The Resilience of South African Cities a Decade after Local Democracy


Ivan Turok

Publication date: 

Saturday, 26 April 2014


  • Article


External to ACUI

Project theme: 


Abstract: Ivan Turok (2014). The Resilience of South African Cities a Decade after Local Democracy. Environment and Planning A, 46(4), pp.749-769. South Africa emerged from a cataclysm two decades ago to experience a stable democratic transition during which the local government system was transformed. The creation of large metropolitan municipalities was intended to accelerate socio-economic development and urban restructuring in order to overcome the legacy of segregation and exclusion. This paper assesses their achievements, ten years on, using the concept of resilience as the analytical frame. Resilience helps to examine cities as interconnected systems open to external influences but with some capacity for self-organisation and learning. It is useful for exploring the co-existence of urban continuity and change. Evidence shows that the responses of South Africa city authorities to globalisation, urbanisation and democracy have been circumscribed. Continuity and incremental change have been more evident than transformation and development. Hesitant progress exposes cities to the risk of greater social instability. Insights from resilience theory support the idea that enhanced municipal capabilities could facilitate a more enduring outcome.