A sustainable spatial planning and resources use management system in rural Eastern Cape, South Africa: toward an African solution
Williams, A. D.
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The Eastern Cape of South Africa has throughout the colonial and apartheid period been a geographic zone of contestation and resistance. The struggle for freedom in this country emanated from this region with perhaps the most famous of its sons being Nelson Mandela. The Xhosa people have a rich tradition and culture, whose existence has for centuries been nurtured in the rural regions of the Eastern Cape. With the advent of modernisation and more specifically urbanisation, two distinct systems of land use management and land delivery have evolved. One based on the prescripts of modernism and the other on the prescripts of traditional Xhosa culture. The two are very distinct and opposite. The South African Constitution, (1996) mandates especially those officials in government to pursue policy and courses of action that will promote unity, respect and embrace diversity and transform South African society into one that fosters equality and social justice. This too is a Constitution that is not only built on rights and freedoms, but is also one built on human integrity and dignity. It embraces the concept of ‘Ubuntu’: ‘I am because you are’. This ethos has an important role to play in the transformation agenda of which spatial planning as an activity of governance is a fundamental part. The modern counterpart, largely inherited from the Eurocentric north has enjoyed a measure of dominance and at this current point in time looks set to overshadow the rural Afrocentric domain which is the home of Xhosa culture and its people. This intersection of the two different systems and the inherent values that support each is creating a new space for contestation, or is it? This zone of contestation could also be regarded as a zone of eclecticism in which it is possible to construct a new approach to land use management by embracing not only culture, but also complexity theory and the current status of the evolution of planning theory, which focusses on the concept of collaboration. Such collaboration embraces the concepts of facilitation, negotiation, conflict management and learning. The complexity however deepens in that the Eastern Cape Provincial Spatial Development Plan (2010) has identified climate change and the sustainable agenda as being critical issues demanding attention going forward. Since the communal rural areas cover almost half of this Province it becomes absolutely critical that any new system must add value to the aims and objects of the sustainable agenda. It is also under this banner that the provision (quality and quantity) of certain natural services e.g. water and air become focal issues. Without these, existence ceases. The rural zone is the source of much of these. Here to success will depend on nurturing an ability to learn. In the light of the above the rural areas take on significant importance and hence new meaning. Not only are these rural zones inhabited by a specific culture, they are also zones upon which the urban zone depends. This interdependency must grow and as this happens there is an ever increasing need to integrate. Within the context of the above it becomes critical to engage in the collaborative and learning agendas in order to realise a land use and resource management system that respects diversity and its role in the sustainable paradigm. Spatial planning needs to embrace the dominant ethos of the rural zone and hence refrain from using a position of imposition i.e. creating conflict. It needs to embrace its own transformation and develop a more sensitive regulatory system that is born out of Africa, using African realities and a vision that has been developed by Africans for Africans. The rural zone must on an equal footing inform the urban. ‘I am because you are’.