Joburg strategy paper silent on informal settlements

By Max Rambau, CORC

The City of Joburg had organised a meeting to present its draft Growth and Development Strategy document. This meeting was held at Emoyeni Conference Centre in Parktown, Johannesburg on the 12th August 2011.

It was held under this week’s long theme: “Liveable City”. Cllr. Dan Bovu, the MMC for Housing, opened the meeting and welcomed the participants. He made a few comments and said that the week’s activities relating to the theme: Liveable City was coming to an end and that the participants need to answer some tough questions as to what do we understand by a liveable city and what needs to be done to realize it. He emphasized the need for all the stakeholders to give inputs on what should happen.

The presenters were from the universities of Pretoria, Witwatersrand and Cape Town. These presenters are experts in planning and research.

One of the presenters raised the question of how this ambitious plan by the City of Joburg would be implemented and sustained when even the national economy was in crisis. He said that in Gauteng only unemployment figures were standing at 26%, most of them in Johannesburg and how did the ‘City’ expect to get people to pay for services in view of this.

He raised his concerns about overcrowding in the city with most foreign nationals from the neighbouring countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Botswana all flocking to the City of Johannesburg. He said this would make it difficult to implement the growth and development strategy and will result in a crisis.

He said that the economies of the neighbouring towns of the Vaal and the West Rand were declining and this would have an impact on the City of Joburg because it would mean people from there would start flocking to Johannesburg. He said that people from all the provinces of South Africa were also coming to Johannesburg.

He said that planning can only be successfully done when population figures are known.

There were issues raised, relating to the Central Business Districts (CBD’s) of Johannesburg. The question was asked by one presenter as to how many CBD’s the City of Joburg had, was it Johannesburg and Sandton. He said Sandton, although it is a nice place with beautiful buildings and offices, it was dying because of traffic jams during peak hours and many businesses are running away to avoid this problem. He asked what would become of Sandton as this would affect property prices.

One presenter emphasized the need to have short-term plans within the long-term GDS 2040 because unforeseen developmental and environmental changes would affect the long-term strategy. He said that GDS 2040 may be faced with a lot of challenges of unpredictable population growth, economic decline and unemployment.

He said that planning around issues of housing should take into consideration that the building of RDP houses in the periphery or outskirts of townships was also not desirable. He said that the “Orange Farms” and other RDP settlements were far away from areas of economic access and people living there have to pay a lot of money on transport.

After the presentations it was question time. Some of the questions related to informal settlements. It was pointed out that the draft GDS 2040 was silent on informal settlements. It did not say anything with the programme of ending all informal settlements by the year 2014 and how the ‘City’ would go about doing this.

In answer to the questions raised, the City of Joburg indicated that their biggest challenge was the availability of the budget.

In his closing remarks, the MMC for Development Planning and Urban Management, Cllr. Ruby Mathang indicated that they were willing to working with everybody and reminded people that the GDS 2040 was still a draft that still needed more inputs from the stakeholders. He then invited us to some up the programme by visiting some projects on Saturday, 13 August 2011.