The Gautrain is on Track

The question on everyone’s lips is whether we will be ready for the Fifa 2010 Soccer World Cup. From soccer stadiums to road upgrades, South Africa’s sectors are coming together to host one of the biggest events the African continent has ever seen. One such project, the Gautrain, has been running since 2000 – four years before the announcement was made to hold the games in the country. 

Building the Gautrain
The Gautrain system, with a fleet of 24 state-of-the-art train-sets, will cover 80km of dual track, with 15km of tunnel, 205 bridges and ten brand new stations. In time for the World Cup, phase one of the project will be completed by May 2010, with stations at OR Tambo International, Rhodesfield, Marlboro and Sandton. The second phase, to be completed by April 2011, will include lines to and from Pretoria, with stations at Hatfield, Pretoria City Central, Centurion, Midrand, Marlboro, Sandton, Rosebank and Park. There will also be links to this line leading to Sandton, Rhodesfield, Marlboro and OR Tambo International. 

As a priority, security will include 450 CCTV cameras spread across the trains, stations and parking areas, as well as 350 patrolling security personnel. The project is currently finalising negotiations with the SAPS to base a police station at each of the train stations. “We are confident that from a personal security point of view, we can safeguard people using this mode of public transport,” says Project Manager of the Gautrain, Jack van der Merwe.  

Spending up to R3 million per hour, with an overall budget of R25 billion, the construction spans 52 sites simultaneously. Not without its challenges, the project faced a near-disaster crisis with a recent sinkhole in Oxford Road. “When something like that happens, it is important to see that your safety systems worked – and in that situation, they did,” Van der Merwe says, explaining that the tunnel boring machine was removing more material out of the tunnel than it was supposed to. After investigating, the team discovered that an old water pipe had burst, which caused the soil to move down. Once they had filled the sinkhole with gravel and constructed a concrete slab over it, they were able to continue with construction after 36 hours..  

Reliable and eco-friendly 
“We can’t keep building ourselves out of congestion,” says Van der Merwe. In Los Angeles, in an attempt to overcome congestion, more roads were built. Today, the city covers over 100km of space with 20 to 30 lane freeways – and has some of the worst pollution statistics in the United States.

After conducting an environmental assessment of the project, it was found that if 
135 000 people used the Gautrain per day, about 19 000 tons of carbon monoxide pollution would be prevented every year. “Not only will the Gautrain be the more environmentally friendly option, it will also be the more reliable choice,” says Van der Merwe. “A trip by car from Pretoria to Johannesburg takes about 60 to 180 minutes, depending on the level of conjestion and delays, but on the Gautrain, it will take you only 38 minutes.”

Part of the Gautrain marketing strategy is to make public transport a mode of choice, rather than a mode of force. “Currently, people are using public transport because they have no other option,” Van der Merwe explains. “Rather, we want people to view using public transport as an intelligent choice of commuting.”

The Gautrain will run every 10 minutes during peak hours and in the off-peak periods, at a maximum of every 20 minutes – from early in the morning until late at night. 

Cost to the man on the street
At the time of conducting a feasibility study, the cost of fuel was at R4 per litre with the perceived cost of motoring at about 60 cents per km. This calculation translated into about R20 per ticket between Pretoria and Johannesburg and about R12 between Rhodesfield and Sandton, using the Gautrain. Since then, petrol prices have soared to over R10 per litre. “The South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) is currently upgrading all the freeways in Gauteng,” Van der Merwe says. “Once this is completed, all cars will have transponders installed to be tolled automatically when using those roads,” Once this system is up and running, the average person can expect to pay about R1 000 extra – on top of the R100 each day in fuel costs between Pretoria and Johannesburg. “These developments make using the Gautrain a far more viable option,” emphasizes Van der Merwe.

Skills development and transfer
“The Gautrain project has been beneficial to ordinary South Africans, in that skills development and skills transfer programmes have been put into place,” says Van der Merwe. The project has, since its inception, created 21 600 jobs with training programmes and apprenticeships for about 2 000 people. The Concessionaire has also set up an office in London in the hopes of recruiting the skills needed for the project. To date, 51 South African engineers, who were working overseas, have since returned to work on the project.“We are bringing something that is comparable on an international level, to South Africa,” Van der Merwe says. “The project has brought in a wide range of new technology, created many jobs and has put South Africa on the map in terms of public transport.” 

Author: Charlene Yared-West. Go Gauteng, September 2008.

Greening the City

Believe it or not, Joburg is the world’s largest man-made forest 
When you think of forests, you think of lush trees, birds twittering on fresh breezes and the feeling of soft ground underfoot – a far cry from the concrete jungle of Joburg, right? Wrong. In 2005, the world discovered that Johannesburg was home to the world’s largest man-made forest. Comparative research was carried out in leading cities and satellite images of the earth showed that Johannesburg was the most densely forested city on the globe.

Originally savannah, Johannesburg started its greening transformation about 100 years ago, strangely enough with the growth of the mining sector in the city. “In those days, mostly affluent people lived in the city centres,” says spokesperson for Johannesburg City Parks, Jenny Moodley. “Tree cover expanded as more people settled in the city and wealthy immigrants brought with them varied species of trees –  which is why many of the trees in Johannesburg are not indigenous.” Tree cover also spread through natural means of pollination and through people planting more trees themselves. Today, Johannesburg boasts as many as 10 million trees in both private and public spaces. 

“But the southern part of the city remains a dust bowl,” says Jenny. “Johannesburg City Parks is planting more trees all over Johannesburg, but specifically in the far southern and northern areas, as part of our 2010 Greening the City campaign.”

This campaign has not been without its challenges. “In Johannesburg, space is at a premium, so we need to ensure that even though our priority is to plant trees, we retain space for pedestrians to walk,” Jenny explains. “Another challenge is that the cost of planting a tree has escalated from about R350 to R1 000 for an 80mm, 2m high indigenous tree.” To overcome this problem, Johannesburg City Parks has been lobbying for companies in South Africa to adopt greening campaigns and many of them have responded positively.

The ‘green team’ has also had to deal with the loss of trees to bad weather and vandalism. Jenny says that they lose two of every ten trees planted. As a result, they are now insisting that the service providers who care for the trees maintain a 95 percent survival rate – and should they drop below the 95 percent mark, the service providers are compelled to replace the damaged trees.

In line with the 2007 mayoral aim of planting 200 000 trees before the 2010 Fifa  Soccer World Cup, Johannesburg City Parks have planted more than 93 000 trees, in the past five years. But to meet their objective, Johannesburg City Parks still has to plant 300 trees a day. 

The ‘green team’s’ work is easy to see. Jenny urges visitors to take a drive down the main roads, such as William Nicol and Old Potchefstroom Road. She says to keep an eye out for the water features and large pots they are also installing as part of the city’s greening and beautification plan.

Johannesburg City Parks has also been involved with restoring old parks to their former grandeur. “Once you’ve restored the dignity and integrity of a space, there is a greater sense of community ownership,” says Jenny. “This impacts positively on the social, economic and ecological state of the city, reducing concerns such as littering, vagrancy, vandalism and illegal dumping.”

Jenny emphasizes that greening the city has incredibly positive spin-offs. She encourages more residents to plant trees – and not just indigenous types. They should look at planting fruit trees, she says, taking into consideration the global food shortage and the need to attract and retain urban biodiversity such as birds and butterfly species. 

A breath of fresh air: OZONE DAY
This year’s International Ozone Day, celebrated on September 16, has the theme of ‘Montreal Protocol – Global Partnership for Global Benefits’. “Even though we stopped the production of CFCs in 1987 with the Montreal Protocol, we are still seeing the nasty effect of those gases on our planet,” says Specialist Scientist for the South African Weather Service, Casper Labuschagne. “Only within 60 years will the planet be effectively healed from CFC gases, provided we don’t pollute the air any further – and continue with the greening programmes.” 

Tree of life: ARBOR DAY
Celebrating Arbor Week from September 1–7, Johannesburg City Parks aims to plant over 60 000 trees in the southern parts of the city this year. The organisation has invited 15 corporates to adopt streets in the southern dust bowl, where they are each to plant 1 000 trees, marking the start of Arbor Week 2008. South Africa is slowly making climate change a priority as it realises the effects of pollution.,The trees absorb a lot of the pollution in the air, acting like natural atmosphere scrubbers.

Author: Charlene Yared-West. Go Gauteng, September 2008. 

Women of the new world

Igniting Progress
“Equal power and glory to the Women of South Africa!” Words spoken by former President Mandela in 1996, at a speech commemorating the 9th of August 1956, which has become South African Women’s Day. On this day, 52 years ago, over 20,000 women from all over South Africa united in their cause to protest against the pass laws of the time, by marching onto the Union Buildings in Pretoria, singing “Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo; uzokufa!” [Strike a woman, Strike a rock!] This phrase has become synonymous with the inner strength, resilience and courage of South African women, in the face of severe circumstances. Not only were these women contending with racism, they also had to overcome the challenges of being female in a white man’s land, within a misogynist mindset.

What was it that made these women so angry? Angry enough to come together in what is known as the biggest mass gathering of women ever to be held in South Africa? Throughout history, this anger has spurred millions of women the world over to stand up and fight for equal rights in a patriarchal society. Yesterday’s woman was confined to a life of housekeeping, child-rearing, keeping her man happy and even seeing to the agricultural responsibilities of the homestead. Today’s woman can proudly claim her position on the social, political and economic ladders of success, with or without a male counterpart in her life.

The Cost of Freedom
A peek into the history books will show how a fighting spirit, partnered with fury over a social cause, has moved mountains, triumphed over wars and won the vote for the ‘meeker’ sex. We can go as far back as the 14th century, where Joan of Arc, as a peasant girl, was able to convince whole armies to fight according to the divine guidance she received. Even though the French army won many of their battles under her leadership, it did not end well for her, as she was burned at the stake as a witch in 1431. Another woman, Florence Nightingale, otherwise known as ‘The Lady with the Lamp’, was not only influential in the fields of nursing and mathematics, but also fought for women’s rights, writing a book about the over-feminisation of women in the later half of the 18th century. 

The 19th century saw even more women leaving dishcloths, gardening tools and motherhood behind and instead becoming more involved in the running of their countries. From the burning of the first bra in 1968 in the USA – in sheer defiance, to the 1980s in South Africa, where many women suffered police detentions or were forced into exile for their indignation and refusal to stay detached from the torment of the times. One of the first women to fight for freedom from unequal conditions for African women in South Africa was Charlotte Maxeke in 1913, the first president of the Bantu Women’s League, an earlier version of the ANC Women’s League. Around that same time, esteemed writer and feminist Olive Schreiner wrote on the topic of equal rights for women in the country, in her widely acclaimed book, The Story of an African Farm. She also campaigned for the rights of black people in South Africa, befriending Mahatma Ghandi, who shared similar views on unity of the people. 

Without these brave forerunners, South African women would still be fighting as fiercely as before. Now, with the South African Constitution of 1996 in place, women can scale the same heights as men – and even surpass them, as equal contenders in all spheres of life.  

International Women’s Day
In the prefect scenario, women from every corner of the globe would be free, living in an equal society. Sadly, women in the Middle East, various African countries and other parts of the world, continue to suffer horrendous violations of their basic human rights. International Women’s Day, held annually on 8 March, since 1909, celebrates the rights wrought by women throughout history and also generates awareness around the plight many women continue to face. The day also commemorates the Triangle Fire of 1911, in New York City, where over 140 working women lost their lives. This devastating incident resulted in many changes to the labour legislation and working conditions in the USA and acted as a catalyst for change internationally. 

Challenges Overcome
Women of today are more assertive, more demanding and more ambitious than ever before. Today we have women in space, female presidents and prime ministers. We also have university graduates, career moms and female pastors. Celebrate South African National Women’s Day with pride and remember the words in the petition presented to the Prime Minister in Pretoria on 9 August, 1956; “We shall not rest until we have won for our children their fundamental rights of freedom, justice, and security.” Thanks to their persistence, women now control their own choices, as a result of the hard-won triumphs of the past.

Notable Milestones in the History of Women

  • 1491 – Queen Isabella of Spain funds Christopher Columbus’ voyage, which leads to the discovery of America.
  • 1786 – Astronomer and scientist Caroline Herschel of Germany becomes the first woman to ever discover a comet.
  • 1895 – Annie Londonderry of America is the first woman to bicycle around the world in 15 months.
  • 1905 – Charlotte Maxeke becomes the first black South African Black woman to receive a Bachelor’s degree. 
  • 1908 – Cecilia Makiwane becomes the first Black professional nurse in South Africa. 
  • 1912 – Canadian Mary Dawson develops the concept of minimum wage.
  • 1915 – Audrey Munson of America is the first woman to appear nude in a motion picture in Inspiration. 
  • 1926 – American Gertrude Ederle is the first woman to swim across the English Channel.
  • 1930 – White women in South Africa get the vote. 
  • 1947 – Mary Malahlela-Xakana becomes first female black doctor in South Africa.
  • 1955 – Patricia Jobodwana becomes the youngest black woman in South Africa to enrol at a university, at age 14. 
  • 1956 – 20,000 march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, to protest against passes for women. 
  • 1963 – Russian Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman to go to space. 
  • 1975 – Japanese Junko Tabei becomes the first woman to summit Mount Everest. 
  • 1979 – Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
  • 1974 – Isabel Perón of Argentina, is the first woman with the title of President.
  • 2006 – In celebration of National Women’s day 50 years before, women again march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where they hand a memorandum of grievances to President Thabo Mbeki. 

Author: Charlene Yared-West. Published in Go Gauteng Magazine, August 2008, p. 12.

Destination Kyalami

Not all memories stand the test of time, but a visit to Kyalami will leave you with a feeling of nostalgia, as you remember the beauty of the Lipizzaner horses, the quiet tranquillity of the Kyalami Country club and the tearing zoom of a Grand Prix kart as it swerves its way around the track. Kyalami a word meaning ‘my home’ in Zulu, promises an unforgettable experience for young and old, ensuring all visitors enjoy her adventurous hospitality and wide open spaces, and leave with glorious stories to tell… 

The Fast and the Furious
Kyalami is synonymous with the world of Grand Prix motorsport, since its founding year of 1961. Situated north of Johannesburg, the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit remains the most famous strip of tar on the African continent and from 1967 to 1985, hosted the South African Grand Prix, as well as other international events such as the legendary 9-hour race. The circuit was remodelled in 1987 and again in 1992, when it hosted two further rounds of the World Championships in 1992 and 1993. World Superbikes visited Kyalami between 1998 and 2002 with the inaugural round of the GP Masters held at the circuit in 2005. Kyalami continues to host national motorsport events with exciting international events planned for 2009 – and in 2011, will celebrate its 50th birthday.  Also located in the Kyalami racing circuit is the Kyalami Kart Circuit, just waiting to give you the driving experience of a lifetime, from R200 for 12 laps. Step into Schumacher’s shoes as you whiz around a track run by motor-sporting enthusiasts, the Piazza-Musso and Wentzel brothers.  

A stroll on the Greens
In 1954, a fraternity of Jewish golfers decided to open their own country club to cater for the needs of the Jewish community in Johannesburg. After finding the perfect spot, they started laying out the plans for their dream course and in 1955; the Kyalami Country Club was officially open for business. Today, with 1300 members, the course caters for all levels of golfing skill and boasts its own Pro Shop.  At R375 for non-members, the green meandering fairways, challenging hazards and conversation with a worthy opponent, make for a perfect day spent in the sunshine. Celebrate your win with sundowners at the clubhouse.

Get on your High Horse
Kyalami is also home to South Africa’s foremost equestrian venue, the Kyalami Equestrian Park, which extends over 21 hectares of land. The park is host to major events on the equestrian calendar, including the South African Derby. Performing every Sunday at the park are the South African Lipizzaners at 10:30am at the price of R80 per ticket. Brought to South Africa in 1944 by Count Jankovich-Bessan, the Lipizzaners are descendants of horses that were reared in the famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna, 430 years ago. Witness these majestic beauties as they gracefully showcase a classical dressage performance with accompanying music – a magnificent outing not to be missed.

Eat your Heart out
Whether it’s traditional Indian, Italian or even a tender T-bone steak your tastebuds crave, Kyalami has it all and more. The Raj Indian Restaurant promises a spicy north and south Indian food adventure cooked up by authentic chefs and caters for vegetarians and carnivores alike. Try their freshly baked naan breads from their traditional clay oven, as well as their aromatic tikka masala, khorma and vindaloo dishes. If you’re a lover of all things Italian, then Casa di Paglia, owned by Vincenzo Incendiario is the place for you. Serving Italian cuisine for the last 25 years, the food is meticulously prepared by Vincenzo and his team, treating guests to original recipes of fish, meat, chicken, pasta and pizza. For a more exotic dining experience, Blueberry Grill serves speciality sushi dishes, scrumptious grills, seafood and salads, accompanied by a range of cocktails to ease you into the wee hours of the night. For the most succulent prawns in Kyalami, turn into Jimmy’s Killer Prawns and taste a variety of seafood, harvested off the coast of Africa. In the mood for something light and healthy? Try Kyalami’s Foxglove Herbs and Delicacies, serving only the best in organic and natural foods, where guests can shop or relax in the adjoining coffee shop. 

Shopping Spree
Kyalami is host to an array of interesting shopping nooks – but first, drop the kids off at Earth Kids Play Patch, a supervised kids play-park and playground, so that you can browse Kyalami’s two shopping centres at your leisure. Stroll around the Crowthorne Centre or the Kyalami Downs Shopping Centre, where you can shop until you drop, perusing clothing, jewellery, adventure, toy and hobby shops.  

Useful Contacts

  • The Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit: 011-466-2800
  • Kyalami Kart Circuit: 011-466-3678/9
  • Kyalami Country Club: 011-702-1610
  • Kyalami Equestrian Park: 011-702-1657/8/9
  • South African Lipizzaners: 011-468-2718
  • The Raj: 011-468-1861
  • Casa di Paglia: 011-466-2618/42
  • Blue Berry Grill: 011-466-2664
  • Jimmy’s Killer Prawns: 011-466-9502
  • Foxglove Herbs and Delicacies: 011-466-9977
  • Earth Kids Play Patch: 083-233-7806

Author: Charlene Yared-West. Published in Go Gauteng Magazine, July 2008, p.6.