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How is the District Development Model Aligned to the Integrated Urban Development Framework?

Since the introduction of the District Development Model (DDM) there is a perception that it has replaced the Integrated Urban Development Framework  (IUDF). These perceptions are not factual and are incorrect. This article will argue how the DDM and IUDF complement each other in addressing major social, spatial, and economic challenges in our country. It will demonstrate how they cannot replace each other but are complementary in achieving the goals outlined in the National Development Plan.

The article will first look at the definition of the DDM, why it was introduced and what it seeks to achieve. It will further discuss how the IUDF and DDM are aligned by giving examples of how specific IUDF levers offer a granular perspective to make sense of the district story.

What is the District Development Model?

President, Cyril Ramaphosa in the State of the Nation Address (SoNA) indicated that it is time for government to break away from the silo mentality of working and went on to introduce a new approach called the District Development Model (DDM). The DDM was subsequently adopted by cabinet on the 21stof August 2019. The District Development Model (DDM) is an operational model for improving Cooperative Governance aimed at building a capable, ethical Developmental State. It embodies an approach by which the three spheres of government and state entities work in unison in an impact-oriented way, and where there is higher performance and accountability for coherent service delivery and development outcomes. It is a method of government operating in unison focusing on the municipal district and metropolitan spaces as the impact areas of joint planning, budgeting and implementation.

The President also highlighted that the DDM will help government address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Informed by the National Development Plan (NDP) and the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) and other government policies, legislations, and previous similar programmes, the DDM seeks to ensure maximum coordination and cooperation among all three spheres of government (National, provincial and local). Amongst others, the Model will be implemented through a collaborative process to develop One Plan for all 44 districts and 8 Metropolitan Municipalities which will be further synchronized with Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) of municipalities.

Each district and metro plan will develop a long-term government agenda in these spaces and unpack at least the following developmental issues:

  • Managing urbanisation, growth and development;
  • Supporting local economic drivers;
  • Accelerating land release and land development;
  • Investing in infrastructure for integrated human settlement, economic activity and the provision of basic services; and
  • Addressing service delivery in municipalities.

What is the IUDF?

The IUDF is our National Urban Policy which marks a New Deal for South African cities and towns. The framework will steer urban growth towards a sustainable model of compact, connected and coordinated towns and cities. It provides a roadmap to implement the NDP’s vision for spatial transformation – creating liveable, inclusive and resilient towns and cities while reversing the apartheid spatial legacy.

The IUDF provides key principles and policy levers for creating better urban spaces. It seeks to strengthen urban-rural linkages, promote urban resilience, create safe urban spaces and ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable groups are addressed

How is the DDM aligned with the IUDF?

As a start, to illustrate that the DDM has not replaced the IUDF, we must acknowledge that the IUDF is a national urban policy of South Africa while the DDM is an approach that government has adopted to tackle the deep-rooted silo mentality that exists in how government plans, budgets, and deliver services across the three spheres of government, while not capitalizing on opportunity that exists to mobilize other actors in the private sector, NGOs and communities to achieve social compact. Both the DDM and the IUDF subscribe to the concept of social compact, an all of society approach towards improving the lives of people and lastly spatial transformation. These are critical philosophies that the 5thand 6thadministration is determined to decisively address.

The DDM as a way of working and doing things differently will play a key role in enhancing the implementation of the IUDF, for instance, one of the short-term priorities of the IUDF is to institutionalise long-term planning. The DDM, through the introduction of the One Plan, is on course to make this a reality. While the IUDF advocates for greater involvement of Premiers and MECs in planning and development, the DDM also advocates for the same intervention across all three spheres of government, i.e. the recent nomination of political district champions at a national level that cascades to district level is a perfect example of how the IUDF and the DDM complement one another.

While the IUDF assists with focusing in our cities and towns, the DDM takes on a district-wide approach. The complementarity can be seen in the sense that, the IUDF provides a more granular focus within a district, i.e. cities and towns, while DDM takes on a regional posture. This may also mean that IUDF interventions in cities and towns will be critical to providing a district-wide perspective, especially in areas of integrated urban planning and management, integrated sustainable human settlement, integrated urban infrastructure, efficient land governance and management, inclusive economic development etc

The DDM is not divorced from existing government policies such as the IUDF but if implemented properly, will amplify and seek to facilitate the implementation of the short and long-term priorities of the IUDF. District and metropolitan spaces are a perfect starting point to improve the performance and coherent service delivery as they are close to the ground which ensures that the whole of government is responsive to the need of communities. The vision for the district model has been articulated through the slogan: “One District, One Budget and One Plan”, which directly correlates with IUDF’s vision of reaping the urban dividend. The IUDF describes the urban dividend as “an optimal situation where the increasing concentration of an economically active population translates into higher levels of economic activity, greater productivity and higher rates of growth” To optimise the urban dividend we must focus on three areas 1. People ( enhancing their capabilities) 2.Economy( More resilient productive and job creation) 3. Place(More liveable pleasure, greater social integration, safety and access to opportunities). The common theme between the DDM and IUDF is the need to invest in people the economy and the environment to improve quality of life.

The DDM has since been piloted in two district municipalities and one metropolitan municipality, OR Tambo, Waterberg and Ethekwini respectively. There has been some cross-cutting lessons from the piloting phase that further buttress how interlinked the IUDF and DDM are. The pilots revealed that there are high levels of youth unemployment and a high number of women and child-headed households in our district spaces which is what IUDF lever 7 seeks to address through empowering communities to be active citizens in the economy and access job opportunities. There is also a challenge in high rural to urban migration which is also a cross-cutting theme in the IUDF where urban-rural interdependency is advocated for.

It is therefore clear that the DDM has not replaced or duplicated the work of the IUDF but the two need to be perceived as complimentary. It is a myth and it is not factual that the DDM is the new sheriff in town that has replaced the IUDF. Therefore better communication strategies and approaches need to be employed to educate and mobilize all of society to  be more aware of the two policies and how they can be utilised in addressing socio-economic challenges.