Director General Avril Williamson

Speech by Director General Avril Williamson at the Small Town Regeneration Strategy and Implementation Plan Launch

Deputy Minister Nkadimeng;



and attendees to this important session.

Good evening and a warm welcome to all esteemed guests,

  • our International Partners from the European Union, Italy, Frances, Flanders, Ireland,
  • our partners, the Department of Sports Arts and Culture, South African Local Government Association, South African Cities Network and not forgetting Sibikwa Arts and Culture,
  • all our Sister Departments, Business, Academia, Private sector, NGOs, Community Art Centres and Municipal representatives.

I appreciate this opportunity I have been afforded this evening to engage with you.

Your presence here this evening at this important gathering will go a long way to kickstart a few days of dialogue with yourselves, our partners and stakeholders to chart the way forward on Small Town Regeneration (STR) Strategy and Implementation Plan 2021.

Our engagements present us an opportunity to not only work with us as a country but also to learn from each other in the course of this dialogue and partnership going forward.

We are very pleased to be launching a programme that we (DCOG) and SALGA we have envisioned to be an integral part of in improving the lives of communities and a turning point to improving the lives of South Africans through the Small Town Regeneration (STR) Strategy and Implementation Plan 2021. 

Today marks the starting point towards achieving a vision that we as a department hope to realise to improve the lives of our people in South Africa and particularly those living in what we define as small towns.

So why the need for this initiative? I call it THE GENESIS OF SMALL TOWNS

Starting in the nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century, South Africa’s urban population has grown rapidly and many areas have as a result seen migration or influx of people as a consequence of conditions in such areas.

In the 1970s the growing black population was confined to rural areas and townships due to apartheid which segregated people based on race.

The post-apartheid era has seen the migration of people to urban areas and cities due to deteriorating living conditions, some of which are not suitable for human settlement. The movement of people to cities has negative consequences as rural areas and small towns are left in dire conditions with no economic activity or development.

Over the last two decades, South Africa influenced by the change in the political dispensation increased access to employment, economic, education and social opportunities, experienced a steady increase in the rate of urbanisation. Current urbanisation and migration figures indicate that SA’s population are more urban than rural, with a total of 66.86% of South Africa’s population living in urban areas and cities in 2019, meaning more people living in cities/towns/small towns combined than in rural areas.

The areas where migrants are going are sometimes unable to cope with the influx and this leads to the deterioration of living conditions.  

In addition, the rapid urbanisation process in South Africa is also creating an urban-rural divide, which has resulted in among other things, spatial fragmentation, racial and social division, poorly developed public services and infrastructure, periodic protests about poor municipal service delivery and failing local economies.

However, apart from urbanisation, South Africa is also facing other numerous challenges. For example, modest economic growth and negative structural changes, high unemployment and inequality, and persistent poverty.

The new reality of Covid-19 and the disparities it has brought about, along with the historical obstacles, have placed more pressure on cities and widened the urban-rural divide even further. Subsequently, to bring about economic development, job creation, and improved living conditions the management of the growing urban population and the transformation of the inherited spatial structure is a high priority in South Africa.

Our major cities are not only home to most of the country’s population but are also centres of economic growth and innovation, hence there is a need to bring about decisive spatial transformation and simultaneously manage the growing urban population, without neglecting the rural poor. To deal with this challenge, South Africa has to – (1) invest more in major cities to accommodate migrants and to avoid worsening urban poverty; (2) sustain (or expand) investment in small towns to provide poor rural households with employment and income opportunities; and (3) due to the stronger connections to the rural poor, invest in towns and secondary cities.

The implementation of Spatial Planning Land Use Management Act no 16 of 2013 was enacted to promote a uniform system of planning that gives effect to spatial planning and land-use management is important as it is a tool to impact spatial change within the framework of the spatial transformation agenda.

In addition, the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) came into effect in 2016 and has put forward a new deal for South African cities and towns. The IUDF provides a framework for reorganising the system so that cities and towns can become more inclusive, safe, productive and resource-efficient, thus becoming good places to work and live. It is within this context that DCoG as the custodian of the IUDF reviewed the Small-Town Regeneration Programme and drafted the Small-Town Regeneration Strategy and Implementation Plan (STR) that was approved by the department in 2021, to provide a mechanism for the development of small towns.

It is evident that there is a renewed emphasis on the development role of small towns and the importance of developing a strategy to enhance the developmental role of small towns through the Small Town Regeneration Strategy. The significance of small towns, not only in the national space economy but also in their role in facilitating public life is embraced in the STR strategy. This necessitates a shift in thinking whereby people and how they, for example, experience spaces, take precedence. It is in this context that the STR addresses the question, “how best do we support the IUDF to achieve transformation and the goals of regional and social integration and economic inclusivity in a sustainable manner in small towns”.

The premise of the STR is based on the understanding that there is currently work that has been done by SALGA under the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF) within the Karoo and Bojanala Regions and that this work needed to be reviewed, refocussed and realigned to the IUDF and the District Development Model in a programmatic manner over time and be rolled out nationally.

In Conclusion, distinguished guests and partners,

I would like to thank each and every one of you for joining us at this Launch and we look forward to integrating this work into that of municipalities and to further enhancing the Arts and Culture spaces in our Small Towns.

Ladies and Gentleman,

We have the honour of being joined by our Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance, Ms Thembisile Nkadimeng.

Deputy Minister Nkadimeng has extensive experience from an illustrious career that spurns a number of years. She served as a government official in various capacities, served as a Councillor, Mayor of Polokwane Municipality Deputy President and President of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), and a Co-President of United Cities of Local Government (UCLG).

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my honour to ask Deputy Minister Nkadimeng to address us on the “Small Town Regeneration Strategy and Implementation Plan 2021 and its execution”.

I thank you!