Sunday, August 30, 2009

BRT Opens in Johannesburg

Johannesburg's bus rapid transit system has begun operations, becoming the first BRT system to open in South Africa. With dedicated bus lanes, the system is expected to improve public transit in the populous city, which had heretofore relied on the operation of minibuses and taxis. The taxi industry is still upset about the system, fearing it will steal jobs from taxi drivers. A planned strike had been called off, but taxi officials have not ruled out retaliatory action.

The bus service runs from Soweto, the biggest township in South Africa, to Johannesburg city centre and some of the stadiums that will feature in the 2010 World Cup.

World soccer governing body FIFA has flagged public transport, severely neglected during decades of apartheid rule, as a key challenge South Africa needs to overcome as it prepares to host next year's World Cup tournament.

S.Africa launches transport system ahead of 2010
August 30, 2009

Taxi Officials Call Off Strike Hours Before BRT Launch

Officials from the taxi industry have, for the second time in two days, called off a planned nationwide strike of taxi workers to protest the opening of the nation's first bus rapid transit system in Johannesburg. The call came just hours before a ceremonial launch of the system on Sunday.

The industry had threatened to begin a strike on Tuesday in protest at the Rea Vaya pilot route of the BRT, which, they say, could have a direct and negative impact on their livelihoods. They claim to have been insufficiently consulted about the route by the city's authorities.

However, during an eleventh-hour meeting on the East Rand, some 50 executive members of the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco), lobby group United Taxi Association Forum (UTAF), and other members of the industry have agreed to negotiate rather than strike - for now, at least.

Taxi industry backs off strike action again
The Sunday Independent
August 30, 2009

Polokwane - The Quiet Host City

This piece from The Guardian takes a look inside Polokwane, one of the host cities of the 2010 World Cup -- and one that is likely low on the must-see lists of tourists.

"You are the only guest," smiled one of several waiters competing to sweep my plate away. This, after all, was Polokwane, a sleepy city at the opposite corner of South Africa from Cape Town – and at the opposite end of most tourists' to-do lists.

...Yet there, not too far away on the horizon, was one of the host stadiums for next year's football World Cup, probably the biggest international event in Polokwane since the Anglo-Boer war.

Beautiful game-watching in the World Cup city of Polokwane
The Guardian
August 27, 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Gauteng Officials Say BRT Will Open As Expected

Nomvula Mokonyane, premier of Gauteng Province has vowed to ensure the new bus rapid transit system in Johannesburg will open as expected, despite threats of taxi strikes in an effort to block the system's opening August 31.

Premier Mokonyane said the city authorities will not bow to the threats. "We want to assure the people of Gauteng that we are determined to protect them. Law enforcement authorities will stand ready to deal with any disruptions that may occur," Ms Mokonyane said, while addressing reporters at one of the BRT stations in Ellis Park.

"No permission has been sought for the strike and any public gathering that seeks to undermine the process (BRT launch) will be dealt with," Premier Mokonyane added. She said the City of Johannesburg will also oppose any legal action by taxi operators to block the launch of the BRT.

South Africa: Joburg Ready to Launch BRT - Mokonyane
Bua News
August 27, 2009

Political and Trade Groups Voice Opposition to Taxi Strike

The Gauteng branch of the African National Congress, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the SA Communist Party have come out in opposition to a planned strike by a national taxi drivers union upon the launch of a bus rapid transit system in Johannesburg.

The alliance acknowledged the right of citizens to protest peacefully but called on the taxi industry to respect the rights of citizens who support the BRT system.

"We also call on the government to ensure that law enforcement agencies protect ordinary citizens on the day of the strike," said David Makhura, African National Congress secretary in Gauteng.

Taxi strike slammed
Independent Online
August 26, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Commuters Seek Seat at Taxi Strike Negotiating Table

Organizations representing commuters in favor of the new bus rapid transit systems under development in South Africa have requested a seat at the negotiating table with the government and the taxi industry. They are opposed to the planned strike by workers from the National Taxi Association.

On Saturday, they elected 40 people to participate in the national joint working group set up by President Jacob Zuma.

...The organisations are the SA National Civic Organisation, the SA Commuters Organisation, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union, the National Economic Development and Labour Council, the Gauteng Commuters Organisation, the SA Disability Alliance and Cosatu.

The group says the taxi industry should not go on strike without consulting the public.

Commuter groups enter taxi strike fray
The Star
August 24, 2009

We're Not 'Africa's Party City', Says Cape Town Business Leader

Cape Town has mistakenly been branded "Africa's party capital", according to Guy Lundy, the chief executive of Accelerate Cape Town, a private sector group made up of Cape Town business interests. He says the city needs to refocus its branding efforts to make the city more appealing to business interests and more viable in the long run.

Speaking at the bi-weekly 2010 lecture series last week, Lundy said the city needed more co-ordination and a consistent message to attract more business visitors in 2010.

He described the city's initial 2010 marketing strategy, which branded Cape Town as Africa's party capital, a disaster and said the city could learn a thing or two from the country's other host cities.

Cape Town not Ibiza - Lundy
Cape Argus
August 24, 2009

Western Cape Metrorail Strike Fades

Though no formal agreement has been reached, Metrorail workers are returning to their trains one week after instituting a strike. Workers had gradually returned to work over the course of the strike, though union officials are still trying to push forward wage negotiations.

When the strike began last Monday, train services in the Western Cape were reduced to 30 percent of its 679 daily trips, but waned after three days as some United Transport and Allied Trade Union (Utatu) members returned to work.

...Utatu demanded an 8 percent increase effective from April 1, a further 2 percent in September and an 8 percent increase in the housing subsidy and medical aid. Metrorail has offered 8 percent across the board. The minimum monthly salary is R5 000.

Metrorail transports about 600 000 passengers daily. About 1 000 of Utatu's 2 500 members at Metrorail are based in the Western Cape.

Metrorail strike fizzles out
Cape Times
August 24. 2009

BRT System Threatened by Strikes and Legal Action

As it closes in on its planned opening day, South Africa's first bus rapid transit system in Johannesburg could be marred by legal action and taxi strikes. A nationwide strike is being organized by the South African National Taxi Council, while an arm of the United Taxi Association Forum is seeking a court intervention to stop the system from opening.

The scheduled launch of Rea Vaya - billed as the nation's debut BRT project - on August 31 could be stopped by a court interdict being sought by Doldotha Taxi Association, a member of the United Taxi Association Forum, formed by various taxi associations in Gauteng and Polokwane.

...Philip Taaibosch, the secretary-general of Santaco, said the industry was angry that the government had also gone back on its word regarding an undertaking made at the national joint working group established by President Jacob Zuma.

A short left to BRT from the taxis
The Sunday Independent
August 23, 2009

Commuters Back BRT

Commuter representatives are backing the government's implementation of a bus rapid transit system in Johannesburg, despite continued complaints from taxi union officials.

"We disagree with the threats made against the implementation of the BRT systems as we understand the importance of the implementation of the BRT project and [Fifa World Cup] 2010 guarantees given by the country to the LOC [Local Organising Committee]," said Dumisani Mthalane of the SA National Civic Organisation in a statement.

Government, he said should have included commuter representatives in negotiations concerning the BRT as they were the most affected.

'BRT will better lives of commuters'
The Independent Online
August 23, 2009

Taxi Industry Vows Strike When Jo'burg BRT Opens

The SA National Taxi Council plans to hold nationwide strikes beginning September 1, the day after Johannesburg's bus rapid transit system is set to begin operations. Taxi officials have been upset about not being included more in the planning process for the broad new system.

Despite negotiations not yet being concluded, the City of Johannesburg was rigidly committed to putting the BRT on line as scheduled, said Santaco secretary-general Philip Taaibosch.

"But even more frightfully, the city does this despite the flaws that exist in the business model of the BRT project...," said Taaibosch.

The government set up a National Joint Working Committee to deal with taxi operators' issues after an outcry over BRT by the taxi industry.

Taxis vow to put brakes on BRT
The Independent Online
August 21, 2009

Durban Eyes Future as Tourist Mecca, Olympics Host

The port city if Durban is hoping to use the World Cup as a catalyst towards a future as a major tourist destination within South Africa, as well as the African center for sports and entertainment. Durban officials also have their sights on hosting the Olympics.

Intensely competitive with the more famous tourist mecca of Cape Town along the coast, Durban is pulling out all the stops to ensure nobody forgets it when the soccer World Cup is over.

Grimier but also more African than sophisticated, Europeanised Cape Town, Durban - which will host seven matches including a semi-final - markets itself on its miles of sandy beaches and the year-round warm weather that makes it a winter playground for South Africans.

Durban's ambition exceeds World Cup
August 14, 2009

FIFA Calls for Revision of 2010 Security Bill

A bill moving through the South African legislature seeking to codify how cities should prepare their security systems during the World Cup has prompted opposition from FIFA. The organization responded to an older version of the bill because of the stringent requirements of the bill.

The world soccer body was responding to an earlier version of the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Bill which contains stringent provisions regarding safety at major sports events in the country.

This version of the bill makes provision for emergency helicopters to be stationed at big match events complete with a landing pad outside stadiums; a fully equipped ambulance for every 5 000 spectators; 50 police officers for every 1 000 spectators, an operations command made up of law enforcement authorities, event organisers, emergency services etc at every game; and for a full itinerary of big games to be provided to the police six months in advance.

SA to implement 2010 bill?
Daily News
August 19, 2009

Build a Stadium, Watch a Match

Stadium workers in South Africa are being granted two free tickets to a World Cup match. The move is part of the FIFA World Cup Ticket Fund, an outreach effort to enable some of the country's lowest income residents to attend the event.

Launched on Friday at Walter Sisulu Square in Soweto, the fund will see tickets being allocated through various programmes run by Fifa partners.

Tickets will go to deserving pupils, workers, teachers, parents and community leaders.

Of the 120 000 tickets, 40 000 will go to stadium construction workers, who will be given two tickets each to watch a game at the stadium they helped build.

Stadium workers to get 2010 tickets
The Star
August 15, 2009

Ukraine's 2012 UEFA Cup Hosting in Question

Poland and Ukraine are supposed to host the 2012 UEFA European Cup in 2012, but it seems that preparations are behind schedule in Ukraine, with only 1 host city confirmed. Three other intended host cities have been given until the end of November to show that they can implement the necessary preparations to host the event.

[S]talled preparations for Euro 2012 are shedding an unpleasant light on all of the problems the game and the nation’s infrastructure has there. The necessary work on transportation links, accommodation and stadia is far behind schedule, even with three years to go.

UEFA this month confirmed five cities as hosts for games in 2012, but only one in Ukraine. The Dnipropetrovsk stadium, expensively built, has been dropped from UEFA’s list for 2012 as the 31,003 capacity is curiously just short of the required 33,000 minimum, with no commitment to a temporary capacity increase given.

Euro 2012 in Ukraine in Doubt
Pitch Invasion
August 14, 2009

Western Cape Residents Can Legally Rent Out Homes During Cup

Officials in Cape Town are assuring Western Cape residents that they can legally rent out their homes during the 2010 World Cup.

According to Christel Olivier of a new online property company specialising in finding affordable accommodation for visitors in 2010, all that home owners will need, in order to qualify, is a "livable" house.

Cash in on 2010
The Independent Online
August 14, 2009

Durban Ahead of Schedule

The city of Durban and the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality are moving ahead with their World Cup preparations, with most infrastructure now in place.

The head of strategic and 2010 planning at the eThekwini municipality, Julie-May Ellingson, said there was still much to do. "Focus will now shift from infrastructural works to operational activities and post-2010 planning."

Steve Middelton, deputy chief of the unit, said security planning was virtually done.

"We are taking our strategies, analysing them and developing tactical plans for deployment. We also have to fine tune our tactical planning for the fan park, the beachfront, route protection, and the escorting of VIPs, teams and officials.

"Traffic and bylaw enforcement and crime prevention are ongoing," he said.

2010: 300 days to go, goal is in sight
The Mercury
August 14, 2009

Tshwane on Lookout for Illegal Taxis

The national Department of Transport is calling on law enforcement officials in Tshwane to crack down on illegal and unpermitted minibus taxis.

Last week the department called on provincial and municipal authorities to be on the lookout for the 1 070 or so vehicles it had identified as being converted.

In the market, panel vans are about R45 000 cheaper than taxis.

Dealers buy these vehicles, convert them into taxis and then sell them to operators at the same price as a standard specification taxi to cream off large profits.

While these vehicles are not sub-standard, and could be used by non-public operators or for private use, they are not of the standard required for public transport.

Crackdown on illegal taxis under way
Pretoria News
August 11, 2009

Transit Strike Cripples Cape Town

Minibus taxi drivers and bus drivers went on strike in Cape Town August 12, mainly fueled by members of Satawu, the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union.

The city warned commuters earlier this week that the Western Cape National Taxi Alliance (WC-NTA) had indicated it would be embarking on a strike.

"The city has had several meetings with the Western Cape National Taxi Alliance and has negotiated in good faith to address their concerns which include traffic fines, permits and warrants for arrest," the city said in a statement.

Taxi, bus drivers on strike
The Independent Online
August 12, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

99-Year Lease Signed on Soccer City Stadium

The SA Football Association has signed a 99-year lease on the new Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, taking over operations from the city's department of public works.

[Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile] said the government had initially intended to donate the land. However, Stofile said in the past land grants to sports clubs had been exploited by rugby clubs.

99-year lease signed for Soccer City
Independent Online
August 7, 2009

IRT Plan Not Forced By FIFA, Say Officials

Transportation officials are deflecting allegations that FIFA forced the country to push forward with the integrated rapid transit (IRT) system in time for the World Cup. Though mistakes have been made, the plans are moving forward, according to officials.

Addressing MPs during a portfolio committee meeting in Parliament yesterday, [
Transport director-general Mpumi] Mpofu admitted that the government had failed to "properly consult" with taxi operators before going ahead with plans for the multimillion-rand IRT project.

She said the "the real" consultation process would now begin.

Negotiations had already started between the taxi industry and the government through the National Joint Working Group, she said. The working group was launched by Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele last month to resolve issues related to the implementation of the IRT.

Fifa has no role in new IRT system
Cape Argus
August 6, 2009

Dorms Eyed as Extra Hotel Space

With hotel capacities in question, three Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) campuses will be used to provide budget accommodations in dorm buildings during the World Cup.

[T]he cheapest room is expected to cost R550 (~$68 US) a person a night, including breakfast.

Students described the residences as putrid and unsafe, with "no real security" at hostel entrances at the Bellville and Cape Town campuses.

But varsity management insists its residences would be "perfect" for budget accommodation, and say on-campus security is to be significantly increased for the event.

CPUT to let dorm rooms to 2010 soccer fans
Cape Argus
August 5, 2009

Calls to Privatize South African Airways

Officials are calling for the privatization of South African Airways, which is funded by the national government. Leaders from the Democratic Alliance are pushing for privatization in an effort to reduce costs to the state and improve efficiency.

The official opposition on Tuesday charged that the monopoly the state-owned airlines held was "not healthy" for private sector competition and was costing the state too much.

The government in 2008 bailed out SAA to the tune of R1,6-billion, and the airline company told Parliament in June that it might need another injection of R1,5bn in 2009.

SAA 'costing state too much'
The Star
August 5, 2009

Police Wary of Terror Threat Inspired by Visiting Countries

Police in South Africa are preparing for the possibiliy of terrorist attacks during the World Cup. Officials have said that more than 52,000 police officers would be on duty during the month-long event. Though a threat is not likely, police officials there say international presence of other countries may cause tensions.

"There is no intelligence to suggest there there is any threat of terrorism during the World Cup. South Africa on its own is not a target for terrorism," [Senior Superintendent Vishnu Naidoo, the national police spokesman for the World Cup] said.

But he added that some of the teams taking part, which might include both the United States and England, could be seen as potential targets. "There is the potential that one or two of those countries may import the threat of a terrorism attack into the country," he added.

World Cup police braced for terror attack
August 3, 2009

New Fiber Optic Line Updates Communications in Southern and Eastern Africa

A new 10,500 mile undersea fiber optic cable has become operational in Southern and Eastern Africa. It is only the second fiber optic line to serve the region, where Internet access and communications are plagued by outdated infrastructure.

The cable, built by Seacom, a consortium 75 percent controlled by African investors, is the first of about 10 new undersea connections expected to serve Africa before the middle of next year. The expansion will cost about $2.4 billion and will help connect Africa with Europe, Asia and parts of the Middle East at higher speeds and at lower cost.

Right now, Africa has only one submarine fiber-optic cable: the less efficient SAT-3 cable in Western Africa, owned primarily by Telkom, the South African telecom company, and last updated in 2002. Those with no access to that cable are forced to use expensive and slow satellite links.

New Undersea Cables to Expand Broadband in Africa
The New York Times
August 9, 2009

Many Hurdles in Zimbabwe to Gain Benefit from World Cup

Zimbabwe is hoping to benefit from the upcoming 2010 World Cup in neighboring South Africa, but some analysts say the country's tensions and instability will likely limit the impact of the event.

These hopes are being dashed by the effects of the decade-long economic and political crisis which saw Zimbabwe being regarded in some quarters as a pariah state. Despite concerted efforts by stakeholders in the tourism sector to lure teams and visitors to the Soccer World Cup, the industry is still to regain its competitiveness that would enable it to lure a fair share of the tourist traffic come June 2010.

Analysts told The Financial Gazette this week that the sector is still hamstrung by a plethora of problems which include the unavailability of funds for refurbishments, an unsustainably high country risk, exorbitant prices and the uncertainty that continues to blight the country's body politics.

Zimbabwe: 2010 World Cup - Will This Country Benefit?
Financial Gazette
August 7, 2009