Spatial injustice and socio-spatial divides in South Africa: what can planning and planners do?

Authors: Lorena Melgaço*, , Lauren Andres, UCL, Bartlett School of Planning, Stuart Denoon-Stevens, University of the Free State, South Africa
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Africa
Keywords: Spatial injustice, socio-spatial divides, urban planning, South Africa, knowledge, skills
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 26
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


South Africa’s apartheid spatial legacy of poverty and racial segregation still lingers. Urban planning sits at an uncomfortable crossroads, as it attempts to extricate itself from its complicit role in spatialising apartheid’s racialised policies towards achieving spatial justice (Harrison, Todes and Watson, 2007). The country still faces racialised patterns of inequality and access, showing the challenges of applying ‘non-racial policies to a landscape fractured by race’ (Oldfield and Greyling, 2015). Urban planners hold a powerful role in shaping spaces and generate transformative changes (Andres et al., 2019; Andres et al., 2020) however resources and capacity are unequally distributed. There is a growing tension within the post-apartheid South African planning profession between spatial plans that promise a transformed urban space; and land use and low-income housing decisions that reinforced the patterns of spatial segregation.
This paper zooms towards the challenges encountered by planning practitioners in tackle spatial injustice and brings recent insights into the knowledge and skills gaps leading to a ‘mismatch between plans, urban spaces and the training of planners’ (Odendaal, 2012: 177). This paper engages with the concept of spatial injustice, arguing that a progressive legislation isn’t enough. It requires a transformative praxis, one which re-structures the underlying frameworks and thought styles that reproduce inequality (Fraser, 1995). To do so, we bring together the results from a 30 month research project examining the views of South African planners, including 89 in-depth qualitative interviews and a survey with 219 respondents (Denoon Stevens et al., 2019; Andres et al., 2019a; 2019b).

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