Cape Town’s Anti-Apartheid Urban Plan – Next City

Cape Town is this year’s World Design Capital, an honor bestowed on a city that’s leveraging design to transform lives. Photo credit: AP/Karin Schermbrucker

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Cape Town’s Anti-Apartheid Urban Plan

Reclaiming a City from a History of Hate

Story by Rashiq FataarBrett Petzer

Photography by Matt Griffiths

Published on May 19, 2014

On December 31, 2013, the late Nelson Mandela’s giant face was projected onto Cape Town’s Italian neo-Renaissance City Hall. It was the same building where he first addressed his country as a free man two decades ago. Here and there, people were crying. Mandela – Tata Madiba by his African name – had died that month, and his multi-story image brought it home that it was up to the city now.

As the champagne corks popped at midnight, some of the audience turned to go, eager to beat the New Year’s Eve traffic. The cars with colored families — “colored” being South Africa’s accepted term for people of mixed race — headed home to the Cape Flats. Indian families drove to Rylands Estate. Black families steered toward Gugulethu or Khayelitsha. Whites had the shortest drive, to suburbs just a few blocks away, or to homes perched dramatically along Table Mountain’s towering slopes.

Within an hour of hearing Nelson Mandela speak of unity, we would be turning in, up to 60 kilometers apart, in suburbs mostly segregated by race.

Cape Town, then, is a good place to start if the question is, “Can design create a democratic city?” because it is here that exactly the opposite was achieved during the 20th century. From 1948, when formal apartheid was introduced, to the early 1990s, when its dismantling commenced, social and spatial engineering, as historian Vivian Bickford-Smith put it, transformed the spectacular peninsula from South Africa’s least to its most segregated city. Cape Town’s urban plan was guided by the ideology of the 1922 Stallard Commission, which was tasked with bringing black workers and consumers into cities while still keeping them separate from whites:

We consider that the history of the races, especially having regard to South African history, shows that the co-mingling of black and white is undesirable. The native should only be allowed to enter urban areas, which are essentially the white man’s creation, when he is willing to enter and to minister to the needs of the white man, and should depart therefrom when he ceases to so minister.

The vision contained in this quotation gave birth to Grand Apartheid, a system that was as much an economic and spatial dispensation as it was a political and legal one. In the 1990s, apartheid’s legal barriers tumbled down, but the apartheid city had already been achieved as a physical fact, with 3.5 million people having been forcibly removed from white areas between 1960 and 1983. In Cape Town, a string of white suburbs occupying the best land had been purged of non-white, usually working-class enclaves, whose inhabitants were shunted off to less desirable areas. The end of apartheid did little to return integration to cities, and in fact, two decades after it ended, today’s Capetonians are recreating some of its worst vestiges, moving into gated communities separated from the city by perimeter walls and security guards.

A BRT lane is added to a street in Cape Town, one of several transit improvements aimed at stitching together the city.

But amid such de facto segregation can also be found bold attempts at unity, and a city striving to use urban design to create democratic inclusivity. Through improvements to the city’s transit systems and upgrades to former slums where gathering and trading can flourish, vibrant new public spaces and infrastructure are reconfiguring the city not just physically, but socially. In the best of scenarios, the very 20th-century relics that were designed by the old regime to keep people apart are now being reimagined to bring those same people together.

This year, exactly 20 years after its first democratic election, Cape Town has been anointed the World Design Capital (WDC), a biennial honor bestowed on a city that is leveraging design to improve urban life. By making Cape Town the 2014 honoree, the WDC label has given the city an identity to strive towards. For 12 months, in the middle of which South Africa will host its fifth multiracial national election, the country’s oldest city will attempt to reclaim urban design as a tool for democracy.

“Modernist design and planning was used by the apartheid government to perpetrate the largest social experiment in the history of mankind, and provided the perfect ‘top-down’ device to order, separate, divide and control the populace,” says Lindsay Bush, an urban designer working for the City of Cape Town on the WDC 2014 community design workshops. That’s why, she adds, design is the perfect apparatus to undo those wrongs. “In fact, it may be the only real tool we have.”

United By Rail

Cape Town’s central train terminal, built in 1966, is low-slung and sprawling for a reason – it is really two train stations, one for white and one for non-white commuters. From its inception, the entire complex was reverse-engineered on the premise that different races should be able to arrive in the city from segregated suburbs without ever crossing paths. It became Cape Town’s most explicit concretization of apartheid ideology, and a stamp of the central government’s authority on a city that was initially reluctant to meet the regime’s race-based planning standards.

The 2010 World Cup provided the city a self-imposed deadline to renovate the apartheid-stained train terminal into something that would boast the ideals of a new Cape Town. With that ambition in mind, the city chose an architect who specializes in design for social justice to take on the project.

Khalied Jacobs, a partner at Cape Town’s Jakupa Architects, collaborated with Makeka Design Lab on what would become one of the post-apartheid city’s most beloved structures. The team opted to open up and democratize the station, making light and freedom of movement the key motif of the new structure. A savvy invocation of fire-safety standards gave the architects leverage to punch out side walls along the vast main concourse, which went against the insular, control-obsessed spatial culture of the metropolitan railway operator. The result was a large station forecourt that led directly to a central concourse open to daylight along its city-facing side. At the other end of the forecourt, commuters exiting the station are now led directly to the terminus of a major pedestrianized shopping street, St. George’s Mall. A very recent expansion of the city’s bus rapid transit network into Cape Town’s main street, Adderley, runs along the far side of the forecourt. The effect of the station upgrade has been to establish public transport — and the distant apartheid dumping grounds whose residents depend on it — as a major priority in the city, rather than an afterthought.

At this point you might be picturing something like San Francisco’s planned Transbay Terminal, with a lush green roof, gleaming shopping concourse and not-a-hair-out-of-place manicured pavilion. But what’s most remarkable about Cape Town’s new central terminal is its uninhibited embrace of truly democratic public space. It’s a place that actively beckons the city’s poorest residents. The roof of the station is devoted to the informal economy, where vendors working from shipping containers offer fresh produce, street food, shoe repair and hairdressing to the terminal’s 270,000 daily commuters. There’s affordable retail and areas to rest, and just outside, space is provided for people to nap on the grass under the shade of trees, congregate, or even beg. By providing space specifically for the city’s poor and working classes at its chief transit hub, the implication is clear: The very residents who were oppressed under apartheid now hold ownership over one of that regime’s most prized pieces of segregating infrastructure.

The city’s train system, once a key instrument of the apartheid regime for keeping the races apart, now brings people together.

Because of Cape Town’s highly centralized transit network, the station has also become, in a way, the central square for the city’s sprawling informal settlements. As the city prepares to revitalize five more train stations, it will aim to produce more of these squares, creating great public spaces in the spirit of inclusiveness. It’s a noble goal, but, says architect Luyanda Mpahlwa, “You must understand who you are building for.”

Few have risked as much for good design in its deepest sense as Mpahlwa, one of the first black students to study architecture in South Africa. Mpahlwa, now founding director of award-winning architecture and design firm DesignSpace Africa, was arrested in 1981 for political activities and spent five years in the infamous prison on Robben Island, where he completed part of his architectural studies.

He has built 50 schools in the Eastern Cape province in just over two years, but injections of capacity on that scale and at that tempo are nothing compared with his current task of transforming five more of Cape Town’s train stations. DesignSpace Africa will entirely modernize these major rail stations as part of the Passenger Rail Authority’s transit-hub strategy, scheduled for completion in 2017. The five stations are all in fast-growing working-class and poor neighborhoods, like Khayelitsha and Lentegeur, that are themselves sharply divided between black and colored Capetonians. Right now many of these stations are barely more than simple sidings — passenger infrastructure encompasses the bare minimum required for ticket sales, security is weak and petty crime is common. Very few people dare use the stations after dark, as there are no lit routes that lead to them.

Mpahlwa’s mission to bring generous investment to the stations will be, in some cases, the first public infrastructure of any kind in these areas that reflects the city’s Design Capital rhetoric. Capitalizing on the visual prominence of the pedestrian overpasses that cross the railway line, his team of architects will extend a ribbon of activity deep into the adjacent communities. Informal traders, which have often been victims of city “improvement” projects, receive pride of place in the new designs, while station footprints overall will increase by 300 percent as these places become the nuclei of town centers.

In addition to the investment in the stations, the country’s entire passenger-rail rolling stock will be replaced at a cost of R123 billion ($11.5 billion USD) over 20 years starting in 2015. And the expansion of the MyCiti bus rapid transit system will enhance this network. Launched in 2011, Cape Town’s BRT network was derided early on for serving only wealthy, white suburbs. But its steady expansion into black and colored informal settlements has seen its monthly ridership almost double from 402,880 trips in November 2013 to 761,000 in February 2014. Today the network’s stations penetrate deep into both formal and informal neighborhoods, bringing scheduled, subsidized, state-of-the-art transit to parts of the city that have never had a formal bus route. By July of this year, an express service linking the Cape Town CBD with the Cape Flats areas of Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain will launch, giving more low-income communities a lifeline to the city’s jobs downtown.

The effect of the upgrades has been to establish public transport — and the distant apartheid dumping grounds whose residents depend on it — as a major priority in the city.

The cumulative impact of these improvements will be more than symbolic: Although apartheid configurations of space haven’t changed — people still live where they live — the configurations of time are shifting. Citizens who once spent the greater part of their non-working hours on expensive, slow, unreliable and often dangerous commutes will now gain more time with their families and travel in comfort and safety to job-rich areas.

All these improvements to formal transit systems add a backbone to the existing, informal minibus taxi network, which sprung up out of necessity under apartheid and without which South African cities would be unfeasible. For many years, the taxi industry was one of the only mostly black-owned sectors of the economy — even today, it’s one of the prime paths to employment for many black Capetonians. But in a recent MyCiti brochure describing the expansion of BRT service to the informal settlement of Dunoon, a telling detail reveals a bit of inclusiveness’ collateral damage: “As of 1 March 2014, 62 minibus taxis between Dunoon and the [neighboring suburbs] will be removed,” reads the brochure. For the local taxi drivers concerned, this will mean an instantaneous loss of livelihood.

Essentially, a resilient and decentralized local design response to a transport problem is being eliminated in favor of a dependable, centralized and highly professional system. This is happening in cities all over the world, from Guangzhou to Lima. But in a city being feted for its democratic urban design, the timing is awkward, and throws into relief a thorny question bedeviling urban revitalization everywhere: What happens when planning for democracy becomes a top-down enterprise, running up against communities where residents don’t necessarily want their lives transformed by urban design?

The Limits of Design

“When will the time come when cities, provinces, governments, change focus to create opportunities that allow inner-city urban regeneration to embrace the lower- and middle-income earners?” asks Mpahlwa. Residents of Europe, a well-located, extremely dense informal settlement near Cape Town International Airport, have been asking that question for a long time.

The World Design Capital means little in the slum incongruously known as Europe, where residents have no land tenure and 13 taps are shared among more than 4,000 people. Residents are squashed into .034 square kilometers, leaving only 7.8 square meters of space per person. Narrow, winding streets penetrate the wedge-shaped settlement from a busy road, and sewage runs through open drainage ditches. A hard rain can quickly flood the whole place. Extending from its single two-story building — a shebeen, or informal bar — a sea of one-story shacks runs the length of the settlement, with stagnant water festering in places where the soil, which covers what was for decades a dump site, cannot absorb it.

It is here that a semester-long design engagement is currently being held among residents of Europe and a group of city-planning graduate students from the University of Cape Town. The engagement has been eye-opening for the disconnect it’s revealed. The settlement’s residents, it turned out, don’t want “good public spaces.” They’re not interested in transit nodes, or activity routes, or a centralization of informal retail. They’re unconvinced that such so-called upgrades will actually improve their lives, and in fact, many fear that the changes would only drive up the cost of land, and in turn drive them out of their homes.

In February, the design students sat in Europe’s leaking community center — three freight containers welded together — and gazed at their large laminated maps. They had invited in Europe’s residents, given each of them handfuls of building tokens, and asked them to reconfigure the map to create a viable new town plan. But the Europeans demurred. For the students, the planning session became a crash course in the difference between the pieties of urban-planning theory and the reality of communities that are fluent in the language of political leverage.

What Europe’s residents did want, it turns out, was nothing more glamorous than formal housing — the precise thing they were least likely to get, since the government’s admission in the last budget that formal housing delivery had mostly failed, and that upgrading of informal settlements would be the new policy directive. Sprawling, low-density matchbox houses deployed by the thousands on the far outskirts of South African cities had failed to impress Europe’s residents, who enjoyed an excellent location between the airport and a major industrial hub, and at the confluence of two major feeder roads.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, of course. In the long and thorny history of public-housing provision after apartheid, there have been noble attempts to provide integrated, sustainable communities deep within the existing city fabric. Cape Town’s planners aren’t naïve. “In no way do we delude ourselves into thinking that a new jungle gym in a community park is going to fix 50 years of oppression,” says Lindsay Bush, the urban designer. But if design is the best tool the city has, it’s far from a perfect one. Cape Town’s largest effort toward creating a vibrant in-city community, the N2 Gateway housing project, was subject to such political wrangling that it eventually devolved from its original vision of a medium-density, multi-class community and became, essentially, a lower-middle-class enclave of starter homes. Zanele (not her real name), an outspoken resident of Europe who was instrumental in barricading a highway to prevent the eviction of settlers from land earmarked for the Gateway, says that a shack without services that’s near jobs trumps a full-service formal house located out in the sticks.

“You can’t eat a government house,” is how she succinctly puts it.

Luyanda Mpahlwa is leading a redesign of five major Cape Town train terminals.

Zanele’s view is shared by many of her neighbors. “The township here is close to jobs and transport,” said Patricia Khoza, a local resident active in women’s groups, in the design meetings with the university students. “Moving to Delft [where some newly formalized communities have received houses] puts us 15 kilometers further from everything so that the government can forget about us.”

Skepticism of government planning and relocation efforts are well-earned in Capetown. The crucibles of apartheid urbanism are the legendary mixed-race communities that were demolished in each of South Africa’s major cities in the mid-20th century. Johannesburg’s Sophiatown, the cradle of the black urban cultural renaissance of the 1950s, was bulldozed between 1955 and 1963. Cato Manor in Durban saw 150,000 people removed in 1958, only to be reclaimed by the urban poor in the ’80s and ’90s. And in Cape Town, District Six was the city’s amputated limb: a dense, highly diverse and tightly integrated community of 60,000 artisans and dockworkers of all races living together close to the city’s harbor and downtown. The District, where a majority-colored community rubbed shoulders with black Africans, white Afrikaners, other ethnic whites and immigrants, was a working antithesis of apartheid’s central tenet: that separating the races was the only guarantee of peace and prosperity.

The Ghosts of District Six

“I remember the people, streets, houses, schools, mosques, churches, buildings, bioscopes, entertainment centers and sports facilities,” Farieda Sirkhotte, who was born and raised in District Six, recalls in a personal written history of the neighborhood. “We accepted each other’s differences, in race color, in religion and in culture. District Six was a melting pot of many cultures, smells, tastes, sights and sounds.”

On the official pretext of a crackdown on vice and the area being a slum, District Six was declared for whites only in 1966. Removals started two years later. “My saddest moments are the constant reoccurring pictures in my inward eye of how the people of District Six were forcibly removed,” writes Sirkhotte. “You had to pack up and leave right then, while the truck stood waiting for you.” Over the next decade and a half, all 60,000 inhabitants would be dispersed into racially homogenous suburbs on the sandy, windswept Cape flatlands 25 kilometers from downtown.

Though declared a place for whites to live, the neighborhood never materialized. Despite the apartheid government’s vigorous promotion of the area as a place to live, protests scared developers away. For 20 years, District Six sat empty, a ghost town save for a monumental apartheid technical university that ate up as much as half of the original city blocks. Its eerie grid of desolate streets in the midst of Cape Town’s dense cityscape was a reminder that the city’s physical spaces weren’t evolving along with its politics.

It wasn’t until the early 2000s that a highly complex and contested process of rebuilding and land claiming saw people slowly return to District Six. In 2004, former president Mandela handed over the keys to two new houses to the first returning residents and in the years since, public investment in the area’s redevelopment has resulted in some welcoming and refreshingly dense communities. Indeed, a pilot phase of the neighborhood’s new public housing, built by private developers for the state, has been lauded for its exquisite architecture: white townhouses with bold strokes of color and high-quality stoeps, or verandas, that engage directly with life on the street. The design is both immediately South African and uniquely Capetonian, and transforms social housing into a dignified and even aspirational typology.

Yet even today, 46 years after the bulldozers came, the success of District Six’s resurrection as a diverse urban center is mixed at best. The area remains more empty than full, and little of the R7 billion ($655 million USD) revitalization budget has been spent. There are still large swathes of unused roads and stretches of weedy grass blocks.

“Urban design has not been adequately integrated into urban planning and development processes,” says Catherine Stone, Cape Town’s director of spatial planning and urban design. “This is a work in progress.”

46 years after the bulldozers came, District Six remains more empty than full.

The District’s glacial pace of change says a lot about Cape Town’s failure to right the wrongs of apartheid’s housing policies. “The more than 15 years of inordinate delays or struggle to restitute the claimants of District 6 cannot be placed at the door of the claimants,” argued a 2013 position paper by the District Six Reference Group, an entity negotiating with the federal government on behalf of former residents. Instead, the paper concludes, the blame falls squarely on the government’s political bickering, legal battles, and red tape.

And it’s not just one neighborhood. District Six may be the most dramatic example, but central Cape Town still has hundreds of acres of redundant rail yards, docklands and military land that now lie empty and fenced. Then, of course, there is Europe. “Even though we have 20 years of freedom… our cities are still spatially disconnected,” says Naadiya Moosajee, a transport engineer turned social entrepreneur. Meanwhile, the city’s housing backlog is estimated at over 360,000 units, which, at the current speed of resettlement, will take 70 years to clear. It’s easy to why the WDC designation presents Cape Town with an enormous opportunity as well as an equally large challenge.

“Sustainable design takes time,” says Bush, “as does the changing of paradigms.”

For better or worse, the private sector has been faster at developing new paradigms than the government.

One of these new models for housing can be found just 15 minutes north of District Six. The development rises incongruously off the N1 Highway like a chunk of Dubai dropped onto the fringes of Cape Town. Named Century City, it is is a vast, privately owned community where a faux-Venetian mall flanks a substantial office park, and a large apartment complex looms over manicured gardens and a manmade canal.

Since it opened in 2000, Century City has lured more than 4,200 middle-class inhabitants. About half of those residents are non-white. In fact, if one looks only at Century City’s racial demographics, it appears to be a fairly close approximation of the post-apartheid ideal, with blacks, whites and coloreds living together in a peaceful, livable, mixed-use environment.

But held up to the ideal that urban design should promote democracy, Century City is a Potemkin village. According to a 2011 City of Cape Town Census Suburb survey, of the more than 4,000 people living there, 98 percent were employed, 70 percent earned more than R12,000 ($1,137 USD) per month and more than 90 percent of those aged 20 and older had completed high school — an economic situation that stands in stark contrast to Cape Town’s wide spectrum of incomes and educational backgrounds. The development’s design hints at the disparity. Only as recently as 2010, for instance, have public transit connections been developed anywhere near the neighborhood. Even now, the train station sits well outside the neighborhood and on the opposite side of the country’s longest national highway, the N1. Pity the commuter who has to actually use it — they face a two-kilometer walk from the station into the neighborhood, exposed to the elements in an area of high year-round winds and significant petty crime.

“Good urban design … can contribute to finding a positive solution to enabling the rich and poor to live as neighbors,” says Stone. But that’s not what’s happening in Century City at all. If anything, the economically homogenous enclave suggests that those who can afford it can simply opt out of the difficult politics of contemporary South Africa — and the public realm in general.

Still, there are signs of progress, including the area’s diversity and its new train station, however poorly located. Though Century City has its problems, 20 years ago the idea that middle-class people would choose to live in an integrated neighborhood was unheard of. Now it’s reality.

For the residents of Europe and other informal settlements, another important piece of progress is the state’s changing attitude towards their neighborhoods.

An initiative called the Upgrading Informal Settlements Programme, which launched in 2004 but only gained real support much later (as the state’s 2014 deadline for informal settlement eradication approached), prioritizes in-situ upgrading for well-located settlements over new-build tract housing on the city’s periphery. The program aims to secure basic services for 400,000 households by the end of this year, mostly through a practice known as re-blocking.

““At its core, urban design is about building a city that works firstly for the child, the elderly person, the pedestrian, the less well-resourced person.”

Re-blocking allows residents to remain where they live, while the existing housing is reconfigured to widen and light key roads, and deliver electricity, running water and sewage to each house or cluster of houses. Cape Town’s own policies have been reorganized around this new mandate, and the city’s integrated development plan for 2014 includes the roll-out of re-blocking initiatives across several informal settlements, including Europe.

The irony is that re-blocking, while improving health, security and mobility, doesn’t do anything to give residents title deeds or legal tenure. It’s a spatial solution that won’t truly alter the economic capacity of people like Zanele and Patricia – which, in a sense, is the story of housing in Cape Town since the end of apartheid. Re-blocking has also created tensions in Europe between new and long-time residents. Older residents, such as Rebecca K, are holding out for single-family houses on their own plots of land. “Newcomers from further out [of central Cape Town] must accept that we cannot have houses one day unless they go for resettlement,” says Rebecca. “Until then, if the services get better, it will only bring more people, and you can see we are crowded here.”

What Rebecca is basically asking for is a cut-rate version of what she’s seen in the mostly white suburbs just a short drive from Europe. And why shouldn’t she? A detached house in a low-density setting is tacitly promoted as the Capetonian Dream. When the government moves poor urban South Africans from an “unlivable” slum into “upgraded” housing, that generally means moving them into single-plot, single-family homes in sprawling neighborhoods. Yet this solution is not sustainable in the long-term and does not necessarily fit to the circumstances of Rebecca and her neighbors. For instance, cul-de-sac streetscapes are carefully laid out for a population whose car-ownership rate hovers around three percent (and three-quarters of whom, in their old informal settlement, had lived within 15 minutes of a minibus taxi route). “Probably every RDP housing project — I think that the notion of pro-poor and what the poor actually need was not part of the consideration,” says Naadiya Moosajee. “There was little thought of community and how to structure communities within these new societies.”

The fact is, when it comes to delivering housing at scale, the government continues to revert to a version of American suburban sprawl over forging an urban form that works for South Africa. “At its core, urban design is about building a city that works firstly for the child, the elderly person, the pedestrian, the less well-resourced person,” says Stone. “Then you build it up to a city that also works for the most well-resourced, on an equitable basis.”

One way you do this is by driving down crime in the city’s most violent neighborhoods, giving low-income residents the same freedom of movement enjoyed by the middle-class. The city has made strides in this area through its visionary Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) projects. VPUU projects are characterized by the creation of well-lit and visually continuous “safe routes” that link major entry and exit points through dense informal settlements. The routes feature space for gathering and informal trading, with careful placement of two- and three-story ”safety boxes” — community buildings that are occupied 24/7, providing surveillance. In the first community to get the VPUU treatment, Khayalitsha, crime has fallen by 40 percent. The VPUU routes lead to the sort of enhanced transport nodes Mpahlwa is building. Government offices, clinics and commercial buildings cluster around the transit interchanges, where rail and taxi services converge — and where, eventually, the MyCiti BRT service will reach.

In an echo of the District Six model, the intense community research that governed the design of these routes overcomes a key apartheid legacy: imposing service delivery instead of letting the community guide and shape it. The VPUU process has been particularly successful in this regard, with speed of delivery sacrificed in favor of continual dialogue (conducted, rather unusually, in the local language of isiXhosa rather than exclusively in English). This kind of homegrown urban design is perhaps the city’s best hope for a more democratic future — a future that will be determined, most people agree, by Cape Town’s younger residents. Because while older Europe residents like Rebecca K may yearn for detached housing and a car-oriented streetscape, there’s a keen sense that the city’s spatial transformation will be propelled by those whose formative years began after the worst of the pre-democracy violence.

Ayesha Kamalie, an architect born in the 1980s to anti-apartheid activists, embodies this shift. Asked what her best and most visible work has been in promoting a more democratic city, Kamalie points to her non-profit Fledge, which promotes up-and-coming graphic, fashion, industrial, clothing and accessory designers from all backgrounds. At a recent event called The Fringe Handmade, her organization hosted a market selling South African products handmade by the designers themselves.

“We turned a parking lot in Harrington Street into a vibrant, bustling live-music stage and market selling proudly South African handmade products by the designers themselves,” says Kamalie. Tellingly, the event was held near Cape Town’s redesigned central train station, where the city’s poorer and racially diverse residents work and socialize — and somewhere that an older Capetonian would likely never think to host such an event.

To Kamalie, however, confining her design event to a formerly whites-only area would have been unimaginable. She can’t understand, for instance, why not a single World Design Capital event of any stature is being held in an informal settlement. Her instinct drifts naturally toward the inclusive and equitable city – a city she thinks Cape Town is finally on the cusp of becoming.

“A democratic city, I feel, is one in which it all of its citizens, regardless of age and race, can feel safe and proud of and at home in,” she says. “At the moment Cape Town does not really meet these objectives, but it is starting to, and yes, I do believe that it can get there.”

Our features are made possible with generous support from The Ford Foundation.

Rashiq Fataar is the founder of Our Future Cities, a non-profit organization that creates platforms to inspire dialogue about the urban development of Cape Town and other cities. As an independent consultant, speaker and writer, Rashiq works at the intersection of urbanism, new media and economics. He holds an Actuarial Science from the University of Cape Town and currently serves on the Board of Cape Town Tourism.

Brett Petzer holds first degrees in Politics and Architecture, and is currently pursuing a Masters in City and Regional Planning at the University of Cape Town. He works as a French translator and urban journalist, and hopes in the near future to write and illustrate popular works on apartheid’s lasting impact on South African space.