The Bartlett School of Planning


Unpacking planners' views of the success and failure of planning in post-apartheid South Africa.

Denoon-Stevens, S., Andres, L., Nel, V. Jones, P. in Cities

16 July 2022


This paper discusses post-apartheid planning reform in South Africa and identifies the successes and failures thereof, as understood by South African planners. We noted a perception of success regarding the reform of planning legislation; however, the general feeling was that planning had failed to achieve spatial transformation in the post-apartheid era. A variety of reasons were given for this: the failure to achieve reservation of planning work for planners, political interference, weak planning tools, lack of capacity, and planners' lack of key skills. We argue that underlying these failures was a deeper issue, namely that many powerful stakeholders in the built environment seemingly did not ascribe value to the planning process. In other instances, they may accept the value of the process, but not the uniqueness of planners' skills. This divergence of opinion of and power struggle between the legitimacy of planning versus planners shapes both the form that planning reform takes, but also the perceptions of the successes or failures of planning reform. Consequentially, this means that to achieve ‘successful’ planning reform, it is necessary to account for how the interaction of micro (individual) and macro-meso (organisational, societal) agendas shape these processes.