PREVIOUS Isandla Development Communiqué reported on the
Reading Group on City Development Strategy in Cape Town that Isandla
Institute is convening. This has sparked quite a bit of interest
and we have received a number of queries of people who would like
to participate in such a forum. The idea of a reading group clearly
taps into a need among busy professionals for spaces for constructive
engagement and dialogue. More importantly, perhaps, is that the
reading group compels these professionals from different organisational
settings and professional disciplines to read. We are not suggesting
that development professionals do not read at all. Most of us
will read reports, pamphlets, newspaper articles and maybe even
journals related to our areas of professional interest. But how
often are we able to allocate a few hours to read thought-provoking
pieces on broader development issues and dynamics that are not
directly related to our projects and daily activities? Work-related
pressures and the need to produce specific outputs often prevent
us from prioritising our ‘intellectual sustenance’.
How many of us have the experience of having a pile of interesting
articles and books on our desk, without actually being able to
get to them? In the end, these articles and books may be filed
and shelved, in order to make space for another growing pile of
interesting reading material.
not taking time out to read up on theoretical reflections on development
policy and practice holds the danger of entrenching a ‘tunnel
vision’ to our daily work, disconnected from broader reflections
and learning processes. In the end, development interventions
are likely to be outdated, unimaginative and poorly conceptualised,
with limited impact in terms of achieving meaningful social change.
Also, the people designing and implementing these interventions
are likely to lack the necessary intellectual stimulation to remain
inspired about their work and prevent some state of burnout. It
is this realisation, coupled with the understanding that few busy
professionals will find (make?) time to read unless a structured
space for reading is created, that has informed the idea of starting
the reading group in Cape Town. Based on the meetings held to
date and the interest expressed by those who would like to participate
in such a forum, it seems an initiative worth emulating in other
places and with different thematic foci. Isandla Institute hopes
to convene a similar initiative at national level next year.
your immediate reading pleasure, this issue’s feature article
in our Thought Matters section is written by Mirjam van Donk,
who writes on the State of the Cities Report 2004 published by
the South African Cities Network recently.
South African cities in perspective
by Mirjam van Donk
significance of the recent State of the Cities Report 2004 can
hardly be overstated. For the first time, there is a comprehensive
yet accessible overview of recent urban development trends in
the nine main urban centres in the country. But the report goes
beyond highlighting facts, figures and trends; it also sketches
the contours of a more comprehensive policy framework for urban
development and makes a strong case for the development of a coherent
report is published by the South African Cities Network (SACN),
which is made up of the municipalities of Buffalo City (East London),
Cape Town, Ekurhuleni (East Rand), eThekwini (Durban), Johannesburg,
Mangaung (Bloemfontein), Msunduzi (Pietermaritzburg), Nelson Mandela
(Port Elizabeth) and Tshwane (Pretoria). The SACN intends to publish
the report on an annual or biennial basis.
on a comparison of Census 1996 and Census 2001, the report dispels
a number of ‘urban myths’. One of these myths is that
migrants are flocking to cities in droves, with the large metropoles
as their favourite destination. Instead, evidence suggests that
urban growth in the nine SACN cities is slowing down compared
to only a few years ago. In fact, the report finds that the proportion
of people living in the ‘Big 9’ is similar to that
in 1946, namely just below 40% of the total population. Of course,
we are talking about very different cities, not least in terms
of size: between 1946 and 2001, the total number of people inhabiting
the SACN cities has increased almost six-fold to 16.5 million.
As the report further observes, urban growth is actually happening
at a faster rate in some smaller (secondary) cities, like uMhlathuze
(Richards Bay/Empangeni), Mogale City (Krugersdorp) and Rustenburg,
which is not unlike regional and global trends.
report dispels another assumption related to the myth about unbridled
urban growth, namely that migrants to the city are almost by definition
from rural areas. In fact, a quarter of migrants into the nine
SACN cities comes from another SACN city and 50% of those leaving
an SACN city have moved to another SACN city. Clearly, migration
is a more dynamic phenomenon than generally assumed and is not
particularly well understood.
interesting phenomenon revealed in the report – consistent
with the government’s Ten Year Review – is that there
has been significant growth in the number of households over the
past few years, which is disproportionate to the increase in the
number of people living in the SACN cities between 1996 and 2001.
In other words, existing households in these cities are splitting
into smaller units. This trend has important implications for
persistent myth or perception is that poverty is largely a rural
phenomenon. Yet, the report shows high and increasing levels of
poverty and unemployment in South Africa’s cities. For example,
in 1996 about one in ten households in the nine cities claimed
to have no income; in 2001, this had nearly doubled to one in
five. Likewise, urban unemployment increased from 29% to 38% -
amounting to a total increase of over one million job seekers
in the SACN cities. In some cities (Buffalo City, Msunduzi and
Nelson Mandela), the unemployment rate was significantly higher
than the national average of 45%.
report also confirms what many of us knew or suspected: cities
can be places of great opportunities for personal advancement
and a good quality of life as much as places of exclusion, stagnation
and a relentless struggle to survive. The gap between the ‘haves’
and the ‘have-nots’ has increased significantly over
the past few years and, unsurprisingly, income inequality remains
particularly stark along race lines. Inequality also has spatial
manifestations, with poor communities generally located on the
periphery of the city, in substandard housing, far from places
of work or recreation, schools and shopping centres. It is clearly
proving very difficult not to perpetuate the apartheid form of
South Africa’s cities.
governments are certainly not oblivious to the needs of their
inhabitants and to the difficult challenges of promoting ‘productive’,
‘inclusive’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘well-governed’
cities, as outlined in the framework of analysis used by the SACN.
As the report illustrates, significant progress has been recorded
across the nine cities in relation to the number of households
with access to water, electricity, waste removal and housing.
At the same time, the report shows quite clearly the difficulties
in keeping pace with new demand – in particular, the significant
increase in the number of households. Thus, the number of households
without access to basic services has also increased – in
some instances at the same or even faster rate as the number of
importantly, perhaps, is the report’s stance on the limitations
of pursuing urban development through an infrastructure-led approach.
This is likely to cause some controversy, not least because there
is enormous pressure to get ‘the basics’ right –
a sentiment strongly endorsed in the President’s current
drive to turn development into clear deliverables within the short
to medium term. Instead, the report argues for a more comprehensive
approach to social development that enables residents to share
materially and psychologically in the benefits of city life.
its assessment of urban trends, development challenges and progress
made, the State of the Cities Report 2004 has become a critical
advocacy tool for all those concerned with the lack of appreciation
for urban issues in national policy. The timing is opportune,
as the Department of Provincial and Local Government is currently
finalising the draft Urban Strategy 2004. The report also gives
plenty of reason to critically engage with the draft Intergovernmental
Relations Bill and its proposed instruments to facilitate intergovernmental
collaboration. Clearly, the realisation of equitable urban development
is beyond the powers, capabilities and resources of city governments.
Area-based development requires the involvement of other spheres
of government, but in practice intergovernmental collaboration
has proven to be extremely difficult to achieve.
short paper cannot do justice to the depth and breadth of issues
covered in the report. It sets an excellent precedent for future
reports on the state of South African cities. However, in my view
the report suffers from three substantive weaknesses.
the section on sustainable cities is not based on the same rigorous
assessment of data and trends as other sections in the report.
This is unfortunate, because the complex ways in which cities
shape environmental outcomes (for current and future generations)
and impact on the carrying capacity of the natural environment
is a critical issue. To some extent, this can be explained by
the fact that cities were unable to provide the requested data
that would allow for a consistent analysis. But it also seems
to point to the lack of a coherent analytical framework that would
enable a more thorough analysis.
although the report includes the occasional reference to HIV and
AIDS, observations are limited to the anticipated impact of HIV/AIDS
on demographic trends and to HIV/AIDS as a health issue. Despite
this, projections that Gauteng is likely to become an urban region
similar in size to the world’s megacities (particularly
Lagos and Los Angeles) do not take account of the fact that about
one in three South African adults living in SACN cities is currently
living with HIV/AIDS. To be fair, HIV/AIDS is occasionally mentioned,
but it remains ‘the big unknown’ – an unmeasured
and as yet unpredictable factor for urban development. Even then,
nothing is said about the implications of HIV/AIDS for poverty
and inequality, gender relations, the local economy, planning
and service provision (including the fact that a significant number
of adults living with HIV/AIDS are likely to work for city councils
and other spheres of government). Yet, HIV/AIDS is likely to pose
the most fundamental challenge to urban development in years to
come. Recognising HIV/AIDS for what it is – a development
issue, rather than merely a health concern – requires it
to be a constituent part of the conceptual framework (even if
there are still many ‘unknowns’).
with the exception of devoting two short paragraphs to gender
equality, women are invisible in the report. Sections on crime
make no mention of gender-based violence or how women’s
perceptions of safety affect their mobility, their ability to
take advantage of socio-economic opportunities and their overall
sense of wellbeing. A recent study on women in Johannesburg commissioned
by the City of Johannesburg found that gender inequality is a
persistent reality, with African women being most marginalised
in many respects. Like HIV/AIDS, a gender approach to urban development
is not an optional extra – it has to be an integral part
of the analysis.
future State of the Cities reports will address these weaknesses.
HAS BEEN very encouraging to receive positive feedback on previous
Isandla Development Communiqués. Thanks to all of you who
have sent us general feedback.
his response to the previous Communiqué, Jens Kuhn writes:
I always enjoy ISANDLA communiqués, this one no exception.
Africa's growth and prosperity, the Renaissance, economic development
etc; the things theorists always are hoping and arguing for no
longer depend on grand theories; there is no policy answer, no
systems answer, to these questions. It is about building and holding
public trust. Most of Africa, as with China, operates on private
trust; family, cliques, clans, ethnic networks, etc. This must
be broken if we are ever to reach the heights of development and
wealth the advanced countries have. I believe the most important
things for development theorists and commentators (like ISANDLA)
to confront, and very loudly criticise, are incidences which erode
social trust. Unfortunately such incidences are hardly ever grand,
sweeping acts, or systems policy changes. They are small, often
personal acts, such as King Zwelitini's insistence that his daughter
receives a birthday car as part of a state contract. Or when Pres
Mbeki buys 3 new Mercedeses for friends in Congo with SA taxpayers’
money, and regards it as part of peace initiatives. Moaning about
these kinds of acts feels like street fighting and is beyond pure
theorists’ dignity. BUT there will be no renaissance if
we leave all that kind of petty complaining to the DA. SA has
the system to create wealth and do so be including all citizens.
Now we need quality and ethical leaders.