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Sustainable Resource Use Paper

Mazibuko K. Jara, Professor Mark Swilling

Social Justice and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources in Cape Town (3rd draft, October 2008)


This resource paper seeks to apply the concepts of sustainable livelihoods and sustainable development to
the local context of Cape Town, a city which is characterised by historical social injustice and inequality.
Inequality is characterised by a combination of high and low levels of human development within one
ciy. The application of these concepts is in order to suggest a range of integrated practical measures that
Cape Town must undertake to address social injustice. By applying these concepts in the realisation of
social justice, the paper links social justice with the sustainable use of ecological resources. In order to
achieve this purpose, the paper is built around a logical sequence of questions.

These questions are sequenced as follows:

i) What is social justice? What is social injustice?
ii) How does social injustice manifest itself in Cape Town?
iii) What are the causes of social injustice in Cape Town? What drives and sustains social
injustice in Cape Town?
iv) What do the two concepts of sustainable livelihoods and sustainable development mean?
What is the relevance of these concepts to a discussion of both social justice and injustice in
Cape Town?
v) What is the relationship between social justice and the consumption of ecological resources?
a. What are the current and historical patterns of the consumption of ecological resources in
Cape Town?
b. What drives and sustains the ecological resource consumption in Cape Town?
c. How do the historical and current patterns of the consumption of ecological resources
affect social justice? What are the key social injustices that are manifestations or outcomes
of these patterns?
d. If Cape Town is characterised by social injustice, what then are the key environmental
problems stemming from such social injustice in Cape Town? How does social injustice
affect the environment?
vi) How can the concepts of sustainable livelihoods and sustainable development be applied to
the challenge of achieving social justice in Cape Town?
a. What is the relationship between the achievement of social justice and the sustainable use
of ecological resources?
b. How can the achievement of social justice be addressed in line with sustainable use of
ecological resources?
vii) What are the practical measures that Cape Town can undertake to achieve social justice which
is compatible with the concepts of sustainable livelihoods and sustainable development?

The structure of the paper follows the above sequence of discussion questions.


If not properly defined and contextualised, social justice can be a catch-all phrase if it is not given a
contextual, historically contingent and precise meaning.

Justice refers to fairness or reasonableness, especially in the way people are treated or decisions that
affect people are made. Therefore, injustice must be understood to mean unfair or unjust treatment of
somebody contrary to what is right, just, or fair. Injustice is about lacking fairness or justice. When
injustice operates at the level of a society as a whole it is not simply about one individual being unfair or
unjust towards another. At a broad societal level, injustice is normally systemic and structural. As the

shown below, the problem in South Africa is not merely a problem of personal guilt, it is a problem of
structural injustice. In this wider systemic sense, social injustice is a concept relating to the perceived
unfairness or injustice of a society in its divisions of rewards and burdens. The concept is distinct from
those of justice in law, which may or may not be considered moral in practice.

It follows that social justice refers to the concept of a society in which justice is achieved in every aspect,
rather than merely the administration of law. It is generally thought of as a world which affords
individuals and groups fair treatment and an impartial share of the benefits of society. In this sense, the
term is often employed to describe a society with a greater degree of socio-economic equality and
development. This would normally include the general rejection of discrimination based on distinctions
between class, gender, ethnicity, or culture.

Social justice is also sometimes used to mean social equality and economic justice. Social equality is a
social state of affairs in which all people within a specific society or isolated group have the same status
in a certain respect. At the very least, social equality includes equal rights under the law, such as security,
voting rights, freedom of speech and assembly, and the extent of property rights. However, it also
includes access to education, health care and other social securities. It also includes equal opportunities
and obligations, and so involves the whole society. Social equality comes from the belief or desire, that
all people have equal rights and responsibility to the earth’s resources. Its political and social realisation
is primarily through equal access to goods and services and equal access to the decision-making proccess.
Economic inequality refers to disparities in the distribution of economic assets and income. The term
typically refers to inequality among individuals and groups within a society.

Indecent and intolerable life, inequality, poverty, underdevelopment, lack of access to basic services, and
the lack of access to assets are the opposite to the meaning of social justice. The paper associates social
justice with human development. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) uses the
concept of human development to refer to a development paradigm that is about creating an environment
in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accord with their
needs and interests. The notion of human development enriches a discussion of social justice by placing
at the centre the expansion of the choices people have to lead lives that they value. Fundamental to
enlarging these choices is building human capabilities —the range of things that people can do or be in
life. The most basic capabilities for human development are to lead long and healthy lives, to be
knowledgeable, to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living and to be able to
participate in the life of the community. Without these, many choices are simply not available, and many
opportunities in life remain inaccessible.

In its annual Human Development Reports, the UNDP has consistently linked human development to the
following themes:
i. Social progress – understood to mean greater access to knowledge, better nutrition and health
ii. Economics – used to refer to the importance of economic growth as a means to reduce
inequality and improve levels of human development;
iii. Efficiency - in terms of resource use and availability which directly benefits the poor, women
and other marginalised groups;
iv. Equity - in terms of economic growth and other human development parameters;
v. Participation and freedom - particularly empowerment, democratic governance, gender
equality, civil and political rights, and cultural liberty, particularly for marginalised groups
defined by urban-rural, sex, age, religion, ethnicity, physical/mental parameters, etc;
vi. Sustainability - for future generations in ecological, economic and social terms; and
vii. Human security - security in daily life against such chronic threats as hunger and abrupt
disruptions including joblessness, famine, conflict, etc.

It is not possible to make valid judgments about justice and injustice in a society without first
understanding that society. In the case of Cape Town it is not possible to discuss social justice without
reference to the country’s and city’s histories which shape the here and now. The here and now of social
injustice in Cape Town is about material deprivation, human under-development, urban poverty,
inequitable access to social infrastructure, inequitable distribution of income, inequitable access to basic
services, and inequitable access to human capabilities and public goods (education, health, public
transport, etc.). Cape Town’s picture is discussed below.


Population figures

Cape Town is the main urban centre of the Western Cape. The population of Cape Town increased by 1,6
per cent annually from 2,994 million to 3,239 million people (65,0% of the Western Cape population) in
the period 2001-2006. The population is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 1,0 per cent for
the period 2006-2010 to 3,368 million people by 2010. By 2014, the population is projected to grow to
3,448 million at an average annual growth rate of 0,6 per cent. Cape Town’s population as a proportion
of the total Western Cape population is projected to remain stable at 65,0 per cent in 2010 and 2014.
(Source: Centre for Actual Research, 2005. Population projections for the Western Cape 2001 – 2025).

Based on the population projections for 2006, about 46,0 per cent of Cape Town’s population is classified
as Coloured, African (34,0%), White (18,0%) and Asian (1,0 %). The median age for Cape Town is 27
years (for 2006). The normal age dependency 11 for 2001 was 47,0 per cent and it is expected to decline
slightly to 45,5 per cent in 2006 and increase marginally to 45,9 per cent by 2010. All age cohorts
experienced positive growth between 2001 and 2006 except for the 10-14 and 15-19 cohorts, which
declined by 0,3 per cent and 1,5 per cent respectively. Faster growth was registered for older age cohorts
i.e. above 40 years of age, with the highest growth in the 55-59 years age cohort, which grew by 5,01 per
cent per annum. The young age cohorts grew by less than 2 per cent per annum on average. (Source:
Centre for Actual Research, 2005 (Population projections for the Western Cape 2001 – 2025).

Human development indicators

The City of Cape Town (CoCT) has divided the City into eight planning districts. In February 2007, the
CoCT’s Strategic Development Information and GIS Department released Planning District Profiles.
These profiles compiled a set of demographic, socio- economic, housing and crime information for each
Planning District. These provide detailed statistical analysis on:
i. demographic and socio-Economic information (population, population projections, age
profiles, work status);
ii. levels of living;
iii. a socio-economic status index;
iv. a service level index;
v. age-gender indices;
vi. housing (dwelling type, household size); and
vii. crime statistics and patterns (for murder, rape, business crime, and drug related crime)

These were developed in order to inform Spatial Planning with regard to future development in the City’s
eight Planning Districts. This information will also be used for planning purposes and to draft more
comprehensive State of Planning District reports. In the city’s district planning profiles, socio-economic
status is used to measure the quality of life of residents through a focus on income, education and
occupational status as key indicators. These indicators were combined to form an index, which represent
a wider understanding of socio-economic status. This index shows that Planning District F (including
Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain) is the worst off at 54.12 followed by Planning District G at 40.43.
Planning District H is the best off at 22.16.

The District Planning Profiles were also used to consolidate the City Development Index (CDI) tool
which is an average of the following indices: infrastructure, health, education and income. Overall, the
City has a higher CDI of 0,88 compared to 0,81 for the rest of the Western Cape Province. Cape Town
out-performed the rest of the province in terms of infrastructure, income and waste disposal. Khayelitsha,
Nyanga, Langa, Gugulethu, Mitchell’s Plain and Elsies River are evidently the poorest areas with CDI’s
that are below the provincial average of 0,81. The above-mentioned areas have the lowest levels of
development in terms of infrastructure and health (which averages 0,6). However, waste disposal and
education indices are better. (Source: Measuring the State of development in the Western Cape –May

The City also uses a human development index which is measured by averaging the following indices:
health (based on life expectancy), education (based on adult literacy and gross enrolment indices) and
income (based on mean household income). The City has a higher HDI of 0,82 compared with the
Provincial average of 0,72 and has performed particularly well in terms of income (0,91) and education
(0,88). The challenge remains in the provision of healthcare where both the City and the Province
performed less satisfactorily with indices below 0,7. The city’s human development indicators show that
the poorest areas are Khayelitsha, Nyanga, Elsies River and Langa. These areas have the lowest health
indices averaging 0,47 and the income indices are below par. However, education indices are much
better in these areas. Areas such as Durbanville and Melkbossstrand performed well in terms of education
and income indices. However, health indices for these areas are quite low, averaging 0,69. (Source:
Measuring the State of development in the Western Cape –May 2005).

Khayelitsha, Nyanga, Langa, Gugulethu, Mitchell’s Plain and Elsies River are evidently the poorest areas
below the provincial average City Development Index (WCPG, 2006). These areas have the lowest levels
of development in terms of infrastructure and health. The issue of social infrastructure backlogs is critical
in Cape Town with high population density areas such as Mitchell’s Plain, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and
Langa severely affected. The backlog goes back to the ongoing and enduring legacy of the segregation
and apartheid periods which skewed infrastructure development in favour of middle class white suburbs
at the expense of Coloured and African dormitory townships. This enduring and ongoing legacy is
compounded by the city’s expanding population which introduces secondary stress on its social
infrastructure and services. In particular, education, healthcare, housing and policing have been impacted.

In 2006, the Western Cape Provincial Government (WCPG) estimated the city’s social infrastructure
backlogs as follows:
i) Schools – 156;
ii) Health care facilities – 100;
iii) Police Stations – 34;
iv) Housing Backlogs – varying estimates between 350,000 and 410,000 (350,000 is mentioned
in the City of Cape Town’s 2007/8 IDP and 410,000 is mentioned in the Human Settlement
Strategy of the Department of Local Government and Housing).

The city accounts for 63 per cent of the Province’s learners. However, the current number of schools only
accommodates 50 per cent of learners in the city with a high pupil-teacher ratio of 39.19. (WCPG, 2006).
The city’s backlog of healthcare facilities is the highest shortfall in the Western Cape and impacts
negatively on the quality of healthcare services provided given higher population densities and
concentrations of poverty and inequality in the city (WCPG, 2006). In addition, the co-existence of high
HIV and TB infection rates amongst the city’s poorest residents have placed further strain on the limited

The people directly affected by HIV/AIDS are some of the most vulnerable in society and as a result
the rate and depth of poverty in the city may increase. The number of working-aged adults living with
HIV/Aids has implications on productivity in the work environment and ultimately the economic growth
of Cape Town. Most affected areas are Gugulethu/Nyanga and Khayelitsha with prevalence rates of 28
per cent and 27 per cent respectively. Other areas with high prevalence rates are Helderberg (19%),
Oostenberg (16%), Cape Town Central (11%) and Greater Athlone (10%) (WCPG, 2006). The number of
Aids-infected people also has large implications for health care requirements, e.g. the provision of anti-
retroviral treatment. In addition, there will be increased numbers of Aids orphans, which implies
increased dependency and health care needs for both children and adults. Infant mortality per 1 000 births
is very high in Khayelitsha which has 35 per cent and Klipfontein 29,5 per cent (WCPG, 2006). Cape
Town has a very low TB cure rate (71) when compared to the national target of 85 (WCPG, 2006).
Except for Tygerberg (82) and the Southern region (84), which are closer to the national target, the rest of
the regions have lower TB cure rates especially Khayelitsha which has a cure rate of 65 (WCPG, 2006).
People already affected by poverty in South Africa are those that have also been the most affected by the
HIV/AIDS crisis. HIV/AIDS has also had the effect of increasing the number of households affected by
poverty. The gender imbalance in HIV infections is striking, with many more women living with HIV
than men.

The housing backlogs have received considerable media coverage with contentious projects such as the
N2 Gateway and Klipfontein Corridor being scrutinised. While the supply of low cost housing may have
increased, the economic capacity of potential first time home-owners is inadequate (WCPG, 2006). The
slow delivery of housing has also not effectively overcome apartheid spatial divisions which are at the
foundation of social injustice in Cape Town. In this regard, the post-apartheid Cape Town is really a neo-
apartheid Cape Town. The peripheral location of new housing developments (Delft, Khayelitsha,
Mfuleni, and other far areas) further entrenches poverty and inequality. The combination of
untransformative housing policy and the high cost of well-located land perpetuates historical patterns of
segregation. Many of the peripheral settlements also tend to have inadequate access to urban
infrastructure and services while support facilities and employment opportunities are also lacking in
many cases (Landman & Ntombela, 2006). Post-apartheid Cape Town is still based on a spatial system
that organises the urban population according to income groups. Cape Town’s post-apartheid urban
planning has not nourished urban social capital in a way which can address social injustice. Instead, the
logic of one-dimensional economic growth has trumped social justice considerations.

Access to basic services and the problem of commodification

The City significantly improved the delivery of electricity and refuse removal services in the period
1996-2001. The number of households without refuse removal and electricity decreased by 4,7 per cent
and 1,6 per cent respectively. However, water supply and sanitation remain challenges to be addressed as
the proportion of households without flush toilets increased by 2,1 per cent and households without piped
water on site increased by 5,4 per cent during this period.

Since 2001 the issues of housing backlogs, ageing infrastructure and energy shortages have been
problematic. Steps have been taken to prepare the City for the additional energy demands resulting from
a growing economy. The housing backlogs in particular have received considerable attention at both
Provincial and National Government level with both current and future fiscal budgets addressing the
shortfall. Water supply and sanitation also remain challenges to be addressed as the proportion of
households without flush toilets increased by 2,1 percent and households without piped water on site
increased by 5,4 per cent during this period (WCPG, 2006).

The above picture of social injustice in Cape Town is also compounded by the commodification of basic
services. With the rise of globalisation and its impact, many publicly provided services have been
commodified, much of social reproduction and other tasks the state had taken have now been shunted
back to the household, into the laps of women in particular. This shifts the burden of caring for families
and making up for the shortfall in both primary and secondary incomes to the household sector and the
informal economy.

Such commodification does not resolve the fundamental ecological and redistribution inefficiency of the
‘consumption city’ model that Cape Town continues to follow (see below). In general, there is a tendency
for local government to see communities as little more than individual household “consumers” and
“clients” of services. Not only does this bureaucratise governance, but it fragments communities into
individual households, and poverty becomes, not a collective concern, but an atomised household
responsibility. In her study of the livelihood strategies of the poor, Houston (2002) shows how poor
households are forced not to share water with neighbours who have been cut off.

The appalling conditions that result from lack of clean water and sanitation have been well established in
the literature (Hemson, 2003). Inadequate sanitation results in an environment where debilitating and life-
threatening diseases can flourish. Sanitation is even more closely related to the survival of children. The
1998 Demographic and Health Survey showed that for those households which do not have piped water
the child mortality rate is twice as high whereas it is four times as high for those households which do not
have flush sanitation. As a result of commodification and limited cases of privatisation, many poor and
working people have not been able to afford water and sanitation services.

The 1994 Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) identified universal access to electricity as
a way of relieving the rural and urban women of the drudgery of collecting wood or using paraffin
(inefficient and unhealthy fuels). Unlike water, there has been low consumption of electricity (used more
for lighting and less for cooking and heating) by most of those newly connected, and difficulty in meeting
normal operating costs (Hemson, 2004). Already in 1999, policy makers had concluded that the
electrification programme was not commercially viable if it were to depend on cost-recovery and that it
must be regarded rather as “fundamentally a long-term social investment programme with an indirect
future return on capital” (Hemson, 2004). This point applies to the majority of municipalities in the
country. The picture is somewhat different in Cape Town where electricity consumption is subsidised.
However, even with this subsidisation key concerns are about the extent to which tariff levels may
undermine the cross-subsidisation of the poor by the rich within the city. However data in this regard
could not be found.

Income distribution and unemployment

There is also a link between poverty and unemployment. Most people experience poverty due to
unemployment at the household level (Bhorat et al, 2001). Economic growth since 1994 has created jobs
and some income gains for poor people. However, the pace of job creation (especially for
semi-skilled and unskilled workers) has been insufficient to translate into the level of income creation
needed. The rate of growth of jobs is too slow, relative to the growth in work seekers. The unemployment
rate has thus risen over time. Linked to unemployment is growing inequality.

Cape Town has unequal distribution of income across racial groups. In 2001, about 13 per cent of
households had no income at all and 9 per cent of these households were Africans compared to whites
(1,1%) and Indian/Asian (0,1%) (WCPG, 2006). Very few households earned above R300,000 per
annum, only 4,3 per cent of the population. This distribution of income is also linked to levels of
employment. In 2004, Cape Town’s unemployment rate was 23,40% with the number unemployed
estimated at 275 730 (Statistics South Africa; Census 2001, Labour Force Survey 2004). The same
sources also showed that the proportion of households with no income in 2001 was at 13,31%,
amounting to 102 062 households. The problem of unemployment in Cape Town’s informal settlements
also means that residents of informal settlements have the lowest share of the city’s income.

A 2002 research report by Houston on the livelihood strategies of the urban poor in Cape Town states
“The Western Cape is one of the wealthiest provinces in the country; with a rate of 20% (2001),
Cape Town has one of the lowest unemployment rates compared to that of other metropolitan
areas in South Africa. It also has the highest proportion of Black African workers who are
unskilled (31.3%), whereas the national proportion is 17.2%.”

Approximately 25% of the CMA’s 3 million people live in absolute poverty. It is estimated that 35% of
households earn between R1500 and R3500 per month while 45% of households earn R0 –
R1500/month. Eighteen percent of the workforce are employed in the informal sector (2001) and the
unemployment rate is 25%.

These statistics show that Cape Town is a place of stark contrast between rich and poor. Not all the
province’s poor people are to be found in the rural areas, as has been one perception. Recent thinking in
terms of poverty reduction acknowledges that previous analyses’ of urban poverty have failed to
recognise the complexities that prevail in South Africa’s metropolitan areas. One case in point is that
while the Western Cape is a wealthy province with income levels that compare well with other provinces,
it has the highest unemployment rate amongst Black Africans (36%). In addition, there are also
differences between poor communities as they experience poverty in different ways. There are even
differences within communities where some are relatively better off than others.” (Houston, 2002).
Despite a six-year gap, the basic argument of the 2002 Houston research report remains largely true and
valid in 2008.

Relative deprivation

What the paper is not able to show in definitive terms is the City’s detailed inter-racial as well as intra-
racial profiles of income distribution and consumption patterns. Deprivation refers to people’s unmet
needs, whereas poverty refers to the lack of resources required to meet those needs. When reviewing
deprivation numbers, the number of people experiencing a particular form of deprivation provides a
clearer description of the level of deprivation within a certain ward/municipality. Available data shows
that about 40 per cent of the most deprived wards in the Western Cape are within the City. The City also
has the highest number of least deprived wards (nearly 60%).

The Cape Town urban poor have few assets, experience social isolation and exclusion, earn low levels of
income, are exposed to hazardous living conditions, poor nutrition, high rates of HIV/Aids infection,
social breakdown and a general lack of infrastructure essential for social development. These factors
undermine the poor’s ability to escape from poverty through their own efforts, and confine them to long-
term poverty traps.


What are the causes of social injustice in Cape Town? What drives and sustains social injustice in Cape

The burden of history

Critical to understanding the urban poverty context in South Africa’s metropolitan areas is the awareness
of how past governments have used economic policy, spatial arrangements and racial prejudice to visit
social injustices on millions of people over more than a century of economic development (Houston,
2002). How an economy has developed and functions can either give rise to, or alternatively begin to
eradicate poverty (Heintz, 1998). South Africa’s poverty is a socially constructed scarcity due to a
“skewed distribution of assets and incomes” (Heintz, 1998). Colonial conquest as well as gender and
national oppression shaped a particular path of economic development in South Africa (Legassick, 1977).
The South African economy was built on the bedrock of national and gender oppression which proved
(from the perspective of white enterprises) to be an extremely profitable foundation for many decades.

Apartheid policies, in particular, were instrumental in shaping inequality in Cape Town. How did
apartheid produce social injustice? Under apartheid, racially discriminatory laws and practices prevented
people, other than those classified as white, acquiring ownership and control of the land, mineral wealth
and other major means of production (Aliber, 2001). This systematically excluded black people from
wealth accumulation and kept large numbers of them in dire conditions of social and economic existence.
Black people were also prevented from rising above subaltern positions in either state or corporate
bureaucracies, condemning them to low- and semi-skilled jobs earning low starvation wages. At the same
time, a range of racially discriminatory oppressive laws and practices were applied to compel black
people to provide cheap labour power to white enterprises.

As shown in the discussion above, a large part of Cape Town’s less affluent population live on the Cape
Flats, which was relatively unpopulated until the 1960s. Since then, two waves of settlement took place:
period after the 1960s saw the forceful resettlement of so-called ‘Coloured’ people through apartheid
socio-spatial engineering, and in the 1980s a then illegal process of large-scale African migration from
the impoverished areas of the Eastern Cape began (see Hindson 1987; Tomlinson & Addleson 1987).
Numerous studies (see Swilling et al. 1991, for example) demonstrate how the combined effects of social
engineering, spatial planning and rural-urban migration have contributed to urban sprawl, the expansion
of racialised economic geographies.

Apartheid displaced and kept Coloureds and Africans in an existence of extreme socio-spatial marginality
in Cape Town. Amongst the African communities, this spatial marginalisation has engendered an
enduring “outsider” complex. On the other hand, despite their own displacement in the socio-spatial
marginality of the Cape Flats, amongst sections of the Coloured community (the working class in
particular) there is a sense of prior entitlement and territorialism. In the light of the post-1994 transitional
changes, this appears to be much pronounced especially amongst the working class who are more
vulnerable to substitution in employment and “displacement” in the midst of the African urbanisation.
The roots of these mindsets lie in what was entrenched through the Group Areas Act in tandem with the
Apartheid political economy both of which were used to engineer a spatial reality that conforms to the
Verwoerdian racial hierarchy. In part, the same logic applies across the board and especially in the
African townships, where economic competition for the local market has particularly spawned
xenophobic attacks against the Angolan and Somalian traders.

The uniqueness of Cape Town’s urban sprawl is not restricted to its recent and rapid population growth,
but also lies in the fact that it reflects a nexus of extremes (DBSA 1998; O’Leary et al. 1998). Cape Town
has a strong and relatively varied economy with a monocentric structure, characteristic of South African
cities. In a typical centre-periphery fashion, it represents a polarised city centre where affluent suburbs
and economic
activity present a contrast to the overcrowded, impoverished township periphery (Myonjo & Theron
2003a; 2003b). Whereas the majority of white and wealthy black people live opulent lifestyles, the
majority of those on the Cape Flats live in abject poverty.

It was only towards the latter years of apartheid rule that workers’ struggles compelled employers to
grant even basic rights like recognition of trades unions. Therefore, in South Africa the notion of the
working poor is not a recent phenomenon introduced by globalisation: “cheap labour” has always meant
that millions of black workers may have been employed but they never received enough income to live a
decent and tolerable life free of poverty and disease. Training and upgrading the human resource
potential of the mass of poor and working people remains a challenge, preventing millions from
overcoming poverty to this day (van der Berg, Louw and du Toit, 2007).

Outside employment, since the early 1980s, the urban poor have defiantly occupied well-located parcels
of land, thus challenging the underlying social relations and the apartheid city structure. The housing and
land struggle of the people of Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay is an interesting development in the extent that
it has the potential to really challenge the social relations that shape the structural design and composition
of a neo-Apartheid Cape Town. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the “One-city-one-tax-base” demand
carried non-racial perspectives envisaging the restructuring and transformation of the Apartheid City –
including specific spatial policy interventions geared at compacting and integrating development.
The economic development trajectory followed by South Africa over the last century has also contributed
to the destruction of the natural environment and the unsustainable use of natural resources. This eco-
inefficiency is also one of the underlying causes of poverty. At an intermediate level, the causes of
poverty can be linked to unemployment, the invasion of livelihoods by almost complete reliance on
having cash as a basis to secure goods and services, HIV/AIDS, thin and conflict-ridden social capital,
and the absence of comprehensive social security and a social wage.

The above processes shaped the pre-1994 picture of social injustice in Cape Town. You need to be much
more specific and give examples from the city scale. Despite the socially unjust nature of these processes,
South Africa is not a poor country. We are a relatively well off middle-income country, with tremendous
wealth amidst poverty and high income inequality. The resources are available in South Africa to
provide everyone with at least a basic level of the socio-economic rights. That would be the ultimate
achievement of social justice.

The post-apartheid Cape Town can be described as a paradoxical “deracialised apartheid”: one without
legalised racism and discrimination but with a continuation of working class exclusion, marginalisation
and exploitation at the hands of a deracialised elite. The main concern about the urban sprawl in Cape
Town, as in other major South African cities, relates to the suburbanisation of the city’s economic hubs
often characterised by the mushrooming of shopping centres around town houses and office blocks on the
outskirts of the city. In fact, edge-city developments such as the V&A Waterfront and Century City may
have already surpassed the city’s CBD in their economic significance despite the fact that the latter,
unlike the Johannesburg CBD, has not actually decayed. Thus, morphologically Cape Town is
developing several nodes (a poly-nucleated character), in which the CBD is no longer the main hub of the
urban system, but it is reinserted in a complex complementary and competitive hierarchy with other
surrounding nodes on the edges.

Apartheid social and spatial patterns remain firmly in place in Cape Town, even in the midst of the
unraveling class structures within black communities, which is in line with the official drive to
“deracialise” capitalism. Thus, the exalted areas under the shadow of the Table Mountain along the
western, Atlantic coast south from Green Point and east from Oranjezicht to Observatory and south to
Muizenberg still resemble the old idyllic white suburbia. Not to mention the recent expansive golf-course
estates and town houses on the west coast. On the other hand, the east and south-east of the city remains
an expansive swath mostly composed of slum neighbourhoods constituting the crime and poverty
stricken Cape Flats. But, some integration has been taking place in Cape Town, even though this is much
clearer in the former white working-class areas. Ironically, it was in these neighbourhoods were some of
the black people previously lived where they were forcibly removed after 1948 at the time when about a
third of Cape Town lived in “mixed” neighbourhoods.

Through the efforts of the Cape Town Partnership, the CBD has been the major recipient of large-scale
investments, highlighted by the approximately R1 billion construction of the glamorous residential and
commercial complex called the Mandela Rhodes Place. These developments in and around the CDB
reinforce the gentrification that is already underway in the transitional zones of the city such as Bo-Kaap
and Woodstock, where the affluent locals and foreigners are luring the residents to sell their properties.
These post-apartheid processes suggest that there is not a fostering of an inward and intensive
development pattern based on a comprehensive and integrated spatial framework geared at restructuring
the Cape Town’s apartheid spatiality.

In 2008, we must also consider the impact of post-apartheid policies and globalisation on poverty and
wider social injustice. Globalisation is merely a current stage of long-term economic expansion in search
of markets and raw materials. From the mid-19th century, the South African economy has been perversely
integrated into a growing global economy. The adverse integration of the South African economy into
global circuits of accumulation continues to this day (du Toit, 2005). The entire global economic
systemis the fundamental foundation from which stems some of the main underlying causes of poverty in
South Africa.

On the front of social and economic transformation, change has often been harder to bring about since the
1994 democratic breakthrough which ended the apartheid political dispensation. Nevertheless, there are
many areas in which significant gains have been made. These include major infrastructural programmes,
the provision of primary health care, a start with land reform, the transformation of the labour market,
gender equality machinery, educational transformation, and the deracialisation of social grants. But the
question must also be asked: have there not been strategic, subjective shortcomings on the side of post-
apartheid government policies that have continuities with the underlying processes driving the production
of poverty? Clearly, there have been such strategic policy shortcomings. The first shortcoming is in the
area of macro-economic policy framework as formulated in Government’s 1996 Growth, Employment
and Redistribution (GEAR) policy. In addition to macro-economic policy, other key policy failures have
been in the areas of land reform, cost-recovery based service delivery and what is perceived as a failure
to build a developmental state. How does all this manifest in Cape Town??



What do the two concepts of sustainable livelihoods and sustainable development mean? What is the
relevance of these concepts to a discussion of both social justice and injustice in Cape Town?

Sustainable livelihoods is also concerned with vulnerability. All people are vulnerable to certain changes
in the external environment that are beyond their control. The ability to respond to these and the impact
that it has on people’s livelihoods distinguishes rich from poor. For instance, rich people also rely on a
range of livelihood strategies but a shock to any one of these is not as harmful as it would be to a poor
household. Shocks such as floods, tornados, death in the family, theft, conflict, gang-warfare or fire can
directly destroy the livelihood assets of poor people. Trends influence the outcomes of livelihood
strategies negatively or positively. Examples include technological trends and governance trends.
Seasonality refers to patterns in the social, economic and political forces like price changes or
employment opportunities.

The concepts of “sustainable development” and “sustainable livelihoods” have been gaining currency in
South Africa in recent years. Sustainable development was defined in the Brundtland Report of 1987 as,
"development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations
to meet their own needs". The report also says that: “Living standards that go beyond the basic minimum
are sustainable only if consumption standards everywhere have regard for long-term sustainability”. The
International Institute for Sustainable Development defines sustainable livelihoods as being "...
concerned with people's capacities to generate and maintain their means of living, enhance their well-
being, and that of future generations. These capacities are contingent upon the availability and
accessibility of options which are ecological, socio-cultural, economic, and political and are predicated
on equity, ownership of resources and participatory decision making”.Therefore, sustainable livelihoods
are about varied ways of living that meet individual, household, and community needs. Needs in this
context, are understood holistically, and would include the social, economic, cultural and spiritual. For a
livelihood to be sustainable, it must be adaptive and able to withstand stress. It should also safeguard,
rather than damage the natural environment.

The above perspectives, whilst welcome in the sense that they move beyond the paternalistic aid and
“poverty relief” programmes of the 1960s and 70s, generally locate practice around ‘sustainable
livelihoods’ as projects that are separate from the broader struggles to transform the accumulation regime
that fosters poverty. Wealth distribution tends not to be addressed directly. In spite of a generally much
more progressive, inclusive and democratic theory of development in recent years the dominant practices
on sustainable livelihoods tend to be located on the margins of the mainstream economy. Whilst
resources are being mobilised for projects that are intended to achieve sustainable development they are
often (contradictorily) located within the context of production and reproduction of the marginalising
features of the mainstream capitalist economy. In other words, dominant practices associated with the
concept are not located within broader development strategies, but tend to be seen as local initiatives,
essentially aimed at creating conditions for living for the poor without fundamentally altering the
dominant economic trajectory.

The concept and practice of ‘sustainable livelihoods’ need not be seen in isolation from broader
developmental perspectives. President Mbeki flagged the question of “sustainable livelihoods” in his
May 2004 State of Nation address, and this led to many government ministries developing the concept
further. For example the Department of Housing has taken up the concept of “sustainable human
settlements” as the guiding strategic concept for an important and progressive review of our approach to
housing and urban development. Government has during the first 14 years of our democracy transferred
significant social resource to the poor (both of basic needs like water, sanitation, housing and electricity,
and of social grants). And yet, at the same time, there is a growing concern that “we cannot sustain” the
current and burgeoning social transfers. Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel in the October 2004 Medium
Term Budget Statement debate was explicit that the rate of take-up on some key social grants was

Something “in-between”, or “complementary to” formal sector growth and jobs, on the one hand, and
social transfers to the poor, on the other, is clearly needed. And while both formal sector growth and jobs
and social transfers must, of course, be pursued, a still rather vague notion of “sustainable livelihoods” is
becoming increasingly attractive as a crucial complementary strategy. In developing a coherent
conceptual and programmatic definition of the concept of ‘sustainable livelihoods’ there will be a need to
be clearer in defining whether formal jobs should be regarded as part of building sustainable livelihoods,
or whether it merely refers to livelihood strategies outside of formal jobs.



What is the relationship between social justice and the consumption of ecological resources?
What are the current and historical patterns of the consumption of ecological resources in Cape Town?
What drives and sustains the ecological resource consumption in Cape Town?
How do the historical and current patterns of the consumption of ecological resources affect social
justice? What are the key social injustices that are manifestations or outcomes of these patterns?
If Cape Town is characterised by social injustice, what then are the key environmental problems
stemming from such social injustice in Cape Town? How does social injustice affect the environment?

The above consideration of social injustice is not complete without a look at the impact on natural
resources. This consideration provides an answer to the questions: What are the key environmental
problems stemming from social injustice in Cape Town, and how can these best be addressed? How does
social injustice affect the environment? What environmental problems are caused by social injustice?
How can these problems be addressed? What is the relationship between poverty eradication and

Populations, development and natural resources

People are dependent on natural resources, in their natural state or processed to various extents, for food,
water, shelter, energy and other commodities. Human life and all social and economic development
depend on the environment; the quality of human life depends on the quality of the environment. The
environment provides the resources for economic production processes, secondly it acts as a sink for
waste and lastly it serves recreational purposes. The environment also has important non-economic value
such as the fulfillment of spiritual needs for the continued existence of natural habitats and the
maintenance of biodiversity unrelated to any use of these resources. Thus the state of the environment is
irretrievably interrelated with the state of the human population.

The impact of population variables on the environment is dependent on the specific lifestyles of the
population. The main element of lifestyle relevant to environmental impact is the particular production
and consumption patterns employed to fulfil human needs and desires. In South Africa, the disparities
between the poor and the affluent imply that very different environmental impacts are experienced as a

result of very different lifestyles. Affluence often divorces communities from natural resources, as many
commodities are purchased in markets distant from the source of collection or production.

Urban concentrations of people impact significantly on the environment through sheer numbers.
Environmental impact relates to land use: people occupy vast areas for residential space, industrial
activities are often concentrated in urban areas, and transport networks are crucial for commuters to reach
work and recreational facilities. These urban human settlement patterns obviously impact on the
availability of agricultural land and the quality of soil, water and air. Large urban concentrations of
people and their activities also generate more waste while less space remains for its disposal. The
heritage of influx control in South Africa during the apartheid era is still felt in relation to squatter
settlements and underdeveloped African townships. Unplanned land use, poor urban management
systems, uncontrolled urban sprawl and pollution due to unserviced urban settlements all affect the
environment adversely and mitigate against sustainable development.

Another important factor in relation to settlement patterns is the growth in the number of households
across South Africa, due to a reduction in household size while the population continues to increase. As
each household has basic needs and generates waste, the growing number of households in South Africa
implies greater environmental pressure. Uncontrolled settlement also places severe stress on the
environment through lack of proper services. Lack of sanitation and waste collection often leads to
contamination of water, air and soil in the immediate vicinity of the settlement. This can result in loss of
ecosystem functioning, such as poisoning of plants and soil loss, as well as severe human health
problems, such as outbreaks of typhoid and cholera.

At present in South Africa, large numbers of people do not have adequate provision of resources, whilst
the amount of waste generated per year exceeds the environment’s capacity to assimilate it. This situation
is exacerbated by poor waste management systems. Therefore, the environment’s ability to sustain more
consumptive lifestyles and/or a larger population without significant interventions in strategic planning
and technological innovation is questionable.

Trajectory of Cape Town as an apartheid ‘consumption city’

How social injustice was shaped by a particular economic development trajectory was also dependent
urban centres such as Cape Town being constructed as ‘consumption cities’ (Swilling, et al, 2006).
Essentially, a ‘consumption city’ is organised and structured as a site for accumulation and consumption.
Globally, the ‘consumption city’ model was driven by the economic realities of the 20th century city:
namely, the need to create a mass of consumers that provide the markets for the suppliers of the basket of
urban goods that are now defined as the basic elements of urban living - houses, vehicles, energy, food,
leisure, household appliances and fittings (Swilling, et al, 2006).

According to Swilling et al (2006), the basic building block of the ‘consumption city’ is the ‘consuming
neighbourhood’ that, in particular, needs to buy in the necessities for daily living from the outside (often
from very distant locales) – energy, water, waste removal services, building materials, food, vehicles, etc.
The city’s urban infrastructures had to be planned and managed to make sure these goods and services
can be supplied, transported, removed, financed, and extended. This pattern of consumption has resulted
in the contemporary modern urban system (in terms of the spatial layout/form, function, economy, tax
base and operational requirements). As a result of such consumption, more than 80% of capital
accumulation and exchange in South Africa is said to be taking place in urban centres (Kgara, 2008).

As a ‘consumption city’, Cape Town followed an ecologically inefficient path of development.

Successive local government failed to factor sustainable development perspectives into economic growth
and development paths and strategies. The development of Cape Town as an urban system depended on
vast flows of eco-system services/natural resources (water, oil, land, energy, food supplies, etc.). For long
periods, these resources were cheap enough to make the development of the Cape Town’s urban system
viable, albeit in racially skewed ways that made it possible to subsidise the costs of middle class suburban
life at the expense of the traditional working class and rapidly expanding homeless communities
(Swilling, et al, 2006). These natural resources were pumped through the urban system in order to feed its
hunger given its basic structure as a site of ever-growing consumption and accumulation.

The ‘consumption city’ trajectory assumed that the eco-system would continue providing natural
resources forever. This assumption continues to inform the main thrust of post-apartheid Integrated
Development Planning systems, housing development, taxes to finance development and other urban
development activities. All these continue as if nothing has changed, assuming the costs of water, oil and
energy will not rise and forgetting that these resources will start to run out or reach unpredictable eco-
system thresholds (Swilling, et al, 2006). The effect is to leave intact the historical subsidisation of
extremely inefficient middle class homes by poorer households and the way the urban system has been
structured historically (Swilling, et al, 2006).

The Cape Town urban system is resource-intensive (Swilling, 2006a). Every oil price rise corresponds to
net increases in the amounts of cash transferred from the Cape Town economy to national and global
financial circuits (Swilling, 2006a). This reduces the amount of money available for circulation in the
local economy. A similar situation exists for water, building materials, coal-based energy and food
supplies (Swilling, 2006a). When it comes to food supplies, Cape Town is a net importer of food. Food
prices are directly linked to the oil price due to the chemically dependent nature of commercial
agriculture in South Africa (Swilling, 2006a). In analysing the Cape Town food chain, Swilling (2006a)
makes the link between social justice and ecological resource very clear:
“It also needs to be noted that between 40% and 60% of the domestic waste stream is organic
waste (from kitchens, garden cuttings, etc). This is a rich source of nutrients that could be
composted and ploughed back into urban agriculture. Instead, it gets combined with all other
wastes and dumped into toxic landfills. In the meantime, 1,3 million tons of food are imported
from a land area equivalent of 112 000 sq. kms. that stretches across the whole of South Africa,
and beyond. Middle and high income households may be able to afford prices that include the
costs of transporting all this food (fuel, cold storage, packaging, energy, etc), but this is certainly
not the case for poor households. Imagine the beneficial consequences for poor households if food
could be made more affordable by re-using composted urban organic wastes in local urban
agricultural undertakings, and then selling the product at local neighbourhood retail markets.
(Irrigation requirements can be reduced if organic farming practices are followed and more
extensive use of on-site rainwater supplies are made). In one stroke, the costs of long-distance
transport, packaging, cold storage, middlemen costs (wholesalers, packagers, retailers) and
chemical treatments can be eliminated from the cost of each item of fresh produce. Given that
some estimates put the combination of these costs at as much as 80% of the final cost before the
final markup (which averages at 20%), the consequences for the much talked about need for “food
security”, improved dietary health intake (to improve the immune system) and the need to reverse
declines in expenditure on food in poor communities become obvious.”

The city manages its water resources in an extremely inefficient and inequitable manner. Households
used 37% of all water used in the city. Of this, 21,3% was used to irrigate gardens and for swimming
pools (Swilling, 2006a). High-income households consumed the majority of domestic water whilst a
significant portion of the city’s poor still have no piped water supply (Swilling 2006a). The ecologically
inefficiency of the existing water system is reflected in the fact that 61% of all water used by households
in Cape Town was used to flush toilets and transport sewerage (Swiling, 2006a). However, 11% of the
city’s population had no waterborne sewerage. Only 5% of the annual 550 000 tonnes of sewerage
produced is recycled (Swilling, 2006a).

Significantly, 60% of industrial waste is recycled, with only 6,5% of residential and commercial waste
recycled (Swilling, 2006a). The bulk of this unrecycled waste goes to landfills located on the Cape Flats.
This effectively means that the large poorer communities on the Cape Flats host rubbish dumps that
absorb wastes generated by a tiny minority of rich Capetonians who have one of the highest waste levels
and lowest recycling rates in the world (Swilling, 2006a). This is eco-inefficiency that is subsidised by
nature and the poor (who often live in areas where litter is not collected often enough because the
municipality “lacks the funds”) (Swilling, 2006a).

An ecologically oriented City Development Strategy for Cape Town should address the enormously
costly resource inefficiencies that clearly make sustainable living choices at the household and
neighbourhood level in Cape Town extremely difficult (Swilling, 2006a). Furthermore, it is difficult to
see how poverty eradication in Cape Town is a realistic goal if scarce financial resources and free
services from nature (water, absorption of wastes in landfills and water sinks, etc) are wasted on
maintaining an ecologically unsustainable system that works in financial terms for the middle and high
income communities (although maybe uncomfortably for those who feel guilty), but tends to be too
costly for those poor households that are lucky enough to be serviced (2006a).



How can the concepts of sustainable livelihoods and sustainable development be applied to the challenge
of achieving social justice in Cape Town? What is the relationship between the achievement of social
justice and the sustainable use of ecological resources? How can the achievement of social justice be
addressed in line with sustainable use of ecological resources? How can the key environmental problems
stemming from social injustice in Cape Town best be addressed? How can poverty alleviation and
sustainability best be integrated? Among the concepts used to answer these questions are sustainable
livelihoods and sustainable development.

An ecologically oriented City Development Strategy for Cape Town should address the enormously
costly resource inefficiencies that clearly make sustainable living choices at the household and
neighbourhood level in Cape Town extremely difficult (Swilling, 2006a).

Sustainable livelihoods and the improvement of human and social conditions

The foregoing implies that striving towards socially just sustainable development, social justice goals
must be at three levels: income, environment and society (Houston, 2002). In this approach, central are
improving human and social conditions, better implementation of existing urban development policies,
creating a universal social wage and promoting socio-economic rights. However, all these components
must, much more than ever before, integrate how natural resources will be utilised, preserved and
regenerated on a sustainable basis. If this is not the case, then this approach may achieve positive social
justice goals which may be not be sustainable in the long term particularly if the required natural
resources are further squeezed by ongoing ecologically inefficient social and economic development.

Using the foregoing conceptualisation of sustainability, it (sustainability) and social injustice need to be
approached at three levels: i) improving human conditions; ii) improving social conditions; and iii)
creating a sound enabling environment (McCaston, 2004). In terms of the first category of outcomes
(concerning “improving human conditions”), there is a need to support efforts to ensure that people’s
basic needs are met and that people attain livelihood security with regard to such needs. Improving the
human condition is also understood as being about “increasing opportunity”. This is about increasing
opportunities for current and future generations of people to meet their basic needs (McCaston, 2004).
Development NGOs like CARE identify productivity, livelihoods and income, accumulation of capital
and assets; the development of human capabilities, the management of risk and vulnerability, as well as
access to resources, markets and social services as key intermediate outcomes that are necessary to lead
to the improvement human conditions. None of this will be sustainable without factoring in the
sustainable use of natural resources into a new trajectory of urban development.

The notion of “improving social positions” refers to supporting people’s efforts to take control of their
lives and fulfill their rights, responsibilities and aspirations (McCaston, 2004). This includes support for
efforts to end inequality and discrimination and to promote mutual respect for rights and responsibilities,
equitable distribution of capital and assets, the need for social inclusion and the voice and organisational
capacity of the poor (McCaston, 2004). All these imply a development approach that responds to the
ecological limits to urban development.

The notion of “popular welfare” completes the link between social security and sustainability. Jones and
Novak (2005) work with the notion of “popular welfare” to refer to non-state and non-market types of
welfare which play an especially critical role in the lives of the poor and working classes. They define
“popular welfare” include reliance on extended family, tribal networks, reciprocal assistance between
rural migrants in the city, etc. “Popular welfare” took care of “unproductive members” within the family
or the community. In addition to making up for the deficit in state welfare provision, and more
importantly, the deficit in the capitalist mode of production’s ability to provide sustainable livelihoods. In
the South African case, this ”popular welfare” is constituted by fragile households to which people retreat
as a primary site for sharing social, economic and natural resources as well as a site of production and
reproduction attracting poorer family members in search of security. In many cases, “popular welfare”
depends on access to natural resources. In desperate situations “popular welfare” may end up over-
exploiting such natural resources and threatening its own very sustainability. This is where the other
interventions proposed above can be relevant (social infrastructure, better implementation of existing
policies, sustainable livelihoods, etc.).

BUT why should we just call it “welfare”? What about calling it a whole different kind of society? A
socially just society. This brings us to the question of how a combination of a universal social wage,
sustainable growth and development, and eco-efficiency can work with “popular welfare” to create a
different urban system. These are elaborated below.

The efficient and equitable provision of social infrastructure will be key in laying a foundation for
sustainable livelihoods of poor households (thereby improving their human and social conditions). The
dense and intricate layer of township and informal settlement activities – traditional activities, informal
markets, spaza shops, shebeens, community projects, stokvels, schools, minibus associations, church
volunteer groups, neighbourhood watches, sports clubs, choirs, etc. represent considerable social capital
that should not be ignored. In this regard, ward forums/committees and local Integrated Development
Plans are central to fostering sustainable livelihoods. More dynamic synergies could be created between
household subsistence programmes (e.g. encouraging food gardens, or baking cooperatives) and other
state interventions (e.g. school feeding programmes). In this way, the focus would be to buttress
household sustainability with the building of local economy networks, so that resources circulate within
the community rather than simply being consumed in the community. Municipal procurement policies
and strategies need to be examined in relation to a sustainable livelihoods strategy. Tendering processes
tend to favour established companies and measures have been taken to favour community-based
enterprises which can increase the amount of money in local circulation. Services provided by Sector
Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) could be improved and expanded so that they are attuned
not just to the skills needs of the formal economy, but also to the needs of the emergent enterprises and
formations in the informal economy. None of these will be possible without strategic interventions by the
City of Cape Town.

What do sustainable livelihoods mean for Cape Town? We are dealing with a considerable urban and
peri-urban reality as discussed above. Within Cape Town’s zones of social and economic exclusion, there
is considerable social capital that should not be ignored. The dense and intricate layer of township and
squatter camp activities – spaza shops, shebeens, stokvels, minibus associations, church volunteer groups,
neighbourhood watches, sports clubs, choirs, etc. There are positive and negative aspects, as these are
also a product of our history. There are a hybrid of values, from strong solidaristic traditions to
oppressive patriarchal customs (exploitation of women and children in household and small enterprise
activities, shack-lordism, gate keeping, criminal networks and petty corruption). The struggle to build
progressive sustainable households, communities and livelihoods needs to engage with these
contradictory elements of existing capacity.

For many of the poorest neighbourhoods sustainability must mean investments in decent housing, more
and better services, and neighbourhood facilities and infrastructure (Swilling, 2006a). However, limited
household incomes mean residents need to be protected from service systems that will be a constant drain
on their finances, such as energy systems that are dependent on oil or grid electricity, transport systems
that will become increasingly expensive as the oil price goes up, and sanitation options that become
increasingly costly to maintain (Swilling, 2006a).

The City of Cape Town (including such initiatives as ward committees and local Integrated Development
Plans) are central to fostering sustainability. There are a range of other initiatives that contribute to
sustainable livelihoods. Sometimes the role that such initiatives play could be strengthened by better co-
ordination, improved efficiency or increased local participation. It should be possible to create the
conditions in which social grant transfers are not merely consumed, or spent immediately in the formal
economy, but help to trigger local-level social entrepreneurship. There is a need to ensure that social
infrastructure transfers (e.g. housing) create viable communities and not dormitory townships, both in the
planning, location, character and construction of these settlements – i.e. better location, more viable
mixed use communities, and construction to be much more people-driven. More dynamic synergies could
be created between household subsistence programmes (e.g. encouraging food gardens, or baking coops)
and other state interventions (e.g. school feeding programmes) - once again, building local economy
networks, so that resources circulate within the community rather than simply being consumed in the
community while benefiting established supermarkets. The city’s procurement policies and strategies
need to be examined in relation to sustainable livelihoods strategy: can township based women get a
chance at better livelihoods through dependence on income-generation opportunities offered by the city’s
procurement policies?



What are the practical measures that Cape Town can undertake to achieve social justice which is
compatible with the concepts of sustainable livelihoods and sustainable development?

The sustainable development option (suggested by, and adapted from Swilling, 2006a)

The ‘sustainable development’ option is the key to achieve social justice. This option aims to build
‘sustainable neighbourhoods’ as the building blocks for a sustainable urban future. This is important for
Cape Town. By reducing the ecological footprint of the over-consumers without fundamentally altering
their lifestyles, and by investing in infrastructure and housing that is designed to protect poorer houses
from future ecological and economic challenges that could undermine their struggle for a better life, an
urban system starts to emerge that reduces the cost of doing business for businesses and the cost of living
for middle and lower-income households. To this extent, the ‘sustainable development’ option is
profoundly rooted in the dynamics of the real economy.

This approach would discourage the building of exclusive low-income suburbs. By investing R75 000 to
create a serviced house for a poor family in a uniformly poor neighbourhood, the value of that asset is the
same - if not less - after occupation and/or sale. The same asset constructed in a mixed neighbourhood
where there is a more active housing market can have a market value that is three to five times the value
of the initial subsidy without any cross-subsidisation. When coupled to eco-efficiencies, this can
contribute significantly to local economic growth stimulated by a virtuous cycle of access to credit, more
disposable income, higher re-investment levels back in the neighbourhood, reduced leakage as the
benefits of eco-efficiencies kick in, and as local food markets reduce the costs of healthy eating.

The City needs to increase usage of renewable energy alternatives and promote energy efficiency.
Together with this must be the promotion of the zero waste system whereby waste separation at source
across all households and businesses can create a new recycling industry. Sustainable transport, with a
major focus on public transport, is key. The promotion of sustainable construction materials and building
methods is also key.

Local and sustainable food is extremely important for social justice in Cape Town. Cape Town’s
dependence on long-distance food supply chains from non-organic agricultural sectors results in a
massive footprint. This makes all Cape Town households extremely vulnerable from a food security point
of view in the medium- to long-term. The obvious solution is the relatively low cost regulatory and
investment strategy to create neighbourhood-level spaces for food markets where farmers and growers
can sell directly to households. This stimulates the growth of local (urban) small-scale growers who tend
be much less dependent on oil and more efficient users of water.

Sustainable water use and re-use of treated sewerage is another intervention area.


The sustainable development option requires significant levels of investment by government. Substantial
social investment, increased access to assets, and incorporation into the mainstream economy are needed
to incorporate the majority of the poor, particularly the most vulnerable – the chronically poor – into the
socio-economically active sphere of presentday Cape Town.


Women are central to the challenges of sustainable livelihoods, households and communities. A very
large number of women are engaged in economic activity within the informal or second economy. Many
stokvels and crèches are run by women and many women can be seen selling vegetables or gather wood
as a means of maintaining their families. On the one hand this shows how vulnerable women are in the
economy. On the other hand it provides opportunities for the development of small businesses, and a rich
history of collective activity that could be a sound basis for development. Often women have the key to
the solutions to such problems. The challenge is to remove the obstacles to women taking control of their
futures and to ensure that the City of Cape Town undertakes interventions which ensure social justice for

Better implementation of urban development policies

The focus on traditional municipal service delivery has been partially transformed into a developmental
local government approach where municipalities acknowledge their responsibility to contribute towards
economic growth and job creation (Smith, 2002). However, this changed focus has not yet resulted into
the eradication of poverty and inequality. Smith (2002) suggests the need to reshape South African urban
development policies and strategies into a coherent framework that seeks to restructure apartheid spatial
patterns and promote social and economic development while responding to the problems of informal
hypergrowth, increased social polarisation and the negative impacts of globalisation. In this regard, Smith
(2002) suggests the following key principles:
i) Greater integration and coherence toward dealing with poverty and inequality, and the
promotion of participatory democracy;
ii) Greater co-ordination and policy alignment between different sectors and different spheres of
government and more emphasis on partnerships between government and civil society
organisations – this would be in order to achieve a more integrated and coherent approach to
urban development, especially to the challenges of poverty and inequality; and
iii) Underlining the importance of participatory democracy important to ensure that the needs of
the poor and vulnerable can be met - democratic participation by the poor and vulnerable at all
levels of decision-making, especially in participatory budgeting processes, is therefore
essential, and the necessary support programmes to ensure the success of these participatory
processes need to be put in place.

It is therefore recommended that the City of Cape Town applies the above principles in consolidating its
existing development policies. Further, the City of Cape Town can better co-ordinate, improve efficiency
and increase local participation in existing development initiatives. For example, it should be possible to
create the conditions in which social grant transfers are not merely consumed, or spent immediately in the
formal economy, but help to trigger local-level social entrepreneurship. This requires interaction with
provincial and national spheres of government.

There is also a need to ensure that social infrastructure transfers (e.g. housing) create viable communities
and not dormitory townships, both in the planning, location, character and construction of these
settlements – i.e. better location, more viable mixed use communities, and construction to be much more

A universal social wage

Social security and a social wage are critical in improving both human and social conditions. The
structure and underlying assumptions of South Africa’s social security system are still fundamentally
premised on the assumption that employment is the norm for the working-age population, and that social
security should, then, target the most vulnerable in other sectors of the population (the very young, the
aged) (de Swardt, 2004b). The current levels of poverty, inequality and systemic unemployment act a
major restraint on any growth and development. The challenge of developing a comprehensive system of
social security in South Africa is, then, not to make nearly half the population passively dependent on
welfare grants, but to use a comprehensive social security system as an important leverage within a
sustainable growth and development strategy to overcome poverty, and make it possible for the majority
to respond to the important challenge of meeting the ecological limits to development that they hope to
improve their lives with.

The deep-seated, structural marginalisation of a large proportion of the population is a key impediment to
any sustained job creating growth in the formal sector. Social security and other resource transfers to the
poor need to be conceptualised as active, transformational catalysers for overcoming social exclusion and
for promoting varying degrees of participation in the economy (de Swardt, 2004b). In the second place,
"normal participation in the economy" needs to be understood in terms much broader than just formal
sector jobs - in particular, the idea and the reality of sustainable communities and, at the household level,
of sustainable livelihoods in urban, peri-urban and rural settings. The concept of a social wage is relevant
here: in developed economies, a social wage is composed of public provision of water, sanitation,
electricity, transport, health, education, and other public goods. South Africa does not offer a complete
and universally accessible basket of a social wage which would contribute to the goal of sustainable
livelihoods and communities. Some of the services and policies of the City of Cape Town already speak
to the notion of providing a social wage. This refers to the provision of subsidies for pulic transport and
electricity and indigent support. The challenge here is to conceptualise these as a social wage basket that
can be directed at achieving social justice. If these are considered as a social wage, then the next
challenge is whether such services should be commodified or socially financed through tax rather than
user-fees. This requires ongoing debate.

A sound enabling environment

With regards to the creation of “a sound enabling environment”, there has to be concern with supporting
efforts to create an overarching institutional framework that is responsive to and inclusive of all
constituents and that fosters just, equitable and sustainable societies, and a local and global climate that
promotes equity, justice, and livelihood security for all current and future generations based on the
sustainable use of natural resources (McCaston, 2004). To conclude this paper, part of the enabling
environment is the country’s constitutional framework which includes the relevant notion of socio-
economic rights. Socio-economic rights are those rights that give people access to certain basic needs
(resources, opportunities and services) necessary for human beings to lead a dignified life (Khoza, 2005)
These are the socio-economic rights included in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution:
i) Section 24 - the right to a healthy environment: this right is a useful foundation for the
‘sustainable city’ model and for addressing social injustice;
ii) Section 25 - the right of access to land, to tenure security, and to land restitution: the right to
land can be useful to give ownership and therefore responsibility for sustainability;
iii) Section 26 - the right of access to adequate housing: this right can be used to ensure decent,
sustainable and environmentally friendly housing which also undoes apartheid spatial
iv) Section 27 - the right to have access to (amongst other things) sufficient food and water:
sufficient food and water cannot be taken for guaranteed for the long term if the
‘consumption city’ model remains intact;

Socio-economic rights are especially relevant for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society. They
are important tools for these groups, who are often most affected by poverty and who experience a
number of barriers that block their access to resources, opportunities and services in society (Khoza,
2005). The courts have confirmed that socio-economic rights are enforceable under the Constitution.In
addition to these constitutional provisions, other enabling laws and policies have been put in place (local
government, urban development, social development, etc.).

The concept of constitutionally socio-economic rights accompanied by an appropriate legislative

framework remakes inequality into an issue of addressing development as a human right. The
constitutional provisions also balance socio-economic rights with due regard for ecological sustainability.
Constitutional lawyers have pointed out that the “progressive realisation” of socio-economic rights hinges
on the capacity of government to formulate and implement policy within available resources (however,
most public discourse has not included natural resources in this basket of “available resources”).

Natural resources, food, water, electricity, housing, transport, education, health care, communications,
information, etc. are essential for a decent, tolerable and sustainable life. As discussed above, a large
number of Cape Town residents do not have access to, or simply cannot afford, these essential goods and
services and some are priced excessively even by international standards. The foundational constitutional
values of our society - human dignity, freedom and equality - and the socio-economic provisions of the
Bill of Rights - which include the right to food, water, shelter, education and social security - cannot be
attained if people do not have essential goods and services. Therefore the challenge is to ensure the
realisation of socio-economic rights takes place alongside ecological sustainability. This would require
the City to ensure that all its policies and decisions respect, promote and advance constitutional socio-
economic rights. This would require a review of a range of service delivery and urban development
policies to ensue that they can withstand constitutional scrutiny. This has significant implications: how
does a city like Cape Town balance economic growth and development, on the one hand, together with
socio-economic rights and sustainability on the other hand? The ‘sustainable city’ model provides a way
out of this dilemma.

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