UKZN’s School of Built Environment and Development Studies in partnership with eThekwini Municipality hosted a World Planning Day virtual event under the theme Strengthening the Co-Production Paradigm in Planning: Promoting government and citizen partnerships.
Town Planning lecturer, Professor Hangwelani Magidimisha-Chipungu said, ‘World Town Planning Day aims to advance public and professional interest in the planning profession and is dedicated to giving focused recognition to the ideals of community planning, which brings professional planners and communities together. The day has been marked since 1949, and it continues to present an opportunity to look at planning from a local and global perspective and celebrate the profession’s achievements as well as showcase planning evolution.’
Dean and Head of the School Professor Ernest Khalema added, ‘Because we live in unprecedented times, more than ever, we need to be intentional about strengthening government and community engagement and participation. Planning as a discipline plays an important role in this process.’
The event focused on the institutional framework for co- production and its ability to deliver sustainable infrastructure; planning and economic development; promoting healthy cities; balancing community needs with planning and the environment; and building resilient cities (climate change, disaster reduction and mitigation; and city adaptation measures).
In his keynote address, Acting City Manager in eThekwini Municipality Mr Musa Mbhele remarked that Built Environment practitioners across the globe have joined forces yet again to understand the importance of citizen engagement.
‘It comes as no surprise that governments have also rediscovered the citizen as an essential factor in designing and implementing public policies and urban infrastructure. This partnership makes the provision of public infrastructure and service delivery more efficient, effective and democratic; and also restores trust and satisfaction with government and politics,’ he said.
Mbhele noted that national planning legislation in South Africa requires that municipalities prepare Integrated Development Plans and Spatial Development Frameworks. These are prepared every five years and are reviewed annually. ‘Bringing communities on board and listening to their concerns, needs and dreams is of paramount importance as it shapes forthcoming budgets and plans,’ he said.
Mbhele added that planners in South African municipalities also prepare different levels of plans with varying information. ‘This dilutes the co-production paradigm, because communities just want services – infrastructure or social services, or an opportunity to change their lives. Constantly engaging the community with different levels of planning on the same matter is futile. Thus, the planning tools we use often compromise the end- product and communities revolt via protest action, or learn to distrust their planners.’
In his concluding remarks, Mbhele said, ‘Planners across the globe can make a change in people’s lives by delivering services and infrastructure in a more effective and efficient way; as well as developing plans that communities and governments can design and implement together.’
Mr Seana Nkhahle of South African Local Government Association (SALGA) presented a nuanced understanding of the governance landscape, stating that such clarity has led to more efficient service delivery mechanisms across municipalities.
‘It has been a difficult institutional journey – fragmented, much contestation and difficult issues between provinces themselves. However, a stable institution has been developed despite the three key systemic and structural problematic issues, namely, strengthening governance and governance institutions; planning economic development that improves delivery of services; and spatial transformation,’ he said.
Chief Executive Officer of the South African Council of Planners (SACPLAN) Mr Martin Lewis also called on government, civil society, and planners to achieve sustainable development while Professor Piotr Lorens (International Society of City and Regional Planners) posited that planners’ shaping of urban spaces should be built around knowledge exchange. Ms Nosipho Hlatshwayo (Executive Manager of Programmes: South African Cities Network (SACN)) encouraged planners to become advocates and better planners through listening and engaging with one another.
In line with this, Planact Senior Programme Coordinator Mr Mike Makwela discussed street naming in Skoonplaas, an informal settlement in Etwatwa Township near Benoni, which will be a step towards formalising illegal establishments. ‘These street names will improve the lives and status of shack dwellers.’
Other partners for the webinar included SACPLAN, SACN, and SALGA. The International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) also endorsed this event. World Town Planning Day 2021 took place at the same time with the 57th ISOCARP virtual World Planning Congress being held under the theme of Planning Unlocked: New Times, Better Places, Stronger Communities.