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Shaking off an image of a post-colonial, post-apartheid city, there is a desire to generate a new, authentic and relevant city centre. In many respects the city and its centre remains distant from the declared vision of the city epitomising a future African capital city that is liveable, resilient and inclusive, and where citizens are actively involved in enabling access to social, economic, and enhanced political freedoms. Using these anchor principles the aim to bring about the realisation of new urbanism and smart city aspirations, involving a human-scale urban design with walkable blocks and streets, housing and shopping in close proximity, and accessible public spaces. In this respect, Tshwane’s approach of building on its current assets, planning the principles by which private sector stakeholders and investment need to abide captures a sustainable future.

Achieving this transformation is proving difficult, working with current political and economic realities and inherited legacies of the past. There is spatial fragmentation, skewed service delivery towards specific localities, poor education and health standards for the broader population, and socio-economic inequalities dominate, hindered further by many buildings being in a poor state and old infrastructure constraining development. The move to a more compact city centre through densification and expansion into open spaces is seen as a driver to foster social capital and address socio-economic inequalities. Lower returns on investment than those available in the new edge settlements being built across the Gauteng City Region are however deterring private sector support for low-cost, social housing to help bolster the city centre’s appeal.  

Tshwane exemplifies the problems faced by city governments in searching for effective ways to govern and manage change in the urban core where there are differing needs and a lack of consensus and where in the multi-tier governance compromises in city centre priorities are inevitable.

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City centre transformation

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