So what if you are offended? Don’t support the censorship of Steve Hofmeyr.

Steve Hofmeyr has every reason to frown

By John Fraser

Racial concerns, fear, paranoia and justified outrage are still a part of everyday life in SA and are likely to stay so.

Just as many of we whites find offensive and scary the racist rants of little Julius Malema, so, too, do many blacks feel that Afrikaans singer Steve Hofmeyr projects an anti-black, racist persona. Both have been labelled racist. For all I know, either – or both – may have a strong case to answer.

This is understandable, such concerns are not unique to South Africa, and I will not pretend to know the deepest thoughts of these two controversial personalities, however much they may or may not turn out to disgust us all.

What I do know is that just as it is so, so easy to criticise, to punish, to bully, to censor, it is also so, so dangerous.

We all know of the vile behaviour of actor Kevin Spacey, but I am not sure I wanted him booted off our screens. Call me selfish, but I think the last series of House of Cards was far worse without his menacing portrayal of a deeply corrupt politician.

And I fail to see how any viewer watching this prog or any other of his superb performances should be accused of approving his sexually predatory private life. Art is art, and groping is not.

An even more repellent showbiz type Harvey Weinstein is rightly in the Hollywood doghouse, but I suspect western culture would be much worse off if we were to pull the plug on all the productions with which he has been associated.

If he has done all he has been accused of having done, he should be locked up. His sweaty porky paws and protruding penis are vile. But if we were to delete, censor, obliterate every work of art created by someone whose character or utterances or sexual predation or racist views are offensive….who would be left?

MultiChoice, you bullying shits, you cannot be so selective in targeting Oom Steve.

Perhaps you have not always behaved 100% ethically yourselves, you have not always broadcast the finest art, the noblest creations of man and woman, and it is a disgrace that your hounding and censorship of all past and future output of one of this country’s most popular singers should go unchallenged?

I have little interest in much of the material broadcast by these satellite sods, but I do subscribe so I can access the stuff that interests me.

The more the competition is allowed to thrive, the closer I will come to cancelling my monthly subscription.  I eagerly await the day when I can cease to take it and can leave it.

After all, I am sure I could buy stacks of Steve Hofmeyr CDs, DVDs and concert tickets with the money I will save.

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Wine podcast: a francly excellent Cab Franc

A legend on two legs and a robust walking stick Michael Olivier joins us for another wine tasting and chat.

The wine on offer is a Cape red, The Garageest Bruce 2015, which is a Cabernet Franc.

Joining Michael and John Fraser in the studio are analyst and writer Chris Gilmour, Gumtree Auto’s Jeff Osborne and Clientele’s Malcolm MacDonald, who also handled the recording.

Click here for the podcast


Don’t steal books; buy them.

By John Fraser

The fine folk at Penguin (the publishers, not the ones with the funny walk) deserve to be taken seriously.

They are threatening legal action against a few obscure politicians who think it normal to advocate theft. Not that we have never before seen the words politician and theft in the same sentence.

There is what I believe to be an excellent book, which I have every intention of purchasing for real money, called Gangster State, which alleges that a very, very, very senior ANC politician is a crook and a swindler.

Not yet having read it, I shall have to rely on my instincts. That it is pretty close to the mark. I stand to be corrected, but do not expect to be.

This is what the publishers had to say:

“Penguin Random House is appalled by the ongoing illegal distribution of a pirated PDF of Gangster State, which is widely being disseminated on social media. It is of even more concern that prominent individuals appear to encourage this unlawful activity.

“The distribution of pirated copies of Gangster State by Pieter-Louis Myburgh infringes our copyright as well as that of the author, and it is unlawful in terms of the Copyright Act of 1976.”

The problem, though, is that piracy is rife. I wrote recently about the demise of the DVD and Blu-ray. I, like so many others, have built up a collection of movies, concerts, comedy shows. Many, many of them.

These days the resale value of a pre-owned disc is tiny, with that of a CD even lower.

This is not the point, though. I own these discs. I paid for them. I can watch them when I choose, lend or sell them when I choose. And when I made each purchase, in almost all cases the artist/s got some cash.

Where I might have been tempted by pirated content, it has almost always been because the people who hold the rights to whatever I wish to watch and listen to are not publishing and selling the stuff. Their fault, I would argue.

I am currently reading an excellent book, the first for a while. I paid for it, even though it is in electronic format.

I read it on my iPad, on the Amazon Kindle app. And I own this copy, although what will happen to it when I no longer (dis)grace you all with my presence is concerning.

The physical books I own can be disposed of, will retain some value, and some are really worth reading. Especially the cartoon collections.

But back to the Penguin problem. I fully condemn those who advocate the theft and then diffusion of printed works, recordings and any other material which they do not own and which have not been given to them.

Just remember. If it no longer becomes viable to expose and then publish details of the rampant corruption, looting and hypocrisy of our rulers, then we will all be the poorer.

Don’t support those who wish to deny an honest author a decent living.

Buy this bloody book, and many others.

It will make you a better person in so, so many ways.

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Regulation of Airbnb is draconian

By Chris Hattingh

Government published the Tourism Amendment Bill on April 12. If this had happened on April 1, one could have believed that it was an April Fool’s Joke, so comical is the logic underlying the bill. The amendment, once adopted, will mean that all ‘short-term home rentals’ are legislated under the Tourism Act. 

The thinking behind the bill is so misguided that it will also allow the Minister of Tourism to specify certain ‘thresholds’ for Airbnbs in SA; these thresholds could include a limit on the number of nights a guest can stay in an Airbnb, or even how much income an Airbnb can earn.
This proposed amendment is draconian – it grants the Minister too much power and severely limits the income and job opportunities people can generate for themselves and others through establishing an Airbnb hosting.

A spokesperson for the Department of Tourism told BusinessTech that: “These thresholds are not about being hard on (Airbnb) owners but making sure that everyone gets their fair share”. It is far, far removed from the moral remit of government to decide who gets their ‘fair share’ of anything; by what measure does the Minister, or representative of the Department, decide what constitutes a ‘fair share’?

As always with these laws and edicts by government, the measure by which government decides who wins and who loses is left out of the discussion.

The philosophy behind this bill indicates that the Department views itself as the judge and jury of what you are ‘allowed’ to earn as an Airbnb host.

What you earn as a host should be completely up to the rate you set and agree to with your customers, the demand for the accommodation you offer, and the quality of service you render.

To presume that a government department must ensure that each bed and breakfast earns their ‘fair share’ indicates a fundamental lack of understanding of the nature of business, and of wealth, which is: Each person is not entitled to a slice of the economy; wealth is created by each person, for himself.

Each person’s wealth is his own pie, to increase or lose based on his own decisions and choices. For the Department to place itself in the role of wealth ‘granter’ clearly shows that the officials who work there are completely ignorant of the concept of wealth; wealth is made, not granted or given.

Airbnb has enabled people previously unable to do so to make a living for themselves.

Just as Uber opened up a whole new market for people in transportation, Airbnb has the same transformative potential in tourism.

South Africa’s tourism is one of its last remaining and strongest selling points for foreigners to travel here and spend their international currencies. Anyone who tries to establish and run an Airbnb, just like a bed and breakfast, should be praised for the success they manage to attain.

Taxes increase year on year; the price of petrol goes up, and, with it, the price of food. People are struggling to make a living and now the government is going to make it yet more difficult for those who are trying their utmost to improve their lives.

If a customer decides to stay in an Airbnb instead of a ‘traditional’ B&B, that is because they think they can get more value for their money at the Airbnb. It is each customer’s free, voluntary choice to trade with the establishment of his choice.

And it is up to each Airbnb host and all other establishments to make their product as alluring and competitive as possible. Every business, whether it is an Airbnb or any other, must stand or fall on its own merits, without government favour.

If the Department of Tourism is truly concerned for the welfare of traditional establishments, it could remove restrictions on those businesses to make it easier for them to compete with Airbnb hosts. Once government regulates some businesses over others, it distorts the market and any potential for supply and demand to interact as they would in a free market.

This, in turn, distorts prices for consumers and they will suffer in the long run. Furthermore, if any traditional B&Bs are calling for regulations on Airbnb, they must know that such a request is deeply immoral.

To call for government force against one’s competitors indicates that one is unwilling to earn the customer’s money; these older establishments already have an advantage over new entrants because they are well-known. They are playing a very dangerous game; government can very quickly turn its expanded regulatory powers on any target it deems ‘too big’ or ‘earning too much’.

This Bill is an attempt by government to punish successful people who are working hard in an effort to better their lives.

You do not encourage economic growth by imposing regulations; you encourage economic growth by removing as many regulations and restrictions as possible.

Chris Hattingh is a Researcher at the Free Market Foundation

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Could someone please save my bacon?

By John Fraser

This is life, gym, but not as we know it.

My snooty gym has just changed to a new franchise for its in-house café. Better coffee. Better service.

But no bloody bacon.

You see, some dictator somewhere thinks that if you visit a gym, you must be so keen on health, wellness and all that silly stuff that you will want to make your meals as miserable as your workouts.

So they have all sorts of low-fat, gluten-free shit, but no bacon.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are health concerns about bacon, and that some people don’t touch (or swallow) the stuff for religious, or vegetarian, or vegan, or other fanatical reasons.

That’s fine. I do not insist that you should get as intimate with pigs as David Cameron was in his student days.

Take it or leave it. I have no problem with that.

But why, oh why, do you insist on me following your dietary preferences? Bugger off, say I!

I enjoy a good bacon ’n egg brekkie every now and then. Who are you to say I have to eat your fat-free, gluten-free, fun-free, flavour free rabbit food for my breakfast?

And this is not an isolated example of the rasher and rasher crusade against beautiful bacon.

From time to time (never more than five times a day) I enjoy a good burger.

Sometimes I want a few slices of bacon in my burger.

But don’t ask Colonel Mac, or whoever is in charge of the MacDonald’s fast food franchises (it was once our dear Cyril, but I assume he now has other things on his mind), to fill my buns with bacon.

Not allowed. They are a halal operation. No pork products.

Which is fine for those who choose, or who are ordered by their religious leaders, to avoid swine grub.

I, however, have no such religious obligation.

So, once again, someone else is taking a decision on what I can and cannot eat, imposing rules for something to which I have no affiliation.

How dare they?

Maybe it is time I started a boycott of all the cafés and food outlets which ban my favourite pork products.

I am not a bad cook. Perhaps it is time to bring home the bacon. After all, my gym fees could easily purchase a lifetime’s supply of my perfect porky preference.

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Notre Dame: how a rebuilt cathedral could be just as wonderful

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The spire collapses while flames are burning the roof of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.
Ian Langsdon/EPA

Claire Smith, Flinders University and Jordan Ralph, Flinders University

The destruction of Notre Dame cathedral is lamentable. A wonderful icon has been largely destroyed by fire. However, we should not despair.

Part of the reason this loss is so upsetting is that we are immersed in a Western way of thinking that equates authenticity with preserving the original materials used to create an object or building.

But not all societies think like this. Some have quite different notions of what is authentic. Iconic buildings such as the Catherine Palace in Russia and Japan’s historic monuments of Ancient Nara have been successfully restored, sometimes after great damage, and are today appreciated by millions of people.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks with firemen at the cathedral.
Yoan Valat/EPA

The preamble to the International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites, (the Venice Charter 1964), states that “Imbued with a message from the past, the historic monuments of generations of people remain to the present day as living witnesses of their age-old traditions … It is our duty to hand them on in the full richness of their authenticity”.

But in our diverse world, the definition and assessment of authenticity is a complex matter. The World Heritage Convention guidelines state that properties may be understood to meet the conditions of authenticity if their cultural values “are truthfully and credibly expressed”.

Accordingly, a building’s authenticity is determined in relation to its location and setting, use and function, spirit and feeling, and well as form and materials.

Japan’s NaraTodaiji.

Japan’s historic monuments of Ancient Nara – comprised of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and the excavated remains of the great Imperial Palace – provide important insights into the nation’s capital during the 8th century. These buildings are not less authentic because they were extensively restored after the enactment of the Ancient Shrines and Temples Preservation Law in 1897.

A palace gutted

The Catherine Palace at Tsarskoe Selo (Pushkin), south of Petersburg, was gutted during the second world war. When Russian people first saw the damage, they must have despaired.

Nevertheless, the government provided the resources to allow room-by-room restorations. The restoration of the Amber Room, one of the most famous palace interiors of the 18th century, is a triumph.

Panels that had been looted by the Nazis were recreated over 25 years with an investment of $11 million. Today, the Palace is fully restored, a spectacular icon that attracts millions of visitors a year.

The Catherine Palace ballroom.

What about the relics and artworks?

The fire at Notre Dame has endangered a vast collection of Christian relics and artworks housed within the building and on its grounds, including the crown of thorns. First responders saved many, but not all, objects. At the time of writing, we did not yet know which ones have survived.

Does the argument regarding authenticity also apply to these relics and precious artworks? Well, yes and no.

Couronne d’épines, Crown of Thorns, Notre Dame Paris.

There are two scenarios. The first is that the relics and artworks are partially damaged by fire, smoke and falling building materials. Within this scenario, the focus will be on restoration – and marvellous things can occur in the realm of materials conservation.

The second scenario is that (some) relics or artworks are virtually, or entirely, destroyed. Within this scenario, the artworks can only be replicated, not restored. Such replication would have a precarious tie to the original works.

From the viewpoint of restoration, there is a crucial difference between portable and non-portable artefacts. Other than those that were part of the fabric of the building, the relics and artworks were not made on-site. The building itself, however, has a continuity of identity and function through being located within a specific landscape.

What now for Notre Dame?

One way forward is to use the Venice Charter (1964) to guide restoration. This would mean that the new materials used in preserving this historic structure would be kept distinguishable from the original construction.

Conservation of the city gate in Lecce, Italy, undertaken according to the Venice Charter.
Gary Jackson

Another way forward would be to restore the structure in a similar manner to that of Catherine I’s palace, in which an untutored eye finds it difficult to distinguish between the old and new parts of the structure. Given the extent of the damage, this would be the more aesthetically pleasing and less jarring approach.

Unlike other places of deep cultural significance, which may be destroyed forever due to commercial development, Notre Dame can be rebuilt. With modern technology, it is entirely possible for the cathedral to be recreated with near-accuracy to the original. We can do this and keep the previous building’s spirit and feeling.The Conversation

Claire Smith, Professor of Archaeology, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University and Jordan Ralph, PhD Candidate, Archaeology, Flinders University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Ramaphosa’s presidency is drawing voters back to the ANC: new study

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Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa and of the ruling African National Congress. EPA/Nick Bothma

Leila Patel, University of Johannesburg

The latest research into the voting preferences of South Africans finds that trust in the country’s president is the single most important predictor of the potential party choices at the ballot. If voting behaviour follows suit this could be the key to understanding the success of the African National Congress (ANC) on election day – May 8.

These findings come from the second nationally representative study conducted by the Centre for Social Development in Africa at the University of Johannesburg. The survey was completed in the fourth quarter of 2018. The first study was done in the fourth quarter of 2017.

The findings suggest that recent leadership changes in the governing party and government have bolstered trust in the presidency of Cyril Ramaphosa compared with his predecessor Jacob Zuma. The research suggests that this factor is expected to be a significant predictor of voter behaviour.

To understand what the influence of Ramaphosa’s presidency is likely to be in the upcoming elections, researchers from the Centre for Social Development in Africa compared the most recent survey results with those of an earlier survey conducted during Zuma’s presidency. Trust in the presidency under Zuma was at 26%. This time around that number had gone up to 55% – 29 percentage points higher than under Zuma.

Two models for control

The study was done based on a nationally representative sample of 3 431 respondents. This is considered reliably representative of over 38 million potential voters. It’s the second of a three-part study to understand the links between socioeconomic rights and what drives voter choices in the coming elections.

To understand the shift in support for the ANC versus the opposition parties the researchers constructed two models for analysis of the most recent survey results. This was to control for the change in leadership.

When Ramaphosa was removed from the equation, governance or trust in institutions such as parliament and the courts was no longer a predictor of voter preference. But when inserted as a factor on its own and independent of trust in institutions, trust in the presidency emerged as the single most important predictor of voter preference for the governing party in the upcoming elections.

These findings echo other recently released studies and polls which predict that the ANC is likely to win the upcoming general election.

Differences between the first and the second survey

Our first survey in 2017 was conducted at the height of the leadership contest in the ANC. At that time party loyalty wasn’t found to be a predictor of voter choice. But it emerged as a predictor in the 2018 survey.

Given this, it appears that trust in President Ramaphosa may have rekindled loyalty to the party that brought freedom and democracy to South Africa.

The findings seem counter-intuitive or contrary to what one might expect given the social, economic and political instability in the country. For example, how does one account for the changes in voter preferences at a time of growing economic insecurity, near-daily exposure of corruption in high places, loss of trust in institutions, and poor government performance in service delivery?

The answer is that voters make decisions based on a complex set of variables.

The reasons for voter choices in this election appear to be more nuanced and complex than usual as citizens are struggling to make difficult choices. On the one hand, trust in the presidency is a predictor of preference for the ANC; on the other hand, it’s clear that factors such as corruption also hold sway for voters. Over 70% of all respondents in the recent survey thought that corruption had increased in the past year.

Given this, it’s likely that trust in Ramaphosa’s leadership may be based on the respondents’ favourable perceptions of his personal attributes as a leader such as his personal integrity, his knowledge and skills and experience. Other factors that might have worked in his favour include the establishment of commissions of enquiry to investigate corruption. For some voters, these factors will trump their concerns about corruption.

The data also shows that women voters (who in the first survey were more likely to vote for the opposition) have shifted their support back to the ANC. A highly significant factor in voter choices is the fear that they would lose their social grants if another party came to power. This clearly speaks to securing personal, family and material well-being.

High expectations

The survey results present a nuanced picture of the complicated decision-making at play where potential voters are weighing up the issues and making conscious choices of who to vote for based on these judgements.

In spite of the numerous constraints that the Ramaphosa presidency faces, the shifts in voter choices reflected in the study suggest a degree of hope that the ANC under new leadership can still lead the country towards better days.

Should the president and the ANC win the election, the natural next question will be: can Ramaphosa meet these expectations and rebuild public trust and confidence in government, the economy and democracy?

Considering the structural constraints that he faces, as well as those imposed on him by his own party, it will be a tough task.

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Nissan R3bn investment a bonus for Cyril


Cyril:  “Now how do I reverse over Malema?”  

By John Fraser

If I had Cyril Ramaphosa’s dosh, I would be taking it easy.  Instead, our President is rushing around the country almost as fast as his ANC comrades appear to messing-up his election prospects.   

Burning rubber, and not books, our President yesterday took a ride in some new (hopefully fireproof) Prasa trains, followed by an engagement with the farmers of Stellenbosch.

Today he was at Nissan’s Rosslyn factory near Pretoria to welcome a new R3bn investment, before zooming off to a gathering of religious leaders. All of this before lunchtime.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is demonstrably on the election trail, with numerous public appearances, speeches, rallies, and his government promising that it will fix what – arguably – it has messed up due to incompetence and corruption, most notably the supply of water and electricity.

In this environment, it is easy to see his relish at the R3bn Nissan investment in the local production of new Navara pickups.

With this investment, there will be new jobs, training, exports, all sort of good stuff.  Let us just hope that as the vehicles roll off the production line, pampered politicians and officials will be forced to procure and use these proudly-local vehicles.

Nissan bosses say their plant is now much more efficient than before, on a global scale, which helped it to secure this production deal – and the auto giant is ready to welcome to its plant the production of vehicles by sister brands Renault and Mitsubishi.

Local content, a key requirement for maximising state investment incentives, is to be boosted, with a target of 60%.  To reach this, there will be mentoring, incubation, all sort of support for small black component producers, with the aim of making them larger and larger entities.

All good stuff, although the actual new direct jobs from these billions in investment will be in the hundreds, which won’t even send a ripple across the ocean of unemployed.

Speaking to officials behind the scenes, it was clear that this was not an easy investment to secure.  This country has so many challenges.

However, as we move ever-closer to the election, it is reassuring that one of the pledges made at the President’s glitzy Investment Summit last year has translated into bricks and mortar, wheels and tires, engines and windscreens.

Nice one Cyril.  Keep ’em coming.

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Do we really own our digital possessions?

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Rebecca Mardon, Cardiff University

Microsoft has announced that it will close the books category of its digital store. While other software and apps will still be available via the virtual shop front, and on purchasers’ consoles and devices, the closure of the eBook store takes with it customers’ eBook libraries. Any digital books bought through the service – even those bought many years ago – will no longer be readable after July 2019. While the company has promised to provide a full refund for all eBook purchases, this decision raises important questions of ownership.

Digital products such as eBooks and digital music are often seen to liberate consumers from the burdens of ownership. Some academics have heralded the “age of access”, where ownership is no longer important to consumers and will soon become irrelevant.

Recent years have seen the emergence of an array of access-based models in the digital realm. For Spotify and Netflix users, owning films and music has become unimportant as these subscription-based services provide greater convenience and increased choice. But while these platforms present themselves clearly as services, with the consumer under no illusion of ownership, for many digital goods this is not the case. So to what extent do we own the digital possessions that we “buy”?

Fragmented ownership rights

The popularity of access-based consumption has obscured the rise of a range of fragmented ownership configurations in the digital realm. These provide the customer with an illusion of ownership while restricting their ownership rights. Companies such as Microsoft and Apple present consumers with the option to “buy” digital products such as eBooks. Consumers often make the understandable assumption that they will have full ownership rights over the products that they pay for, just as they have full ownership rights over the physical books that they buy from their local bookstore.

We buy eBooks just as we do paperbacks, and yet the former is subject to very different terms of ownership.
Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock

However, many of these products are subject to end-user licence agreements which set out a more complex distribution of ownership rights. These long legal agreements are rarely read by consumers when it comes to products and services online. And even if they do read them, they are unlikely to fully understand the terms.

When purchasing eBooks, the consumer often actually purchases a non-transferable licence to consume the eBook in restricted ways. For instance, they may not be permitted to pass the eBook on to a friend once they have finished reading, as they might do with a physical book. In addition, as we have seen in the case of Microsoft, the company retains the right to revoke access at a later date. These restrictions on consumer ownership are often encoded into digital goods themselves as automated forms of enforcement, meaning that access can be easily withdrawn or modified by the company.

This is not a one-off occurrence. There have been many similar instances that raise questions of ownership. Just last month, social media site MySpace admitted to losing all content uploaded before 2016. Blaming a faulty server migration, the loss includes many years’ worth of music, photos, and videos created by consumers.

Last year, after customers complained of films disappearing from Apple iTunes, the company revealed that the only way to guarantee continued access was to download a local copy – which, some opined, goes against the convenience of streaming. Amazon hit the headlines way back in 2009 for remotely erasing “illegally uploaded” copies of George Orwell’s 1984 from consumers’ Kindle e-reading devices, much to consumers’ dismay and anger.

Illusions of ownership

Once you purchase a physical book, you own it entirely.

My research has found that many consumers do not consider these possibilities, because they make sense of their digital possessions based on their previous experiences of possessing tangible, physical objects. If our local bookstore closed down, the owner wouldn’t knock on our door demanding to remove previously purchased books from our shelves. So we do not anticipate this scenario in the context of our eBooks. Yet the digital realm presents new threats to ownership that our physical possessions haven’t prepared us for.

Consumers need to become more sensitised to the restrictions on digital ownership. They must be made aware that the “full ownership” they have experienced over most of their physical possessions cannot be taken for granted when purchasing digital products. However, companies also have a responsibility to make these fragmented ownership forms more transparent.

Often there is a logical business reason for such restrictions. For instance, since digital objects are infinitely reproducible – they can be duplicated quickly and easily at negligible costs – restrictions on sharing are a means to protect the profits of both distribution companies (Microsoft or Apple, for example) and media producers (including the authors and publishers of an eBook). However, these restrictions must be stated clearly and in simple terms at the point of purchase, rather than hidden away in the complex legal jargon of end-user licence agreements, obscured by the familiar terminology of “buying”.The Conversation

Rebecca Mardon, Lecturer in Marketing, Cardiff University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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What Cape Town’s drought can teach other cities about climate adaptation

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Lessons learned from the threat of Cape Town’s “Day Zero.”

Gina Ziervogel, University of Cape Town

Extreme weather events, such as Cyclone Idai that has recently devastated Beira, Mozambique, and Hurricane Harvey that hit Houston, USA, in 2017
are the types of climate extremes that cities increasingly have to prepare for.

Cities, particularly those with extensive informal settlements in the developing world, are being hit hard by these new climatic realities. Although rapid onset disasters often have devastating effects, slow onset climate events, such as drought, can also be detrimental.

Cities need to build their capacity to adapt to this range of impacts. One of the best ways to do this is to learn from other cities’ experiences. Drawing lessons from other places that have gone through climate crises is a good way to guard against future shocks and stresses.

One very recent case that cities around the world are watching is Cape Town’s severe drought and the threat of “Day Zero” – when the city’s taps were due to run dry. Although the city came close to having to turn off the taps, they managed to avoid it. After better rains in 2018 and a significant reduction in water use across the city, the dams are now reassuringly fuller than they were in 2017 and 2018, although caution is still needed ahead of the winter rains.

A lot has changed and it’s important to reflect on this, and share.

I conducted research to establish some key lessons to be drawn from the Cape Town drought. I found that local governments must focus on several important areas if they’re to strengthen urban water resilience and adapt better to climate risk. These include improving data collection and communication, engaging with experts and enabling flexible adaptive decision making.

And, crucially, I found that governance must be strengthened. Although three years of low rainfall lead to very low dam levels, there were breakdowns in the interaction between the national, provincial and municipal government that exacerbated the problem.

The findings

The research suggests that effective water management requires systems of mutual accountability between spheres of municipal, provincial and national government.

In South Africa, the national Department of Water and Sanitation is responsible for ensuring that there’s sufficient bulk water available, often in dams, that can be transferred to municipalities. The municipalities are then mandated to provide clean drinking water. This means that intergovernmental coordination across the spheres of government is vital.

As it stands, different spheres’ mandates overlap. This creates confusion and means the buck is often passed: one sphere of government will insist a particular competency isn’t its job, and hand the work on to another sphere.

For this to be resolved there has to be clarity on shared responsibilities and roles, as well as the development of mutual accountability. To achieve this, technical skills, personal and institutional relations need to be strengthened. This requires strong leadership.

Collaboration within municipal departments also needs to improve. The Cape Town drought highlighted the importance of this. Before 2017, there was limited collaboration between city departments on water issues. During the drought, however, the collaboration between certain departments increased considerably as the complexity of the crisis became clear.

Not only is collaboration within government important, but it also needs to extend beyond the government. During a crisis, all of society needs to be engaged, including citizens and the business sector. Technical expertise needs to be balanced with opportunities for a broader group to share its perspectives and concerns. Partnerships can help gather the range of perspectives and support needed to respond to complex problems.

Municipalities which, during the course of their normal business activities, have developed strong relationships with their stakeholders, will be better placed to respond effectively to a crisis. That’s because they will be able to harness stakeholders’ collective knowledge and contributions more easily.

In Nelson Mandela Bay, the Business Chamber has done this by strengthening relations with the municipality to help to facilitate the ease of doing business in the city. They recognise that all businesses require electricity, water, transport, and logistics, for example, and so focus on improving these areas. The municipality developed task teams made up of volunteers from their member companies who have skills set in those areas.

Importantly, there is an agreement that the Metro places high-level executives to sit in the task team meetings to ensure plans are put into practice. These types of relationships can be invaluable during a crisis.

Moving forward

While my study focused on Cape Town, its findings can be applied to other cities that want to strengthen their ability to adapt to climate change. Yes, cities need to pay more attention to how climate variability impacts on their resources, particularly water. But just as important is strengthening the governance of the water system. A well-adapted city is one that understands who is responsible for what and has strong trust and partnerships between and within the government.

In order to build capacity to adapt, new types of skills are needed. Local government needs to pay more attention to how to build partnerships, enable flexibility and support learning. These are the types of skills needed for a well-adapted city, but are still often lacking in local governments.The Conversation

Gina Ziervogel, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental and Geographical Science and African Climate and Development Initiative Research Chair, University of Cape Town

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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