Adventures in city data: An ethnographic story
This GCRO Occasional Paper presents an ethnographic account of a decade-long journey in city economic data collation. The paper recounts the collaborations of the National Treasury’s Cities Support Programme (CSP) with Statistics South Africa, South African Revenue Service (SARS) and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to collect and collate anonymised and geocoded city economic data from sources other than national general surveys. Initial efforts contributed to the World Bank’s Urbanisation Review of South Africa in 2016, and thereafter to the milestone publication of the 2021 City Spatial Economic Data Reports.
Despite the practical and governance issues that constrained efforts to obtaining operable spatial economic data, the paper narrates how, in a parallel process, these collaborations ultimately bore fruit in the establishment of a secure administrative data centre at the National Treasury that stores anonymised data which has been geocoded using postal codes.
This ethnographic account concludes by reflecting on critical insights for improving the integrity of the city spatial economic data resource and to enhance its use in credible, evidence-based urban analysis. Solving the remaining governance and data puzzles will unlock the incredible potential that such an evidence-based resource holds for creating a more just and equal society in South Africa and other developmental states.
Date of publication:
Spatial trends in Gauteng
This Occasional Paper examines six spatial trends in Gauteng: urban sprawl, uneven densification, residential building growth, the reproduction of a property affordability gradient, socio-economic segregation and the reproduction of a mismatch between residential and economic areas. These spatial trends are the physical manifestation of a remarkable variety of actors responding to a wide variety of opportunities, incentives and disincentives; and they have important implications for spatial transformation. While it might be possible to name post-apartheid urban ideals, these six spatial trends underscore the disbursed nature of the energies producing urban space, and the need to understand and work with these energies in directing spatial transformation.
Date of publication:
Linked to project(s):GPG end-of-term review thematic papers
Rescaling municipal governance amidst political competition in Gauteng: Sedibeng’s proposed re-demarcation
In 2011, the Gauteng Provincial Government proposed that Sedibeng, a Category C district municipality located in the province, should be restructured. Although the original proposal had anticipated that this would happen after the 2016 local elections, the issue remains unresolved due largely to fierce party-political opposition and vociferous protests against it on the ground.
This Occasional Paper examines the dynamics, particularities, peculiarities and challenges of re-demarcating the Gauteng City-Region. While informed by technical reasons, the arguments for and against the merger have tended to gravitate more towards party-political rationales for why the re-demarcation should or should not go ahead. Although these debates raise important merits and demerits for the proposal, they are difficult to disentangle from the interests of those whose fortunes would be changed by restructuring. In this environment, municipal demarcation risks being held hostage by party politics, with stakeholders such as political parties using any means at their disposal to have things go their way, including by scapegoating the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB).
The case of Sedibeng presents important lessons about attempts to make post-transition local government – and mechanisms for determining its configuration – work for Gauteng. It also highlights the need for strengthening and revising demarcation-related legislation. How can we make sure that the MDB functions effectively with respect to its primary goals?
Date of publication:
Linked to project(s):Governing the GCR Provocations Series
An analysis of well-being in Gauteng province using the capability approach
As countries across the globe pursue economic development, the improvement of individual and societal well-being has increasingly become an overarching goal. In the global South, in particular, high levels of poverty, inequality and deteriorating social fabrics remain significant challenges. Programmes and projects for addressing these challenges have had some, but limited, impact.
This occasional paper analyses well-being in Gauteng province from a capability perspective, using a standard ‘capability approach’ consistent with Amartya Sen’s first conceptualisation, which was then operationalised by Martha Nussbaum. Earlier research on poverty and inequality in the Gauteng City-Region was mainly based on objective characteristics of well-being such as income, employment, housing and schooling. Using data from the Gauteng City-Region Observatory’s Quality of Life Survey IV for 2015/16, our capability approach provides a more holistic view of well-being by focusing on both objective and subjective aspects simultaneously.
The results confirm the well-known heterogeneity in human conditions among South African demographic groups, namely that capability achievements vary across race, age, gender, income level and location. However, we observe broader (in both subjective and objective dimensions) levels of deprivation that are otherwise masked in the earlier studies. In light of these findings, the paper recommends that policies are directly targeted towards improving those capability indicators where historically disadvantaged and vulnerable groups show marked deprivation. In addition, given the spatial heterogeneities in capability achievements, we recommend localised interventions in capabilities that are lagging in certain areas of the province.
Date of publication:
Linked to project(s):Poverty in the GCR: A capabilities approach (2020)
Johannesburg and its epidemics: Can we learn from history?
Covid-19 has massively disrupted life globally and locally, bringing many uncertainties in its wake. It is not, however, the first epidemic to pummel the world or our own country, region and city, raising the question of what we can learn from history. In the case of Johannesburg, epidemics have included: smallpox in 1893; measles in the internment camps of 1901/02; pneumonic plague in 1904; influenza in 1918/19; poliomyelitis in various outbreaks between 1918 and 1957; scarlet fever in outbreaks between 1917 and 1941; and HIV/Aids from the late 1980s. This is in addition to lesser epidemics such as influenza in 1957 and listeriosis in 2018.
History cannot, of course, tell us what will happen with Covid-19; each epidemic has a different epidemiology and has happened in very different temporal contexts with immense variation in terms of population, society, politics, medical knowledge, and more. Nevertheless, there could be some clues from history which may relate to issues of geography, settlement type, mobility, and degrees of immunity or viral resistance within the population. The knowledge drawn from history must, however, be deployed judiciously and in relation to the current science. Even so, there are critical themes cutting across historical episodes that may usefully shape our attention in the current moment. The paper provides an account of the history of Johannesburg’s epidemics, drawing from sources which were available during the Covid-19 lockdown, and suggests six themes to consider in an analysis of history and of current circumstances:
- The idiosyncratic course of epidemics and therefore the need for both close monitoring of developments and high levels of agility in governance response
- The ways in which epidemics are associated with social scapegoating, stigmatising and pathologising, and the need therefore for strong, progressive leadership to counter this;
- The effects of epidemics on the economy, and especially on the livelihoods of the most vulnerable segments of the populations;
- The effects of epidemics on the spatial forms and infrastructures of the city, including through the opportunistic use of epidemics to pursue prior spatial agendas;
- The ways in which epidemics have been governed, with the strengths and drawbacks of the various approaches, including more nationally or more locally centred governance arrangements; and
- The ways in which epidemics have impacted on governance forms into the future, including on institutional forms, legislation and urban policy.
Date of publication: