Most South African cities still exhibit apartheid settlement patterns. Discrete areas of racial concentration and a variety of buffer elements separating them from one another are clearly distinguishable.
Two major pieces of legislation from the 1950s were the primary tools whereby the apartheid city model was imposed on South African towns and cities by the previous regime; namely the Population Registration Act (No. 30 of 1950) and Group Areas Act (No. 41 of 1950).
The Population Registration Act provided for the compulsory classification of people into discrete racially defined groups (e.g. Black, White, Indian & Coloured). These groups formed the basis upon which communities could be spatially segregated through the Group Areas Act; which was used to enforce the segregation of racial group areas.
Segregated group areas were reinforced through a system of buffer elements, ensuring that any new growth would not jeopardize the underlying apartheid settlement structure. Apartheid buffer systems served as barriers to the spatial integration of racial groups. Examples of buffer elements include:
The map accompanying this post visualizes the legacies of urban apartheid using the city of Potchefstroom as an example. In the absence of Group Areas data, a statistical approach was adopted using the 2001 national census as a correlating proxy. For this approach, where suburbs measured a particular racial predominance of over 60% population, these suburbs were classified according to that dominant racial group. Satellite imagery and other mapping resources were used to classify the buffer elements situated between racial concentration areas.
Informal settlement locations (as per 2009), and post-apartheid public housing delivery patterns (1994-2008) were added to the analysis, considering that these two elements comprise a major public sector investment towards settlement restructuring in the post-apartheid era.
This analysis was done by SATPLAN ALPHA during 2009 as part of the North West Informal Settlement Upgrading Program (ISUP), with a view towards flagging issues associated to the then preferred policy of in-situ upgrading of informal settlements and the potential reinforcement of urban apartheid spatial patterns as a result.
The data suggests that apartheid spatial legacies are still a strong feature of South African cities, illustrated by the spatial relationships between racial concentration areas, remaining buffer elements, low-cost housing delivery patterns and informal settlements, to the extent that:
The overarching urban planning challenge facing South Africa today is the effective dismantling of apartheid spatial legacies, with a view towards integrating former population group areas and deconstructing the remnants of the buffer system. This arduous task is both complex and costly, and will rely on a generation of South African planners’ ability to not only transcend the social constructs of their forefathers, but also draw adequate spatial intelligence into their work.
Spatial freedom in our lifetime!