South African Cities Network briefing on State of the Cities Report 2006

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01 November 2006
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


1 November 2006

Mr J Cronin (ANC)

Documents handed out:
South African Cities Network- State of the Cities Report 2006

The South African Cities Network briefed the Committee on the background and composition of the Network, which consisted of nine main cities. An extensive report was tabled, which set out the major challenges and presented statistics for the urban areas. Cities often did not achieve maximum growth as they placed too much emphasis on municipal boundaries, instead of undertaking regional planning and urban space economy. Challenges included managing population dynamics, promotion of economic growth, enhancing the urban transport system, and overcoming the sustainability problems emanating from apartheid urban reform, which was often perpetuated in new systems. Delivery of urban services to promote productivity, building urban citizenship and streamlining governance were all important, especially in light of under spending and poor city management from some areas. Innovations in HIV/Aids, social housing and urban renewal were vital development areas. Members asked questions on the accuracy of the statistics, whether similar reports were available on rural areas, the effectiveness of integrated development plans, the conflicting challenges of urban and rural areas, and capacity building in rural areas. Twinning of cities, the impact of the Network in this process, transport, and the challenges of funds devolving downwards, were also addressed. There was a need to negotiate across all spheres of government. Members were concerned that the systemic features of space must be changes, that more development must take place in townships and that further work be done for secondary cities. The Chairperson commented that twinning of transport would be increasingly important, that framework strategies should be set, and that the Network should run workshops involving the Department and the Local Government Association.

Mr Sithole Mbanga CEO, South African Cities Network (the Network) gave the committee a brief background on the Network, which was established in 2002 at the behest of Minister S Mfumadi. The network consisted of nine member cities. Both the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) sat on its board. Mr Mbanga presented the Committee with a summary of the challenges that were identified from the extensive report. He pointed out that the report focused primarily on urban areas and statistics covered within the report were those affecting the nine member cities. In order to achieve economic growth it was realized that cities placed too much emphasis on municipal boundaries. Regional planning needed to look beyond municipal boundaries and a rethink was needed on urban space economy. Managing population dynamics was singled out as an issue to be grappled with in the future. It was however surprising that city populations were growing slower than expected. The cause was identified not as being migration but rather mortality and fertility rates. Another challenge was the promotion of economic growth, whilst at the same time ensuring that economic benefits were equitably distributed. Mr Mbanga said that South Africa needed double-digit growth figures in its major cities. Enhancing the urban transport system was also identified as a priority, especially since more people were using private means of transport. The rail system remained fairly unchanged whilst there was a decrease in the use of buses due to the popularity of minibus taxis. Overcoming the sustainability constraints of apartheid urban reform was a further challenge since many housing and service delivery interventions tended to reinforce the old systems. An example was the building of low cost housing on the periphery of major cities. The delivery of urban services to promote productivity, exclusivity and sustainability was important as the strain on services was always increasing. The concept of building urban citizenship was to be encouraged given the dynamic and diverse nature of cities. The need for the streamlining of urban governance was important given the instances of under spending by certain municipalities and the suspension of certain city managers. There was also a need to mainstream innovations in HIV/AIDS, social housing, and urban renewal.

Ms N Khunou(ANC) stated that something needed to be done to assist persons who had complaints at constituency level. She cited the example of banks refusing to allow constituents to open up bank accounts due to them not having fixed addresses.

Mr S Farrow (DA) pointed out that a great portion of the report was of a statistical nature. He asked whether there were checks and balances on the accuracy of the information contained in the report. He asked whether StatsSA was in any way involved.

Mr Mbanga reacted that information from StatsSA had been used in the report. The network had also used independent research houses in compiling information for the report. He however noted that the availability of statistical data differed from city to city.

Mr B Mashile (ANC) asked whether the network had approached the Minister to encourage a similar report on rural areas. He also felt that the individual integrated development plans (IDPs) of municipalities should be done away with.

Mr Mbanga explained that the Minister had tasked SALGA with coming up with a report on district and local municipalities. The Minister was thus blameless in as far as SALGA had not done what it had been tasked to do. Mr Mbanga believed that IDPs were working. He emphasised that IDPs were not instruments for global competitiveness. The problem was that administrators were using IDPs to manage institutions and not space. The network therefore encouraged cities to think strategically and many have gone beyond their IDPs.

The Chairperson interjected that IDPs did impact upon Integrated Transport Plans. He pointed out that the Network was of the opinion that development was taking place in cities despite planning. He felt there to be lack of connection between what the market was doing and what was being planned. He said that planning often had a management and a political perspective to it. A changes in office would often result in a change in agenda. It was felt that a lack of continuity was always a huge frustration.

Mr S Mshudulu (ANC) said that in most instances planning in cities was done in archaic traditional ways. The challenge was to change this way of thinking. He pointed out that it was perhaps investment that dictated the way planning took place.

Mr M Swathe (ANC) was concerned that if boundaries were to be removed were smaller cities going to be filtered into larger ones.

An ANC member asked what was being done about capacity building in rural areas. It was especially important given that raw materials needed to be transported from rural to urban areas.

Mr Mbanga responded that the Network’s approach was not about urban versus rural areas. The one could not exist without the other. He explained that an IDP governing an urban area could not be used in a rural area. The fact of the matter was that individuals moved from area to area depending on where opportunities lay. In most instances people moved to urban areas and only visited rural areas occasionally. He asked whether transport could be a lead in how development could chase planning and not the other way around. Mr Mbanga said that transport thinking should go beyond boundaries and should be done in a regional way.

Another ANC member asked how the network saw the concept of “twinning of cities”. He felt it relevant since 75% of Zeerust was being serviced by people from Botswana.

Mr Mbanga referred to the example of urban and rural co-existence between Zeerust and the rural persons from Zimbabwe and stated it was a common occurrence. He said that Bloemfontein also served the rural communities of Lesotho.

The Chairperson asked what impact the Network made in the process.

Mr Mbanga said that he hoped the Network made an impact. The Network’s work was relevant in so far as it was meant to influence policy and assist decision makers. He felt that housing, land usage and transport needed to become the responsibility of municipalities. The Network made a difference by highlighting problems in governance to the Minister. In this way policy changes could be made. It was felt that transport needed to be addressed in a broader perspective.

The Chairperson said that if the responsibility of transport was to lie with municipalities, it needed to be more devolved. He asked how one would drive the intelligence of making transport the responsibility of municipalities. It meant that transport authorities must be anchored at metro level. Secondly there must not be hard boundaries and it must be remembered that different regions would have different challenges. Transport planning envisaged being a complex process and would thus have many variations. Funding issues were further considerations to be grappled with.

Mr Farrow noted that each sphere of government was autonomous and it would be a challenge to move funds down to where they were needed.

Mr Mbanga said that unfortunately he did not have all the answers. He did venture that there was a need to put a platform of negotiations across all spheres of government. There was a need to look at issues of land, housing and transport. Mr Mbanga felt that these issues should be the epicentre of the next development agenda. He was however uncertain as to who would drive the agenda.

The Chairperson felt that it was necessary to change the systemic features of space. The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) houses were built far from where people worked and the average person spent 48% of his income on transport costs. This perpetuated impoverishment and people remain marginalized.

Ms Thabiseng stated that the gap between the first and second economy was getting bigger. She said that more development needed to take place in townships. She asked where the Network saw itself in the future.

Mr Mbanga said that the Network intended to go beyond the nine cities to include secondary cities. The intention was also to share information with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries that would address the issue of twinning. It came to light that Cape Town was twinned with the Oliver Tambo District Municipality. He however stressed that the network was not tasked with the twinning process.

Mr Mbanga agreed that perhaps the second economy needed to be enhanced. It was felt that there was not necessarily a need to bridge the gap between the first and second economy. Some individuals preferred to remain in the second economy due to their background or education. He also said that some of the conclusions arising from the report had been developed into a programme of action in order to provide guidance, discovery and to provide assistance.

The Chairperson asked how the Committee would take transport matters further. He felt that as the Network developed a SADC network of cities, the twinning of transport would be a central aspect. He stated that legislation required provincial and national departments to set up framework strategies, and municipalities had to set up strategic plans. He noted that there was a need to identify patterns of mobility. There was a need to become familiar with some of the detail. Having said this he suggested that the Network run workshops with the Department of Transport including colleagues from the provincial department. A formal request would be made. SALGA needed to play a greater role in transport.

Ms L Moss (ANC) asked whether district municipalities could also form partnerships with other municipalities.

Mr Mbanga stated that partnerships between municipalities were indeed a possibility. The idea was that there should be no constraints.

Mr Farrow asked whether the Network had reported back to the nine cities.

Mr Mbanga said that copies of the report had been sent to all cities and that visits to some of them had already been undertaken.

The meeting was adjourned.


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