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Why Do Planners Think That Planning Has Failed Post-Apartheid? The Case of eThekwini Municipality, Durban, South Africa

Abstract

Nearly 25 years after democracy, South African cities are still burdened with an apartheid spatial form. Whilst some literature on the persistence of the legacy of apartheid spatial planning exists, not enough work has been done to understand the complex challenges facing the urban planners mandated with the task of spatial redress. Using a case study of the eThekwini Municipality in Durban, South Africa, this article responds to this gap. The research commenced with a census survey of 87 municipal planners within the municipality, supported by five interviews with senior City executives. What stood out from the survey was that three quarters of all planners admitted that municipal planning had not been successful in transforming the built environment in Durban. In trying to understand the critical challenges facing municipal planning, the top three issues emerging from the study in order of priority were the negative influence of politics that affects technical decision-making, a compliance-driven legal framework, and an unsupportive institutional environment. In unpacking findings from the study, the paper contributes to the debates around the role of planning professionals in post-apartheid spatial transformation within the context of a market economy. In particular, it exposes how political power being exerted on behalf of private developers to influence local planning decisions, compromises the interests of the poor in the city. It also brings attention to the impact of an unsupportive institutional environment in inhibiting city spatial transformation. It does not seek to propose ready-made solutions to these challenges but suggests the urgent need for a sustained conversation with strategic role players about reimagining planning, making the call for renewed action.

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Notes

  1. The author is grateful to the Reviewer for this insight.

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Acknowledgements

The author wishes to acknowledge Dr Kira Erwin from the Urban Futures Centres and Jill Lincoln from the Town Planning Department of the Durban University of Technology for their constructive inputs on drafts of the paper.

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Correspondence to Sogen Moodley.

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Moodley, S. Why Do Planners Think That Planning Has Failed Post-Apartheid? The Case of eThekwini Municipality, Durban, South Africa. Urban Forum 30, 307–323 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12132-018-9357-0

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