Although South Africa had celebrated the delivery of 4.3-million houses and housing subsidies since 1994, earlier this year, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu on Tuesday stressed that enormous challenges remained.
“We need to understand the scale of the problem in South Africa. We are correcting and redressing the legacy of the past, while at the same time anticipating the future,” she told delegates at the South African Planning Institute’s seventh Planning Africa Conference, in Sandton.
Sisulu highlighted that government needed to understand the kind of colonial and apartheid spatial planning logic that it was trying to undo, and pointed out that failure to do so would leave the country extremely incapacitated.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking used when we created them. It is necessary to take a short excursion into our past, specifically in the area of human settlements and planning,” she noted.
She pointed out that, six decades ago, South Africans were faced with a choice between two contending ideologies; one was of oppression and sought to disenfranchise the majority of the population and alienate them from their own land, while “the other founded formulation in the Freedom Charter”.
“One sought to divide, the other sought to unite the country and change the mindset of the people. By the time the apartheid majority had been defeated, the geographical landscape was scarred almost irreversibly,” Sisulu stated.
She added that colonial and apartheid legacies structured space across different scales, pointing out that the apartheid system planned spatial inequality well and that undoing that was one of government’s greatest challenges.
The challenge for government was now to reverse the legacy of apartheid and create a future that would respond to present day challenges of urban influx, changing demographics, energy scarcity, unemployment, depressed economic growth and decaying infrastructure.
“We must appreciate that urban migration is rapid, and cities like Tshwane are experiencing an influx of [thousands of] people per month. In a city that is already densified, this is a major challenge,” she said, adding that planning was about envisioning and strategising for a better future.
She stated that old planning paradigms no longer held true and that the planning profession could not carry on with business as usual or ignoring government when it suited them.