11/08/2014 Durban Chairperson , Diakonia Council of Churches awarding Richard Dobson.
PICTURE: SIBUSISO NDLOVU
11/08/2014 Durban Chairperson , Diakonia Council of Churches awarding Richard Dobson. PICTURE: SIBUSISO NDLOVU

Rights award for city architect

By ZAINUL DAWOOD Time of article published Aug 12, 2014

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Durban - Local architect and social justice facilitator, Richard Dobson, received the 2014 eighth annual Diakonia human rights award on Monday night.

Dobson, who was given a standing ovation at the Diakonia Centre in Durban, was honoured for his work in the Warwick Junction area.

Dobson is known for decades of tireless campaigning for improved development in Warwick Junction, which is notable for its provision of urban infrastructure that supports informal workers.

At the International Union of Architects World Congress held in Durban last week, eThekwini Municipality’s chief architect, Jonathan Edkins, told delegates that Durban had been wrong to try to close down the Warwick Junction market and move traders into a new mall.

Edkins said moving the traders out was just one example of how the World Cup in 2010 “damaged our city”.

Dobson touched briefly on this subject last night, saying that surveys by his team showed how each of the traders contributed to the city.

“I think it’s sad that it takes an international conference for those statements to be made. I am curious about how that apology is going to be transmitted to the people who were the victims of that decision. Let’s see how it plays out in terms of a real change of heart,” he said.

“I am encouraged by the mayor’s statement when he opened the conference speaking about architects needing to become more people-friendly. It would be a better way of doing things.”

People were trying to earn an honest livelihood, he said.

Dobson and researchers spent years on the streets listening to the traders.

“Metro police raids caused traders to lose their goods. In some instances, many could not afford to pay the fines,” he said.

Dobson and a team of researchers also wrote a book titled Working In Warwick, based on the lives of the street traders.

“The mall would not have catered for all of them and this would have resulted in job losses and unemployment,” he said.

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