VIEWPOINT | The Indigenisation of South African Planning

 In View Point

South Africa is a multicultural nation. Her erstwhile international identity as a bastion of legislated racism is today juxtaposed by the romance of reconciliation and the ideals of multicultural democracy under the Khoisan motto “ǃke e: ǀxarra ǁke”, or “Diverse People Unite”.

The South African settlement landscape mirrors this diversity through spatial form ranging from metropolitan and suburban complexes to small towns and regional agglomerations of rural tribal villages. Apartheid spatial legacies are still apparent at both the local and regional level; stenciled across the landscape as former townships and homelands.

Despite this diversity however, the post-apartheid South African planning mainstream is heavily inclined towards westocentric planning lexicon, concepts and methods. Terms such as ‘nodes’, ‘corridors’, ‘spines’, ‘precincts’ and ‘zones’ are commonplace in plans and policies at all levels.

Our current planning lexicon does not sufficiently harness indigenous South African spatial identities or phenomena.

An ‘indigenisation’ of South African planning is required to reflect the spatial realities of South African society as it actually exists. This is particularly true for the rural development agenda and the integration of tribal administrative systems into the main fray.

Our default planning language should be augmented with spatial terminology that more holistically reflects the South African settlement landscape beyond large towns and cities. An indigenous South African planning terminology would admittedly be broad, locally differentiated by the ethnic context in some cases, and shared as common phenomena in others.

A few examples of South African spatial terms:

  • Lekgotla – A village open space upon which community meetings are periodically held
  • Section – A component of a rural village that is administered by a local ‘chief’
  • Isiganga – An often neglected piece of land in a former township or rural village that is primarily used for waste disposal and/or grazing
  • Rank – An often unplanned space where private minibus taxis rank for commuters
  • Spaza – A local small convenience store interspersed within a township or village

Indigenisation would further extend into matters concerning geopolitics, tribal administration methods and alternative systems of land tenure, which for the most part are not congruent with the national planning system.

One size does not always fit all. Diversity should be embraced through the indigenisation of South African planning.

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