SA yet to achieve land reform in urban areas, says deputy minister

Cape Town – There has not been any substantial land reform and restitution in urban areas in South Africa.

So says Deputy Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Andries Nel, who was speaking at the Planning Africa 2018 conference on Monday.

"President [Cyril] Ramaphosa has urged us to be bold in our thinking on the integrated urban development revolution. The successful development of African cities will require the whole of government to work together," said Nel.

He presented a keynote address on behalf of Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Zweli Mkhize at the conference, which is taking place under the theme "The making of modern African cities".

"President Ramaphosa recently emphasised in Parliament that, to accelerate spatial transformation, under-utilised land should be developed for mixed use," said Nel.

"Some land, for instance, is held privately for purely speculative purposes. We need to develop a continuum of use to achieve social and spatial economic transformation, according to the president."

The 2050 boom

According to Nel, it is estimated that by 2050, most of the world’s urban population will be in Asia and Africa.

"Cities drive economic activity and can enable a country to build dynamic (development)," said Nel.

"President Ramaphosa said recently that we must make our cities generators of wealth and reservoirs of productivity. So, social and economic development is imperative."

Nel said in SA 66% of those who already live in cities and, as a whole, the country’s metros, had average incomes about 40% higher than in other areas.

"The spatial form of SA cities continues the profound social divisions. Since 1994 there has been uneven growth in land values and the poor do not have access to resources," said Nel.

Need for urban change

Ramaphosa had said the urban spaces inherited from apartheid must be fundamentally changed, he noted.

"It is unacceptable that the poor, who are predominantly black, are living far from work places in spatial poverty traps. Long commuting times impact the income of poor households disproportionately," said Nel.
"To give effect to the National Development Plan (NDP), Cabinet adopted a new deal for SA cities and towns. The aim is to guide inclusive and liveable urban settlements, while addressing unique challenges in SA cities and towns."

The creation of empowered communities would require the creation of compact, connected, coordinated cities and towns and safe urban spaces, he said. In this process, jobs, housing and transport would have to be important focal points.

He said to obtain urban spatial restructuring and reduce urban sprawl, a shift was needed to bring jobs and investments closer to "peripheral townships". Furthermore, interventions must be based on an integrated approach of effective urban planning to strengthen the link between urban and rural areas.

Nel said one of the challenges was that the private sector frequently failed to align with public sector plans. Weak spatial governance then led to a tendency in the public sector to simply follow where private sector investment was taking place, instead of following the overall public sector spatial development aim.

"We need to align the spatial, sectoral and strategic development plans. We must improve the quality of municipal spatial plans in developing priority areas," said Nel.

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