Rethinking South Africa’s urban dynamics

25 November 2015

Strategies for enhancing the economic opportunities available to Gauteng and its people were the focus of discussions at the Gauteng City Region Spatial Planning Summit, which also examined the challenges of the spatial legacy of apartheid.

The summit, held yesterday at the Sandton Convention Centre, brought together various stakeholders, public and private sector planning experts and local and provincial government representatives.

Close to the heart of finding solutions for the province are the principles and outcomes of the National Development Plan and its Vision 2030 to create, develop and sustain growth in the economy and the South African people.

Growing region

Gauteng was home to 24% of the national population, said Premier David Makhura in his address, or about 13 million citizens. It was growing by the year as more people moved into the cities from rural areas to build lives for themselves. “We need to rethink the logic of development, to ensure social and economic inclusion. The urban dynamics of the region must be effectively managed.”

Responsibility lay with local government and the private sector, working together, to not only take steps to manage the influx effectively, but also to position the people of Gauteng closer to economic opportunity. Co-operation between all stakeholders in developing economic eco-systems across Gauteng’s five development corridors must be directed at one ultimate goal: “achieving desirable economic and social outcomes for the people”.

The five corridors are Johannesburg central city hub, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, West Rand and Sedibeng. Each has a specific focus or area of expertise:

  • Johannesburg: financial, pharmaceutical and service industries
  • Ekurhuleni: advanced manufacturing, transport logistics, aviation industries
  • Tshwane: government and legislative administration, research, development and innovation industries
  • West Rand: mining
  • Sedibeng: agriculture, logistics and tourism

Because of the downturn in the traditional industrial sectors that had defined the province for so long – particularly the collapsing steel industry in Sedibeng and the mining slump in the West Rand – these five Gauteng development corridors must refocus efforts on other industries, such as tourism, agriculture, agro- processing and renewable energy in order to make the province a success.

While working as five separate entities, the premier said, these areas must operate as a single body of mutual co-operation: “a single plan for the province, (working) as. a single government”, Makhura explained.

However, he continued, before doing something about these industries, the people of the province should be taken care of first. While the provincial government was also grappling with persistent urban sprawl, reproducing, as he called it, “the spatial legacy of apartheid cities”, planning must better utilise land space and ensure residents were no longer marginalised from the economic hubs.

Implement plans

Pravin Gordhan, minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, delivered the keynote address at the summit. He urged the Gauteng government to be more proactive in developing the province.

“South Africa is becoming famous for developing plans and policies and all sorts of documents, that begin to have very little impact on the ground at the end of the day,” the minister said. This state of affairs was becoming the country’s “Achille’s heel” that continued to keep the country and the economic hub of Gauteng from developing faster and more successfully.

Spatial planning and the implementation of plans to address apartheid’s legacy could effectively reverse the negative aspects of urban sprawl, Gordhan said. “Planning is about increasing the dignity of our people. We need to implement existing policies with commitment and discipline.”

The summit consisted of presentations and discussions on the plans to improve the area, including panel sessions led by Gauteng MECs Barbara Creecy (finance), Jacob Mamabolo (human settlements) and Ismail Vadi (roads and transport).

SAinfo reporter