EP: Edgar Pieterse (African Centre for Cities)
MS: Mark swilling (sustainability institute)
AB: Andrew Boraine (Cape Town Partnership)
GG: Gita Goven (ARG Architects)
MS: David Schmidt (Consultant)
CS: Catherine Stone (City of Cape Town)
MM: Mokena Makeka (Makeka Design Lab)
TT : Tau Tavengwa (African Centre for Cities)
MS: What does it mean in practice? It’s good political theory but what does the everyday person make of that?
EP: In practice, I think what we need to do is create a school of citizenship. We need to get community leaders who are involved in policing forums, community development workers, health committees, social extension worker’s, linked to social welfare programmes involved in more structured community management training. All of the government’s sectors have community extension workers as well as community representative structures to participate in delivery processes. The citizens that participate in these structures are a captive audience for engagement in a citizenship building processes where people get taught community organising skills. Crucially, they get taught in a manner where a health worker comes together with a policing forum volunteer and other activists who work in a number of diverse community-based organisations. In this way they build new networks, learn how to sustain them and learn how stuff really works at the city level. One of the interest- ing differences between South Africa and Brazil is that in Brazil urban debates and mobilisation are organised around money; in other words, the budget drives pub- lic debate: Who gets the money, for what and why, and people are literate about such matters. So people know what they’re entitled to but they also know that there is a confined budget and that within that trade-offs need to be made. This creates very different citizenship literacy. If you look at the IDP offerings or the political participation offers in the city or province’s outreach pro- grammes, their conception of community participation is just simply pathetic.
So we really need to regard that kind of investment as important as making an N2 Gateway work or District Six happen; it’s as important, if not more so. This is also the most likely way to generate the sort of grassroots leader- ship that can deliver well organised, strategic, focused grassroots formations that are more likely to say: “this is enough and no more.” Or saying, this is our view on whatever the priorities are. So for me, that is really one of the other pieces in terms of the discussion we’ve had that we need to articulate more explicitly and formulate much more specific claims around to make it that hap- pen.
AB: I think that for as long as we talk about community participation you will never build community structures because it implies that we will consult you and then we’ll go and make the decisions. It’s the antithesis of a partnership approach. If you’re committed to a partnership approach, it’s mutually derived agreements, or agreement to differ on certain things becomes normal. You’ve got to be able to acknowledge and engage with conflict because not everyone agrees about everything. Why don’t we have robust growth of community organisations in civil society? Another fact is the tradition of over-politicisation. What stops a whole lot of commuity organisations forming is the prevalence of party political branches. All of these dynamics have to be interrogated as well.
CS: Something I’m grappling with is the paradox that participatory processes tend to favour the white and middle class populations that are very organised. This is a consequence of the divided city legacy where the more affluent white people dominate public discus- sions and the agenda of these processes. We have a real problem where the participation processes with those more empowered communities go so far as wanting to dictate what colour people may paint their flats next door to them if you’re trying to build an affordable settlement next to people. I’d love to fantasise more about adopting more “dictatorial” approaches with certain communities and a lot more participatory partnership and engagement processes with other communities. In a sense our divided history and present demands a differentiated approach. But how would one reconcile such a differentiated approach?
AB: It’s an absolutely valid point, to confront it. I would hesitate to argue that just because there are relation- ships of inequality you almost try and demobilise middle-class communities. I think that encouraging community organisation and mobilisation, whether it’s middle class or working class, or impoverished informal settlements is important and that has to be the starting point. I think, obviously, if one is the public sector with certain resources one can allocate those in a targeted way, and certain areas/communities, wards, can get a much greater resources to assist the processes. But to almost consciously encourage demobilisation of a community? It’s just so important for democracy to encourage all communities to mobilise, even if there is some- times a reactionary agenda.
DS: Another point is that organised communities get things done through informal networks and a whole lot of advocacy and networking work. And the problem we’ve had is that poor communities have had this political infrastructure of engagement and participation, ward councillors and ward committees, which are in fact are totally ineffective in enabling you to get anything done. So I think it’s more about how do we open up the mechanisms of participation and really level the playing fields? Not by demobilising anybody but by just giving, especially communities with less voice, a number of oth- er opportunities and avenues. And I think there are lots of interesting innovations that are possible in this area. Maybe Gita can talk about this in relation to some of the thinking around Philippi.
GG: It’s been very revealing. The Philippi context required of us to talk to the ward councillors, the Philippi development forum people, and a host of other grass- roots formations. Most of these actors are very aware of their shortcomings in their engagements with the local state. So, the question is, what is the content on which people are mobilised? I think, in the past when people were mobilised politically, the agenda was quite clear. But I think that the content of what they are mobilised around is not something they can access very easily. So if you can provide a reasonable menu with the kind of idea that Edgar was talking about, that you have a finite set of resources but you have some say around how that actually gets deployed, with facilitation support, the community will have tangible things to work with. The actual building of those communities will need to be supported that would make a big difference.
We are grappling with how a partnership model can get constituted in terms of a community mobilising agency that meaningfully begins to put the agenda in the hands of the community, but remains strong enough to resist being swallowed up by “gatekeepers”. And the “gate- keepers” themselves are engaged in this conversation; confronted with questions such as: Are they (gate- keepers) aware of their potentially destructive role? Addressing this questions leads to another: How will those gatekeepers end up functioning as a result of this engagement? Having explicit discussions about these questions was, for me, amazing.
DS: On the issue of building technical capacity within grassroots organisations, the issue is, how one enables communities with very little capacity to begin with, to access it in order that there can be a much more effective in their engagements with the City. In the 80s we had the NGOs and the Urban Sector Network playing a technical support role. But those institutions are now gone. I suppose, the assumption was that a democratic representative government would rise to the occasion or obviate the need for such support organisation. One thing we know is that there is still an epic gap between what government planners want to, and can do. Ad- dressing this gap is not part of any big framework of city development. I think one of the ideas to create what one might call, mini-NGOs, is important, These mini-NGOs would be focused on a particular area, with government support, which basically brings a bit of community organising capacity together with a bit of planning and technical and management capacity. It doesn’t have to be very big or resourced to begin to close that gap.
GG: In Philippi what’s really been a huge eye opener for me, is coming to the realisation that both the policies and programmes of government and NGOs are not reaching the ordinary people. More than 50% of the people cannot be reached because their ability to engage is lower than where these programmes are pitched. So there might be seven early childcare development organisations functioning in Philippi, people go to these training courses and they come back and have to go to another NGO to get a translation of what they actually learnt from the first course so that they can access it and begin to use it. In effect we are throwing away resources because we get the pitch level wrong.
In Kosovo we explored this idea of creating green collar workers. The idea was to take what people already need to do to sustain themselves within the community and begin to actually certify it and use that as the basis of growing the skills from where people are, as opposed to setting a bar where people cannot reach it. And the amazing thing is that through our expanded public works programme (EPWP) policies, the policy environment is in fact in place. In general I think most of our policies are very good, but we need to get better at their practical implementation.
Similarly, we need to rethink what we mean by margin and centre when it comes to our densification ambitions. If you look at Philippi geographically it is actually the real centre of the city. I wonder, can we begin to reconceptualise the centre in a different way? Then the whole question of densification, location and future urban cores take on a different meaning even if we ac- knowledge the low level of formal economic activity, second economy ventures, and potential of scaling up from those. Surely there are some tools and mechanisms to do this practically?
CS: Can I ask you if your engagement in Philippi would have been as successful had government been there and participated?
GG: Possibly not. I had a brief to talk to the community and pursued this. We prepared a document that took the policies and the programmes available and checked these against what the community actually has access to. I was horrified to discover Philippi, which is not a “special” project or categorised as an urban renewal node, is not on the agenda in any significant way. Sure, it’s got bits and pieces that are going to happen. Then the question was, how does this community now begin to put itself on the agenda if the processes of the city have not put on the agenda. So that’s when we took the enquiry into the conversation with the community to say, guys, this is the reality. So what are you going to do about this and how are you going to start equipping yourself as a mobilised force to practically address your problems and then begin to engage the government?
AB: Can I ask about the other end of the equation? This is about how the community organises mobilisation, where does it get capacity from, internal partnerships and things like that? Say that you want to enter into a partnership with the public sector, what are the access points? How much time is devoted to getting councillors and officials to think in a partnership way? What resources within the administrations go into that? And how reproducible is that? There might be one kind of partnership going into partnership, but if there’s five or ten or 15 communities that mobilise, organise, want to enter into these partnerships, not just to lobby but to implement stuff. You can organise, you can mobilise but if people aren’t getting material benefits out of it and you can only do that if you engage with people and resources, whether it’s the private developer or the city council or both.
GG: I think that the question of how one thinks about the capacity to engage forces one to recognise that such capacity must be developed at both ends. It needs to be developed in the public sector and civic organisations. We are therefore looking towards replicable methodologies which implies community-led processes and leadership development amongst especially young people. But it’s very targeted; it’s around specific outcomes, around specific skills and deliveries. Because if you think about the grounding that we all came through in the struggle, what we learnt about organisations and how to interact, it came from our induction through these sorts of processes. So in a sense, it doesn’t matter that it might be limited.
DS: In addition to that, Gita, coming back to Andrew’s point, I think one thing that has been explored is how do we build a partnership? Not just within Philippi or the Philippi community, but how do we bring into the partnership a whole number of people who, in fact, have more of the access and more of the networks into the decision making process because we don’t have that intermediary mechanism. So hopefully, if we really build a partnership for example around Philippi, that brings in academia, the private sector, the City and the provincial government so that we’ve got a whole number of champions sitting elsewhere, but really feeling themselves part of the coalition. Hopefully, it’s something that also can facilitate this because, again, if you look at a place like Philippi the kind of thing that always strikes you about the place is, in many ways, how isolated it is, and part of going forward is how do we build those cross community partnerships?
EP: In response to Andrew comment on Catherine’s wishful thinking, I know it’s a difficult issue, I agree obviously that any organisation in a democratic framework is a good idea. But if we look at, for example, schools and the parent teacher associations that run them, it is also clear that very well capacitated people serve on these structures, i.e. the lawyers, the accountants, and so on, and they set the framework for the discussion; and that’s the problem. So if you look at the ratepayer’s association, there’s two things. One is, part of why middle class, predominately white suburbs look as well as they do is because the municipality is still geared to the fact that if a councillor from that neighbourhood sees a problem of broken bins or whatever, or he gets a phone call, he’ll access the bureaucracy the next day and it will be fixed within hours. That’s inconceivable in a township or an informal settlement, even if a ward councillor is diligent and responsible.
So there’s something quite fundamental about the power that established middle class areas wield within how relations work in the municipality. Now of course, that kind of responsiveness is an ideal, but the point is that there’s something about the fact that the system is geared to respond to those issues in the middle class areas and not in the poor areas. So my concern is that there’s almost a political/cultural pre-condition that has to happen, which is that big challenge about how do we get the middle classes to, at a very personal level, experience the other Cape Town, the excluded Cape Town, the poor Cape Town? Unless we have a way of getting those social institutions who reproduce social capital in the middle class, to interact directly in townships and poor neighbourhoods, I don’t think we’re going to have the shift in personal attitude that can create the right kind of democratic energy and culture.
CS: I would agree that there are many people who want to make a contribution but are unsure how to go about it.
EP: Yes, we need them. You can’t shift the inequality in the city unless the middle class make a contribution from their own pocket and their own intellectual and social capital – that’s pretty obvious, I think. But it’s re- ally once those relationships start to form and forge, and reciprocity emerge, that we can begin to see a kind of so- cial engagement and integration that can generate the conditions necessary for democratic citizenship. But at the moment that’s absent; we just don’t have that. The social worlds of rich and poor remain as divided as ever.
AB: We’re talking about bridging networks as opposed to self-contained networks. Cape Town is quite a net- worked place within lots of communities.
EP: The point that I’m making is that unless you have those bridging networks and shared discourses, the agenda of the ratepayer’s associations won’t shift and the way they wield their power won’t change.
AB: I’m agreeing with you but what I’m saying is who gen- erates bridging networks? Where does that come from? And if that’s lacking, and I do think it is lacking because of our historical circumstances probably more than in other cities. Let’s look at examples of those bridging networks. It’s the Amy Biehl Foundation or the Ubuntu Foundation. Even Zip-Zap Circus I would say is a small example of a bridging network because it exposes mid- dle class kids to working class kids and vice versa right there on the circus floor. And if you do that often enough then you’re starting to create that bridging capacity.
And what responsibility does everyone take to challenge groupings that are mobilising in a defensive or paro- chial fashion? How do you challenge the gatekeepers? A recent example from my own context will illustrate my concern well. Through the business areas network of the Cape Town Partnership we’ve been trying to bring together business organisations in Khayelitsha and the central city of Cape Town. Getting the meeting organ- ised took 18 months because it’s quite a closed set of in- stitutions Khayelitsha and they all seem to be engaged in hostilities with each other. For 18 months there has been agreement on who’s going to host the meeting. So what are the conditions for bridging networks and who organises them and are we conscious or self conscious enough about it?
MS: In Stellenbosch youth structures are important to connect youth groups together and create that circula- tion. It’s very interesting.
GG: Is that outside of school or is that including the school system?
MS: I think at both levels. The school system is actually through the district directors who coordinate the school principals. The Sustainability Institute is working with the school circuit and facilitating those meetings. But youth groups, christians, ANC Youth League, all sorts of cultural groups, health organisations, HIV/AIDS youth groups; those kinds of welfare groups. Furthermore, there’s a whole bunch of cultural, music and IT stuff we are not that familiar with but very important.
MM: Gita correctly intimates that one of our problems is that we obsess with perfection and then fail to make any progress that comes from acting even if we don’t have all the analysis or information or resources. This perfection syndrome is related to the issue of failure that we spoke about at the outset. The fear of failure is debilitating to innovation. Innovation arises when one abandons a cul- ture where you’re always trying to pursue certainty and you don’t allow yourself to make mistakes whilst explor- ing ideas and option. A mindset that actually cuts off the debate before it even starts. I think this is the problem of many government officials who will be confronted with a fantastic idea, but all they see is risk and failure.
So we need to start developing more of a culture around innovation and identify the appropriate sites of in- novation. In some respects I enjoy this conversation but I also find a part of me very cynical about the idea of getting all the white kids to go to the township and play soccer and it will solve our problems. Maybe, sites of innovation and sites of action are not only in town- why transformative change is so illusive ships. Maybe we should be thinking about how do we densify suburban areas? How do we engage with behav- ioural change in the suburbs to overcome the not-in-my- backyard-syndrome (NIMBY)? On the one hand you can incentivise development but maybe you should also dis- incentivise parts of the city to avoid super-sized plots. Planning restrictions can be used to avoid the worst expressions of sprawl developments. We should also begin to introduce very specific taxes around plot sizes, linked developments, and so on, which can begin to shift land market patterns that fuel social divisions and ex- clusion. The children can interact but it’s the rate payers associations and that generation that almost needs to be incentivised to make some behavioural changes.
We need demonstration projects where it’s not about, well, we’ve solved the problems for this class or for this area, but we’ve solved problems for the city. We need to be innovative about where do we put demonstration projects and maybe we need to establish an Innovation Unit along the lines of the JDA but with the mandate to make experimental buildings. The 10 X 10 project (see Chapter 12) was beautiful because it was space taken up by Ravi Naidoo (from Design Indaba); exploring an idea where there was no courage to actually make innovative low-income housing design happen. In light of that experiment, the question is, “why don’t we have formal spaces to explore innovative models and tell the public that this is for demonstration; it might not work; we’re going to write about it; we’re going to review it; we’re go- ing to think about it; and as we learn the lessons, we’ll get back to you?” All premised on the assumptions that such experiments in innovations cannot provide final answer but steps in the right direction. We operate in a culture where every project is “the answer” and we set ourselves up for failure because of that as the N2 gate- way demonstrates.
DS: It’s very much a part of the Cape Town culture and it’s how we plan. And it’s so very different, I find, to a more Joburg culture that is much more... you have an idea, let’s go and do it. And if it’s a miss we’ll sort it out. Joburg clearly has greater appetite for risk, which is also then part of a culture change because we do have a culture that is very, very critical and failure is frowned upon; we do not like being punished for failure. I think that’s one of the culture changes that we actually need now.
MM: David, your chapter helped inspire me through your distinction between tiers versus spheres of government and how innovative the constitution drafters were in coming up with this formulation. I think what that suggests is that we’ve lost the spirit of saying, here’s a problem, let’s think differently about it. We’ve ended up with a strange culture of quick fix solutions. Many other cities around the world have innovation units where they produce papers, they write, they do mini developments, they 10 X 10s and put them into the public domain for collective learning, critique and deepening understand- ing. Then it becomes a form of participation and people can react to it. Maybe Oude Molen failed (Chapter 10) but maybe it didn’t because the site and the design ideas to reimagine the place is in the right place. So, even though we have not been able to go on site, we have put ideas into the mix and it contributes to a culture of working towards something.
EP: On this, I think a theme we shouldn’t lose is the role of the media because whether something is a failure or not, and what the politicians and media institutions regard as the perception of the failure or vulnerability, is very closely tied to how these issues are framed in the public debates. The media is central to innovation and urban transformation. But how do we shift the problematic role of the media? How do we get the media, to have a mindset change about how to narrate the Cape Town story with a different set of parameters?
AB: It’s goes back to the question, do you punish failure or do you reward success and what’s the balance? What has happened is that in the concern to deal with deteriorating accountability, the National Treasury defined how we should deal with this issue through the prism of finance. They promoted legislation such as the Pub- lic Finance Management Act and the Municipal Finance Management Act that forces people to account around finance and budgeting. These measures drastically punish any little deviation in terms of procurement and so on but also undermines risk taking as a result.
GG: And that restricts innovation.
AB: If it is now not a balanced budget or there is any whiff of over expenditure then the opposition pounces. As a result, the political game now is to catch your opponents out for not doing it according to the letter of the law. And then the media buys into that depending on which side they support on a particular issue. So everyone is petrified of failure because it’s defined in very narrow terms.
DS: We’ve also added to that highly restrictive key performance indicator systems, which are set up way in advance in the previous financial year and that is what you get rewarded and punished on. I think that just rein- forces this kind of culture, which is rigid and risk averse. Everyone simply ventures to stick to the rules in order to be okay. Anything different or daring demands elaborate justifications.
AB: In a sense these measures have put development, ultimately, under the control of the Auditor General’s reports, which cannot be healthy for transformative interventions.
AB: And therefore you always go through your legal departments to check out whether you’re doing something that you can be doing; it’s incredibly restrictive. Anyone in those administrations now trying, in good faith to do something in an innovative way, boy, even if they succeed someone will still try and catch them out for not following the right rules. And I’m telling you, there’s al- ways some regulation that you didn’t follow. So how the hell do you break that complete straight-jacket that we find ourselves in right around the country, not just Cape Town?
CS: But it goes deeper than that because these issues are compounded by the politicisation of the administrations. There has been a growing tendency to get rid of, or sideline officials when you are unhappy. As a result the integrity of the administration has arguably been com- promised. If you layer the accountability to accountants over that, the question of risk becomes the business of watching your back!
AB: How the hell do you survive let alone flourish in this context? Where do the rewards for innovation come from? This idea of funding for urban innovation is marvellous and consistent with an approach that seeks to reinforce the positive rather than catch out the negative. But where does such an approach come from?
GG: It is interesting to see the disjuncture between the policy vision and assessment criteria in the case of the provincial department of housing. The department worked with three criteria to assess applications from municipalities: if you could spend the money, if you showed there was the need, and something else that escapes me now. In engaging them it seemed clear to me that this approach was not advancing the sustain- ability objectives of their Breaking New Ground (BNG) policy. They did not have assessment criteria in place that aligned with BNG. I wonder how does one move from where such a situation is the norm to a point where practices that advance BNG can be incentivised?
MS: My experience is somewhat different. About three weeks ago the Sustainability Institute brought together the project managers, project leaders, officials of all the provincial housing departments who work on lead projects for three days. And yes, it’s true there are lots of restrictions but the incredible innovation and creativity of the people at the frontline putting deals together is quite extraordinary. From Kokstad to Limpopo, big cities, small towns, it was amazing to witness. And those stories are never told, they’re never written about, there are no heroes at the frontline doing a good thing.
GG: But isn’t it often the case that those are some of the smaller municipalities where the scrutiny is maybe different?
MS: On the contrary, the best work was in Joburg metro and Bloemfontein and a couple of smaller municipalities. And the way that Gauteng housing department works, with the different departments in the different metros, was extraordinary in terms of embracing an overall can- do ethos. Their approach seems to be: “toughen up and make deals where you can, mix and match infrastructure funding with housing money, as long as you move the agenda forward.” It was really quite remarkable.
CS: Is it the cultural differences in Cape Town that’s preventing that from happening? What is blocking that here?
MS: The feeling I got, in some of the more stable provinces, people had been in that job for a very long time and there was a sense of confidence. They’d screwed up, they’d made mistakes, they’d been rapped over the knuckles, they knew the risks, but fundamentally there was a sense of confidence about how to “manipulate” the system.
DS: Clearly what we need to do is change the incentive system. Can we agree on how we change incentives so that we start to reward bold innovation and partner- ships to implement innovative approaches and ideas?
CS: Can I put three questions out there. The first question is to what extent we actually want to roll back the role of government? I suppose hidden in what a lot of why transformative change is so illusive what people were saying is how, in the kind of delicate community development process, how destructive it could be to have government involved upfront, partly from the point of view of people’s expectations of government officials and formal culture, and their tendency to give answers and make promises even when it is pre- mature; effectively entrenching a culture of dependency.
Secondly, I think the demands for clean audits, the demands associated with wanting to be a “globally competitive city” that is investor friendly, are all inter-linked. It reflects a first world model of government and I’m not sure how relevant it really is in our context. Further- more, the City is obsessed with e-governance systems and monitoring instrument a sign of modern bureaucracy even when the majority of the population do not have access to the internet.
It is interesting that the media sits in almost all Council and Committee meetings of the City because they are all open. Yet, the fail to surface the important issues and dynamics and rather prefer a bland factual style. For ex- ample, they will not draw out the fact that the planning committee, for example, obsesses with middle-class minutia about the colour of walls, regulating pets and light pollution, blissfully ignorant of what is going down in the majority the communities where most people live below or just on the poverty line. So, in how agendas are structured and the obsession with e-government tools, there is that kind of bizarreness that is hardly reflected upon, let alone critiqued.
My short third issue revolves around what we expect of leaders. This concern stems from my understanding the famous Mayor of Bogota, Enrique Peneloza, campaigned on the basis of a plan for the city. This plan promoted pedestrianisation, non-motorised transport, integrated transport systems, public space and so on. Thus, once he got elected he implemented these ideas with determination. We don’t seem to expect of our political leaders to have concrete plans for what they will do during their term of office. This must go beyond general platitudes such as wanting to promote jobs, health case and education; political rhetoric is not a plan. Surely we need real plans that citizens vote for and use to hold leaders ac- countability? How do we inculcate this approach in Cape Town?
MM: Two things, one is a suggestion and one is more of a comment. This notion that I mentioned earlier around an urban innovation unit is something I’ve been think- ing about for quite a while. At one point I thought a developing agency was the answer and I kept looking at the Johannesburg Development Agency. I have been to Johannesburg a couple of times and I have also heard stories about how in some respects it seems to be doing good stuff, but it’s also a clique with its own network and it has its own political problems. For me the notion of an urban innovation unit might be something that might be a partnership between the private sector and differ- ent spheres of government where maybe they all put in 10% of their property into a sort of urban innovation unit land register.
We don’t have a culture of doing architectural and ur- ban design competitions in this country. This is a major shortcoming. It is entirely feasible and necessary to establish an entity to experiment with options, speculate and not feel obliged to instantly make projects. How- ever, it is possible to say in the next 18 months, every 3 months we’re going to take this parcel of land, we’re going to hold a competition and we’re going to do an exhibit. We’re going to raise public debate about possibilities. Then that innovation unit should have some sort of mandate to engage; effectively project manage competitively selected professionals to make small insertions, whether it’s a little post office or a major land reclamation.
It doesn’t have to be a long-term institution, especially since we should avoid simply creating institutions over and over again with no delivery. However, at the moment we have a serious gap because what you find is that officials are constrained and naively fall back on an expectation that the private sector will solve everything. As an entrepreneur I have come to see the limitations of the private sector, and at the same time there is so much creativity but there isn’t an interstitial space where these ideas can be developed or nurtured.
MS: I just want to come back to your opening comments, Edgar, where you referred to sustainability and its capacity to either be a language of articulating this ideal world and also it’s the language of depression, dystopia and defeatism. We haven’t really discussed that so far. I think what I am reflecting on at the moment about this is the implications of the mainstreaming of sustainability amongst the so-called global cities league, which now includes San Francisco, New York, London, and so on. Interestingly, all the big global cities are using this language of sustainability but connected to a redefinition of security. In other words, how you deal with threats, resource threats and the implications of climate change by retooling very fundamentally urban infrastructure to diminish dependence on long value chains, including oil or water resources. Furthermore, securing the resources for the reproduction of the city within the boundaries of the city itself; a form of re-localisation. The focus of attention for how you do that is urban infrastructure, manifested in energy systems, water systems, and others explored in chapter 5.
What is interesting about this language is who is driving it. I think what lies behind this sudden rise in the last couple of months is a realisation that digging ourselves out of the current global recession is going to be via in- vestment in urban infrastructure. If you need a rationale for why you are spending this money on this infrastructure, you connect it to carbon reduction and the threats of resource constraints. So, if you like, it’s an investment strategy, and I think when we look back in 15 years time and say how did we get ourselves out of this recession compared to say 1929, we will recognise that in 1929 we put money into cars, highways, mass production; and in 2009 we dug ourselves out of recession by putting money into urban infrastructure on a global basis in the context of the second wave or urbanisation. The leading future cities will be those who made the green infrastructure investments and the marginal ones will be those who failed to act. This imperative affects established and newer cities.
So, against that backdrop, where is Cape Town? It’s quite interesting, Cape Town more than any other city is fundamentally constrained by the mountain range be- fore you get to the Karoo, the sea and the desert. It is a kind of a landlocked space. So there is something that reinforces a sense of autonomy but there does not seem to be the capital to actually mount a massive green infrastructure project. Of course, the reason why this is happening in other cities, including Chinese and Indian ones, is the availability of capital looking for outlets be- cause they want to exit the risky financial markets and get into tangible sectors. The economic recession has fuelled this tendency. I wonder how one would open up this kind of conversation with a bunch of major financial investors based in Cape Town. Where and how could such a discussion take place? Who would possibly initiate it?
An issue we must confront more directly is how do you leverage public assets to mobilise a whole pile of private investments, not just in buildings but in infrastructures as well? For example, the central city is in real trouble in terms of future development and capacity constraints in terms of sewerage, water and energy. So who is having that conversation about what kind of urban infrastructure is going to work to justify the massive upgrading of these trunk infrastructures?
I suppose I am trying to connect a parochial Cape Town discussion to where global cities are going. I share the concerns about the language of world class and all of that, but all the evidence that I see of where we are putting money into to rip ourselves out of the global re- cession, confirms a shift into urban infrastructure. As capital moves into funding urban infrastructure, they are going to have to restructure governance because it won’t follow a simplistic privatisation model. The challenge now is to define how do you put private money into public infrastructure, which remains public, and the state is the collection agent. These dynamics are raising some very interesting and unprecedented new forces and challenges that will shift accountability measures, which may or may not reinforce the full urban transformation agenda. I don’t know. It is noteworthy that the BRT in Johannesburg is part of this global league of cities for sustainability, supported by the Clinton Foundation.
The BRT is a good example of cash into urban infrastructure with pro-poor benefits and good for carbon and re- source constraints. So, I wonder where else are those win-win possibilities that allow you to say: “here’s an in- vestment opportunity; we’ll be the collecting agent, it’s good for the poor and it’s going to reduce our dependence on insecure suppliers of key primary resources”? That is my question. I don’t think moving in this direction is rocket science.
DS: It’s been done before.