The Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos, has observed that urbanization is one of the most political issues of our time. Dr. Clos made the observation today while receiving the credentials from the new Permanent Representative of the Republic of South Africa to UN-Habitat, H.E. Mr. Ndumiso Ndima Ntshinga.
Dr. Clos and Mr. Ndumiso Ndima Ntshinga
Mr. Ntshinga told him: “The planning of South African cities is still apartheid based.”
Dr. Clos called for the study of the “Urban History of Apartheid” to be jointly sponsored by UN-HABITAT and the South African Government to be undertaken by a university in the country.
Mr. Ntshinga explained to the Executive Director the concept of apartheid planning of cities and noted that after apartheid, the country is now thinking of post-apartheid cities. “It is not enough for a few affluent blacks to move into the former white South African neighbourhoods,” Mr. Ntshinga observed.
The envoy also stated that one of the biggest challenges facing the country is that of unemployment as a result of high level of illiteracy. According to him, “The economy cannot absorb the much-needed people; this situation also sustains the slums.” He stated that part of the South African approach to development is to retain as many people as possible in the rural areas so that they can be employed.
According to Mr. Ntshinga: “We want to diversify our rural economy to accommodate the people, in order to keep them there because without jobs the people will migrate to the urban centres,” thereby increasing the incidence of slums.
Dr. Clos explained that the current thinking in urban planning is to cite industries in intermediate towns of about 30,000 people, which should be near a bigger city of about half a million people and with a university.
Mr. Ntshinga noted that the South African economy is doing well even though it lost about a million jobs during the recession. He also noted that even though the country does not have a compulsory education policy, education is available for everybody.
Dr. Clos noted with appreciation that South Africa has been up to date in its contribution to UN-Habitat. He presented the envoy some important publications of the organization.
It would be recalled that UN-Habitat is currently undertaking a US$600,000 project in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The project plans to set up a local urban observatory, capacity building strategy, enhanced institutional capacities to improve service delivery among others.