Curiosity Issue 1

Page 1

MAY 2017

Coming to the city

Future Joburg

Mothers in the city

How migration impacts student health

Investing in our city

Mapping maternity to understand motivation

Dr Mark Collinson is a Reader in Population and Public Health at Wits. He has researched a population of over 100 000 people in the Agincourt sub-district of rural Mpumalanga for over two decades, to study the dynamics between migration and health. Read how migration impacts on the health of Wits students on page 20. Daniel Irurah is an Associate Professor in the School of Architecture and Planning. He specialises in green energy and sustainable cities. He recently contributed a chapter on sustainable cities to the SA Cities Network’s State of the Cities Report 2016. Irurah warns about the danger of not developing an inclusive green economy on page 6. Associate Professor Bronwyn Law-Viljoen is Head of Creative Writing at Wits and author of The Printmaker. This debut novel formed part of her PhD and is an example of creative research – an approach to research which acknowledges that creative output has equal academic value to empirical investigation. Read about this and other creative research at Wits on page 4. Dr Margo Rubin from the South Africa Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning in the School of Architecture and Planning at Wits, and Dr Alexandra Parker from the Gauteng City-Region Observatory explore spatial dynamics of how mothers navigate their daily lives in the city. Read about this research on page 14. Professor Ronald Wall, an economic geographer and urban planner holds the Johannesburg City Chair in Economic Development at Wits. Wall is currently analysing big data from roughly 15 000 world cities to establish the strength of their connectivity that enables them to attract foreign direct investment. We spoke to him about Joburg’s future prospects. Page 8.

Image by Lauren Mulligan


Q&A Should we give to beggars? Page 3

Creative Research Page 4

Green living coming to Joburg Page 6 FEATURE Future Joburg Page 8

PROFILE Nduka Mntambo and cities as moving targets Page 12 Mothers in the city Page 14

Innovative cities Page 18

COMING TO THE CITY How migration impacts student health Page 20 COLUMN Cycle lane adventures Page 22

HISTORY From Senate to Solomon Page 24 CONTRIBUTORS Curiosity is produced by Wits Communications for the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg Shirona Patel Head of Communications Reshma Lakha-Singh Public Relations and Events Manager Refilwe Mabula Communications Officer Deborah Minors Senior Communications Officer Schalk Mouton Senior Communications Officer Lauren Mulligan Pictures Editor and Multimedia Communications Officer Erna Van Wyk Senior Multimedia Communications Officer Buhle Zuma Senior Communications Officer LAYOUT AND DESIGN Thea-Lize Moolman CONTACT Wits Communications +27 11 717 1025 COPYRIGHT Copyright of all material is vested in the authors thereof and may not be reproduced without the written permission of the Head of Communications at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. COVER IMAGE CREDIT Lauren Mulligan


a word from


The spirit that fuels inquiry and encourages people to work beyond the edge of current knowledge is curiosity. The ability to make new discoveries, break new academic ground, advance the frontiers of knowledge, save lives, transform society, and pursue the truth is one part of Wits University’s vision and mission. The other equally important part is the sharing of this new knowledge, to learn about and from each other and to learn, unlearn and relearn our understanding of the world around us. It is these attitudes and abilities that allow the University to do its work every day, and which also aptly describe the title of our new research magazine. There has been great emphasis placed on the impact of research and communicating research, especially by donors, funders and the state. Whilst we continue to report through formal channels, what does it matter if our research output is up by 45% in the last four years, if our research is not accessible? Why are we encouraging transdisciplinary research programmes if we ourselves do not know what we are researching within our immediate sphere? This research magazine, in itself an experiment, has two aims – to tell the fabulous research stories that exist within Wits University in a thematic fashion, in conjunction with an online multimedia platform (www. and to make research more accessible, which we believe will enable us to better foster networks and collaboration across disciplines, both within and beyond our campuses - in short, to make an impact for the good of our communities. The theme for this edition could read “Curio-city”, because that’s what we have sought to explore – Wits’ involvement in cities in general and in the City of Joburg in particular. The stories contained in this edition highlight Wits’ diverse inroads in this thematic area and is by no means exhaustive. I believe that Wits academics are world-class scholars who are adaptable and who work in dynamic environments and tackle local issues while generating research for the global knowledge economy. Our curiosity keeps us moving forward and the stories in this edition pay testament to this proposition. Please share your ideas and themes for future editions of the research magazine with me via:

Prof. Zeblon Vilakazi Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Postgraduate Affairs University of the Witwatersrand PAGE 2

Image by Lauren Mulligan


Professor Lucy Allais

It’s a familiar sight and response in Johannesburg: A beggar at the traffic light – a hastily closed car window or scrounging for coins. Cue resentment, guilt, moral confusion. Beggars are ubiquitous in cities. Prof. Lucy Allais explores the ethics around whether or not we should give to beggars from the perspective of philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). by



Encounters with beggars can be uncomfortable. I have argued that when beggars confront us, we are implicated in relations of humiliation and servility from which we cannot escape, whether or not we give. We are related to each other wrongfully and there is nothing we can do about it. If a toddler falls into a pond, we would save her, but when beggars confront us we are required to solve a public problem in a private encounter, and there is no way to do this.

Kant’s political philosophy focuses on freedom and also on private property. He describes begging as demeaning and “closely akin to robbery”. On his account of justice, a just state should secure everyone’s freedom both by defending against poverty and by protecting private property. But protecting private property limits the choices of those who have nothing. He holds that the state’s entitlement to defend property is legitimate only if it is compatible with everyone’s freedom. This means that beggars have a claim under justice to protection against poverty, and a claim under justice cannot be met by private charity.

Why do beggars and begging make us uncomfortable?

Deborah Minors


What Witsies said:

“No, I don’t. I feel as though they are playing for our sympathy. I don’t know if the money I’m giving away is going towards a good cause since most beggars seem to be drug addicts. I’m also scared that by giving them money I’m feeding their addiction and when they don’t get money for drugs, they could commit crime.” Tapiwa Shendelane, BSc Industrial Engineering, 2nd year “It depends on the person and whether or not I have money to give. I personally believe that it must be very difficult to beg and put your pride aside. But my biggest concern is that they do not spend the money wisely, because they could do a lot with the little they receive.” Valerie Buthelezi, BSc Geological Science, 2nd year “I do give money to some beggars. I give to those that seem like they are desperate or really need help. I avoid giving to people that look like they’re choosing to beg and are not on the streets out of desperation, or if I feel unsafe to open my window. But I rarely have cash on me and prefer carrying food with me when I drive, so I give that out rather than money.” Jayden Gelman, MBBCh 1st year

What is Kant’s position on giving to beggars?


To what extent did your experience of returning to Joburg after nine years in London inform your paper What properly belongs to me: Kant on giving to beggars?

Just because giving is problematic doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give. These encounters show that we should all be working towards a more just state on a macro level. Nobody confronted by beggars makes their business successful without infrastructure, roads, technology, etc. This success is dependent on the fact that the state provides. We are living in an unjust society and we have an obligation to challenge injustice. We academics must take seriously our obligation to address inequality and poverty.



Deborah Minors

There’s a new approach to research which acknowledges that creative output has equal academic value to empirical investigation. In 2007 the National Research Foundation (NRF) recognised creative work as research. This means that scholars working in the creative arts can be NRF-rated and their works can be considered legitimate research outputs. Creative research has gained credence across the world in recent decades, and at Wits since 2008 when Senate confirmed that the University’s research plans and policies can define artists who produce peer-reviewed creative work as “research active”. The Research Office at Wits awards one point for work deemed equivalent to an article and up to five points for work deemed equivalent of a scholarly monograph.

The project explores the traffic of people and products from pre-colonial Africa and the Indian Ocean through musical practice. It’s a multi-pronged research, mapping, and archiving project that aims to revolutionise humanities research in South Africa and to create an Afro-Asian community of scholarship. The WCI is constituted as such a network of researchers and associated entities. The WCI’s network model enables Wits to provide institutional support for developing city research. Funded by the A.W. Mellon Foundation’s Architecture, Urbanism and Humanities initiative, the WCI has successfully established communities of interest. It’s a 21st century institute at Wits with a national, regional and – increasingly – international research landscape.

“Creative research is very important to Wits. The beauty of working at a university such as Wits is that one comes across all types of research and all of it is important to achieving our goal of becoming an internationally competitive and locally relevant university. The Faculty of Humanities has a process of peer reviewing creative research. Such approved research attracts the normal Research Incentive [RINC] as does all other accredited research,” says Dr Robin Drennan, Director of Research Deve lopment at Wits.

“Sometimes the relationship of Africa with other Diasporas is available only through the imagination, not just the empirical,” says Pyper.

Professor Brett Pyper, Head of the School of Arts at Wits, points out that there are many possible ways in which creative work can produce, circulate or question knowledge – “we theorise in and through the arts”. He cites Professor Gerrit Olivier (a former dean of Humanities and head of the School of Arts), who notes that advancing creative research entails considering “whether artistic products are research or whether they are the equivalent of research or whether they accompany, incorporate or inspire research while at some level remaining something different from research.”

A PhD in Creative Writing at Wits requires a long-form essay (equivalent in scholarly rigour though not in length to a thesis) and a substantial creative work (novel, play script, or collection of poetry, essays or short stories respectively).

This entails foregrounding the central place of the imagination in all academic inquiry, while the historical presence of the arts within the University is indicative of the recognition that the arts advance the academic project – whether or not they are reducible to prevailing notions of “knowledge production”. In fact, their value may lie precisely in challenging prevailing epistemologies. The School of Arts and the Wits City Institute (WCI) are involved in the Re-centering AfroAsia project, an artist-led residency (inter alia) that combines the arts, architecture, and science.

Imagination – through creativity – is a requirement for admission to the PhD in Creative Writing that Wits offers. Applicants must hold an MA in Literature or Creative Writing and have published at least one book of writing in a creative writing genre through a reputable publisher.

Associate Professor Bronwyn Law-Viljoen is Head of Creative Writing at Wits and author of The Printmaker. She wrote this debut novel as part of her PhD. Set in modern day Johannesburg, The Printmaker is based on a real person, Marcus Glaser, who left his estate (including 6 000 never-before-seen prints) to a friend. The research involved in conjuring March Halberg (Law-Viljoen’s printmaker) from Glaser, imagining the art-historical training and predilections of such a character, and in representing the highly technical art of print making is no less rigorous than any other research intensive inquiry. “Wits recognises and rewards high quality contributions that are original and innovative in their methods of enquiry, their interpretation, and the insights they offer. Creative research contributions should also embody research, demonstrate a rigorous understanding of and approach to creative processes, and have a significant and demonstrable impact on the field,” says Drennan.


There’s a new approach to research which acknowledges that creative output has equal academic value to empirical investigation.

Putting imagination in the conversation

Image by Lauren Mulligan



YES to inclusive green urbanism for Joburg and South Africa! by

With more property-owners rushing to install renewable energy

Schalk Mouton

developers seducing residents to cluster into smaller homes closer

technologies and services in their businesses and homes, and to corridors and nodes of public transport, Joburg is hurtling towards a greener city. While this urban transition towards a smart and sustainable city must be embraced, Professor Daniel Irurah warns of dystopian dangers of an “uninclusive” green economy and lifestyle.

It’s like the setting for a dark sci-fi movie – but it is a movie with a difference: The “greenies” have become the oppressors and those languishing in the fossil fuel era are the oppressed “fossil slaves”. This is among the dangers of Joburg’s green future. Irurah, in the School of Architecture and Planning at Wits, specialises in green energy and sustainable cities. He says that at the ongoing rate of innovation and the diffusion of green technologies globally and in South Africa, Joburg is likely to become ‘greener’ much earlier than previously expected, and especially with regard to low-carbon lifestyles. This rapid development threatens to aggravate inequalities in a city where disparity is already of grave concern. “People who can afford it are installing green technologies, like solar PV [photo voltaic systems – rooftop solar electricity] and water-conservation systems on their businesses and houses, not merely for moral or environmental reasons, but particularly because it makes economic, business and financial sense,” says Irurah, who contributed to the chapter on sustainable cities in the SA Cities Network’s State of the Cities Report 2016. “Given that the greater majority of South Africans are not able to afford this low-hanging fruit approach to a greener lifestyle, the primary concern is that in the absence of strategic interventions, those who can’t afford to embrace the transition will be left to cope with the consequences in a context of diminished capacity and resources,” he adds. Green technology is becoming more attractive to home owners and businesses as prices drop and new electricity regulations allow residents to sell their excess solar electricity back to the municipality. “If the majority of services transform to market-guided green technologies, municipalities stand the risk of losing the revenue from the middle class (the primary backbone of the current municipal revenue on electricity distribution), and in turn undermine municipal capacity to support the current level of quality in infrastructure and services,” says Irurah, adding that this would not only count for electricity, but for water and other services too. As Eskom finalises the construction of two new multi-billion rand coal power stations, and government pushes to construct a new nuclear power programme, these costs could fall squarely on those service-consumers who are unlikely to afford the transition to green technologies and services on their properties.

One of the greatest drivers of affordable electricity storage and smart grids is the increasing efforts towards the diffusion of electric cars, which Irurah believes will become a mainstream feature in the next 10 to 20 years. This will drive a further wedge between the haves and have-nots. “If you consider that you own or rent a house, which traditionally has merely served as a place to stay, when you add a solar PV system, your house then becomes the utility and you don’t have to rely on an external utility, with even the potential to supply to the external utility based on surplus generated on site (with a net-zero energy building as the guiding concept). If you now ‘fuel’ your car from your self-generated electricity (directly or from affordable on-site storage) your house is now turned into the equivalent of a petrol-pump, almost at zero ongoing costs,” explains Irurah. You can then add on other services like water collection (or boreholes) and food production, which would turn your house into a small-scale farm. These developments are likely to leave those without secure access to property and finance trapped in a vicious circle in terms of escalating costs and the diminishing quality of services. While these are concerns to think about now, Irurah emphasises that they are not reasons not to promote green lifestyles. “We are not sure what the solution is at the moment. It is something we are currently grappling with, especially with regards to transforming policies on sustainable urban development in African cities,” he says. He warns that if we don’t strategically engage with these issues now, we are likely to become disillusioned with our greening outcomes in the very near future. “Joburg still is a city that is capable of learning from history, especially because it is still keen to undo its apartheid-guided spatial form in favour of a more inclusive urban form. “We should therefore leverage this opportunity now, so that the benefit of green lifestyles can be pursued simultaneously for all, and so that we all can live in an inclusive, greener and smart Joburg.”


Green living coming to Joburg

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PAGE 8 Image by Schalk Mouton

FUTURE Joburg We Joburg residents love to hate our city. There is always something to complain about and we continuously find fault everywhere. The grass always seems greener elsewhere (even in Cape Town). However, as far as international investment and the future sustainability of the city are concerned, we unexpectedly perform better than expected. We all know where Joburg came from. Built on the mining industry, our

Strong investment links are key to a high-tech, happy, green economy.

city is unique in many ways. For instance, we boast that Joburg, due to the discovery of gold, is one of the few cities in the world that is not built on a major river or sea, and that despite this, we live in the “largest man-made forest� in the world.


Schalk Mouton

sectors are not specialised enough to give it a competitive advantage over others. It therefore needs to diversify and specialise its economy to compete with other global cities.”

However, since the days of the gold rush until now, Joburg has become less reliant on mining and industry, and has grown and diversified into a tertiary economy. According to Professor Ronald Wall, who holds the Chair of Economic Development of the City of Johannesburg in the School of Economic and Business Sciences (SEBS) at Wits, Joburg is a real global city – but we don’t even know it. “Psychologically, we don’t think globally,” he says. “Our mainly ‘local newspaper’ mentality has to change into a more global one. We need to become more engaged with Africa and the rest of the world and internationally diversify our economic and social connections. This will depend on aspects like innovating and specialising our industrial sectors, curbing socio-economic inequality, increasing the participation of women in the labour market, and developing food security in the Gauteng region.” As an economic geographer and urban planner, Wall uses big data on roughly 15 000 world cities to analyse the strength of their economic connectivity, for example, foreign direct investment (FDI). What he found would surprise us all: Joburg is right up there with the best. It ranks 69th in terms of inward FDI, and in Africa is second only to Cairo. With strong investment connections to London, Tokyo and Paris, Joburg competes better in the rest of the world than many cities in the US, like Atlanta and Washington DC, but it is shadowed by New York, and Vancouver and Montreal in Canada.


One example of how Joburg could specialise services – and thereby revitalise the inner city – is to follow the advice of former Reserve Bank Governor and Honorary Professor at SEBS, Tito Mboweni, to turn the inner city into an International Finance Centre. This Centre, envisaged between Empire Road, Joe Slovo Road, the M2 highway and Hillbrow, should allow for special incentives to operate in the area. “This place will be transformed in a very short space of time, which will minimise the flight of companies from Joburg to Mauritius,” he said. Professor Barry Dwolatzky of the Wits Joburg Centre for Software Engineering, however, believes that Joburg – specifically Braamfontein – could be Africa’s first Silicon Valley. According to Dwolatzky, the establishment of a Silicon Valley has certain prerequisites: It has to be connected, be close to a major research hub, have an existing business hub, be supported by government, and be located where people want to live and work. While Braamfontein was not that place several years ago, it now has all the right ingredients. “We’re in close proximity to both Wits and UJ, with 80 000 students, over 50 000 residents live in the area, there is an existing business hub and there are lots of businesses still in the area that work in the digital space and we are well connected,” says Dwolatzky.

“In sub-Saharan Africa FDI, Joburg is king – but statistically speaking, we underperform to what would be expected of us, and should be much more powerful,” he says.

In agreement, Wall believes that we also need to comparatively study which local skills and technologies we need to produce to match the demand of international and domestic firms, which in turn will boost inward FDI.

One of the important keys to the city’s future wellbeing and sustainability lies in its ability to attract foreign direct investment, and to increase the diversity of international cities investing in it. This will make it a truly global player.

“Therefore, for Joburg to become a truly Smart City, it will need to technologically connect local supply – skills , technologies, services, knowledge and creativity – to the changing demand of firms in the global economic system,” he says.

“South Africa is increasingly subjected to global changes, but our government is not assertively participating.”


While a large part of Joburg’s business community is internationally active and competitive, uncertainties in politics, high crime levels and high levels of wage inequality negatively impact our ability to attract FDI. “Compared to other global cities, Johannesburg’s international industrial sectors are not specialised enough to give it a competitive advantage over others. It therefore needs to compare itself to top global cities and form this understanding, smartly diversify and specialise its economy so as to compete with them,” says Wall, whose analysis for the UN State of African Cities 2017 report showed that Joburg’s closest global competitor is Bogota in Colombia, followed by Chicago in the US, then Istanbul, Delhi and Buenos Aires, while our closest African competitor is Cape Town, followed by Casablanca.

One of the future critical sectors where South Africa – and Africa in general – could play a massive role is in contributing to continental and even global food security. According to Wall, “Africa has some of the most arable land in the world, yet we are vulnerable in that we import most of our staple food, while 60% of Africa’s youth are unemployed. We have the potential and opportunity to flip this around and become the food secure basket of the world,” he says, adding that we should invest in capacity building in the agriculture sector, create low-tech, medium-tech and high-tech agriculture hubs (products, services, processing, logistics) in and especially around the city, and establish the business collectives to support it.


“Compared to other global cities, Joburg’s international industrial

“You have to improve inter-connectedness for trade and investment between Johannesburg and other world cities, and government needs to think more global and continental, rather than being continuously swamped by South African micro-politics.”

This is exactly what Professor Michael Rudolph, founder of the Wits Siyakhana Initiative is working towards – with much support. According to Rudolph, the Wits initiative is currently working with the City of Johannesburg in several urban agriculture projects in the city to promote food security and city greening. “The new mayor’s 2040 strategy includes food security and urban agriculture as one of the top nine priorities for the city, making it part of broader policy and strategic interventions, which clearly demonstrates local government’s guiding principles and course of action,” he says. Not only would urban agriculture – which includes rooftop gardens, green walls and food gardens in open spaces within and outside the city – contribute to food security and improved nutritional health and knowledge in Joburg, it would contribute to job provision, sustainable livelihoods and much-needed skills for large numbers of residents. According to a report by Rudolph and co-author Florian Kroll, between half and three quarters of people in poor areas in Joburg are affected by food insecurity, and food is the biggest household expense in most poor households, which become highly vulnerable when food prices increase. By focusing on agro-ecologies – which encompass building local food economies by supporting all stakeholders in the food chain, including local producers, processors and retailers, and building links between consumers, local farmers and local food businesses – in an urban setting, we can increase dietary diversity at the local level, as well as reduce the multiple health risks from industrial culture. “The City of Johannesburg’s Food Resilience Programme includes interventions to address food insecurity, such as the establishment of co-operatives as hubs connecting several small farms to markets and government food supply contracts, which are managed through a government food procurement company,” says Rudulph. “The promotion of cheaper food products through subsidised ‘people’s restaurants’ located in deprived neighbourhoods, which provide healthy and affordable meals; distribution of food packages procured from small farms to deprived households and school feeding programmes, and linkages of a conditional cash transfer programme to other state welfare interventions including health, education and workforce entry,” he says.

“A lot of them come from urban environments, and bring with them naturally acquired skills in agriculture, which we can put to use. This talent should be harnessed and advanced by means of capacity building centres.”

Image by Schalk Mouton

Wall believes thats contrary to current thinking, one of the things that counts in our favour is the large numbers of migrants who come to Joburg.



World Region




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Bogota Chicago Istanbul Delhi Buenos Aires

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Cape Town Casablanca Nairobi Cairo Lagos

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Delhi Manila Jakarta Seoul Hanoi

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Bogota Buenos Aires Santiago Rio de Janeiro Mexico City

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Riyadh Ad Dawhah Abu Dhabi Al Manamah Tel Aviv-Yafo

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Chicago Montréal Atlanta Houston Los Angeles

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Istanbul Warsaw Vilnius Prague Kiev

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Zurich Helsinki Dusseldorf Brussels Copenhagen

Establishing a strong food sector in the country, which includes food production, processing, marketing and entrepreneurship, will also contribute to better skills, and improved dignity and self-esteem for people who currently don’t have jobs. “Results from the increasingly important field of ‘happiness economics’ verify this. A country’s level of happiness is a strong predictor of FDI attraction. Statistical results show that the happier people are, the more productive, and hence the more investment that is attracted, even in Africa,” says Wall. “Happier people express a much more positive outlook on their country.”


1. Africa

Asia and Pacific

Latin America

Middle East

North America

The less the fertility rates of women, the higher the foreign investment. I.e., women becoming absorbed into the workforce are a good thing for investment.


The higher the Happiness Index, the higher the foreign investment. However, bad governance proves to strongly and negatively influence happiness. Sign of the times.


The higher the trustworthiness, e.g., credit rating, the higher the foreign investment.


The higher the political stability, the higher the foreign investment.


The higher the government’s available local credit, the higher the foreign investment. The government should co-finance international business, not abuse the coffers.


The less sophisticated the system of democracy, the less the foreign investment. The more SA becomes fully democratic, the better for all.


1. Compared to other global cities, Joburg’s international industrial sectors are not specialised enough to give it a competitive advantage over others. It therefore needs to diversify and specialise its economy to compete with other global cities. 2. Its high level of wage inequality negatively affects its ability to attract foreign investment.

Rest of Europe

West Europe


Its high level of foreign citizens has a positive effect on foreign investment attraction.

4. The high levels of migration into Joburg have a welcoming positive effect on attracting foreign investment. 5. Its productivity has a positive effect on foreign investment. 6.

Its high level of communications has a positive effect on its ability to attract investment.

7. Its moderately high level of human capital is good for attracting investment. However, this is barely significant. Therefore, skills development needs serious attention if Joburg wants to compete with its global competitors.

Econometric results of FDI into African countries and cities (2003 – 2016). Prof. Ronald Wall, SEBS / Wits University, courtesy of upcoming UN-Habi-


Its good level of infrastructure positively attracts foreign investment.

tat report: State of African Cities 2017.

For more Wits research news, visit



Film-maker Nduka Mntambo is fascinated with Joburg. His PhD


Deborah Minors

“This is my space,” Mntambo waves an arm around his small, surprisingly bright office in the basement that houses the Film and TV Division in the Wits School of Arts. He’s always been interested in space. Having previously worked as a production designer, Mntambo built and tore down sets as required. He became interested in space and in trying to understand Joburg as it is represented in film. “What is it about this city and its structures? When you do production design you have to research the space. There’s lots of moving around, buying materials in the city. That’s when I started to understand the different parts of the city: Diagonal Street by the old stock exchange, that colossal glass building, the small beautiful shops selling muti…” Mntambo was born in Sebokeng in 1979. He attended Fundulwazi Secondary School where he participated in a youth acting group. After matric he enrolled at Vista University to read for a degree in law. During this time he auditioned for a part in a show at the Market Theatre. “Gamakhulu Diniso, a satirist, was my mentor. I took the job at the Market Theatre and never looked back.” Mntambo abandoned law and enrolled at Wits for a BA in Dramatic Art, specialising in film and TV production. He began doing shows at the Wits Theatre – behind the scenes rather than on stage.

uses creative research to explore the city as a moving target.

“I remember for a class that started at 08:15, I would need to be at the train station at 05:15. There’s a coach of worship, a coach where people smoke weed in the early hours of the morning. I would get in, get to Park Station and walk to Wits.” Mntambo’s sister, who was studying teaching at Vista, enticed her brother into reading. He read one of her set works, 100 Years of Solitude (1967) by Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez. “It’s an incredible story of a family in South America told over 100 years in the style of magic realism – an epic. It literally changed the trajectory of my life. My world just opened,” says Mntambo. He went on to teach at the University of Johannesburg for four years and then returned to Wits to pursue his PhD. At this time his fascination with Joburg really took root. He names Welcome to our Hillbrow by Phaswane Mpe as a seminal influence. This novel is about a young black man inhabiting “this space” and represents Mntambo’s first foray into reading Joburg. Mntambo immersed himself in this new, young Johannesburg – an exciting, contradictory and dynamic space characterised conversely by Sandton versus Alexandra and the flight of capital to the northern suburbs.

“I’m really interested in form in film-making. But films profile

are not neutral. Part of my work is to make explicit that a

Nduka Mntambo

film is a construct – that there is a maker who comes with his own experiences and prejudices.”

At Wits, his Master’s experimental film, If This Be a City (2015) is a gritty, visceral re-imagination of the flâneur figure – a person who walks the city in order to experience it. It is an exploration of the politics of space, citiness and desire.

as part of the seminal international Artsearch Symposium convened by Professor Jyoti Mistry and Professor David Andrew, in March 2017. This project is an iteration of a creative research doctorate that privileges the idea that artistic research is a viable and important research methodology and means of knowledge production.

“I tried to capture the register of the city – mapping the city with your body. Usually a black man is seen as a figure of violence and fear. How do we invert these tropes?”

The Cities as Moving Targets body of work reflects on contemporary African urban film practice that is characterised by epistemic and aesthetic disobedience.

If This Be a City was selected to be part of the Johannesburg Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2015 and was also part of the Urban Flux Film Festival, which was an official project of the France South Africa Seasons 2012/2013. In collaboration with Mwenya Kabwe, a Lecturer in Dramatic Art at Wits, Mntambo conceived Tomorrow we will remember the things we have forgotten: prompts and projection, a multimedia installation presented at the Afrikan Freedom Station,

“I am interested in thinking creatively about the evolving filmic grammars of researching and representing urban spaces in selected African cities.” A continuation of Mntambo’s Master’s, this doctoral research integrates research field trips to Ghana, film, performance and mobile sculptures. The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis Cities Project has invited Mntambo to present a paper at the Urban World-Making conference in June 2017. He is also part of a panel titled The Cinematic City: Desire, Form and the African Urban which will be presented at the 2017 African Literature Association’s annual conference at Yale University.


Images by Lauren Mulligan


Reshma Lakha-Singh Being a new mother is daunting. Being a woman who works and who is also a mother is even more daunting. Being a single working mother who has to navigate a plethora of childcare and employment responsibilities in Joburg - a city influenced by apartheid’s spatial inequalities - is a juggling act that mothers manoeuvre heroically. Dr Margot Rubin, from the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning based in the Wits School of Architecture and Planning and Dr Alexandra Parker, a researcher from the Gauteng City-Region Observatory, researched the daily journeys of 25 mothers from varying demographic, economic, racial and cultural backgrounds. The concept was born out of researcher, Yasmeen Dinath’s struggles in 2014 whilst she was trying to find her work, life and motherhood balance within the city. “Yasmeen, a new mother, found that she was criss-crossing the city, rushing against time, work deadlines, childcare and the proximity of extended family to assist with childcare. The space you live, work and play in makes a tremendous difference to how you use the city,” says Rubin. The research explored the spatial footprint of mothers as they provide for themselves and their families, maintain homes, work, find quality care and educational facilities for their children, buy groceries, take their children out to play, visit a doctor, visit extended family, and other daily activities. The mothers interviewed were from varying socio-economic backgrounds and geographic locations. These included unemployed mothers from Diepsloot, middle-class working mothers and affluent stay-at-home mothers from Parkhurst. Several project researchers are also mothers and sharing their own experiences enabled participants to engage more openly. Although this model is contrary to the traditional methodology of a neutral, “objective” researcher, it enabled access to better quality, more nuanced data. Mothers were also asked to map, through drawings, their daily

excursions to indicate how they and their children use the city. In this way, the researchers aimed to understand why mothers from the same or similar places made such different spatial decisions and why some mothers opted to leave their children with grandparents in rural areas or small towns. “Joburg is a hostile place. The public spaces are hard to access, parks are unsafe so mothers use malls as recreation spaces. Sometimes the lack of safe transport keeps them homebound,” says Rubin. The research revealed that some mothers have geographic footprints that don’t exceed their immediate neighbourhood. Others, however, travel across the city to meet their children’s needs. It also found that the socio-economic status of the mother is a deciding factor in where she lives and works, but not necessarily in how far she travels - some of the poorest households traversed the greatest distances. But it was also found that households with the same income from the same location chose to operate within a very small area. “The spatial footprints are a complex web of decision-making that weave apartheid-era geography, urban conditions, employment opportunities and varying definitions of being a mother. Choosing where you live, shop, work and send your children to school are all about trying to balance what you think is best for your kids and yourself – all the time, with every decision,” says Parker. “The moral geography of motherhood is not defined by efficiency or convenience, but by cultural definitions of motherhood versus the ideology attached to motherhood.”


Mothers drew their daily journey to illustrate their use of city space.





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06h30 At crèche 06h30 – 07h00

Kagiso in taxi queue to Joburg CBD


Simon in taxi to work

08h00 – 8h15

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an Kagiso Modise (33), a creditor’s clerk at Wits University is married to Simon Modise who works as a retail sales person in Woodmead. They live in Randfontein with their children, Boitumelo (7) and Katleho (3). Boitumelo attends school in the Joburg CBD and Katleho’s crèche is in Soweto.

16h30 – 17h00

Kagiso in taxi queue to Joburg CBD + Soweto

MATERNITY 16h00 – 17h00

Boitumelo’s taxi to crèche

17h00 – 19h00

Kagiso taxi to crèche


Taxi home from crèche

19h15 At home 19h30

Dinner and homework


Simon at home

20h30 – 21h00

Children go to bed


Kagiso goes to bed


Schalk Mouton

Image by James and Connor Steinkamp

in cities


Cities are becoming increasingly smart and efficient in serving their residents. A few examples of how smart cities are introducing new (and old) technology to create better lives for their citizens are outlined below.



Shanghai’s new Natural History Museum is a skyscraper that is ‘spiraling downward’. Built in a green park, the museum attracts over 3 000 visitors a day who come to view the 10 000 artefacts. The museum is a bioclimatic building that responds to the sun using an intelligent building skin that maximises daylight and minimises solar gain.

In 2009, the City of Los Angeles invested US$65 million into retrofitting 170 000 of its 219 000 streetlights with new energy-saving smart LED lights. This resulted in an energy cost saving of about US$ 9 million a year. The new streetlight network not only lowered the load on the system but the city gained the advantage of adding a number of new ‘smart’ features into the network.

The building is constructed around an inner oval courtyard where a pond provides evaporative cooling at the bottom. The temperature of the building is regulated with a geothermal system that uses energy from the earth for heating and cooling. The building includes exhibition spaces, a 4D theatre, an outdoor exhibit garden, and a 30 metre tall atrium that welcomes visitors with an abundance of natural light filtered through a striking glass wall inspired by the cellular structure of plants and animals.

For example, adding 30 new electric vehicle charging stations to the street light poles and replacing normal street light poles with ‘smart poles’, which includes 4G LTE wireless technology to improve cell phone usage. In future, the lights will change in response to what is happening around them; blink if there is an ambulance or police car on the way, brighten up for pedestrians at night in an area where there is a public event, or even call the emergency services when it picks up signs of gunshots in an area.



When the City of Medellin in Colombia grappled with the idea of how to knit together their fractured city so as to integrate the lesser-developed suburban areas, then-mayor Luis Perez proposed the introduction of cable cars. Medellin’s Metrocable began operating in 2004 and, fully integrated with the rest of the city’s transport system, carries 30 000 people per day. It is highly recognised for its cost-effectiveness, low emissions and energy efficiency and studies have suggested strong correlations between the intervention of the Metrocables and dramatic reductions in crime.

Transport is one of the major challenges in overcoming historic socio-economic inequalities, says Professor Rob Moore of the Gauteng City-Region Observatory, based at Wits. Transport is the life-blood of a city’s economy and the one aspect that connects people to the places where they work and live.

“The genius of the Metrocable is that it actually serves the poor and integrates them into the city, and gives them access to jobs and other opportunities,” says Julio Dávila, a Colombian urban planner at University College London.


The London-based company, WhereIsMyTransport has connected the dots of formal and informal transport routes in Cape Town and integrated them on free, easy-to-use public transport maps that include the most popular minibus taxi routes. The company collected data from over 13 000 kilometers of taxi routes in three weeks, visiting every taxi rank. “The end result is this map (pictured) featuring 137 of the city’s 657 unique routes, intended to offer an insight into the city’s extensive network, and to draw attention to the possibilities for better integration between taxis and other modes of transport,” says Joe Peach, Head of Digital Marketing at WhereIsMyTransport.



Images by City of Los Angeles


coming to

THE CITY How migration impacts student health For many students, migrating to Joburg to study at Wits is stimulating, but the adjustment can be physically and emotionally debilitating. by

Deborah Minors When Khmera Dayah (20) was accepted to study BSc Biology in 2016, she was excited to relocate to Joburg from Polokwane, Limpopo. Coming to the city, however, proved bewildering. “I was excited but anxious as I didn’t initially have accommodation. I came with my family for a weekend to find somewhere to stay. We got lost. I saw Joburg as this huge urban jungle,” recalls Dayah. In 2016 there were 9 930 students from outside Gauteng at Wits and 3 261 from beyond South Africa. Although the data doesn’t distinguish between rural and urban origins, some like Dayah experience both the euphoria of independence and the stress of reorientation in an often ruthless Joburg. “I found it overwhelming. It’s mind-boggling, the busy-ness. And in the morning from 5am, I just hear traffic,” says Dayah, who stayed in the Junxion Residence on the Parktown/Hillbrow border.

Dr Mark Collinson, a Reader in Population and Public Health at Wits, researches migration. “Understanding health trends among migrants is difficult because in most cases they – including migrant students – fall outside health systems planning and may struggle to access healthcare facilities. As a result health authorities find it hard to accommodate migrants when they become ill,” he says. A study that Collinson conducted looked at data gathered from health and demographic surveillance systems. These systems record population dynamics and monitor the movement of people over time. The data showed patterns of migration and death in nine district-level health and demographic surveillance systems in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mozambique and South Africa, seven of which were rural. “Most migration takes place within a country’s borders. People very often move for economic reasons. Those who move may be healthier than those who don’t, but the movement can adversely affect health and may disadvantage migrants in terms of accessing healthcare,” says Collinson. In Collinson’s study, many residents left their rural homes because they were attracted to urban hubs with better economic opportunities and living conditions. But once in

the urban area some indulged in risky behaviour: smoking, drinking, unhealthy diets or unsafe sex. Some also had difficulty accessing health services. Consequently when their health deteriorated, they returned home to seek healthcare and support. “From studying the population of over 100 000 people in the Agincourt sub-district of rural Mpumalanga for over two decades, we have learnt that a large proportion of the population are temporary migrants who travel away from home for purposes of work and study,” says Collinson. The data show that amongst all 20-29 year-old males in the sub-district, 6.2% were temporary migrant students in 2005 and 8.3% in 2015. Amongst 20-29 year-old females, 6.6% were temporary migrant students in 2005 and 10.3% in 2015. The proportion of young adults migrating for studies is higher for females than males and the proportion is increasing in both sexes. Students who migrate to Joburg encounter multiple experiences that impact health and demand fundamental adjustment. Culture shock, dietary changes, emotional demands,


Image by

homesickness, alienation, academic stress and prejudice can be crippling for an uninitiated youngster studying in a city. “I came from a small school but at Wits there are people everywhere. I battled with identity. At home I was unique – there aren’t many Indians in Polokwane – but here I found myself put in a box. That didn’t make me feel great,” says Dayah. Katlego Makgopo (19) came to Wits in 2016 from Seshego, a township in Limpopo where she lived with her parents, three younger siblings, her aunt and her nephew. The second-year BSc Biology student recalls her first experience of Joburg as “Loud!” “I’m not into noise and I permanently experienced headaches. The traffic affected me. I got sick in my third week in first-year and went to Campus Health. I missed school for two days,” says Makgopo.

they are not familiar with the city or a necessary phone call to parents reveals a migrant student. Matimba says, “Irrespective of students’ origins the most requested healthcare service is contraception. Following that, most students present with respiratory tract infections, then digestive problems. Many also request HIV testing.” In addition to headaches, the sins of the city confronted Makgopo. She was persistently subjected to peer pressure. “There was this one party I attended but I don’t drink alcohol. I was put under a lot of pressure in terms of drinking. That was the last party I went to because I didn’t enjoy the peer pressure,” she says. Makgopo says coming to the city has mostly been a positive experience. “I was shy but now I can literally go to a place that I haven’t been to before using public transport. I’ve adjusted and I am learning everyday how to live in this city.” She may even make Joburg home.

Sister Yvonne Matimba, Head of Campus Health at Wits says it’s hard to tell where her student-patients are from. Sometimes a student supplies an address which suggests

For more migration research visit




Schalk Mouton

It feels like an adventure when you dress up in your cycling clothes, rather

I am 42. I have done it all: bungee jumping from the Gourits River Mouth at the

than your work attire, to go to work. It is almost liberating when you get onto

age of 16, diving with the monsters in “Shark Alley” at Sodwana Bay at 17. As a

your bicycle, rather than into your car, to ride to the coal-face of modern

journalist I have covered violent protests and riots ad nauseam (including the

slavery. You feel a bit like a rap artist when you’re whizzing downhill with the

one where the Blue Bulls lost the Currie Cup to the Cheetahs at Loftus in 2005)

wind blowing through your hair at 50 km/h, rather than sitting in traffic listening

and snuck into war-torn Syria by crossing a river in a cut-out diesel tank, with

to the latest caller complaining to “Koelaaanie” about what “they” have done to

artillery rounds smashing into the hills of the town to which we were headed. Last

the country since “they” took over, or her new neighbours slaughtering a goat

year I did my first skydive with its 75-second free fall. Looking at the pictures

in their back yard – in Northcliff, nogal! But the biggest rave of them all – the

afterwards, those who know me say it was the first time they had ever seen me

one that turns your fluffy tail feathers into steel wool (don’t ask me how I know

smile. I mean, really smile!

Schalk Mouton

this) – is riding in a cycling lane.

Image by Schalk Mouton


“A ride in a cycling lane, I tell you, is the ride of your life!”

But none of this compared to riding a bicycle in a cycling lane in Joburg.

Even so, when Standard Bank built their new green building in Rosebank

If you want a real rush, this is what you should do: Dress in a MAMIL suit

they purposely built only 3 000 parking bays for the 6 000 employees that

(Middle Aged Men in Lycra), pomp your tyres styf, and brave the dirty green,

occupy the building, and installed cycling racks and showers. However, that

broken-glass strewn lane marked with a yellow bicycle. I have done this. I

never really convinced people to shove their business suits in their rucksacks

have broken the mould of the usual cotton-balled Joburg northern suburbs

every morning and to pedal to work.

resident. I am proud to declare: I rode in the cycle lane. Should we wish to encourage alternative transport, like cycling, there is It all started out with a seemingly innocent brainstorming session to find

much more to be done, like creating better, more innovative and safer infra-

a topic for this column. “Someone should cycle to work and do a story on

structure for cyclists (and pedestrians), and policing the by-laws properly to

that,” said one of my colleagues, her eyes glinting wickedly. Being extremely

ensure it is safe. Employers should also make facilities available for staff to be

trusting in nature, I didn’t for a second consider that she might secretly be

able to at least take a shower before starting their first meeting.

scheming to get her hands on my hotly contested desk-space in Solomon Mahlangu House. Naively, I agreed.

I drive a dirty, fuel-heavy, diesel bakkie to work every day and I would love to leave it at home and rather cycle to work. However, the thought of riding

I don’t have to tell anyone who has ever set foot on a public road in Joburg

in the cycling lane in Enoch Sontonga Avenue actually scares me to death.

about the dangers of cycling to work. They are plentiful and life-threatening

The only users that actually use these lanes are taxis, Rea Vaya buses and the

- motorists, criminals, potholes, broken traffic lights, minibus taxis, northern

recycling dudes who surf their trollies down the road. Once, I even saw a taxi

suburb housewives walking their poodles in the road because there are no

four-wheeling up the pedestrian sidewalk to get past his colleague – who

pedestrian lanes, tuk-tuks and Uber drivers.

was apparently not driving fast enough. In the cycling lane.

But by far the most perilous hurdle to overcome when cycling to work came

Admittedly, on my ride to work, I only travelled about 30 metres in the

from a completely unexpected corner – my loving, understanding and trusting

cycling lane. However, while that only lasted seconds, it could easily eclipse

wife (Did I say, “I love you, my dear”?). I won’t bore you with the bloody details.

my 75-second skydive free-fall adrenaline rush. Your senses are on high alert.

Suffice to say that getting the idea of cycling to work past my always loving,

Your heart races. You smile – really smile – as you pedal for your dear life. At

understanding wife was by far the most difficult challenge of this whole crazy

any moment, you can expect a blaring hooter, the screeching of tyres, a bus

endeavour, and it took hours of careful, painstaking relationship manage-

pushing you onto the sidewalk, or a taxi crushing you to death.

ment to rebuild our marriage after the conversation that ensued on the topic. A ride in a cycling lane, I tell you, is the ride of your life! Joburg is by no means unacquainted with cyclists. Thousands of people take to the streets every morning to ride, and between 5am and 6am, you literally have to fight your way through herds of MAMILS to get where you want to go.


The strange phenomenon is that the very same people who cycle for sport, would literally rather be caught dead before they cycle to work.

Forget tandem skydiving or train-surfing! Join me for a hell-raising, exhilarating tandem cycle trip down the most horrifying cycling lanes that Joburg has

Using data from the fitness tracking software, Strava, research has shown that 84 279 cycling trips were logged in 2014 and only 20% of those were for commuting purposes. Eighty percent of cyclists in Joburg cycle just for the hell of it. This I understand. Arriving at work at 9am after a 10km cycle, sweating like a cabinet minister, I had to change quickly and step into my first meeting. Luckily, this meeting was only with my team, so they were the only ones who had to deal with me dripping with sweat. Our communities are just not set up for using alternative transport to work.

ever seen. Take the ride of your life. It might be your last.



A solemn transformation In 2017 Wits University changed the name of the building known as Senate House to Solomon Mahlangu House. Solomon Mahlangu was an ANC freedom fighter and Umkhonto we Sizwe operative. He was arrested and convicted of murder in 1979 and sentenced to death. The University’s Naming Committee amended the name at the request of the Wits SRC. The building was the epicentre of the 2015/2016 #FMF student movement. The construction of Senate House was approved in 1968 with a budget of R200 000. Professor John Fassler, Chair of Architecture at Wits in 1965, died before completing the working drawings. The firm Nurcombe, Summerly, Ringrose & Todd took over the project. Myra Fassler, daughter of Professor Fassler and also an architect, remained associated with the project through a group established with the Fassler family, called John Fassler Associates. The building took five years to complete and ultimately cost R9.10m. Furniture and fixtures cost an additional R3.57m. The Minister of National Education for the National Party, Dr Piet Koornhof officially opened Senate House on 10 August 1977. At the opening, Wits students demonstrated against apartheid in higher education. Source: The Reporter, No. 25 September 1977


An exceptional university Wits is a remarkable university that is internationally distinguished for its excellent research, high academic standards and commitment to social justice.



160 000

The only globally ranked university in Johannesburg, the economic heartland of the continent.

The number of Wits A-rated researchers, those recognised by peers globally as world leaders in their field.

The number of Wits alumni worldwide.

Percentage of Wits research published in leading international journals.


A solid history of almost 100 years.

Wits is one of two leading Universities ranked first or second in Africa in all major international rankings.




is the largest producer of medical specialists and sub/super-specialists in southern Africa. is ranked eightth among 300 institutions in the Times Higher Education BRICS and Emerging Economies Ranking 2017. there are over 23 500 universities in the world. is 24th worldwide in producing global CEOs. is placing its graduates at the forefront of the new digital economy (the Fourth Industrial Revolution) through exposure to the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Zone, Big Data, digital business and many other inter-related initiatives. is committed to advancing social justice. is home to leading academic, researchers and talented students. 3 Witsies have made it into Time magazine’s Top 100 most influencial people’s list.

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