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Let’s end ‘black’ and ‘white’ neighbourhoods

For a start, build up vacant state-owned land near our cities into mixed-class developments.

There remains one major obstacle on South Africans’ journey to become a normalised, integrated society: we still live in separate neighbourhoods.

We all get along quite well on a person-to-person level in the offices, factory floors and sports stadia. But persisting residential segregation is impeding different racial groups from getting to know one another on a normal human level. The ‘us’ and ‘them’ will persist as long as most of live so far apart, as will the resentments, fears and suspicions.

Of course it is a hangover from our apartheid past, but it would have helped if our town and city planners didn’t simply continue in the apartheid paradigm after 1994. We were supposed to overcome apartheid, not just shrug our shoulders and mutter about class inevitabilities and superficial cultural or ‘birds of a feather’ arguments.

Most black South Africans still live on the outer perimeters of our big metros.  Most settlements that came into being because of rapid – but badly managed – urbanisation during the last two decades were established many kilometres outside the city limits.

In most of the towns outside the metros we still have the rigid separation of the ‘white’ town with the ‘location’ on the other side of the railway track or the national road.

We will have to do something drastic about this state of affairs if we’re serious about overcoming the racial schisms and resentments. Some would call it nation building.

If we don’t, we will produce more generations of young black people who live their entire lives in townships and ghettoes far away from the main centres of economic activity and from where most white people live.

Living so far apart is one thing. Having to travel for hours to and from work every day is quite another. This is unfair and bad for productivity.

We will have to start doing things very differently.

I do not underestimate the difficulties and problems any kind of social engineering will bring to the property market and the attitudes of property owners. As a middle class person with my biggest investment being my residential home, I’m as concerned about my neighbourhood as anyone else.

But there are ways of normalising the way we live in this society without creating fears and stirring up emotions.

It was reported last year that the state might sell the 2.5 square kilometers of real estate now occupied by the dilapidated Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town. This is fairly close to the city centre and the M3 highway – a good place to start.

Instead of developing more exclusive upper class or middle class suburbs, the City of Cape Town should get involved and develop the land into a good mix of upper income, middle income and lower income housing. Several thousand black and coloured working and middle class families could live here side by side with white people.

There are other huge tracts of urban land in Cape Town where this project can be extended to, for example: the land between the blossoming economic hub of Century City and the suburbs of Rugby and Brooklyn, the Oude Molen land on the edge of Pinelands and Culemborg, now owned by the Department of Transport. In fact, these three pieces of land border each other, so we’re talking about an area where tens of thousands of families can find a new home close to the city centre.

Other metros have similar possibilities, like the land around the old Durban Airport and the land owned by the SANDF close to the Durban city centre, and the huge vacant area between Waterkloof Air Base and Monument Park in Pretoria. Smaller cities like Polokwane, Potchefstroom, Bloemfontein and Mbombela all have larger and smaller patches of land that can be used for this purpose.

A land audit of state-owned land in our cities and towns could help a lot to identify more possibilities.

If this kind of project is ever launched and not well managed, it could be a disaster in terms of property prices and unnecessary resentment and friction. But it is no excuse to simply continue in the old apartheid way.

With appropriate consultation with communities, the involvement of commercial banks and property developers and proper planning – and political will – we can really re-imagine our urban spaces and the way we live. There are ample examples elsewhere in the world where different communities and income groups live together in harmony.

This will not only make social and economic sense, it will help us change the way we relate and interact with each other.

I believe it is time for bold and innovative steps to deal with the polarisation of our society and to move towards a more normalised way of living together.

COMMENTS   23

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Send me your front gate GPS coordinates Maxie and the dotgov will comply with your heartfelt wish by providing an informal settlement of 10 000 Kyas across the veld from your leafy streets in a heartbeat!
As they say in the US “You first pal”

Hasn’t happened in France, UK, Germany and and and.

As soon as other races in numbers move in, the white indigenous move out.

Birds of feather…. as they say.

We are a fairly young democracy as compared to other African and international countries.Most of the international countries as Jerimiah mentioned have not been able to do this.
This will take a long time , we are making progress and that’s what counts.

Unfortunately Max, I’m fairly sure that the land in Pretoria that you described is dolomitic. Unless you want to create a new brand of social solidarity, where blacks and whites mourn together for family members who die when their homes collapse into sinkholes.

But your overall idea is good. Unfortunately it is unlikely to happen by government dictat. Look at Johannesburg, where the “wrong side” of Louis Botha Avenue (east of Louis Botha) is a growing collection of dilapidated suburbs, shunned by whites (with the exception of a few Jewish enclaves).

Fortunately, demographics will sort this sort of de facto segregation out eventually, but things like public transport, and higher densities in formerly white suburbs can speed things up.

It should be noted that although core suburbs in cities (between city centres and townships) have been white, whites are now drawn to living even further out, in gated estates.

Its not about colour it is cultures, the different ways people behave dictate where they live, on the farm my shearing gang won’t live for a few days with my staff they rather sleep in the shearing shed even though there is a cottage for them. Jews tend to live together, Muslims too Greeks , look at JHB where are the synagogues? the mosques etc. Its not colour it is culture.

Max, you blocked me on Twitter just because I asked you an uncomfortable question! SO much for your stated beliefs on expressing views freely. Question: where do you live? Still in the heartland of White Afrikanerdom?

Thank goodness I stay in the JHB inner circle… Your idea is not bad in theory Max but practically I think it will create more tensions between the different classes. And crime will increase as Alexandra has now come much closer.

The NIMBY principle: we all know it needs to be done, but: Not In My Back Yard.

Integrated neighbourhoods and maintaining property value will always be a challenge until everyone is capable of a having employment which pays a decent salary and so providing the ability to uphold the standard of your residential area. Until that happens artificially creating environments allowing people of different financial means to co-habit to address the mistakes of the past is unlikely to succeed. Our government has to come to the realisation that it starts with good education and employment – start here and in the future the normalised integrated neighbourhood will happen naturally.

Max I am an ardent reader of your columns, but the ideology of this column smacks of utopian thinking. In all parts of this global village from London to New York to Beiging to Mumbai people tend to gravitate towards their own cultural group. Be they Chinese (every big city in the Western Hemisphere has a “China Town”), Jews , South African (yes even in Aussie they gravitate in terms of underlying cultures), Greeks, Portuguese and so I can go on. If this was not South Africa would you advocate the same mixing of different cultures , income groups etc. As a middle class whitey would you move to Manenberg, Grassy Park or Khyalitsha? If not why not? Why force integration if we all know that it won’t work, because if a person feels divorced from his/her the cultural environment in which they live they will move on. Coloureds don’t like Blacks moving into their areas and make it known as much as Blacks don’t like Somalis and other ‘foreigners’ moving into their areas.
With respect you got this completely wrong – it has nothing to do with race, but everything about belonging – feeling at home, comfortable, secure, loved and respected.

Your focus on the black and white issue is misplaced. Whites are disappearing very fast and by 2030 are liable to account for less than 2% of the total population. Rather fix education, electricity and infrastructure and forget about the white/black issue. It will sort itself out.

I read the comments here about all the reasons why integration can’t work.
I am a forth generation farmer and my next-door neighbors are my farm workers. To tell you the truth, I have more respect for them than for most of the people in the city or town.
We get along well and respect one another. The value of my property is not affected negatively and people don’t look down on me because my neighbors are less wealthy.

The real benefit to me is the fact that I get the opportunity to add value to the lives of these children and I get to appreciate what I have, and I get to connect with people on an honest, unpretentious and caring way. This is a great scarcity in a wealthy community.
My farm-workers are part of my community. It would be very boring to live in an wealthy white community.

If I learned one thing in this life is is that one’s own sense of insecurity is measured by the extent to which one needs to belong to a certain ethnic, religious, income group or neighborhood.

The question of race/integration is like a virus to south africans. there is no cure. Before you can solve issues of traffic jams in our morning peak hour traffic, before you can solve the municipal billing issues in “the world class city”, before you can provide required medicines in a public hospital and before you can stabilize education and service delivery in general, please don’t even attempt to talk about integration. physical and tangible things can be fixed. Emotional and mindset paradigms need more than tangible approach.

Here, here Max. A well considered article. There are some examples where this has started to happen, either in an intentionally planned way or organically emerging. Despite the scaremongering of some of the commentators, it should become more common. The draft Integrated Urban Development Framework currently out for comment includes this as an intention. The tools and precedents to achieve it in a well planned and managed way are available . Often it’s the clear intent (aka political will) that is lacking, which usually means that municipalities sell off valuable land to get short term revenue streams thereby losing an opportunity to integrate neighbourhoods in the longer term. Private sector developers and investors are increasingly open to being partners in these kinds of developments. It is so much better than everyone walling themselves off and dreaming of living elsewhere. I’ve lived through a case of neighbourhood integration myself. Let the trolls put that in their pipes for due consideration.

We have lived for 23 years in what is considered to be a ‘middle’ to ‘high’ income level suburb. Over the years we have seen our neighbours change from ‘white’ only to a true mix of the rainbow nation. We have African, Asian, Indian, and so-called ‘coloured’ neighbours around us – all wonderful people. Just give it time……integration is nothing to with ‘colour’ – it’s all to do with ‘behaviour’.

Douw is leading by example. He has done this with Steyn City in Diepsloot. – while we are at it why don’t we erect soviet era style matchbox blocks and allocate flats according to your family size- everybody whats to live in the best place one can afford. Suburbs vary accordingly. The problem is SA is that half the population cannot afford to live in anything more that a informal settlement.

Max, do you still have the family farm you inherited in the Free State?
Why don’t you donate it to the government for your little social experiment?
Make sure to keep a stand in the centre for yourself
Then you can experience affirmative shopping at ground zero
Make sure you write an article afterwards

I’d like to see how you’ll spin it

“I believe it is time for bold and innovative steps ..” and I’m waiting for Jesus to arrive and the taxis to stop hooting and behaving like morons. And to MW website admin: there seems to be something seriously wrong with your voting clicks. 31, 27,27,74??

Ag nee Max ek is teleurgesteld in jou opinie gedink jy het meer intelligensie. Mens kan nou al vir meer as 20 jaar eiendom koop waar jy wil in SA. Dis jou keuse. Vertel ons bietjie waar bly jy? Seker nie in Khayelitsha nie? Hoekom nie?

We have a number of mixed suburbs here in SA. Parklands being one of them. Unfortunately those whities that so advocate for their existence wouldn’t even drive through them with their windows up on a Sunday afternoon.

Can’t force integration. Let it happen organically.

My vote is that Max starts this integration test on his own neighborhood. I am willing to put a few Rands on the plate that it won’t take long before his own property devalues and out of pure security he will have to move out of that neighborhood, more than likely back to a whiter area. Johannesburg and Hillbrow where great white suburbs once upon a time. Look what the integration did there.

Billions of rands flow into state coffers every year from property taxes in many forms. Devaluation of property is a reality, currently it is being used as a race card. Do not think for one minute that the same revenue will flow from the punted developments. Pray tell what the lost revenue from devalued properties will be replaced with. An economic reality not a race/anti development or integration issue Mr Du Preez. Ignore market forces at your own peril. Currently billions of rand due to local government structures ie rates and taxes are impaired and in all likely hood will not be collected. The defaulting debtors refuse to and or are unable to pay but still expect the services they require. So all the new developments will require the services and remember Constitutional Rights will be claimed. That is all that is remembered the reciprocal responsibilities are not always being complied with.

End of comments.

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