Exploring the strategies employed by the greater Grasland community, Mangaung in accessing basic services
Mphambukeli, Thulisile Ncamsile
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There was a spatial arrangement that the colonial-segregation-apartheid systems put in place in South Africa – a physical spatial relationship setup that segregated people mainly according to their race and class. In 1994 a ‘new ideology’ emerged – the delivery of adequate basic services – aiming to make a difference through transforming previously segregated spaces, using ‘new’ legislation and policies. Hence, democracy brought excitement of a ‘new South Africa’, ‘a rainbow nation’ as some called it, which was going to free people and transform the country. However, there were other forces that prevented the full realisation of this ‘new ideology’ that were, and are still at play even today. For instance, it has been a struggle for South Africa to move towards adequate basic service provision despite the significant changes and roll-out of basic services. The prevalence of high influx or (in)migration of people from neighbouring countries and the broader movement of rural depopulation (particularly farm evictions) to places like Grasland, are but some of the challenges that have contributed to basic service delivery inadequacies prevalent in the study area. Social justice, defined as values, process and practices for empowerment that disallow oneself to be oppressed, the promotion of values that disincline one to oppress others, and practices that enable equality and justice. Consequently, the study suggests that it was not useful to look at issues of inadequate basic service delivery from the lenses of spatial planning policy alone, but that we must also explore the practices of citizens through their lived experiences, as well as through the broader political processes and struggles. The thesis argues that only then can we start to recognise what really is at play and why the relevant policy and legislative was not effectively implemented. This thesis explores the strategies employed by the greater Grasland community in accessing basic services, especially in conditions of inadequate basic service delivery in and through formal municipal planning processes of the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality (MMM). The study also attempts to understand how inequitable political and social power relations affect access to basic services within the community of Grasland and the implications for social justice in planning. The research was qualitative in nature, a descriptive phenomenological approach. Phenomenological research design approaches are less commonly used in urban and regional planning practice. Interviews were conducted with Grasland residents selected through snowball sampling as well as the relevant ward councillors. It was deduced that the Grasland residents took initiative to deal with challenges of access to basic services through various strategies. The thesis argues that these strategies can enable the MMM to plan with the local community towards adequate basic service provision. The study therefore provides some new insights for the planners and local government on how inadequate basic service delivery may be resolved through partnerships with local residents of Grasland, provided there is a willingness to learn from the improvised strategies that are employed by the residents. The key reason why this thesis is important is that it identifies factors that South Africa needs to grapple with towards making just spaces. Just spaces are those that do not constrain access to adequate basic services. The power relations evident in Grasland called into question government’s responsibilities towards its citizens versus the responsibilities of the citizens. This study vividly demonstrated that whilst ‘the state of temporariness’ of basic service provision and inadequacy persists in Grasland, planners and local government may learn something about how people take initiatives and employ strategies to access basic services. The anticipation from the recommendations is that a certain level of conscientising will ensue that speaks to the enabling use of power to enable effective and constructive social change, free of oppression.