A Thought on Government Ideologies and South Africa

In recent classes, we covered how the ideologies of certain regimes influenced the landscape of urban spaces. I found it interesting how the physical city is affected due to governments in power, and how this also impacts the people living within it. In December of 2013, I visited Cape Town, South Africa and explored what is a beautiful city and the surrounding areas. The city was impacted significantly by the rule of the apartheid regime. The ideology of apartheid was focused on the desire of the ruling party for racial segregation, to protect the privilege of the white minority and subordinate less-advantaged groups. (Turok, 244). As a result, many cities in South Africa, including Cape Town, developed unequally, and were divided socially and economically. Townships developed on the periphery of the cities, with the economic wealth and white population living within the city core. Urban planning was used as a means of social engineering and control in an attempt by the apartheid regime to maintain their idea of a social order. As a result of this racial segregation, the “states hostility to black urbanization deprived townships of essential services, housing and economic opportunities” (Turok, 243), resulting in high levels of poverty, marginalization and crime. Although the apartheid ended in 1994, the urban design of the city still defines the social and economic realities of modern Cape Town.

Before visiting Cape Town, I was aware of the history of apartheid in South Africa, but was naïve about how expansive poverty was in the townships. I was in South Africa visiting a friend who grew up in the area surrounding Cape Town, in a town called Somerset West. The high way drive from Somerset West to Cape Town is a straight road and before entering the city, the urban sprawl of the townships is visible. Stretching for miles on either side of the highway, the housing plots could not be described as adequate for modern housing relative to Canadian standards, with tin slates for walls and many having no doors. Numerous attempts have been made to improve the townships, such as the 2001 National Urban Renewal Programme although very little improvement has been made. The power of an ideology to shape the urban design of a city is incredible. Apartheid affected not only the physical look of the city, but also Cape Town’s social and economic realities, with poverty being just one example of a serious outcome that has developed within the townships. Similar to the Italian Fascist regime use of urban planning for propaganda to promote their ideas, the apartheid city planning has influenced not only how Cape Town was built, but how and where people, classes and races settled and continue to live.


Donaldson, Ronnie, Danie Du Plessis, Manfred Spocter, and Ruth Massey. “The South African Area-based Urban Renewal Programme: Experiences from Cape Town.” Journal of Housing and the Built Environment J Hous and the Built Environ 28, no. 4 (2013): 629-38. Accessed October 24, 2015. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/10.1007/s10901-013-9348-3.

Swardt, C. De, T. Puoane, M. Chopra, and A. Du Toit. “Urban Poverty in Cape Town.” Environment and Urbanization 17, no. 2 (2005): 101-11. Accessed October 24, 2015. doi:10.1177/095624780501700208.

Turok, Ivan. “Urban Planning in the Transition from Apartheid, Part 1: The Legacy of Social Control.” Town Planning Review 65, no. 3 (1994): 243. Accessed October 24, 2015. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/stable/40113645.

3 thoughts on “A Thought on Government Ideologies and South Africa

  1. I wonder if the reason why no actual reform has come about is because people still have some residual feelings about the apartheid and white people in South Africa? Maybe these feelings also extend to within the government and that is why no such revival has occurred
    Super interesting post!

  2. It’s definitely interesting to see how class divisions manifest themselves within society. Do you think there’s examples of this divide within the Afrikaans themselves, or did all the people who were living there have enough status to keep themselves at least middle class? While obviously they wouldn’t have suffered as much as the black people, I wonder how much they had social divisions within themselves.

  3. Is there the possibility of past racial Faultlines becoming a problem in the future in this region? If so, are there any policies to combat this problem in case it becomes to much to handle by the current government?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *