Urban vs. Rural

Spatial (in)Equality

In South Africa, it is difficult to simply divide places into Urban and Rural categories. Traditionally, Urban settings refer to those that are more formal and rural to those that are informal, unregulated and unsupervised. However, in South Africa there are may sub-categories to consider.

In 1996 the government decided to revisit place boundaries and definitions and create district municipalities that would used varying tiers of governance so that settlements previously under serviced by government will be included with areas that received government servicing to balance the load on municipalities and ensure equal distribution of resources.

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Spatial (in)Equality

It is important to understand what is implied by the distinction between formality and informality in the built environment.

Government has certain definitions

While architects may have other definitions

There is a certain attractiveness that some architects tend to see in informality, especially when it speaks to the natural settlement patterns and nuances that people tend towards without there necessarily being an architect involved (this brings to mind the Timeless way of Christopher Alexander).

Simultaneously the idea of informality is daunting for other stakeholders in the spatial inequality game. Government struggles to adequately take stock of things like housing and income and service delivery when things are informal – because they can essentially not be counted or labeled or categorized very easily. Which may seem attractive when trying to stick it to the man, but it also makes providing support systems and infrastructure that truly responds to actual conditions very…

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Workshopping Spatial Inequality in South Africa

Spatial (in)Equality

On 14 February some people* gathered at The Point and discussed some basics around the topic of Spatial Inequality in South Africa. The discussion was mostly anecdotal and involved us sharing our ideas and understandings of the topic.

We developed the discussion around a diagram that positioned Apartheid City Planning as the Cause of Spatial Inequality and Spatial Justice as the ultimate goal to where we hope to  move from Spatial Inequality in South Africa.

The results from the discussion have been mapped here.


*refering to; J Bennett, M Ndziba, B Calvo, O Setton and S vd Walt.

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Why is addressing Spatial Inequality necessary?

Spatial (in)Equality

The United Nations has long treasured the notion of Sustainable development, which has consequently been a focus in governments worldwide. In 2015 the United Nations released the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which served as a follow up to the Millennium Development Goals and hoped to address its shortcomings and build on its successes.

The main goal of the UN is to reduce poverty globally as an implementation of basic human rights for all. It is undeniable that poverty reduction is directly linked to economic growth, which makes it a relevant goal for national governments as well.

The 2030 Agenda outlined 17 Sustainable development goals to simply as 17goals, which were adopted by all the world’s governments and are meant to guide development globally for the next 12 years. The goals were formulated to target not only the world’s poorest nations but all nations, acknowledging that poverty is the…

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Where to begin?

Spatial (in)Equality


The inherent nature of spatial inequality is that it is the physical manifestation of injustice through space and place. It’s existence is due to the roles played by spatial practitioners, albeit in service of the relevant possessors of power (political or economic) at the time.

It is therefore the work of spatial practitioners, with support of those presently in possession of power (political and economic) to practice spatial justice.

Spatial practitioners does not merely refer to planners and architects but all individuals with an interest in the production of space and place, including members of the public. It is therefore integral for those with academic and practical knowledge of the production of space to take into account the knowledge of those who are experts in its use.

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Spatial Inequality – a working definition

Spatial (in)Equality

Spatial inequality is the phenomena where there is an unequal degree of access to resources and services by individuals in certain areas, because of the areas they live in. Traditionally, people living in urban areas had more access to resources and services than those in rural areas because of sheer proximity. However, in situations where other factors have influenced where people may/may not live the distinction is not as simple asUrban and Rural.

The socio-spatial legacy of Apartheid has rendered the South African built environment as distinct zones where opportunity was deliberately kept far away, and on the other side of socio-spatial barriers separating people. The solution would seem to be to balance out the proximity of people to resources – either by making relocation to places of opportunity viable and well-considered or to relocate opportunities to places where there previously was a shortage thereof. Despite the declaration…

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