The ‘silent’ privatisation of urban public space in Cape Town, 1975 – 2004
Spocter, Manfred Aldrin
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South African cities were subjected to artificial, unnatural growth patterns brought about by apartheid planning that legitimated exclusionary practices in the city and which created and maintained racial, social and class differences between people. Post-apartheid South Africa has witnessed processes of urban fortification, barricading and the gating of urban space that are manifested in contemporary urban South Africa. This research shows that the privatisation of urban public space is not solely a postapartheid phenomenon. Closure legislation has been, and still is, used by citizens to remove urban space from the public realm through its privatisation. Closures are largely citizen-driven, either individually or as a collective, and it is small public spaces that are privatised, hence the micro-privatisation of public space that could influence the immediate surroundings and erf-sized living space of individuals. The concerns voiced by closure applicants through their application for closure, reflect personal living space concerns. It is ordinary people, not major real estate companies or corporations that are able to influence the land management processes of the city. A dataset of all closures in the central substructure region of Cape Town between 1975 and 2004 was compiled from Provincial Government Gazettes and supplemented with map and file data from the City of Cape Town’s Land Information Management Department. This allowed for the quantitative analysis and investigation of successful closures using Microsoft Access in order to identify closure trends. A geographic information systems database was created to visually display spatial and temporal closure trends. A qualitative study of written correspondence received from successful closure applicants in two suburbs, Camps Bay and Mitchell’s Plain, was completed in order to establish a profile of applicants, the reasons forwarded for closures and the techniques used by applicants to secure a successful closure. The resultant analysis showed that closures tended to mirror the socio-spatial realities of the apartheid city with a tendency for closures to be concentrated in better-off, previously white suburbs. A dramatic rise in closure numbers from the mid-1980s is testament to the weakening of the grip of the apartheid state on controlling urban areas. Applicants in the two sample suburbs used various techniques in order to procure successful closure of urban public space. A number of different approaches to secure closure were observed in the sample suburbs. Finally, given the rise in private housing estates in a post-apartheid urban milieu a number of recommendations for further research are made with a view to understanding privatisation of the public realm in South African cities.