Reshaping Cape Town: New body aims to address spatial segregation in the Mother City

2017-04-12 14:30 - Unathi Nkanjeni
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Cape Town - South Africa has many pockets of spatial segregation, inequality and exclusion when it comes to how its cities and suburbs are set up.  This is all part and parcel of the apartheid legacy. 

Something both locals and tourist visiting our country have had to come to terms with. 

But as this very issue dominates the headlines around the sale of publicly owned land and the effects of the gentrification processes especially in touristy precincts - a new initiative known as the Intergration Syndicate is tackling it at the very core - aiming to find solutions around what it terms "stubborn spatial patterns in order to effect meaningful change". 

The Mother City has been in the throes of a number of large-scale developments and this partnership with public policy research centres involving three Western Cape universities, policymakers, and civil society groups - will see a year-long project to find practical ways of reshaping the city of Cape Town.

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The initiative  - entailing a series of ten “episodes” which will take place once a month - hopes to "spark informed debate about the drivers of spatial injustice and more importantly, to find remedies".

It is being spearheaded by African Centre for Cities (ACC) under development expert, Professor Edgar Pieterse, head of the ACC at the University of Cape Town with several years' experience in running the CityLab project.

According to Pieterse, the IS will be a permanent space where discussions will be hosted around the issue, using maps, information graphics and other data sources to allow widespread participation.

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"This is an opportunity for policy makers at all levels of government, civil society organisations and researchers to find ways to recreate the city of Cape Town," says Pieterse.

Speaking at the launch of IS on Thursday 6 April, Pieterse says more than two decades after democracy the legacy of spatial segregation persists.

What is integration and can it be achieved within the next generation?

"The truth is we have no practical idea how to undo and remake the legacy of spatial inequality within the constraints of private property and existing real estate market dynamics," says Pieterse.

"Worse, our public policies, although well-intentioned, have exacerbated the problem. Social housing policies have seen low-cost housing built further and further out on the periphery of cities, far from transport nodes, from jobs or other economic opportunities."

Pieterse says the problem of spatial segregation has come at great cost, not only financial - referring to the cost of RDP house costing more than the subsidy provided of R90 000 – but also vast social costs and implications.

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"Our social cohesion as a society is undermined daily by the persistence of geographic apartheid, the long and expensive commutes that those who earn the least must endure, and the generally unsafe nature of the townships where most citizens still live, say Professor Pieterse.

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Pieterse says the IS hopes to address the deep public interest in understanding why it is so difficult to shift stubborn spatial patterns and what can practically be done to effect any meaningful change on the ground.

"The organisation aim is to create a broader, more nuanced and inclusive policy community, as well as more effective action across diverse political and institutional settings in the city.

"We hope this will induce a better quality public debate, more effective policy priorities, and a larger network of informed and passionate urbanists across diverse fissure lines of the city."

NOTE: The sequence of discussions and the dates of each workshop are as follows and are by invitation only.  The ten episodes will unfold over a year and culminate in a public conference in March 2018 where the findings of the Syndicate will be presented. For more info - email IS directly.

Episode 1: (6 April)
What is integration and can it be achieved within the next generation?

Episode 2: (4 May)
Geo-historical roots of segregation and fragmentation. Can we imagine an alternative city which will lay the basis for a more inclusive future?

Episode 3: (1 June)
What are the economic drivers of inclusion/exclusion and spatial inequality? What will it take to achieve inter-generational economic empowerment?

Episode 4: (6 July)
The practical building blocks of integration: a focus on three geographic points that are already on the priority list of the public sector

Episode 5: (3 August)
Case study: Two Rivers Urban Park acupuncture point

Episode 6: (31 August)
Case Study: Philippi transit-oriented development hub acupuncture point

Episode 7: (5 October)
Case Study: Bellville transit-oriented development hub acupuncture point

Episode 8: (2 November)
Weaving the cases and other sites of opportunity for the next decade (drawing on Voortrekker Road Corridor)

Episode 9: (7 December)
Kaapse innovation: Popularising and embedding integration in the public sphere of the city

Episode 10: (25 January 2018)
How to embed the integration in the public realm

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