South Africa’s apartheid history and the distortions it created in the space economy have had tremendous effects on secondary cities. Because of constrained urbanization under apartheid, dense settlements sprang up at the edge of the so-called homeland areas as close to urban areas in “white” South Africa as possible. These settlements were in fact residential suburbs of cities maybe 50 to 100 kilometres away. People living in these displaced settlements have to spend almost a third of their meagre incomes on transport to work or to look for jobs. The spatial legacy of apartheid continues to have negative impacts on efficiency, exclusion and poverty. Spatial transformation is therefore the ultimate goal of the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF).
Many of the issues that intermediate cities are dealing with are structural and require a long term vision and plan which is implemented with determination. The aim is to create more compact cities structured around public transit corridors and nodes. This will improve city productivity (by improving efficiency) and inclusivity (by improving the access of historically disadvantaged citizens to employment and consumption opportunities).
However better spatial planning cannot on its own transform space – it requires strong and sustained leadership over a long period of time. It also requires an ability to raise the funds needed, budget for long term change and co-ordinate investment across different government agencies. Sustained partnerships with the private sector and citizens are required. In other words, achieving spatial change requires impact in a variety of areas including governance, financial management, fiscal leveraging, service delivery etc.
In line with the IUDF, the Department of Cooperative Governance with its partners has designed an Intermediate City Municipalities (ICM) programme that provides support to enable them to respond to the development challenges that they face. The support programme is aimed at enhancing planning and implementation processes to address the massive spatial dislocations inherited from apartheid. This is a focus on more strategic use of infrastructure investment to promote the mobility/land use linkage as well as instruments and platforms for aligning infrastructure investments across different spheres of government. The programme is also exploring ways of boosting long term economic development planning and its implementation. At the same time improving governance and financial management in the intermediate cities will allow them to more effectively use and leverage both grant and own sources in pursuit of development objectives. These measures will be backed up by reforms in infrastructure grants with incentives for performance and for more flexibility and strategic use of funds.