City’s resilience under the spotlight

Karen Gray-Kilfoil, Bernelle Verster, Calvin Diaz, Catherine Dillon and Frances Lombard taking part in the 100 Resilient Cities workshop.

Just how resilient is Cape Town to the many threats it faces?

This question was the focus of a workshop in Muizenberg last week.

Held at The Hive on Friday March 9 the workshop was presented by 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), a programme, pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, to help cities around the world deal with not only natural disasters, but also the sort social and economic problems that can weaken cities over time.

Cities in the 100RC network get financial and logistical guidance; a chief resilience officer to lead the city’s resilience efforts; support from experts on developing resilience strategy and solutions; and access to partners from private, public and NGO sectors who can help them implement preventative or coping strategies.

Cape Town’s chief resilience officer is Craig Kesson, the City of Cape Town’s executive director for the directorate of the mayor.

Gareth Morgan, director of resilience in the City’s new Resilience Office, introduced the workshop at The Hive, and it was led by Cayley Green, a senior resilience analyst.

The workshop heard that 100RC workers had interviewed more than 11 000 households across Cape Town about stresses in their lives.

Unemployment topped the list which led to Cape Town being included in the 100RC programme.

Rates of unemployment here were found to be above the historical average and borne mostly by the youth, aggravating poverty and the growing gap between rich and poor.

Unemployment, warns 100 Resilient Cities, is linked to the threat of civil unrest that could disrupt economic activity in Cape Town, strain social cohesion and political stability, and divert already limited government resources from critical service delivery.

Those who attended the workshop, however, raised concerns closer to home, about marginalised youth; a lack of education, housing, affordable health care; poverty and economic inequality; drug and alcohol abuse; gang violence; violent crime; overpopulation, the risk of disease outbreak; poor regulatory climate; inadequate infrastructure; food and water insecurity; environmental degradation; traffic congestion; a lack of community-oriented green places; and an apparent spiritual and moral regression.

Most agreed that common to all communities were untenable levels of trauma, dubbed “societal stress” by Catherine Dillon, chairperson of the Muizenberg Lakeside Resident’s and Ratepayers Association (MLRA).

Among others at the workshop were ward councillor Aimee Kuhl; Helen O’ Reagan, from the Fish Hoek Valley Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association ; MLRA and Muizenberg Improvement District board member Kevin Rack; Karen Gray-Kilfoil, of the Sunvalley Eco-Watch, and Bernelle Verster, of the Zandvlei Protected Areas Advisory Committee.

Climate change, fires, the possibility of tsunamis and drought were pinned as major environmental concerns. The group also discussed the idea that green spaces could be either assets or liabilities with much robust debate around the polluted canals and Marina da Gama waterways.

Fergus Turner of Muizenberg, suggested they should be called green places instead of green spaces so that communities learn to see these places in a way that encourages them to invest in and look after them.

Felicitas Dagostin said that as a new Capetonian she was impressed by the sense of community in the area but distressed at the lack of safe and viable public transport.

Meanwhile, 100RC announced on its website that Cape Town had been chosen, along with four other cities, to be part of a global water-resilience model.

It is hoped the City Water Resilience Framework (CWRF), developed by engineering consulting firm Arup (with support from The Rockefeller Foundation) will help cities better prepare for and respond to shocks and stresses to their water systems.

The framework also includes Amman, Mexico City, Greater Miami and The Beaches and Hull. Arup’s global water leader, Dr Mark Fletcher, said in the online article that a changing climate and rapid urbanisation were increasing the frequency of water-related crises facing cities.

“Increasingly, unpredictable rainfall, flooding and droughts are impacting cities across their water cycles,” he said.

Andrew Salkin, of 100RC, said in the same article that of more than
1 000 applications to the programme, more than 60% expressed challenges with water – too much or too little – as critical resilience risks.

“There is tremendous opportunity for the cities in this cohort to provide lessons and expertise to the many cities around the world grappling with water challenges,” he said.

To learn more about 100RC, visit