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Towards Achieving Resilience at the Rural–Urban Fringe: the Case of Jamestown, South Africa


The “rural–urban fringe” is under assault worldwide, as cities expand in seemingly unstoppable growth, commonly known as “urban sprawl.” As cities grow, this “transition zone” becomes a contested area as various actors fight for space, with varying opinions on land use. This paper describes the decision-making dynamics governing land use in Jamestown, located in the rural–urban fringe, in Stellenbosch Municipality, South Africa. A fundamental lesson that emerged out of the research is that local outcomes are highly vulnerable to economic and political realities that may exist far from the area itself, resulting in clear winners, and “losers,” often depending on the ideological perspective of the individuals involved. The paper aims to draw out several lessons for planners and advocates of sustainable urban design: given the complex pressures governing land use in present day South Africa, what is there to be learned from this particular case in terms of “best practice” and best/better ways forward?

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  1. 1.

    Wehrwein wrote about the problem with urbanization in the RUF in 1942. In this paper, he also mentioned that expansion of the RUF has been an issue since the late 1800s–early 1900s.

  2. 2.

    According to Bryant (1982), the continuum varies from place to place since the pressures that influence RUF changes vary. Its order changes and it may appear in various directions around the same city.

  3. 3.

    The district has a population of 712,411 and grew on average by 2.1 %.

  4. 4.

    There were 117,704 people living in Stellenbosch Municipality in 2001. This number grew to 200,521 people in 2007.

  5. 5.

    They are currently pursuing strategies to develop the public land as a low-income housing settlement.

  6. 6.

    Social housing projects are typically built alongside areas that were known as townships or group areas during apartheid. They are typically located in RUF areas: outside of main urban centers).

  7. 7.

    An 8-m2 flat rents for R1,500/month.

  8. 8.

    During interviews, study participants explained that mentioning the race of the members of the party was important for understanding why and what transpired.

  9. 9.

    The Regional Services Council no longer exists, but it has been somewhat converted into Stellenbosch District Municipality.

  10. 10.

    Meaning post-1991

  11. 11.

    I wish to thank the anonymous reviewer who provided this insight into the Spier development.


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The author wishes to thank the participants in this research and hope that the findings prove useful in moving forward. She also acknowledges the useful comments and criticisms from the editors and anonymous reviewers of the journal. This research has been made possible by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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Correspondence to Corrine Cash.

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Cash, C. Towards Achieving Resilience at the Rural–Urban Fringe: the Case of Jamestown, South Africa. Urban Forum 25, 125–141 (2014).

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  • Rural–urban fringe
  • Governance
  • Planning
  • Management
  • South Africa