Gated-communities and the privatization of public spaces in urban South Africa : Democratic social integration or exclusion?

06 Jun 2014

Emulation of the West’s privatization of urban spaces, and securitization and policing, through city settlement planning has uniformly reinvented spatial social segregation in most democratizing developing countries. Reverence of the gated-community model in democratic urban settlement planning has paradoxical sustained social segregation. Understandably, democratization of South Africa entailed the application of urban settlement planning as a democratic instrument of social integration. This article argues that gated-community urban settlement planning creates physical enclosures that transfer public spaces to private ownership, thereby perpetuating apartheid social exclusion legacies. South Africa’s modern urban settlement planning epitomizes gated-communities, security villages and enclosed neighbourhoods phenomena, which sustain spatial differentiation of lifestyle, prestige, socio-economic status and security. Given apartheid city legacies, securitization of urban settlement planning reflexively maintains social exclusions through a democratic strategy. The article posits that the adoption of the gated-community model in urban settlement planning in a democratic South Africa has privatized public spaces and created secluded settlements with fragmented delivery of public services such as security, policing, emergency services (fire trucks and ambulances) and a host of other municipal services (waste removal, water and electricity meter readings). In practice, this privatization creates controlled, restricted and prohibitive access to public spaces and amenities. The article concludes that the nuance application of gated-community principles in urban settlement planning perpetuates social exclusion through the same old market ethos and economics of space. To this extent, the spatially and socially fragmentary modern urban spatial planning is inappropriate for South Africa’s former apartheid cities.