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Dancers in a new film about life after Madonna

(This article was published on 5 June 2016 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper published by Independent Media in Cape Town, Western Cape province.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

When singing superstar Madonna asked Carlton Wilborn to be one of the seven male dancers on her Blonde Ambition tour he had no idea it would be an “evergreen” experience.

That was back in the 1990s when Madonna was seen as leading a revolution, challenging stereotypes and encouraging fans to express themselves.

Los Angeles-based Wilborn’s career as a dancer has expanded to acting in films, TV show presenting, writing an autobiography and working as a life coach.

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Carlton Wilborn is an American dancer who toured with singer Madonna during the 1990s. He is in the film Strike A Pose which tells the story seven male dancers who toured with Madonna. PICTURE: YAZEED KAMALDIEN

He was in Cape Town this week for the premiere of a documentary film, Strike A Pose, about the seven Blonde Ambition dancers.

The film has been screened at film festivals worldwide since its launch earlier this year.

Its South African debut this week was at the Encounters documentary film festival running in Cape Town and Johannesburg until June 12.

Strike A Pose is not the first time that Wilborn and the other dancers have been scrutinised by camera lenses though.

Madonna made a documentary film, Truth Or Dare, a provocative behind-the-scenes insight of the Blonde Ambition tour.

Apart from dissecting Madonna’s intense relationship with her dancers and other staff, it also showed the superstar’s friends visiting her backstage.

“I was very clear at the time that Blonde Ambition was going to be a game changer. I worked with this big artist around the world. We traveled on private jets and had two chefs traveling with us,” recalls Wilborn.

“Little did I know it would be an evergreen experience. It has lived on. Twenty-five years later we get to expand that conversation.

“It is very amazing and I owe so much to Blonde Ambition and being chosen for it. After that, when I talk about the calendar of my experience, it’s been a great ride.”

Wilborn has worked on more than one tour though with Madonna. He says while she may have been perceived as a control freak she was the opposite of that.

“That’s not how she is when you work with her. The way that she deals with you is, ‘Give me more of you’,” he says.

“I have worked with Janet (Jackson), Michael (Jackson) and other A-list artists. They don’t give their dancers the liberty to shine hard with them on the stage.

“Madonna created an eight-minute dance piece for me and she wasn’t even on stage. She’s not as controlling as the persona reads.

“She is very specific about what she likes. She is smart and she has a great eye. I was never intimidated by that.”

Strike A Pose is less of a rollercoaster as it is a more reflective film. Wilborn says it “gets to tell the full embodiment of who we are”.

“I am so grateful for this film and the way that it was done. It gives an authentic, rich scope of how powerful the dancers are,” says Wilborn.

“It reaffirms why Madonna wanted us in the first place. These guys lived and worked from a powerful place. I did not give enough credit to how much of a bond I had with them.”

Wilborn says Strike A Pose “speaks to the power of dance”.

“It’s about what dance does to a soul and how it causes one to see something about themselves through that expression,” says Wilborn.

“It is about the emotional component of dance and how it heals people. Witnessing dance when it is done the right way is a shape shifter.”

The American dancer will soon work between Los Angeles and Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, where he will soon start working on another TV show.

“My world is full. I’m still largely a performer,” says Wilborn.

“Over the last ten years I’ve made most of my money and bought my house as an actor and doing TV shows. I am also a life coach. I’m published twice.

“I’m never in a creative drought. You could put up your jacket and I would probably have a concept about it.”

Wilborn adds: “God will give you one gift. And if you nurture that one gift it will spin out other opportunities. Dance has been a catalyst that has served me.

“Every time I lean into dancing something magical happens. I’ve gotten to meet incredible people because of my dance.”

Strike A Pose will screened at The Labia on June 10 at 8pm and at Ster Kinekor V&A Waterfront on June 10 at 6:30pm.

Zonnebloem: Cape Town’s latest gentrification hotspot

(This article was published on 29 May 2016 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper published by Independent Media in Cape Town, Western Cape province.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Zonnebloem neighbourhood’s working class residents in Springfield Terrace flats feel threatened, claiming estate agents are pushing a new wave of gentrification on central Cape Town’s doorstep.

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Springfield Terraces in Zonnebloem where residents say estate agents are lining up outside their doors to buy their apartments. PICTURE: YAZEED KAMALDIEN

An estate agent working in the area has confirmed buyers are interested, with an offer even coming through from a developer who wanted to buy up one of the nine standing blocks.

For some Zonnebloem residents, the current wave of gentrification feels much like apartheid era forced removals from District Six, just up the road from their homes.

Mary Wentzel, who was born in District Six almost 60 years ago, was forcibly removed from the area when she was a child.

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Mary Wentzel says estate agents have offered her foreign currency for her semi-detached house that vows not to sell. PICTURE: YAZEED KAMALDIEN

Twenty-nine years ago Wentzel bought a flat in Zonnebloem. Now she feels like estate agents and property developers are pressuring them to move and make way for wealthier property owners looking to buy up spaces near the city.

“A few weeks ago an estate phoned and asked if I wanted to sell my house. I said no the rand is not good. And he said he could pay me in dollars,” says Wentzel.

“Estate agents were around here asking people if they want to sell. One agent came to my house and asked if I wanted to sell. I said no. Then he asked me who else he could go to. I said I don’t know.”

Wentzel says it was “mostly foreigners already bought apartments and they rent it out”.

And she is aware of gentrification’s effect in other predominantly working class coloured areas near the city: Bo Kaap, Salt River and lower Woodstock.

“I heard about what happened in Bo Kaap. Rich people are going to buy these houses and then how much will our children have to pay if they want the houses back?” asks Wentzel.

“This area is for our people. District Six was for our people. But people are unemployed and they will jump to sell. They are looking for money. But R1m is not a lot of money.

“I will never go out of here or sell this house. I’m used to living close to town. It will be a huge inconvenience to move. I will stay here until I die.”

Another resident, Berenice Rasdien, says she wants to sell her apartment but will do so only when she finds an alternative ground floor replacement in the area.

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Berenice Rasdien says she will only sell her top-floor apartment if she can buy a ground floor apartment in her Zonnebloem neighbourhood. PICTURE: YAZEED KAMALDIEN

“I’ve got arthritis in both my knees and I cannot do the stairs anymore. That’s the only reason I’m selling. But I don’t want to move out of my area. I will only sell if I can buy another place in Springfield Terrace,” she says.

Rasdien’s sale boards went up after an estate agent came to their area. She says since the start of this year four of her neighbour’s sold and moved out.

Rasdien points out that new buyers are predominantly wealthier and white.

“People do sell a lot because buyers are investing in the area. Opposite the road from me a flat was sold. Semi-detached houses have also been sold. It’s all in this year,” she says.

“A German bought a flat and three other properties were also bought by white people. It’s mostly foreigners who are buying and they rent it out.”

Rasdien says quite a few neighbours – including herself – are resisting though to leave the area.

“Agents are coming to us. They are forever here. They are very visible in our area. They shop for properties,” she says.

“I don’t see the reason why people should sell. They should stay in the city. It’s nice. I love my neighbours.

“We can still look out for each other. And we still walk to town and Woodstock.”

Jarette Petzer, branch manager Beyers Realty Group in Woodstock, says there Springfield Terrace interests buyers “because of its close proximity to the city” and “stock is limited”.

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Jarette Petzer is branch manager at the Beyers Realty Group and says demand for properties near central Cape Town has not slowed down. PICTURE: YAZEED KAMALDIEN

Beyers has a property for sale in the area and also handles a R9 000 rental.

“There’s a huge demand for certain parts of Zonnebloem, like the Springfield Terrace and Justice Walk. There is money to be made. Buyers are interested,” says Petzer.

Beyers is selling properties worth millions in focus areas, namely Woodstock, Salt River and Observatory “which is developing faster” than Zonnebloem, says Petzer.

“The moment we get some decent traction we will push harder in that area (Zonnebloem),” he adds.

Petzer believes property price climbs in even lower Woodstock – a traditionally coloured working class part of the city – is impacting along the corridor close to central Cape Town.

“Woodstock is by far getting the most attention now. Prices have pushed up a lot. We have seen a 40% rise in property prices,” says Petzer.

“It is getting a lot of attention because it looks European. It’s near the city and has views of the habour. Up to 80% of buyers are young professionals and predominantly Afrikaners.

“We have also seen a lot of German and Italian interest. They are all looking for a good deal to break into the market.”

Petzer adds: “As the money rolls in and places are painted, the value is lifting.”

He acknowledges the impact this has on locals.

“We are definitely seeing a trend. A byproduct of a successful property market is that rates go up. That has an adverse effect on people on the breadline. We are seeing a more predominant middle class moving into the area.”

Asa Rajap, admin manager at Beyers, believes residents in working class areas should sell their properties to “step up” and settle in the suburbs, further away from the city centre.

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Asa Rajap from estate agency Beyers Realty Group says Springfield Terraces families who want to improve their lives should sell their apartments. PICTURE: YAZEED KAMALDIEN

“They need to think about making money. You have to move on. You may have to get up at 6am to get to town in the morning. But at least you will live in a nice area,” says Rajap.

She says Springfield Terrace residents have reacted negatively though to the agent’s efforts to seek properties for sale.

“When we sent an agent to door-to-door a lot of the community was unhappy. There were comments about ‘Don’t being the white people in here’,” says Rajap.

“We have a lot of investors interested in the area but the owners don’t want to sell. We can sell their apartment and find them a house in a nice suburb. We are there to get you out of the hole and make your life better.”

 

Yazeed Kamaldien

For almost three decades Faiq Rabin has owned a two-bedroom flat in one of the nine apartment blocks that comprise Springfield Terrace.

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Faiq Rabin is chairman of the body corporate for two Sringfield Terraces blocks and says gentrification in his neighbourhood will push out low-income families. PICTURE: YAZEED KAMALDIEN

It is within walking distance from central Cape Town, making it prime property for developers seeking to gain ground where housing stock and land is limited.

Rabin was born in District Six from where he was evicted under apartheid’s segregationist law, the Group Areas Act.

Years later when Springfield Terrace apartments were built he could move back to the area he once called home.

“I am from central Cape Town and always wanted to live here. Twenty-three years ago I bought a flat here. This is where we want to be and where we want to die. This is our place,” says Rabin.

“The only thing is that it’s becoming expensive to stay here. Foreigners are buying in our area and our municipal accounts are going up.

“These places were built for the lower income group. Now 20 years down the line it doesn’t work that way. With the high rates, we can’t survive.”

Rabin adds: “You can imagine a low-income person whose expenses became double, how does he manage? I am concerned that our people can’t stay here anymore. It won’t be long before we will be moved out.

“With the Group Areas Act they (apartheid government) chucked us out. With this, people don’t realise what is happening. Where will we stay if we can’t afford to live in our houses? We are locals and we can’t afford to stay here.”

Rabin is chairman of a body corporate that manages two of the Springfield Terrace blocks. He says estate agents have approached various flat owners about selling their properties.

“We are getting notices in our letterboxes all the time asking if we are interested to sell. I’m from here and my roots are here. I was not interested to buy to resell when I came to live here.

“These were starter homes when we bought it. If we sell now, we won’t be able to buy another place near the city. We are also offered very little”

Rabin says news buyers are “people who normally don’t stay here”.

“We bought to stay here because of the community. People who are buying here now are doing it for financial gains,” he says.

“They are renting it out, with the knowledge that this is going to be valuable properties. It has a bad affect on the blocks if an owner doesn’t stay here. They have no interest in the flat,” says Rabin.

“Before we had body corporate meetings and all the owners were present. Now owners are not at meetings and don’t pay their levies on time.

“They are not interested in coming to meetings, painting the block or working with the body corporate.”

Rabin says the area’s demographic is changing and will likely no longer remain a predominantly working class coloured.

“There are some white people coming in here to live. But most white people who buy here don’t stay here. They are just buying as a business venture. The area will be upgraded. We know the government will do that,” says Rabin.

“We also had people who were interested in purchasing a whole block. Most of the units have been sold already in another block.

“One of the owners is a French guy and I manage the unit for him. I collect the rental for him. They really don’t have an interest in living here. It’s a monetary thing. They are investing and one day they plan to sell it for more.”

Rabin says rental at Springfield Terrace for a two-bedroom flat can go up to R10 000.

“Our people don’t realise what is happening to them. People don’t see what’s coming their way. People from outside are buying up our area. And it is already three quarters of the way in our area,” adds Rabin.

“If you go to Woodstock it’s all coffee shops. We can’t afford coffee shops. So for who are they building these coffee shops?

“This is a growing concern. At the end of they day they are moving in the higher income group and the lower income group are being moved out. We invested here but now when we are older we can’t stay here.

“If you look around in our areas, people are buying old buildings and putting parking bays underneath and building up.

“They build without consultation of our people. We are getting nothing out of it when people come in here.”

 

 

Nedback ‘held gun to my head’ over fees

(This article was published on 29 May 2016 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper published by Independent Media in Cape Town, Western Cape province.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

A Nedbank client claims he is owed at least R600 000 after the bank told him it would no longer deduct insurance payments on his account but failed to do so.

Kariem Kagee, who owns two petrol stations in Cape Town, said a bank employee contacted him in early 2010 to say insurance payments on the cash handling of his accounts would no longer be deducted. He needed to get external insurance.

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Kariem Kagee says Nedbank owes him thousands of Rands. The bank denies any wrongdoing. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Kagee claims the insurance was not cancelled though and he ended up paying dual insurance from that time until now.

Kagee also says the bank failed to inform follow up on his instruction to cancel the insurance as he had already obtained external insurance.

Nedbank denied any wrongdoing, claiming that Kagee should have cancelled his insurance contract with the bank.

Kagee blames the bank for telling him telephonically that the insurance would be cancelled but then doing following up on that.

“Cash handling is an expensive component of our business because we deal in cash daily. We pay an insurance fee for every R100 we deposit,” said Kagee.

“When I found out in 2011 they were still charging me insurance I went to the bank with my (external insurance) broker. Nedbank then said they would refund me 50% (of the payments already made). This was admitting they were wrong.

“My broker argued that I acted upon their instruction to get my own insurance and they should cover the whole 100%. There was a lot of two-and-fro and nothing came forth.”

Kagee adds: “I approached my attorney who wrote the bank a letter of demand. I had a meeting at the bank. They said I could not write a letter of demand because they were lending me money. They said they could take it away.

“It was like holding a gun to my head. It was like saying, ‘Leave this’. They gave me an overdraft facility and they told me at a meeting they would withdraw that. They forced me to back off.”

Kagee says “up till today they are stull charging me” insurance.

“We had several meetings. They just don’t want to listen,” he said.

Nedbank responded to Weekend Argus queries on this matter, saying the bank “aware of the case and have been trying to reach agreement on the matter for a number of years”.

“In April 2010 Nedbank contacted Mr Kagee and proposed the new product terms. The options presented required either a new contract containing the new terms be signed or the termination of the agreement.

“However, Mr Kagee refused the options mentioned and insisted that the insurance component remain exactly as per the contract he had signed… which meant his insurance cover remained as before.”

Nedbank said Kagee’s “cash deposit fees were therefore not reduced as no new agreement had been signed”.

It said Nedbank “advised that he would remain on the current risk cover offering, as he requested, until further notice”. Deductions continued on a “month-to-month basis… until a new agreement was entered”.

Nedbank said Kagee’s external insurance was also insufficient and “would have placed himself at significant risk of losses from theft”.

“The cover provided under the Nedbank agreement ensured he was protected from such threats,” said the bank.

Kagee is adamant his external insurance was sufficient, as he was advised by the broker, and said he wants a refund from Nedbank for the insurance it has charged him.

But Nedbank refuses to pay back any money since Kagee “has benefited from reduced financial risk as a consequence of a valid insurance contract”.

“It is the bank’s view that Mr Kagee does not have a basis for a refund of insurance premiums,” it said.

“Mr Kagee’s rights to contest any unfair treatment that he perceives in this matter are still available and may be directed at his own discretion to the office of the banking ombud or insurance ombud.”

Kagee said he would consider taking to the bank ombud to get back a full refund of all the money Nedbank had deducted from him for insurance payments.

“Nedbank continued to unlawfully enriched itself,” said Kagee.

Small town Atlantis a hub for green innovation

(This article was published on 28 May 2016 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper published by Independent Media in Cape Town, Western Cape province.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Innovative renewable energy businesses in Atlantis are not only contributing to Cape Town’s green economy but also creating jobs for locals.

Atlantis is just under an hour’s drive from central Cape Town and is usually associated with poverty and accompanying social ills.

When Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille visited the small town yesterday, she met with renewable energy businesses to discuss their role in the energy eco-system.

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Mayor Patricia de Lille with iSolar workers Jason Valentine (left) and Lezell Erasmus in Atlantis yesterday. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Thirteen companies, all part of the South African Renewable Energy Business Incubator (Sarebi) in Atlantis, collectively received R500,000 from the City of Cape Town last year.

De Lille said assisting these businesses was part of a plan to ensure that locals could cope with Eskom’s power cuts and also save money by using renewable energy sources.

Instead of paying Eskom for electricity, locals could generate their own power at home via solar panel geysers, for example.

“Atlantis is an area that has faced difficult social and economic challenges, including high unemployment. Our support to this area underscores our commitment to building an opportunity city,” said De Lille.

De Lille said city officials have set up the Atlantis Investment Incentive Scheme back in 2013 to encourage businesses to open up shop and create jobs in the area.

Businesses are offered various incentives, including a reduction in electricity fees, when they open their doors in Atlantis, said De Lille.

De Lille said since 2013, “16 new companies have opened their doors”.

“At the same time it is estimated that more than 1 500 jobs have been retained by pre-existing businesses taking up incentives. There are additionally a number of exciting new investments in the pipeline,” she said.

Sarebi general manager Helmut Hertzog said they started in 2010 and since then have been helping up to 13 renewable energy businesses operate.

The incubator offers businesses space to produce their goods as well as a host of other business services and training.

Hertzog said the city’s R500 000 helped the small businesses improve their manufacturing processes, improve physical structures and fine-tune their operations.

Hertzog said the Sarebi was open to any people who have a renewable energy business idea in the Western Cape and who needed help to take it to the marketplace.

“We offer a three-month workshop where we focus on helping entrepreneurs define and cost a business concept. It can be a service of manufacture business,” he said.

“We help them get the concept sorted. Then there’s a six-month phase after that when the business is defined. It’s a structured series of workshops.

“We then help the businesses find clients and sell their product or service.”

One of Sarebi’s incubator projects, iSolar, has just won a tender to supply solar-powered geysers to the national energy department.

The company’s founder David October said they have already supplied solar-powered geysers to the Cape Winelands District Municipality. It has created jobs for 65 people, half of whom live in Atlantis.

“We will build 500 geysers a month for the department for the next 12 months. The department will install the geysers in various areas in the country,” said October.

“I have also completed geysers that were installed in the city’s Langa housing project. We build and install geysers and our contracts have been worth millions of rands.”

Documentary film festival expands beyond screenings

(This article was published on 29 May 2016 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper published by Independent Media in Cape Town, Western Cape province.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

After more than an hour of chatting with Darryl Els, the recently appointed director of the Encounters International SA Film Festival, one walks away feeling content that this 18-year-old is in good hands.

Els talks fast. He needs editing. But what he says is backed up with a track record of commitment to particularly independent filmmaking, which Encounters has always championed.

Cue: sigh of relief. Internal dialogue: this guy won’t mess it up.

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Darryl Els is the recently appointed director of the Encounters documentary film festival. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Els studied film and television at Wits University in Johannesburg, worked with award-winning director Rehad Desai who made Miners Shot Down and then went on to open up the Bioscope independent cinema in Johannesburg.

He started his new job last November, braving Cape storms, terrible drivers (you know especially when it rains it’s hell down here) and added a dash of ADHD to the festival. Like I said, he talks. A LOT. And fast.

“You have to stop me otherwise I’ll just keep talking,” Els says before getting back to his sandwich.

“My history with Encounters goes back ten years when I first attended in 2006 as a student. It was interesting with very intense discussions,” adds Els.

Then in 2010, when he opened the Bioscope with partners, Encounters asked them to host screenings.

“We had just opened. It was such a huge thing for us. We needed to tell people we were on the map. This helped,” says Els.

Els is still involved in the Bioscope but no longer its programming director. His focus in Encounters, which he wants to make more than just a two week gig.

Els wants to run Encounters events all year round. He wants the festival to be more than just screening films and talking about it. Then going home.

“There are different opportunities that you can create. You can create financial and relationship opportunities,” says Els.

To this end, Encounters has partnered with The Guardian newspaper in the UK to create a competition for short filmmakers. Storytellers can pitch an idea, with a cash prize and a possible commission to make a film for the newspaper’s website up for the taking.

Encounters has also for the last few years partnered with Al Jazeera to run pitching sessions for filmmakers who could get a commission to make a film for this Qatar-based news channel. These are tangible outcomes at Encounters.

Els wants audiences to walk away from the festival with “new experiences”.

“The Bioscope was a very creative space to experiment and introduce audiences to films that was never on their radar,” says Els.

“It showed that audiences want what they know but they also want to discover. If you went to the Bioscope you saw things that you never saw. It’s important to have that independent spirit.

“I see Encounters as an expanded view of non-fiction storytelling. The programme has moved beyond the cinema screen.

“This year we have interactive web documentaries, an electronic music band from the UK, a live documentary event that has poetry, live music and spoken word. Documentary films can often fit into any shape and form.”

Con-currently, Encounters wants to remain relevant to filmmakers in Africa. It wants to be a meeting place and a space where the filmmaking business grows.

For a local industry that struggles to find money to make films and with a national broadcaster that mostly fails its storytellers, independent film festivals can be a lifeline.

Actually, it gives filmmakers hope. It is a platform to connect with audiences and your industry.

“I’m always talking to filmmakers about the role that Encounters can play. We have created constructive spaces for conversation at the festival,” says Els.

Among these “frank discussions” will be case studies of African financial models of filmmaking.

Encounters will this year also see international film deal announcements, filmmaking master classes and, according to Els, “time for reflection on where the industry is at”.

“It’s all about the role that a film festival plays in an eco-system. Encounters has been around for 18 years. There’s a wonderful infrastructure to build on,” says Els.

Encounters is a ten-day documentary film festival that runs June 2 to 12 at Cinema Nouveau at the V&A Waterfront as well as The Labia cinema in Gardens.

 

NOT JUST SCREENINGS

Encounters will have a number of events apart from film screenings. It hosts Virtual Encounters, an exhibition of new forms of documentary storytelling. This will include Virtual Reality, web docs and games. It takes place in the American Corner at the Central Library in Cape Town and is free to attend. It runs from June 2 to 4.

There’s also a merging of audio documentary, electronic music and political statement from British contemporary pop band Dark Star on June 12 at The Assembly in central Cape Town.

Dark Star duo Aiden Whalley and James Young will transpose the central concept of the album, Foam Island, to a South African setting, recording the voices and experiences of young people for two live shows in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

African Space: The Live Documentary is meanwhile a live documentary storytelling in collaboration on June 8 at the Cape Town Science Centre in Observatory.

Danish journalist Rasmus Bitsch uses audio recordings, original interviews, live music and poetry to present a stage performance with renowned astronomers and townspeople of the Karoo.

More info on http://www.encounters.co.za

 

FESTIVAL FILM HIGHLIGHTS

Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore’s ‘Where to Invade Next’ will be screened for the first time in South Africa.

‘The Shadow World’, an international feature documentary on the arms trade based on the former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein’s controversial book.

‘Maya Angelou and Still I Rise’, a heart-breaking portrait of the achingly meaningful story that created one of America’s finest writers.

South African director Nadine Cloete’s poignant debut feature documentary on anti-apartheid student activist Ashley Kriel.

‘Strike A Pose’, a provocative documentary on the off-stage antics of the seven handsome back-up dancers who accompanied pop star Madonna on her Blonde Ambition World Tour in 1990.

‘Requiem for an American Dream’, the last full-length interview by one of the world’s most important intellectuals, Noam Chomsky, who gives a definitive and thought-provoking account of global inequality and how wealth and power has come to rest in the hands of the select few.

‘A Syrian Love Story’, which is a portrait of love against a tumultuous political backdrop. It’s the story of one man, the people he loves and the country that hates him. An intimate family portrait shows all is not fair in love or war.

 

De Waterkant residents claim city officials, developers make life hell

(This article was published on 22 May 2016 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper published by Independent Media in Cape Town, Western Cape province.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Residents in wealthy De Waterkant village are battling to get a property developer’s sympathy, protesting that a proposed building will negatively impact on their lives.

De Waterkant is on the border of central Cape Town, right next to Bo Kaap, and its heritage properties along cobble streets are sought after.

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NEW NEIGHBOUR: Property developer Tower Asset Managers plans to build a mixed-use complex which has left surrounding residents upset. The company says it has consulted widely though. Picture Supplied

But it also contested space as property developers seeking financial returns are maximising whatever land they find by using it for multi-use complexes, such as Cape Quarter on Somerset Road.

De Waterkant residents Deon Redman and Krisjan Rossouw, who own a property right opposite a proposed Tower Asset Managers (TAM) property on Napier Street, say encroaching developments are making their lives hell.

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LOSING PRIVACY: Deon Redman (left) and Krisjan Rossouw live in a house in De Waterkant opposite a site where a new 28-metre high building is planned to go up. They are concerned the new building will block their views, sunlight and its residents will look directly into their home. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

TAM owns the Cape Quarter building and plans to add more apartments to this building opposite Redman’s semi-detached house.

Redman said they were made aware of the proposed 28-metre high building only when they saw pictures of it.

He said residents who move into the new apartments “will be living my life with me”.

“They will be looking into my house. It’s a total loss of privacy,” said Redman.

The new building would also block any views he may have left from his house.

Apart from building up, TAM confirmed it would also create parking areas underground, meaning excavating under their neighbour’s properties.

“It’s being developed to the absolute maximum,” said Redman.

He said squashing more people into De Waterkant would add to existing congestion as the “streets can’t cope with the traffic”.

“We have shops and offices in the area. The parking underground is already not enough for the people who work here. Now they want to build 57 new apartments,” said Redman.

Gary de Klerk, who has lived in De Waterkant for 24 years, said they were “very concerned about the height, bulk and size of the building”.

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ANGRY RESIDENTS: De Waterkant property owners Francesco Uys Rootenberg (left) and Gary de Klerk are objecting to new property developments in their village, saying it destroys the inherent heritage. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

“Construction while it is happening will also affect residents,” said De Klerk.

“We are concerned that the area’s heritage is not being respected. The City of Cape Town is letting this go ahead too quickly and smoothly. It’s as if they are just allowing objections but it’s already a done deal.”

Another resident, Francesco Uys Rootenberg who owns various properties in the area, said city officials have shrunk the De Waterkant’s original Heritage Protection Overlay Zone to “exclude areas targeted for development”.

“De Waterkant is one of the last authentic areas of the city that has not been desecrated. It’s a place that attracts people. It’s a heritage and economic asset,” said Uys Rootenberg.

“It has small streets. It can’t have this massive infrastructure around it.”

Uys Rootenberg accused city officials of “applying the rules case-by-case instead of looking at the bigger picture”.

“I don’t think the officials care. I would challenge them on the vision we have for Cape Town to make it more livable. They need to create livable neighbourhoods,” he said.

“People in big apartment blocks don’t know their neighbours. We know our neighbours and we speak to each other in the street.

“They should respect the neighbouhood and put a building there that will fit in with it.”

Councillor Johan van der Merwe, the city’s mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, did not offer a lengthy response to queries and concerns raised.

“Due process is being followed and the matter is yet to appear before council for decision,” he said.

“The application has been advertised for public participation and the closing date for comments was 20 May 2016 (Friday).”

TAM meanwhile said it too was playing by the rulebook. It said the building would be “primarily residential units above the existing mixed-use building already consisting of retail, restaurants and offices and which will have minimal interventions”.

It said a “public meeting was held where stakeholders could express their opinion on the development”.

“This part of De Waterkant is dominated by offices and the addition of residential units will create a friendlier, safer neighbourhood particularity at night time,” it added.

“Tower sees this node as an exciting growth node in the Western Cape and is planning on investing a further R300m on its properties to the benefit of its shareholders and the community.”

Sea Point residents say no to ‘affordable housing’ plans

(This article was published on 21 May 2016 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper published by Independent Media in Cape Town, Western Cape province.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Sea Point residents are opposing a lobby group’s calls for the Western Cape government to turn the defunct Tafelberg school property in the area into affordable housing.

David Polovin, deputy chairman of the Sea Point Fresnaye Bantry Bay Ratepayers and Residents Association (SFB), said residents have discussed calls for Tafelberg Remedial School in Sea Point’s main road into housing units.

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DISPUTE: The Tafelberg Remedial School in Sea Point has become a contested space as locals want revamped to create affordable housing while the Western Cape government wants to sell it for R135-million. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Polovin told Weekend Argus this week residents viewed Tafelberg as a “powerful engine for change in the neighbourhood”.

“The use to which it finally is put could regenerate, enrich and uplift the area, or conversely set it back significantly,” said Polovin.

“The proposed alternative, that it be used for affordable housing, is neither practicable nor in the interests of the Sea Point community.”

Lobby group Reclaim the City (RTC) has campaigned for Tafelberg to be converted into housing to counter what it calls Cape Town’s “apartheid spatial planning”.

RTC earlier this month won a court battle at the Western Cape High Court against the provincial transport and public works department to stop it from selling Tafelberg for R135-million to the Phyllis Jowel Jewish Day School.

By order of the court, the department had to reopen a public consultation process, which RTC said was lacking during the initial sale period.

The department had promoted via a brochure “four prime opportunities for investors”.

Along with Tafelberg, the other three sites are the Helen Bowden Nurses Home near the Cape Town Stadium, Top Yard near Parliament, and the Alfred Street Complex in Green Point.

Sea Point’s residents plan to also make their voices heard during the current 21-day public consultation process that ends on June 9.

Polovin said residents believed if the provincial government sold Tafelberg it could use “proceeds from the sale for affordable housing or other social upliftment needs” elsewhere.

“We think the property does not meet the criteria for affordable housing. There is much better provincial owned land for affordable housing in Cape Town, such as the old Conradie Hospital site in Pinelands,” he said.

“We are not persuaded that it (affordable housing) serves the interests of Sea Pointers, including residents and workers.”

Polovin said it was also “naive to imagine that government is better at land management than private enterprise”.

“There is little state owned rentals (stock) in Sea Point and the area is not and has never been suitable for affordable housing, which explains why there is little of it,” he added.

“No informed person can believe that Sea Point offers a viable opportunity to spend public money on affordable housing and we’ve heard no proper reason to gainsay that.

“What we’ve heard instead are political imaginings that take no account of town planning considerations, budgetary constraints and the optimal use of thin resources for competing demands.”

Weekend Argus found at least two state-owned properties in Sea Point that are abandoned and fenced up.

The one property is Rocklands Villas, behind the national broadcaster SABC, and the other is Wynyard Mansions behind the Tafelberg property on Sea Point’s main road.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said Rocklands Villas is a “building purchased long ago to provide the SABC additional capacity”.

“It is an old building that in its current state is unsuitable for human occupation and has been uninhabited since 1996,” he added.

Siphesihle Dube, spokesman for provincial MEC for minister of transport and public works, Donald Grant, said Wynyard Mansions is part of the Tafelberg sale, although a fence separates it from the school property.

“The land on which Wynyard Mansions is situated was to be sold to the Phyllis Jowel Jewish Day School,” he said.

“This proposed sale has been taken under legal review. This process is currently under way.”

Play unpacks Cape Town castle’s ugly past

(This article was published on 21 May 2016 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper published by Independent Media in Cape Town, Western Cape province.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Confronting the Cape’s history of conflict, a local writer-director has produced a play she believes will help South Africans reconcile.

Kim Cloete, using the Castle of Good Hope as a setting, has researched and gathered various voices to tell a story that starts before the arrival of Dutch settlers.

Cloete’s play has a lengthy title: Ausi Ama – Net toe jy dink dis klaar – Just when you thought it was over.

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HISTORICAL TALE: A new play about the history of the Castle of Good Hope will have its premiere today. One of the play’s cast members Bradley van Sitters has worked to revive the language and history of the Khoi and San people with workshops at the Castle. Picture Supplied

It premieres at the Castle today and the play’s Dreamerschild Production team plans to stage it elsewhere in future.

Cloete said the play starts with the story of the Khoi and San people, the country’s indigenous population, almost wiped out by colonisation.

Working on the play ensured she became “a bit of a wreck”, she admitted.

“I found myself deeply traumatised by having to uncover and dig up parts of history that I wasn’t even aware of. That was a very gruesome time.”

During rehearsals, “when the cast had to do certain scenes, you walk away and you are troubled”.

“I did a lot of digging in archives. I spoke to people who know the history and it’s a very dark history,” said Cloete.

“This play is not a general history piece, but specially focuses on the events that happened at the castle. It contains a lot of omitted history.”

The castle’s board and the Defence and Military Veterans Department commissioned her, she said, to address the mainstream narrative that has excluded peripheral voices from archives.

“The Khoi and San have been disenfranchised. Very little was also recorded of women in the past. It was very patriarchal and it was men and their wars,” said Cloete.

“I have used history but also took creative licence with monologues of the characters. This is my personal embodiment of that time.

“It is time we accepted what really happened, without pointing fingers.”

 

Evicted residents want to move back to the city

Yazeed Kamaldien

Cape Town’s evicted residents from areas such as Gympie Street in Woodstock want the provincial government to use Tafelberg and other available state-owned land for affordable housing.

Lobby group Reclaim the City (RTC) held a public meeting in Green Point yesterday where evicted residents were able to share ideas on how to respond to a 21-day public participation process on how to use the defunct Tafelberg Remedial School in Sea Point.

The Western Cape High Court late last month prevented the provincial department of transport and public works from selling Tafelberg for R135-million to a private school.

It found the department did not do enough to consult the public on how to use the government-owned land.

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PUBLIC TALKS: Reclaim The City lobby group gathered various voices who want the Cape’s political leadership to ensure affordable innercity housing. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

RTC’s campaign for affordable housing, particularly focused on four prime properties, has raised questions about the Western Cape government and City of Cape Town’s commitment to create affordable housing near the city centre.

Premier Helen Zille, who was dragged to court in the RTC matter, said after the court ruling her government was committed though to create housing for the poor.

Gympie Street’s working class residents who were moved to Blikkiesdorp in 2009 said the local government kept pushing up rentals until they could no longer afford to live near the city.

State-owned properties are then allegedly sold to private developers, leading to large swathes of gentrification as visible in Woodstock.

At yesterday’s meeting, Sarah Jones said she was 10 years old when her family first moved to Gympie Street. She is now 59 and a few years ago was evicted from the state-owned flats where rentals were increased.

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BACK TO THE CITY: Leonora Jones, left, and Sarah Jones are former long-term residents of Gympie Street in Woodstock. The claim the City of Cape Town’s rentals kept rising until they could not afford it and were evicted to Blikkiesdorp. They say they want affordable housing back near the city where they belong. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

“I had all my children in Gympie Street. I don’t like it in Blikkiesdorp. Children are raped and murdered there,” said Jones.

“The rent kept going up in Gympie Street and people there were unemployed and couldn’t pay rent. We were evicted and moved to Blikkiesdorp.

“There’s a lot of open land. The government can us it for houses and move us back to the city. Blikkiesdorp is very far for us.”

Another evicted Gympie Street resident, Leonora Jones, said she was first evicted under apartheid laws from District Six where she was born.

Years later she moved to Gympie Street from where she and her two children were evicted in 2009.

“My two children were born there and went school there. I had a job a stone’s throw from our house,” she said.

“When we had to move my children lost two years of their schooling. There are no schools in Blikkiesdorp and we didn’t have transport to their school in Woodstock.”

She added: “I think there are open fields and the government can build houses there for us. We stayed near town and could walk to the city. We want to move back.”

Tafelberg is one of four sites the provincial government offers as “four prime opportunities for investors”.

The other three are the Helen Bowden Nurses Home near the Cape Town Stadium, Top Yard near Parliament, and the Alfred Street Complex in Green Point.

Weekend Argus found two other abandoned state-owned properties in Sea Point that locals have said could also be used for affordable housing.

The one property is Rocklands Villas, behind the national broadcaster SABC, and the other is Wynyard Mansions behind the Tafelberg property on Sea Point’s main road.

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FENCED UP: Rocklands Villas are state-owned flats that remain unused in Sea Point, where lobby groups say affordable housing is lacking. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Queries to the relevant government authorities about the future of these properties were unanswered at the time of going to print.

Mandisa Shandu, an attorney with the Ndifuna Ukwazi Law Centre that took RTC’s matter to court, said yesterday the campaign would now assist the public to make submissions on what Tafelberg should be used for.

“We have residents from all over the city at the meeting to express an interest in access to affordable housing. Tafelberg is a practical and symbolic site for affordable housing in he city,” she said.

“There are people with a common grievance of having been forced out of their (state-owned) rental properties. More has to be done to protect people being evicted.”

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DENIED ACCESS: Wynyard Mansions is another dilapidated state-owned property right behind the contested Tafelberg school property in Sea Point. Locals say local officials need to unlock land for affordable housing. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Residents from De Waal Drive properties owned by the provincial government last week marched to human settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela’s office in central Cape Town as they too face possible eviction.

In what has become a common thread – and threat – they have been told their rent is to be increased. If unable to cough up, they would be evicted.

People from Naruna Estate, Rugby and Sanddrift accompanied De Waal Drive residents as they are all in the same boat.

Madikizela’s office reportedly said the department was meeting with residents.

Global business looks to Cape Town as African gateway

(This article was published on 14 May 2016 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly newspaper published by Independent Media in Cape Town, Western Cape province.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

International businesses are increasingly setting up shop in Cape Town, using the city as a base to expand into Africa while creating jobs for locals.

Company bosses who have made the city their temporal home praise its infrastructure and resources.

And apart from jobs, locals also benefit from new technology, global business know-how and there is a knock-on effect for local suppliers.

Garreth Bloor, the city’s mayoral committee member for tourism, events and economic development, says international companies basing themselves in Cape Town have over the last four financial years contributed an estimated R2.4bn in foreign direct investment into the city.

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LESS BUREUCRACY: City of Cape Town councilor Garreth Bloor says city officials have gone a long way to cut out red tape to stimulate international investment locally. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Over the same period, they have collectively ensured an estimated 6 448 jobs in an economy struggling to create jobs for a sizable unemployed population.

These companies are also based in various parts of the Western Cape and include electronics manufacturers, management consultancies and renewable energy operations.

At the Hisense South Africa head office in Canal Walk, the company’s general manager Youbo Li says they opened their factory in Atlantis in 2013.

Previously, Hisense electronic goods were exported to South Africa via its China headquarters. The company decided to manufacture TVs and refrigerators in Cape Town in its quest to conquer the African market.

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MADE IN CHINA: Youbo Li, general manager for Hisense South Africa, says their goods usually made at home are now manufactured at a local factory in Atlantis just outside Cape Town. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

“We want to go global and we can’t escape South Africa. We want to export to the rest of Africa and Cape Town is our base in Africa,” says Li.

“Every year (since 2013) we are manufacturing 300,000 TVs and 300,000 refrigerators. This will increase as we have already exported to various African countries.”

Li says Hisense can be more competitive with pricing in the electronics goods market as they are avoiding import taxes. By making the goods local, they cut out delivery costs from China and create employment.

“We have created nearly 1 000 jobs for locals. This includes from the normal factory worker to logistics, warehousing, sales reps, call centres and after sales service. And we have staff at our head office,” he says.

Li says the company has also created “probably 3 000 indirect jobs”.

“This is because we have a lot of suppliers as well. We need rubber, glass and packaging from local suppliers,” he says.

Li believes the company has already impacted positively on Atlantis too.

“We used to have a big empty parking area at our factory in Atlantis. After two years, the car parking is filled with cars,” says Li.

“All the employees have bought cars, even if it’s basic cars. Now we need a bigger parking area.”

On the knowledge economy front, Cape Town’s universities play a role in attracting foreign companies looking for educated employees.

Rachel McLaughlin, local director of S-RM, a London-headquartered business intelligence firm, says it was for this reason they decided on Cape Town as a base in Africa.

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BRAIN BUSINESS: Rachel McLaughlin, local director of risk consulting firm S-RM, says an advantage of having offices in Cape Town is access to top university graduates. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

“South Africa and Africa have always been important to our business. We advise oil and gas firms and help multinationals based in Libya or Nigeria. It made sense to have an African hub,” says McLaughlin.

“We already have a lot of Africa operations and have permanent staff in Ethiopia and Ghana. But Cape Town is our centre of gravity for Africa.”

McLaughlin says, for their company, Cape Town’s “main attraction is its role as a knowledge nexus”.

“In terms of building up an office, we are looking for young, bright, educated recent graduates. With Cape Town’s universities, it’s a great place for us to be based,” she says.

Most of S-RM’s 22 employees have been locally recruited and only are three from the United Kingdom. They “help clients understand and mitigate risks to their business”.

“One big department for us is our business intelligence department. It helps clients with background research and development on potential business opportunities,” says McLaughlin.

“The other side is risk consulting, with our team putting together risk solutions. If a big multinational is sending a senior executive to the DRC we might help them plan the journey and accompany them o make sure it all happens safely.”

McLaughlin says when they set up their office in Cape Town in February 2014 there were “some bureaucratic slow processes” but generally it was a “smooth experience”.

“South Africa is one of the highest ranking African countries for ease of business. Generally speaking, it’s been good,” says McLaughlin.

S-RM is also “enabling” international businesses to consider Cape Town as a base for their African expansion plans, adds McLaughlin.

“We are helping our clients invest in Africa and it is boosting the economy here in South Africa,” she says.

“Multinationals are realising Cape Town is growing and there’s a tech industry hub based here. It’s an exciting environment and magnetic.”

 

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

To ensure international businesses have a painless transition from elsewhere in the world to opening their offices in Cape Town, local government is ensuring it cuts down on red tape.

Councillor Garreth Bloor, mayoral committee member for tourism, events and economic development, says foreign businesses first speak to their counterparts before considering another location.

Chinese companies, for example, are spurred on by successes such as Hisense, says Bloor.

This has led over 100 Chinese businesses expressing an interest in scoping prospects in Cape Town where the could set up manufacturing factories and other enterprises.

To ease the tension of doing business with Cape Town, the city’s Mayor Patricia de Lille late last year set up a one-stop shop in her office.

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STUNNING SELL: This view of central Cape Town from the Wesgro offices apparently plays a role in convincing international business to settle in the city. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Bloor explains this was to cut out dealing with a multitude of different government departments. It also offers businesses all the information they might need.

“We don’t want people who come here to invest to be referred back and forth. We want one place where they can have all their questions answered,” says Bloor.

“It’s best practice if you look at other global cities. We live in a world where cities are competing against each other.

“We have to put our best foot forward and get investors that translate into jobs on the ground.”

Wesgro is another entity that assists international businesses start their operations in Cape Town and beyond the city’s borders in other parts of the Western Cape province. It is funded by city and provincial governments.

Its chief executive Tim Harris says they annually seek out foreign investors in other parts of the world on trade missions.

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FOREIGN CONTACT: Wesgro chief executive Tim Harris and his team is tasked by the local government to promote Cape Town and the Western Cape to businesses across the world. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

To this end, Wesgro has brought home companies like Kimberly-Clark, Burger King and others who now operate in Cape Town.

“We are attracting multi-nationals across sectors. We have companies making engine blocks for trucks right through to Amazon running a call centre out of Cape Town,” says Harris.

“Many global companies are interested in accessing opportunities in Africa. It’s easy to convince global talent to move to Cape Town. You won’t find this quality of life anywhere else in Africa.”

Wesgro’s head of investment promotion, Salman Kajie, says multinationals are choosing Cape Town “because of the core competencies on offer”.

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COMPETENT CAPE: Wesgro’s head of investment promotion, Salman Kajie, says multinationals are choosing Cape Town “because of the core competencies on offer”. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

“When we interviewed multinationals who have a base in Cape Town, the reason for their choise was proximity to new domestic markets,” says Kajie.

“Industry also tells us they are here to capitalise off our growing middle class and export to the rest of Africa.”

Kajie says the majority of foreign direct investment in the city over the last decade has included businesses from Germany, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States. Asian countries are meanwhile fast catching on.