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The Cities This Week: Edition 40




 Police stand guard as protestors demonstrate against a lack of housing and other services outside provincial government buildings in central Cape Town, October 30, 2013.  Image by: MIKE HUTCHINGS / REUTERS

Police stand guard as protestors demonstrate against a lack of housing and other services outside provincial government buildings in central Cape Town, October 30, 2013.
Image by: MIKE HUTCHINGS / REUTERS

BEIJING

Chinese police have detained five suspects in connection with what they are now calling a terrorist attack in Tiananmen Square.

They seized the men within hours of the “carefully planned, organised and premeditated” incident on Monday, according to a statement on the Beijing police microblog.

State media said the occupants of an SUV that crashed through crowds and burst into flames were a husband and wife and the man’s mother, all of whom died after igniting petrol in their Xinjiang-registered vehicle.

Police found petrol containers, two machetes and metal rods in the car, Xinhua news agency said, along with a flag with “extreme religious content”.

LONDON

A ministerial decision green-lighting a plan to raise £8 million in sponsorship to pay for art projects at eight central London Underground stations is imminent.

In March, Crossrail announced co-operation agreements with five London galleries, including the Gagosian and White Cube, to help commission £1 million installations at Paddington, Liverpool Street, Farringdon, Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street. The Lisson Gallery has already hit upon artist Spencer Finch. He has dreamed up a 120-metre long Cloud Index, pictured, which will be etched into the glass roof of Paddington’s ticket hall.

Crossrail expects to raise money from Chinese, Middle East and European firms keen to have their name seen by millions of passengers. A small plaque and a warm glow will be the reward for £1 million.

JOHANNESBURG

Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) spokesperson Edna Mamonyane was an upbeat woman this week. She was excited and proud of how the streets of Johannesburg’s city centre looked after a recent “clean sweep” operation, which has seen at least 6 000 hawkers barred from trading in the city.

Despite condemnation from various quarters about the abrasive treatment of the hawkers, Mamonyane felt that this time around, the city got it right.

“We told them [hawkers] three weeks before we started this operation that we would be removing people trading illegally in the city. We met hawker organisations and various other stakeholders to warn them of this coming operation,” Mamonyane said emphatically.

Mamonyane refuted suggestions that by saying the city is “clean” she is inevitably suggesting that the people are the dirt.

“All we are saying is that the streets of Johannesburg were a nightmare. People were trading on the sidewalks and forcing people to walk on the road. The streets were clustered and congested and now it looks clean,” Mamonyane says.

She says the operation had just started and that the next move would be to go for building hijackers.

NAIROBI

At least eleven people were killed and 34 wounded in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, when a passenger train smashed into a bus, the Kenyan Red Cross has said.

Nairobi police chief Benson Kibui said the bus crossed the railway line as the train came at high speed.

The emergency services took the wounded to hospital as hundreds of people gathered at the scene.

Accidents in Kenya are often caused by of a lack of safety measures on roads and rail crossings, correspondents say.

The 33-seater bus also hit a car during the morning rush hour accident, injuring the occupants, Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reports.

Witnesses told the newspaper that the train driver survived the crash, and went to the nearby God’s Last Appeal Church where he knelt down to pray.

Kenya’s Red Cross said at least 11 people died, three of them at the scene of the accident.

HARARE

Commuters in Harare have applauded the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company’s decision to buy more buses as the move has brought relief for urban commuters. Scores of commuters told The Herald that urban workers were reeling under financial difficulties and lower fares of as little as US$0,50c had brought relief to the public that was being ripped off by kombis which were charging them anything from US$1 to US$2 for a single trip.

“I’m happy that Zupco has acquired more buses. The company’s fares are cheaper and service is dependable,” said Ransom Madhlazi of Highfield.

“This is a total relief to us commuters who face shoddy service from kombi crews who just hike fares when they like. Kombi crews do not treat commuters well and during peak periods they hike fares.”

He said during peak periods, kombi crews could hike fares from US$0.50c to a dollar.

Zupco recently acquired 50 more buses boosting its fleet to 300. The company says the purchase of the new fleet was in line with its three year strategic plan that aims to increase its urban and inter-city routes.

CAPE TOWN

Two Cabinet ministers on Thursday condemned the looting during a violent service delivery protest in central Cape Town. “I want to join [with those] who condemn the behaviour of the thugs who looted shops and especially the stalls of informal traders in… Cape Town yesterday,” Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel told MPs in the National Assembly. Responding to earlier opposition party statements on the matter, he said nobody could support such behaviour, and he called on all parliamentarians to speak out against it. State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele denied the protest was organised by the African National Congress. “As the ANC government, we condemn violence during service delivery protests. [Also, I want to] state categorically, that the protest was not organised by the ANC.”

TORONTO

Toronto mayor Rob Ford asked citizens for forgiveness during his weekly radio show with his brother, city councillor Doug Ford, and apologized for his “mistakes,” but never admitted to or acknowledged any drug use.

Ford opened the show with a pre-written statement apologizing for his recent behavior. “I’m apologizing for some mistakes I’ve made in the past” Ford said. “There’s no one to blame but myself, and I take full responsibility for it,” he said, without ever explaining what it is. Ford also called on Toronto police chief Bill Blair to release the crack video because “Toronto residents deserve to see it and people can judge for themselves.” The two brothers quickly moved on after Rob’s tearful apology to the weather, local sports, and cutting government spending — their usual Sunday afternoon topics.

But we got an expanded explanation from the Ford brothers as the show went on, and they opened the phone lines to viewers. Ford was apologizing for his embarrassing public drunkenness incidents that made the news, like his wild St. Patrick’s Day party at City Hall, or when he showed up “hammered” to The Taste of Danforth street festival, as Ford described his condition on Sunday. He promised to “curb his drinking” in the future. His brother chimed in, suggesting he keep it confined to his “basement” instead of in public.

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Melissa Meyer

Future Cape Town London-based correspondent

Urbanist-in-training from Cape Town, currently working in London. MSc City Design & Social Science.

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