South Africa’s cities are in trouble, facing a financial and infrastructure crisis which further perpetuates the inequalities of broader society.
That’s the stark message from the 2018 State of the Cities Report, released this week by the South African Cities Network. Perhaps it should not surprise us, given the history of SA’s cities both in the times of apartheid and in the post-1994 era.
Our urban conglomerations were subject to the spatial planning of apartheid, which decreed that whites would live and work in one area and that black labour would largely come from “dormitory” townships far from city centres.
Since 1994, cities have become a magnet for the rural poor and a huge wave of foreigners, all of them seeking streets paved with gold.
Electricity tariffs rising far higher than inflation, along with increasing municipal charges in a number of sectors, have had a much tougher impact on poor people, who have to spend a great portion of their income on such services.
It goes without saying that we are sitting on an urban time bomb. Whatever your political views, it should be obvious the inequalities are not sustainable.
Bridging the gulf between rich and poor is the only route to lasting peace.