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Rethinking development in the peripheries of the Gauteng City-Region


Year published: 2022
Categories: Provocations
URL Link: https://cdn.gcro.ac.za/media/documents/Displaced_urbanisation_or_displaced_urbanism.pdf

Author / Authors:

  • Ngaka Mosiane
  • Graeme Götz


Rethinking development in the peripheries of the Gauteng City-Region

A Provocation in the Governing the GCR series

Each day, tens of thousands of commuters from vast peripheral urban settlements flow across the northern boundary of Gauteng to work, shop, trade goods or seek employment in Pretoria and other Gauteng cities. This flow, and the lasting social, economic and spatial dislocation effects of apartheid it reflects, has come to be symbolised by the R573 Moloto Road, colloquially named the ‘road of death’ because of the staggering number of traffic accidents it sees each year.

This GCRO Provocation attends to a feature of the Gauteng City-Region (GCR) – its periphery – that continues to receive very limited public and private investment, yet remains home to many hundreds of thousands of largely poor people. The state and other stakeholders have grappled with the question of what to do with the underdeveloped zones of ‘displaced urbanisation’ on Gauteng’s northern periphery for almost three decades. Focusing on the efforts to plan for transport infrastructure along the deadly Moloto Road as a key solution to the problem, this Provocation explores a set of unresolved divergences within the South African state apparatus. Some players support massive rail infrastructure development along the corridor; others do not. These divergences have meant a lack of coordination in government’s development efforts. In turn, the gains that could potentially have been yielded through a broadly common agenda, anchored on a shared concept of development, have simply not been realised.

The paper contends that all proponents in the debate miss the significance of the day-to-day actions of residents, formal and informal traders, civil society, traditional leaders, and other actors, who are striving to transform the zones of ‘displaced urbanisation’ they occupy into vibrant spaces of ‘displaced urbanism’. We argue that this ‘displaced urbanism’ – the innovative co-existence of formal and informal land uses and activities; prolific acts of self-realisation by local residents trying to survive and pursue their aspirations; and, in turn, dynamic local economies from below – needs to be taken much more seriously on its own terms.


  • Provocations