, they have to ask the owner for permission. Other than that, graffiti artists are limited to where they can express what they want to say. Carol started at a young age and learned about social injustices through the artwork she would come across in Sao Paulo. She also got involved in a community of other graffiti artist and expanded her network. As a women she felt she has less to worry about with policing and can get away when doing a piece without any permission.

Graffiti

On the other hand, pixacao has not been so acceptable by society. Pixacao has been identified as unpleasing and criminal related. Pixacao can be found all over the city. Especially high up in buildings, where others can see how high somebody got put their tag. Pixacao is done more for recognition. Pixadores are generally people from the periphery and they come into the city and claim empty walls. Bruno showed me one of his tags he did on the side of a high building near downtown. He is not from Sao Paulo, but he prefers to come and tag places in the center of the city because then his work is visible to a larger range of people. He gets more recognition. Pixadores bring the messages of the periphery into the city and reclaim spaces where they are not welcomed. The police harass them frequently and pixadores put their life on the line when climbing high up. Regardless of the consequences, pixacao has taken over the streets of Sao Paulo and the messages people mark are there for a reason. Pixacao is a movement that is pushing for equality and justice and this form of art is informing the inside of the city that they also exist.

Skateboarding is popular for the youths of Sao Paulo. Skateboarders overtake a public space and use it as their skating ground. I got to meet with Daniel at a skatepark that is in a central location of the city, plaza Roosevelt. This plaza was originally for people and skateboarders began using the space. Residents nearby were unhappy with the amount of skateboarders in the plaza. Skateboarders do not have many places where they can skate freely around the city. A common problem is that they are loud and disrupt the community. These people just want to skateboard in the city, they use places and objects that are hardly used and they have fun with the space. Plaza Roosevelt installed a semi skatepark near the street about four years ago to satisfy the needs of skateboarders. Daniel enjoys skating at new places and meeting new people. People come from all over to skateboard and it is what makes them feel free in the city.

Graffiti, pixacao, and skateboarding do have similarities, but they are each different. Each of these groups want to express themselves and the art behind what they enjoy. Whether they do it legally or illegally, they want to be visible in the city. They do not want restrictions from what they love to do and want the city to be open for such uses and much more. Neither are going to disappear and even though the city does not fully approve of the practices, spaces in the city will be taken over and the people will continue to express themselves.