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The transformation of municipal development planning in South Africa (post-1994): Impressions and impasse

J Coetzee


In South Africa, the government’s transformation process, which effectively started in 1994, not only resulted in a new democracy, a new governmental dispensation or a ‘new South Africa’, but it also spearheaded a significant, rapid and radical transformation of local government in South Africa, as well as a radical transformation of municipal planning.
During the mid- to late 1990s, significant strides were made in South Africa by government, planning institutions and planners to develop a new more appropriate, integrated, developmental, democratic, strategic and sustainable development planning system – in line with the international planning principles and the emerging focus of the new democratic South African government.
Currently, almost two decades later, the South African municipal planning system, in spite of various efforts and policy developments, is still struggling to adapt to, and implement the new principles and is not addressing the development goals in all parts of the country effectively.
In order to set a basis for assessing the challenges of, and gaps in the current planning system, this article discusses the characteristics of the (new) transforming planning system and examines some of the most important efforts being made on policy level and in practice to promote the new principles.
This article presents an interrogation of the gaps in the planning system in an attempt to present some propositions to address these shortcomings.