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Landscapes of peripheral and displaced urbanisms

Much of the current policy-oriented spatial research is single-issue driven, with the research question set by a policy problem in need of resolution – the affordability or poor location of housing; what sustainable human settlements are all about; how to activate transit-oriented development; and so on. This research is important and valuable. But very often it is normatively driven rather than carefully examining actual spaces and spatial processes through a multidisciplinary perspective. This project moves from the premise that a ‘landscape’ study approach – involving both careful empirical analysis of specific places over an extended period as well as new theorizing of the urban processes shaping them – may better elucidate the global and generalisable as well as the local and idiosyncratic forces (including government policy) producing spatial forms.


Photo: Phola, Mpumalganga along the Moloto Road (R573).

This long-term project studies the northern GCR’s peripheries and ‘zones of displaced urbanisation’. These are homes to hundreds of thousands of people, some of which were historically without discernible economic centers. This spatial focus is important because the idea of an extended city-region, spanning across the borders of the Gauteng province, is often mentioned, and the need to situate the trends and dynamics shaping Gauteng within its wider frame – the platinum belt in the west, the coal and energy economies of the east and south – is frequently mentioned. However, to date, GCRO has done very little sustained and in-depth research into the areas adjoining the formal administrative boundaries of Gauteng. The ex-bantustans in and adjoining Gauteng are a significant and generally under-studied feature of the region. There are arguably few major metropolitan regions in the world that have a periphery of city-sized populations forced by past policies into inefficiently located, not-quite-urban, and not-quite-rural settlement forms. We know very little about how these areas are changing. Do long-term commuting patterns still sustain them? Are they aging and depopulating over time? Are they benefiting from investments of migrant worker wages? Are any new local economies emerging over time? What are the government's plans for them, and how do such plans articulate with the long-term strategies (spatial and otherwise) being generated by Gauteng? Could it be that these areas are forming into socio-spatial, political and economic spaces with dynamics that are common with, unique to, or divergent from one another and the metropolitan core areas of the Gauteng city region?

Video: KwaMhlanga Crossroads, Mpumalanga, located at the intersection of roads R573 and R568.

The first year of work (2017) was preliminary. It involved the collection and review of relevant work ranging from the Urban Foundation’s first study in the late 1980s on ‘displaced urbanisation’, to recent Moloto Corridor feasibility studies for possible major rail infrastructure investment. This scoping exercise also involved site visits in the outer reaches of the GCR. The end of 2017 and 2018 have seen in-depth interviews conducted in the former KwaNdebele, Mabopane, Soshanguve, and Rustenburg. In June 2019, the quantitative study using the Quality of Life survey V instrument was completed. It became necessary to delay the writing of this report at the onset of Covid-19 in order to reflect on the implications of the pandemic for this research. Accordingly, a separate paper 'Ecology of an Egalitarian City' was written and presented at the GCRO Brown Bag on 24 June 2020. The draft report is being edited before it is submitted to external reviewers through the GCRO Research Oversight Committee.

The project team also includes Jennifer Murray; Dr Sally Peberdy, a former GCRO Senior Researcher; Dr Cathy Dzerefos, lecturer at the Department of Environmental, Water and Earth Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology; and Avhatakali Sithagu of the School of Architecture and Planning.

Jennifer Murray is a GIS Consultant for a construction engineering company (RSK Group) in England. Dr Sally Peberdy is a former GCRO Senior Researcher. Dr Cathy Dzerefos is a lecturer at the Department of Environmental, Water and Earth Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology. Avhatakali Sithagu is a lecturer in the Wits School of Architecture and Planning.



Mosiane, N., Peberdy, S., Dzerefos, C., Sithagu, A., and Murray, J. (forthcoming). Landscapes of peripheral and displaced urbanisms. Report of the Gauteng City-Region Observatory, Johannesburg.

Ngaka Mosiane (forthcoming). 'Ecological landscapes of city regionalism, Kasis, Masakela and Magaeng'


Mosiane, N., and Götz, G. (2022). Displaced urbanisation or displaced urbanism? Rethinking development in the peripheries of the GCR. GCRO Provocation #08, Gauteng City-Region Observatory, April 2022. DOI: 10.36634/SVRW2580

Mosiane, N. (2022). 'Mobility, Access and the Value of the Mabopane Station Precinct'. Urban Forum.

Mosiane, N. (2021). 'Livelihoods, the Body and the Space of Phokeng, Rustenburg'. In: L. Marais, M. Campbell, S. Denoon-Stevens, and D. Van Rooyen (eds.). Mining and Community in the South African Platinum Belt: A Decade after Marikana, Nova Science Publishers, New York: Nova. pp. 39–68.

Maps of the Month

Masters Students on The Politics, Economics and Governance of Extended Urbanisation course, University of the Witwatersrand, and UCL, City Co-Labs module, MASc Global Urbanism. (2023).Extended urbanisation of the GCR: gender, work commutes, income-driven migration and belonging’, GCRO Map of the Month, Gauteng City-Region Observatory, August 2023.

Mosiane, N. and Murray, J. (2021). ‘Economic and commuting connections in the northern GCR’, GCRO Map of the Month, Gauteng City-Region Observatory, August 2021.

Mosiane, N. and Murray, J. (2021). ‘Distribution of population and economic activity in the Gauteng City-Region’, GCRO Map of the Month, Gauteng City-Region Observatory, August 2021.

Mosiane, N., Sibisi, R. & Katumba, S. (2018). ’Commutes through Mabopane Station’, Map of the Month, July 2018.

Selected presentations

Ngaka Mosiane (April 2022). ‘Mobility, Access and the Value of the Mabopane Station Precinct’, Anthropology and Development Studies, University of Johannesburg, 20 April 2022.

Ngaka Mosiane (April 2022). ‘The transformative potential of cities’, The library of things we forgot to remember, 44 Stanley Ave, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, 29 April 2022.

Ngaka Mosiane (June 2020). 'The Ecology of an Egalitarian City', GCRO Brown Bag, 24 June 2020.

Ngaka Mosiane (November 2019). ‘Revisiting the transformative potential of the city of Rustenburg’, at the Mining and the future of Rustenburg workshop, University of the Free State, 19-20 November 2019.

Ngaka Mosiane (November 2019). Respondent to the compendium and presentation on the Future of African Cities, Mombasa 8-10 November 2019.

Ngaka Mosiane (January 2019) ‘Governing the periphery of the Gauteng City-Region’, the Urban Annual Research Conference (City and the Region) at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, 10-12 January 2019.

Ngaka Mosiane (October 2018) ‘Mobility, Displaced urbanisms, and the Remaking of Tshwane, South Africa’. Spaces and Flows Conference, Heidelberg University, Germany, 24-26 October 2018.


Symposium on Spatial transformation and the Gauteng Spatial Development Framework Review, August 18, 2022

Ngaka Mosiane was interviewed on Radio France Internationale on the diversity of everyday life in South Africa – the effects of socio-spatial and transport inequalities, 16 May 2022

Ngaka Mosiane was interviewed on Voice of Wits 88.1 FM, Braamfontein about Cities in a Post-COVID World. 04 April, 2022

Ngaka Mosiane, Mamokete Matjomane and Avhatakali Sithagu (2020). Categorising South Africa’s resilient urbanisms. Urbanet blog of the German Corporation for International Cooperation.

Last updated: 04 March 2024.


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