74 episodes

An open conversation addressing contemporary city building and spatial transformation issues in South Africa.

Talking Transformation Pete Ahmad

    • Society & Culture

An open conversation addressing contemporary city building and spatial transformation issues in South Africa.

    TTPod 2.8: Desire Line on the Horizon - In Conversation with Nicolaas Louw

    TTPod 2.8: Desire Line on the Horizon - In Conversation with Nicolaas Louw

    I visited Ireland for the first time, earlier this month of July 2022. The countryside was as beautiful as I’d imagined and the cities, towns and hamlets full of history and aesthetic beauty. It really is a magical isle with a rich and troubled history, warm people and the home of U2 – rich talent and treasures abound!
    The visit provided a chance to catch up and reflect with one of my closest colleagues and earliest friends in planning – Nicolaas Louw. He and I worked together in the newly reframed Gauteng Department of Development Planning and Local Government under the maverick leadership of a young MEC, Sicelo Shiceka between 1996 and 2000.
    I learned so much from Nicolaas, a young planner himself, still cutting his teeth, but with a couple of years on me in terms of experience. He was undoubtedly one of the biggest influences on my career. At the time it was just an exciting time and pleasure to work with him and others. He took the time to help me with projects and language difficulties and to understand the complexities of a bureaucracy of provincial government.
    I entered this space as a planner with extremely limited experience and no practical understanding of the challenges I would face. Nicolaas was a big part of helping me grow and adapt in a period of Land Development Objectives, (LDOs) – a forerunner to the IDP and SDFs, the Masakhane a socio-political campaign that sought to promote civic responsibility. encourage communities to pay for services and the spirit of ubuntu. This was all against the backdrop of the Reconstruction and Development Programme.
    For a young and naive planner from the UK it was the opportunity to kick on a define a new life and career here in South Africa. Without the support and encouragement of Nicolaas and others, that simply would have not been possible.
    Nicolaas would leave South African in 2002 and this was the first real opportunity I’ve had to discuss his work and personal transformation in Ireland. His journey is a testimonial to his effort and commitment to the profession and communities he serves. In the podcast he touches on the challenges of balancing common issues such as increasing population growth and responding to COVID and more delicate and parochial issues of supporting and maintaining mediaeval buildings and heritage sites with the demands for progress and growth. I hope you’ll enjoy Nicolaas' reflections and approaches he describes.
    Recorded 14th July 2022

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    • 37 min
    TTPod 2.7: "After the Flood" - Community Responses to the KZN 2022 Floods with Ranyaka's Andile Wafa and Guy Campbell

    TTPod 2.7: "After the Flood" - Community Responses to the KZN 2022 Floods with Ranyaka's Andile Wafa and Guy Campbell

    In this episode of the Talking Transformation Podcast, we revisit the South African Province of KwaZulu-Natal and consider relief efforts in support of the severe flooding and landslides that took place there in April of 2022. 
    The flooding led to more than 400 deaths and thousands more people went missing. More than 4,000 houses are estimated to have been destroyed and 8,000 estimated to have been damaged, particularly in and around the Durban city and surrounding areas.
    There was also massive damage to infrastructure, roads, health centres, schools, much of the infrastructure, significantly damaged by the flooding. There was an urgent need for basics across communities: for food, clean water, medicine and hygiene packs. Our guests are Andile Wafa and Guy Campbell from Ranyaka, one of the organisations that provided relief, support and logistics in responding to the NGO coordination efforts. 
    We recorded this in Salt Rock KZN, a little more than two months after the events. It is a difficult episode to engage with because of the circumstances that both Andile and Guy were involved in and witnessed, first hand.
    It also brings home the scale of the challenges not only in terms of the relief efforts, but also the rebuilding efforts that will continue on from this point. 
    Recorded 9th June 2022.

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    • 31 min
    TTPod 2.6: "On the Receiving End" - South Africans Supporting the Ukraine Refugee and Relief Efforts in Europe - with Diane Arvanitakis and Jan de Bruin

    TTPod 2.6: "On the Receiving End" - South Africans Supporting the Ukraine Refugee and Relief Efforts in Europe - with Diane Arvanitakis and Jan de Bruin

    In today’s TTPod episode we look across continents and the Ukrainian conflict. The episode tries to consider the challenges and support being rendered via the reflection of two South Africans currently based in Europe. In the last months, the world’s media has focused in on the Ukraine and the untold suffering endured by the communities and cities affected by Russian military activity in the Ukraine. 

    For every action, there is a re-action and, one major driver of transformation of communities and cities - in the most negative way imaginable - is via war.  At the time of recording, Reuters news agency estimates that more than 15 million people have been displaced from their homes. More than 2,500 buildings have been destroyed and the costs in pure property dame is estimated to exceed $600billion. 

    This episode looks north to two European cities – Munich in Germany and on the eastern border of Poland, Rzeszow that are directly absorbing the impact of the Russian actions in the Ukraine as refugees – predominantly women and children – flee their homes and communities for the safety of the west. I had wanted to understand how these challenges are playing out and reached out to two friends and colleagues who are directly working with the refugees in those cities: Diana Arvanitakis is located in Munich and Jan de Bruin in Rzeszow. 

    Both are South African’s working abroad and you’ll hear from both how they came to be working in this space and what challenges the displaced communities face.  What I can tell you from the outset is that Diane helped me re-assess my own goals and objectives as a planner – learning from her practical means of using urban design to shape transformation initiatives. Her CV is rich with practical and academic experience in some of South Africa’s most innovative spaces. Likewise, Jan has a CV that illustrates a practical and wide-reaching experience of disaster and relief coordination in some of the most challenging environments of the last two decade – South Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq and war-torn Sri Lanka before and after the devasting tsunami – Jan’s experience and commitment to serving the communities most in need are truly inspiring. I wanted to hear from them, their experiences and the realities being faced by the refugees and beyond that how the scale of the out-migration is impacting on the receiving cities. In the trauma and tragedy are strong messages of hope, courage and resilience from all parties involved.  I am deeply indebted to both for the time and willingness to discuss these issues with me and I hope they will highlight the challenges faced by the refugees and the laudable work Diane and Jan are engaged in. 

    Find out more about Diane's work and organisation via: https://nfp-muc.org/ 

    Medair NGO's details can be found via medair.org

    Recorded June 16th 2022


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    • 52 min
    TTPod 2.5: Partnerships & Transitions in Pursuit of Community Transformation - with Ranyaka NPO's William Bila and Johan Olivier

    TTPod 2.5: Partnerships & Transitions in Pursuit of Community Transformation - with Ranyaka NPO's William Bila and Johan Olivier

    In this TTPod episode we look at a community building initiative that has grown from humble beginnings and now reaches and engages with communities in over 20 towns across the country. The Ranyaka Community Transformation Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) has grown partnerships with communities and corporate South Africa to champion a transformation methodology and opportunities afforded to communities in need. These partnerships are complementing the efforts, resources and planning of the municipalities and suggests a model of intervention and collaboration that could prove invaluable for many more towns and communities in the future.
    Having joined the Ranyaka professional team in April, I wanted to better understand the foundations of Ranyaka: what differentiates it from other community partnerships and how it aids, not hinders, the formal processes of municipalities and what the potential is for sustainable growth and replication across the country?
    The name Ranyaka translates to “pursue” and that seems an apt and worthy name for an initiative where everyone I’ve met via the NGO has pursued their own remarkable transformation story to tell - each worthy of a TTPod episode!
    The conversation is as much an opportunity for me to tune into the genesis story, aspirations and achievements of Ranyaka and the communities it serves. 
    To understand the journey, I am joined by Board Chair William Bila and Executive Officer Johan Olivier. I worked with both Johan and William in 2003 when I was cutting my teeth with the City of Johannesburg. They taught me so much then about the needs and demands of planning and community engagement it will be a fascinating conversation to understand their journey over the last two decades and how they’ve adapted their engagement and planning skills to these new demands.
    Recorded Thursday 9th June 2022 in KZN

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    • 46 min
    TTPod 2.4: "Free-wheeling" – Reshaping places and equity through our streets and spaces: A Conversation with Open Streets MD: Kirsten Wilkins

    TTPod 2.4: "Free-wheeling" – Reshaping places and equity through our streets and spaces: A Conversation with Open Streets MD: Kirsten Wilkins

    I’ve been wanting to speak with Open Streets (https://openstreets.org.za/) even prior to this podcast launching in mid-2019. 
    Most listening to this podcast would have some idea of the Open Streets initiative but let me not assume that IS the case: Open Streets is a citizen-driven collective, working towards improving the equitable design and use of public space and streets for all users. It was founded in 2012 by a group of volunteers committed to a more equitable, integrated, safer and vibrant Cape Town. The very premise of spatial transformation and equity of enhancing spaces and linking places is entrenched in their efforts.
    Even during the Covid period the OS team was looking for avenues and approaches to embrace community mobilisation and the activation of streets and public spaces – frequently with the ambition of a temporary a car-free day and activities. Nyanga, Mitchells Plain, the CBD, are a handful of the initiatives OS have driven in addition to advocacy routes in Bike2Work and other non-motorized transport initiatives.
    Today I am delighted and privileged to discuss the work and achievements of Open Streets to date with Managing Director of the organisation, Kirsten Wilkins. An experienced Urban Designer by trade Kirsten epitomises the values and credo of the organisation. You can only be caught up in the passion she has for cycling, spatial and mobility justice and making safer spaces for people to feel they belong. As we approach World Bicycle Day on June 3rd, I wanted to finally add the Open Streets story to the TTPod archive, and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to get this episode recorded and story told. As always, I hope you enjoy the episode.
    This episode is for you Marco Gerretto…
    Recorded Monday 23rd May

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    • 40 min
    TTPod 2.3 Changing the narrative – Storytelling and graphic novels conveying the history and future of communities and cities

    TTPod 2.3 Changing the narrative – Storytelling and graphic novels conveying the history and future of communities and cities

    This podcast episode is markedly different from the more routine Talking Transformation “script” and speaks to two graphic illustrators, Nathan Trantraal and Julia Louise Pereira from South Africa and Canada respectively. Both have used their talent to tell stories about factors that have shaped or are currently shaping or cities and communities.

    I’ve been wanting to have this discussion since coming across the internationally acclaimed: Crossroads I Live Where I Like: A Graphic History publication (https://jacana.co.za/product/crossroads/). It’s a non-fictional cartoon strip set in 1970’s South Africa - that tells the powerful and moving story of the women-led resistance to apartheid laws, planning principles and community rhetoric of the time. To understand Crossroads in Cape Town you can begin to understand the trauma and legacy of apartheid in South Africa and the role and bravery women played in shaping and fighting the authorities. The story embodies the mantra: “You Strike a Woman, You Strike a Rock / Wathint' Abafazi, Wathint' Imbokotho”.

    Nathan Trantraal is one half of the two Trantraal brothers who illustrated the book. He is a poet, cartoonists, writer and and translator, currently lecturing in School of Languages at Rhodes University on this very subject of the graphic novel.

    I’m very much looking forward to understanding the genesis of the project, how the book was received locally and internationally and the importance of the medium in the age of social media and attention deficit that we frequently seem to be caught up in.

    The inspiring Julia Louise Pereira (https://julialouisepereira.com/) is based in Toronto, Canada. Her recent comic strip in the UK’s Guardian tackled the subject of climate change in cities and what has been done and what can be done to address this global crisis via small-scale and larger city building initiatives. Her comic strip “Cities need to be redesigned for the climate crisis. Can they make us happy, too?”, resonated by reflecting on actual families affected by Hurricanes Ida and Sandy. The point hammered home is that – like with so many urban issues – the impacts and worst of the effects are borne by the most disadvantaged communities.

    As her comic strip suggests: “it’s tempting to design a city by drawing lines on a map. But that ignores what cities are for. To serve the people who live there.” The strip raises the issue of cultural identity, sense of place and belonging and in a clear and precise graphical form illustrated issues of redlining, physical buffers between communities. It’s a masterclass in demonstrating the multiple agendas and challenges faced by cities and the approaches from small “pinprick” interventions to grander city building initiatives.

    Both the South African and American case studies use real people, telling their stories to frame the graphics and storyline. They are inspiring and informative means of digesting the complexities and in many instances traumatic stories. I hope you enjoy their reflections and message in this episode.

    Recorded 22nd May, 2022


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    • 49 min

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