Rescaling municipal governance amidst political competition in Gauteng: Sedibeng’s proposed re-demarcation
In 2011, the Gauteng Provincial Government proposed that Sedibeng, a Category C district municipality located in the province, should be restructured. Although the original proposal had anticipated that this would happen after the 2016 local elections, the issue remains unresolved due largely to fierce party-political opposition and vociferous protests against it on the ground.
This Occasional Paper examines the dynamics, particularities, peculiarities and challenges of re-demarcating the Gauteng City-Region. While informed by technical reasons, the arguments for and against the merger have tended to gravitate more towards party-political rationales for why the re-demarcation should or should not go ahead. Although these debates raise important merits and demerits for the proposal, they are difficult to disentangle from the interests of those whose fortunes would be changed by restructuring. In this environment, municipal demarcation risks being held hostage by party politics, with stakeholders such as political parties using any means at their disposal to have things go their way, including by scapegoating the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB).
The case of Sedibeng presents important lessons about attempts to make post-transition local government – and mechanisms for determining its configuration – work for Gauteng. It also highlights the need for strengthening and revising demarcation-related legislation. How can we make sure that the MDB functions effectively with respect to its primary goals?
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An analysis of well-being in Gauteng province using the capability approach
As countries across the globe pursue economic development, the improvement of individual and societal well-being has increasingly become an overarching goal. In the global South, in particular, high levels of poverty, inequality and deteriorating social fabrics remain significant challenges. Programmes and projects for addressing these challenges have had some, but limited, impact.
This occasional paper analyses well-being in Gauteng province from a capability perspective, using a standard ‘capability approach’ consistent with Amartya Sen’s first conceptualisation, which was then operationalised by Martha Nussbaum. Earlier research on poverty and inequality in the Gauteng City-Region was mainly based on objective characteristics of well-being such as income, employment, housing and schooling. Using data from the Gauteng City-Region Observatory’s Quality of Life Survey IV for 2015/16, our capability approach provides a more holistic view of well-being by focusing on both objective and subjective aspects simultaneously.
The results confirm the well-known heterogeneity in human conditions among South African demographic groups, namely that capability achievements vary across race, age, gender, income level and location. However, we observe broader (in both subjective and objective dimensions) levels of deprivation that are otherwise masked in the earlier studies. In light of these findings, the paper recommends that policies are directly targeted towards improving those capability indicators where historically disadvantaged and vulnerable groups show marked deprivation. In addition, given the spatial heterogeneities in capability achievements, we recommend localised interventions in capabilities that are lagging in certain areas of the province.
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Linked to project(s):Poverty in the GCR: A capabilities approach (2020)
Johannesburg and its epidemics: Can we learn from history?
Covid-19 has massively disrupted life globally and locally, bringing many uncertainties in its wake. It is not, however, the first epidemic to pummel the world or our own country, region and city, raising the question of what we can learn from history. In the case of Johannesburg, epidemics have included: smallpox in 1893; measles in the internment camps of 1901/02; pneumonic plague in 1904; influenza in 1918/19; poliomyelitis in various outbreaks between 1918 and 1957; scarlet fever in outbreaks between 1917 and 1941; and HIV/Aids from the late 1980s. This is in addition to lesser epidemics such as influenza in 1957 and listeriosis in 2018.
History cannot, of course, tell us what will happen with Covid-19; each epidemic has a different epidemiology and has happened in very different temporal contexts with immense variation in terms of population, society, politics, medical knowledge, and more. Nevertheless, there could be some clues from history which may relate to issues of geography, settlement type, mobility, and degrees of immunity or viral resistance within the population. The knowledge drawn from history must, however, be deployed judiciously and in relation to the current science. Even so, there are critical themes cutting across historical episodes that may usefully shape our attention in the current moment. The paper provides an account of the history of Johannesburg’s epidemics, drawing from sources which were available during the Covid-19 lockdown, and suggests six themes to consider in an analysis of history and of current circumstances:
- The idiosyncratic course of epidemics and therefore the need for both close monitoring of developments and high levels of agility in governance response
- The ways in which epidemics are associated with social scapegoating, stigmatising and pathologising, and the need therefore for strong, progressive leadership to counter this;
- The effects of epidemics on the economy, and especially on the livelihoods of the most vulnerable segments of the populations;
- The effects of epidemics on the spatial forms and infrastructures of the city, including through the opportunistic use of epidemics to pursue prior spatial agendas;
- The ways in which epidemics have been governed, with the strengths and drawbacks of the various approaches, including more nationally or more locally centred governance arrangements; and
- The ways in which epidemics have impacted on governance forms into the future, including on institutional forms, legislation and urban policy.
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Linked to project(s):Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in Gauteng
Urban agriculture in the Gauteng City-Region’s green infrastructure network
As cities in developing countries contend with the challenges of urbanisation, they need to rethink the traditional modes of urban planning and development. Part of this logic is the need to cater for growing populations without compromising urban environments or social development. A green infrastructure approach can help meet infrastructure and service needs while ensuring the proper functioning of natural ecological systems. As part of the green infrastructure network, urban agriculture can create multifunctional green assets in the form of urban farms and food gardens. When planned accordingly, urban agriculture can contribute to addressing a range of issues in the Gauteng City-Region (GCR).
The aim of this occasional paper is to gain a better understanding of urban agriculture within the green infrastructure network in the City of Johannesburg and to identify the range of ecosystem services that could be delivered when maintaining and investing in these assets. The analysis in this paper adopts a multi-method approach to (1) identify the interlinkages between urban agriculture and social, economic and environmental systems in the City of Johannesburg; (2) validate these critical interlinkages with stakeholder input and ground-level experience of urban agriculture; and (3) visualise these interlinkages through a spatial analysis of food gardens in the City of Johannesburg.
This paper builds the argument that urban agriculture is a multifunctional element of the green infrastructure network in the GCR. It is worth maintaining and investing in food gardens because they contribute to a number of development imperatives in Gauteng. Food gardens may enhance food security by broadening the range of locally produced food sources that improve the potential to help the poor to access fresh food. Productive food gardens may provide economic opportunities, particularly in areas with minimal access to retail outlets and where unemployment is high. Lastly, as a component of a green infrastructure network, food gardens also help strengthen the provision of a range of key ecosystem services. Inter alia they help address climate change and build disaster resilience through flood management and carbon capture.
Of course, urban agriculture will not deal with any of these challenges in their entirety, but within a wider green infrastructure approach, it has the potential to contribute significantly if it can be mainstreamed into municipal development processes. Realising the benefits of green infrastructure hinges on integrating this approach into municipal planning in a way that aims to improve the productivity of ecosystem service delivery. The paper concludes with recommendations for strengthening policy, management, planning and operational support for food gardens in the GCR.
Conceiving, producing and managing neighbourhoods: Comparing urban upgrading initiatives in Johannesburg
At present there are a great number of urban interventions taking place within the Gauteng City-Region, including transport and area-based upgrading projects (Corridors of Freedom/Transit Oriented Development), mega-human settlements, inner-city renewal schemes, and the establishment of City Improvement Districts (CIDs) in various locations. As they are envisioned, planned and implemented, all of these projects will make significant alterations to the urban fabric. It is therefore crucial that research engages with these processes and captures their dynamics, contradictions, contestations and outcomes.
This Occasional Paper contributes to this endeavour by examining how two very different area-based management and urban upgrading projects have been imagined and executed. The report comprises a case-study of the expanding Ekhaya precinct in Hillbrow, a densely populated, economically stressed inner-city neighbourhood, and the development of a precinct plan in Norwood, a middle-class suburb situated to the north of the inner-city. Ekhaya is a Residential City Improvement District (RCID) and was an intervention led primarily by private, commercial developers. The Grant Avenue Precinct Plan (GAPP), in contrast, was initiated by local government as part of broader efforts to manage change and facilitate residential intensification and improved inclusion in the suburb.
Comparing and contrasting approaches in two vastly different sub-local areas gives an opportunity to explore the varying actors; governance arrangements; urban upgrading ambitions and ideals; resources, practices, mechanisms and infrastructures; alliances and partnerships; and compromises and experiments that are assembled at the neighbourhood scale to bring urban upgrading interventions to fruition. The paper also draws particular attention to the fault lines, points of divergence, and conflicts in the two settings, and how these frequently hinder or frustrate efforts at urban improvement.
The Occasional Paper is divided into three main sections.
The first section, ‘Conceiving neighbourhoods’, outlines the visions and ideals that have shaped neighbourhood formation, planning processes and urban upgrading initiatives in the two case-study sites. It shows that Johannesburg’s vastly unequal landscape hinders the articulation of a single, unified vision for the city. Improvement in Hillbrow has entailed dealing with day-to-day deprivations, service delivery failings and deficits in basic urban management. The visions that informed urban regeneration in the Ekhaya RCID are therefore relatively mundane, but are capable of bringing about significant improvements to the area, as well as to the lives of its residents. In contrast, the visions behind the precinct strategy for Norwood were far more ambitious as they aimed at generating drastic change in the suburb’s built environment and social landscape. However, various socio-economic challenges – financial constraints, organised opposition from affluent residents and lack of support from the private sector – have rendered these broad ambitions unattainable.
The second section, ‘Producing neighbourhoods’, examines the various tactics, strategies, planning mechanisms and material objects that were used to bring visions to life and give form to the two neighbourhood improvement schemes. For example, it explores how different security infrastructures mobilised in the Ekhaya RCID have defined the neighbourhood and separated it from the general disorder and decay that characterise the wider Hillbrow area. While these infrastructures have had significant effects on the neighbourhood, and contributed to improved feelings of safety, they have also introduced inequality – as the area has come to enjoy improved levels of policing and safety, crime has been displaced to surrounding neighbourhoods yet to attract private investment. The section further shows that while physical infrastructure is important, it is not sufficient to generate neighbourhoods and associational life. Rather, the realisation of visions for improved forms of belonging and social cohesion rely on the creation of social networks, and opportunities for socialisation and shared recreation. Highlighting experiences of upgrading two parks, Ekhaya Park in Hillbrow and Norwood Park, this section emphasises the importance of public space, and the shared ideals and commitments to social inclusion that should inform planning processes and urban interventions at the local level. However, the section also documents the prejudices and exclusionary attitudes that frequently emerge during such processes.
The third section, ‘Managing neighbourhoods’, describes the institutional arrangements, day-to-day activities, forms of partnership and adaptive strategies being used to sustain urban interventions and regulate neighbourhoods. It investigates contrasting viewpoints and approaches to dealing with various urban challenges, particularly the role and place of informal activities in the two neighbourhoods. In Hillbrow, the official position is that informal trading is not permitted. However, in reality, actors with degrees of authority and power in the area have recognised the need to be tolerant towards people engaged in such practices, and frequently cooperate with some informal traders. The section therefore shows that urban governance requires the formation of arrangements and partnerships of convenience at the sub-local level, and that adaptive, flexible urban management practices are required, particularly in stressed neighbourhoods characterised by high levels of poverty. In contrast, although the official plans formulated for the GAPP stipulated that vulnerable groups such as homeless people, car guards and informal traders were to be protected, in reality, intolerant attitudes were evident and powerful residents and businesses used a variety of tactics to marginalise these groups and attempt to remove them from the area. The section therefore shows how everyday power and resource differentials can often supersede or subvert good intentions towards inclusivity – the realisation of visions for urban improvement unavoidably seems to generate new forms of exclusion that planners, officials and civil society need to be aware of.
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