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  • What3Words and Gateway Are Creating A Safer Community

    KwaNdengezi, outside Durban, is a community of 54,000. It is a collection of brick buildings and self-built homes of zinc sheeting, recycled bricks and wood. What roads do exist do not have names and unless you live in the sprawling 14km² township, it is easy to get lost.

    Thembinkosi Lesley Dladla, an Emergency Management Rescue Services (EMRS) shift supervisor, explained: “As an EMRS [officer], my work doesn’t have any boundaries – we work the whole of Durban. It’s very difficult in the townships, because they don’t have road names written, and they also don’t have house numbers.”

    Ambulances can take hours to reach patients. Often a whole day will pass before an ambulance can find patients. They, as well as community health workers, have to rely on residents to give them directions.

    For the community, descriptive directions are the easiest ways to navigate the chaotic streets of the township.

    Take the directions Dladla gave to the Gateway blog, for example: “Take a left at the church, then right at the school and it’s a red door.” These can be misunderstood or misremembered, require detailed local knowledge and take a long time to explain. There are also no street lights, so using landmarks to find your way is almost impossible at night.

    Gateway and what3words

    A local health NGO, Gateway Health Institute, is piloting a project in KwaNdengezi that will map the entire township. For the first time residents will have an address they can use when calling for medical help.

    The NGO is using what3words, a global online mapping system, to create unique addresses for the township. The system breaks the globe into a grid of 57 trillion 3m x 3m squares. Each has a pre-assigned and fixed three-word address.

    Gateway’s fieldworkers helped residents identify their locations on a satellite map and then printed their three-word addresses on plastic signs that were attached to their homes. The addresses are registered in a database, and the NGO is able to identify what medical services are needed where. The mapping service has helped to increase the number of pregnant women receiving home visit antenatal care. When medical help is needed it can be dispatched to a mapped location and ambulance crews know where to go to provide life-saving assistance.

    Beyond providing addresses to homes in KwaNdengezi, Gateway is also mapping community assets such as local government centres, clinics and pumps that provide clean drinking water. The aim is to build a detailed map for the residents that can be used by businesses and the government to improve the lives of the community.

    The project was begun by Dr Coenie Louw, founder and director of Gateway. “For those living in informal settlements and rural areas, ‘location’ presents the biggest challenge in providing health services and products. In these areas demand is high but delivery is poor. What3words changes all that. By providing every property with a unique address, residents now have a simple and reliable way to identify their homes.”

    Addressing a problem

    Gateway runs community health services in disadvantaged communities across the country. The most important medical services it offers are delivery of medicines and emergency transport for women in labour: 50% of births in KwaNdengezi take place at home; before the project began an ambulance could take up to four hours to reach a woman in distress.

    At first, Louw tried using phone masts to triangulate locations but he found that location could be up to 3km from a person needing assistance. “I spent two years trying to find a way to actually pinpoint the location of a pregnant woman in distress.”

    What3words is the perfect solution, which Louw found while doing internet research. A three-word address is perfect in areas such as KwaNdengezi because it is easy to remember and simple to share via message or SMS. What3words uses USSD technology and is a free download to any phone. It also works even if the resident does not have available data.

    Chris Sheldrick, CEO and co-founder of what3words told Gateway: “Helping them [Gateway] to overcome one of their most fundamental barriers for delivering these services is something we’re very proud of.

    Addressing these communities is the first step to improving their economic and social development, and indeed to changing lives.”

    The project is also being used to alleviate unemployment in the township — 11 previously unemployed youngsters were trained as fieldworkers to help residents identify their addresses and to help load location and health information on Gateway’s database.

    How what3words works

    The system is available in 14 languages and is used in 170 countries by NGOs, government services and businesses. In essence, every centimetre of the globe has a unique address that is easier to remember and communicate, is more accurate and is simpler to use than directions based on landmarks.

    marginal.cabin.gearbox is the what3words address for the Brand South Africa office. Neighbouring The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, a short walk away, is senior.blinks.punk. Similar word combinations are not placed close to each other. If you spell a word incorrectly, the system will give you suggestions for the best possible location.

    An estimated 4 billion people have no address. For these people it is impossible to open a bank account or get deliveries or, as in the case of the residents of KwaNdengezi, be reached in an emergency.
    What3words is designed to improve the lives of these people.

    • This article was written by Sulaiman Philip. This article was first published on Brand South Africa.

    Photo courtesy: What3words



  • Why Title Deeds Aren’t the Solution to South Africa’s Land Tenure Problem

    The conventional view is that insecurity of land tenure results from the lack of a registered title deed which records the property rights of occupants of land or housing. Across Africa, many governments and international development agencies are promoting large-scale land titling as the solution.

    In the South African context, some commentators suggest that a key legacy of the apartheid past is the continued tenure insecurity of the third of the population who live in “communal areas”, under unelected chiefs or of traditional councils. The remedy, they suggest, is simple: extend the system of title deeds to all South Africans.

    We have just published a book which disputes this view. Untitled. Securing land tenure in urban and rural South Africa contains case studies of a wide range of land tenure systems found in different parts of the country. These include informal settlements, inner city buildings in Johannesburg, “deep rural” communal systems, land reform projects, and examples of systems of freehold rights held by black South Africans since the 19th century.

    With the exception of systems of freehold rights, most people who occupy land or dwellings in these areas are “untitled”, and occupy land or dwellings under a very different kind of property regime. We term these social or off-register tenures.

    But we argue that, fundamentally, South Africans need to question the assumption that the sole solution to the problem of tenure insecurity is a system of title deeds. Alternative approaches are needed, which we set out to explore.

    Social tenures

    The book offers an analysis of social tenures, which are regulated by a different logic and set of norms than those underpinning private property. Such tenures are diverse but share some key features. As is the case across the developing world, including Africa, land tenure is directly embedded in social identities and relations.

    Rights are often shared and overlapping in character and generally derive from accepted membership of a community or kinship group. Processes of land allocation and dispute resolution are overseen by local institutional structures.

    In these contexts, decisions are often informed by norms and values that stress the importance of reciprocal social relationships rather than buying power as the basis for land allocation. They involve flexible processes of asserting, negotiating and defending land rights, rather than the enforcement of legally defined rules.

    It’s estimated that in 2011 some 1.5 million people lived in low-cost dwellings provided to the poor by government’s, so-called “Reconstruction and Development Programme” (RDP) houses, with inaccurate or outdated titles, in most cases due to transfers outside of the formal system.
     
    Another 5 million lived in RDP houses where no titles had yet been issued due to systemic inefficiencies. Along with 1.9 million people in backyard shacks, 2 million on commercial farms, and 17 million in communal areas, this means that in that year around 30 million people, nearly 60% of all South Africans, lived on land or in dwellings held outside of the land titling system.

    The edifice of title deeds

    The book contrasts social tenures with the conventional system of title deeds, which constitutes a key element of an imposing “edifice”. The current system of rates, services and processes of development assumes that land tenure equals a surveyed plot with a singular registered owner, which may be persons or corporate bodies.

    The system is serviced by a Deeds Registry, private sector surveyors and conveyancers, as well as municipal officials, all governed by a range of laws and regulations in a complex and interlocking manner.

    One key problem facing those in social tenures is the discrimination they suffer at the hands of the state and the private sector. Despite some protection under laws such as the Interim Protection of Informal Land Rights Act of 1996, people living in social tenures are severely disadvantaged. They may have to go to court to have their rights legally enforced, but most cannot afford to do so.

    Development and land use planning, public investment and service delivery are constrained under these systems of tenure. Elite capture or abuse by unaccountable leaders can also take place, as in communal areas where minerals are found and chiefs and councils enter into business deals with mining companies that benefit only a few.

    Titling enthusiasts argue that another problem with social tenures is the fact that banks do not accept untitled land or dwellings as security for bank loans. This constrains the poor from borrowing capital to invest in businesses of their own. But research indicates that few of the poor are willing to risk their homes in this way, since small enterprises often fail.

    Tenure reform policy options

    How then to proceed with pro-poor tenure reform? Our research indicates that it is not realistic to extend land titling to all; the system may be at breaking point, and is inadequate even for the emerging middle class.

    Another option is to adapt elements of the edifice to provide a degree of official and legal recognition of rights within social tenures. Lawyers and planners working with communities and officials have developed a range of innovative practices, concepts and instruments aimed at securing such rights in an incremental manner. This includes special land use zones, recognising occupation rights in informal settlements, and recording rights using locally accepted forms of evidence.

    A third option is a more radical overhaul of land tenure, leading to systematic recognition of and large scale support for social tenures. This would involve stronger laws protecting rights holders, an adjudication system that allows new forms of evidence to be considered in determining who holds rights, and new institutions for negotiating, recording and registering rights under social tenures. The system could include the office of a Land Rights Protector.

    We believe that these alternatives all pose their own challenges. But we also believe that pursuing alternatives to a system of title deeds is not an impossible task.

    The book was co-authored with Dona Hornby, a post-doctoral student at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape; Rosalie Kingwill, at the institute and Lauren Royston, a researcher at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute.

    • This article was written by Ben Cousins. This article first appeared on The Conversation.

    Photo courtesy: Flickr
     



  • Sierra Leone Plea as Mudslide Toll Rises

    Sierra Leone needs "urgent support" for thousands of people hit by mudslides and massive flooding in the capital, the country's president says.

    Ernest Bai Koroma said entire communities had been wiped out and that the "devastation was overwhelming us".

    Nearly 400 people have been killed and hundreds more are missing after muddy rubble swept through the Regent area near the capital, Freetown, on Monday.

    A mass burial of victims is planned to free up space in mortuaries.

    Dozens more bodies were discovered on Tuesday as rescue efforts to recover people from destroyed houses in the area continue.

    To read the article titled, "Sierra Leone mudslides: Urgent plea for help as death toll rises" click here.

    Source: 
    BBC


  • Zambian Opposition Leader Goes on Trial for Treason

    Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema is set to stand trial for treason on Wednesday in a case that threatens to rock a country known for its relative stability.

    Hichilema, leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND), has been in custody since April over an incident where he allegedly failed to give way to President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade.

    Lungu, who narrowly beat Hichilema in last year’s presidential election, has dismissed allegations of growing authoritarianism and has accused his rivals of trying to overturn the election result.

    Hichilema and five aides denied the treason charges at a plea hearing on Monday where police officers in riot gear had sealed off the court precinct as scores of UPND supporters waited outside.

    Foreign journalists were barred from proceedings.

    To read the article titled, "Zambian opposition leader goes on trial for treason" click here.

    Source: 
    SowetanLive


  • Kenya Moves Against NGOs

    Kenya's government moved to shut down two rights organisations who said Tuesday they had been contemplating court action over last week's disputed presidential election.

    On Tuesday morning, the interior ministry's NGO Board asked police to shut down the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) and arrest its members.

    Already late on Monday, the NGO Board said it was withdrawing the registration of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) over alleged irregularities.

    KHRC board member Maina Kiai said on Tuesday it was "no secret" they had been considering lodging a complaint at the Supreme Court over "inconsistencies" in the election process.

    To read the article titled, "Kenya moves against NGOs mulling legal action over election" click here.

    Source: 
    News24