The city of Johannesburg has set a goal to becoming a “World Class Africa City” by the year 2030. However, since the two-decade-old end of the Apartheid era, the city structures of Johannesburg and other South African cities has remained highly segregated and slow in moving towards racial transformation. Such segregation along with its associated poverty must be overcome for a city to achieve world-class status. If, over the next two decades, there is no significant action to reintegrate the disadvantage communities of Johannesburg and little success in gaining control over increasing urban poverty, then the city of Johannesburg will fall far short of its goal in 2030 (Lanegran 2008).
Johannesburg designed by apartheid architects with large buffer areas between racially segregated neighborhoods. The city structure is closely associated with the city’s history and influence from the dominant mining industry. When gold was found in 1886 in what is now the city of Johannesburg, there was a migration of people from around the world into the area. Since the mining of gold required enormous amounts of manual labor, preferably underpaid or unpaid labor, many white South Africans looked to the black South African community for cheap manual labor. Apartheid was established in South Africa in order to perpetuate urban and economic growth through the exploitation of black workers (Lanegran 2008).
The system of Apartheid resulted in a unique racially divided landscape. The Groups Area Act, passed in 1950, formally established the segregation of city based upon race. The act prohibited people of different races (whether White, Asian, Colored, or Black) from living in the same neighborhoods. The city of Johannesburg, as did other cities in South Africa, established neighborhoods separated by industrial parks and other forms of buffer zones (Christopher 2005).
Furthermore, the creation of the Homelands under the Development Trust and Land Act established only 13 percent of South African land as being reserved as Black South African areas. Blacks were forced to move away from white urban areas and into rural settlements that were unsustainable for agricultural development. Blacks also were unable to migrate to the cities due to the Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act of 1951. This act gave the local government the power to remove blacks from public or private land (Lipitz 2008). Eventually, black South Africans were only allowed the right of residence in town, or the ability to travel within or to a city, by permission of their employer. Every part of South African city life became highly segregated. The city structure of Johannesburg itself allows for little movement among the races no matter what the laws currently state (Lanegran 2008)
After 1991, the Groups Area Act was repealed so that cities were no longer segregated by law. Nevertheless, the strict city layout designed by Apartheid policies has prevented the reintegration of racial and ethical groups. By 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) was voted in as the majority party and formerly ended Apartheid. The ANC established policies and programs to increase equality and political power, such as the Black Economic Empowerment Program and the Housing Grant Program (Lipitz 2008). However, the South African government never established specific policies involving urban planning to undo the geography of Apartheid South Africa. Local governments have renamed streets from those of historic white Apartheid oppressors to more neutral non-political names. Even though the laws of segregation have been revoked, Apartheid legacy of segregation remains deeply entrenched. The majority of South Africans, including White, Black, Colored, and Asian, have continued to live where they did before the ending of Apartheid (Seedar 2006).
The Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) was passed by the ANC in 1994 in order to address the copious social and economic inequality facing the country. A major objective of the RDP was to integrate social networks of people on the political and economic levels. Similarly, the South African central government passed the Municipal Systems Act in 2000. The main function of this act is to provided funding and support to municipalities, such as the city of Johannesburg, in order to integrate their society. Under the Municipal Systems Act, Johannesburg has established a long-term set of goals known as iGoli. iGoli’s primary objective is to decrease the level of inequality and poverty while also increasing access to social services throughout the city (Lipitz 2008). Despite its limits in becoming a world class city, Johannesburg has been successful in providing a large proportion of the underprivileged and urban poor with clean water, electricity, and access to health services (Christopher 2005) .
Furthermore, a community development forum was initiated in Johannesburg to establish the Integrated Development Plan. Johannesburg’s Integrated Development Plan is basically an urban strategy to help
integrate formerly disadvantaged people. Unfortunately, this approach has primarily failed because increased economic statues does not necessary correlate with the movement of people. Though many of the former townships around the city of Johannesburg are developing a middle-class quarter, this growing middle class is still segregated for the most part (Seedor 2006).
Johannesburg remains one of the most segregated cities in the world. A comparison of the South African census from 1996 to 2001 indicates that the city’s white areas have seen very little change. Many white communities, such as Sandton and Melrose Arch in Johannesburg, are now essentially walled communities. Black areas with higher poverty rates have seen an increase in the peripheral establishment of informal settlements resulting from rural to urban migration. The sustained racial segregation is only partly a byproduct of income and economic class (Christopher 2005).
In 1994, South Africa established a Housing Grant Policy to allow an increase in home ownership among the poor as a way of integrating the society. However, government housing policies has had limited effects since the private sector is often unable to effectively finance low-income mortgages (Christopher 2005). The only cases where segregation has decreased in urban Johannesburg occur when migration has so greatly increased an area’s population that the affluent citizens move away or when an area as a whole has increased in economic status (Seedor 2006).
After the Apartheid era, the allure for economic opportunity resulted in a massive migration of black South Africans from the homelands to cities and from other African nations to South Africa. This increased migration led to the establishment of large informal settlements in formerly disadvantage communities. The large informal settlements have continued to reinforce the geography of Apartheid. With the increase in migration, Johannesburg faces many stresses due to increasing population: larger informal settlements, a high unemployment rate, a lack of health and basic sanitation, and one of highest crime rates in the world (Lipitz 2008). These social and economic deficiencies undermine the efforts to elevate Johannesburg towards being a “World Class African City.”
Cities in South Africa have made efforts and some limited progress in increasing diversity resulting from greater social equality, economic opportunity and migration within the city limits. Nonetheless, these city limits are still highly segregated. Apartheid still lives on in many South African towns and cities including Johannesburg. As long as the legacy of Apartheid lingers within the geography of Johannesburg and as long as segregation and inequality remain intact, it is impossible for this city to aspire to be a World Class City (Lanegran 2008).
Author: Jacqueline Nova
Please use hyperlinks throughout the text to learn more about South Africa, as well as urban growth patterns in Johannesburg and South Africa.
Christopher, A.J. 2005. The slow pace of desegregation in South African Cites, 1996-2001. Urban Studies. Vol. 42, No. 12, 2305-2320.
Lanegran, David A. 2008. The Post-Apartheid City and the Globalization of Eroding the landscape of Apartheid. Macalester International. Vol. 9, 1-10.
Lipitz, Barbara. 2008. Building a Vision for the Post-Apartheid City: What Role for Participation in Johannesburg’s city development strategy?. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Vol. 32.1, 135-63.
Seedar, Rashid. 2006. Johannesburg: A World Class African City. Newspaper Essay: Urban Age. 1-2.