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Long history leads to latest inner city summit
14 May 2007

Was the Inner City Summit on 5 May one more mountain to climb or a great opportunity for re-energising the area, asks Neil Fraser.

Neil Fraser
About Citichat

NEIL Fraser is a partner in 'Neil Fraser & Associates trading as Urban Inc', an urban consultancy dedicated to the revitalisation and regeneration of cities and of the inner city of Johannesburg in particular. He can be contacted on 083 456 0242 or 011 444 4895 or by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Citichat is a free weekly publication concerning cities generally and Johannesburg specifically. Please forward Citichat to your colleagues who may wish to be placed on the subscription list. To subscribe please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

READ previous editions of CitiChat

"A GOOD city is one that works. The trash is picked up, snow is ploughed, pot-holes are filled, streets and sidewalks are cleaned, calls for emergency help are promptly answered. At the same time a city is a cradle of culture, an organ of memory, the enactment of the human drama, transmitting human achievement and insight from generation to generation." William H Hudnut III, the former mayor of Indianapolis, in the United States.

The announcement of an Inner City Summit and charter was initially greeted with a high degree of scepticism and cynicism. Why? Well, the Johannesburg inner city has been the focus of quite a number of "summits" over the past 16 years, all probably well intentioned but a number ill advised. The Inner City Summit and charter held on 5 May, an initiative of Executive Mayor Amos Masondo, could break the mould and be the re-energising catalyst for what my American friends call "raising the bar". The secret of success, of course, is in one word – implementation.

Whatever the cries from the "usual suspects" of no adequate consultation, the consultation process for the summit, in fact, has been greater than anything that has taken place in all the processes and programmes that the inner city has experienced since a 1991 business-driven initiative and the 1996 visioning process.

Last Saturday nearly a thousand people come together to receive the draft Inner City Regeneration Charter, the output and culmination of six months of hard preparatory work and the precursor to a lot more.

In the run-up to the summit, 24 lengthy stakeholder working group meetings were held, plus a number of sub-group meetings as well as a charrette process that resulted in a proposed new spatial framework for the inner city.

A charrette is a collaborative session in which a group of people - in urban planning it typically involves municipal officials, developers and residents - drafts a solution to a specific problem.

Behind the scenes there was considerable negotiation and discussion within affected council departments. Three sets of detailed research were also undertaken. Firstly, research was conducted into the various inner city regeneration processes from 1991 to 2006; secondly, there was a status quo report on the current state of the inner city; and, thirdly, there was a look into the future. The last three aspects were presented at a public information-sharing session the morning before the summit.

Past efforts

So what processes has the inner city been subjected to previously that would have the effect of any new process being treated with cynicism? Well, there have been quite a few.

In 1991, business in the inner city organised "A Strategic Initiative for Central Johannesburg". The rationale for that two-day workshop was "increasing concern at the evidence of accelerating urban decline". The outcome was the establishment of the Central Johannesburg Partnership, "an independent, non-profit agency representative of Johannesburg's diverse community, the City council and the private sector to revitalise and develop the central city and the urban economy, jointly and effectively".

Six sectors were established for priority attention - crime; grime; informal trading; residential accommodation; transportation; and urban design and development.

In 1995, the Gauteng provincial government and the Greater Johannesburg Transitional Metropolitan Council called for "an inner city summit" as the "culmination of the first stage in the formulation of an urban renewal strategy for the inner city".

Inner City Ivukile, the resultant initiative, proposed the introduction of an inner city "stabilisation strategy". The Ivukile initiative included little to no consultation with the business sector and was undertaken during an inappropriate period given the pending major changes in local government structures, and really came to nought.

In 1996 an inner city visioning exercise was undertaken between the council, the provincial government and business and community sectors. With a large degree of consultation it was a most successful initiative, resulting in the vision, "Johannesburg, the Golden Heartbeat of Africa", that formed the basis of policies and strategies that were to underpin the urban regeneration strategies for the next decade. It was also highly successful in bringing together the four sectoral participants working together for a common goal, namely, the revitalisation of the inner city.


The vision crafted in 1996 was publicly launched by then deputy president Thabo Mbeki in 1997 under the name Mayivuke.

But also in 1996, the provincial government led a new province-wide initiative known as Vusani Amadolobha – A four-point plan for the regeneration and integration of cities, towns and township centres, throughout Gauteng. The four points were:

  • Promote clean and safe centres;
  • Foster compact development;
  • Encourage vibrant commercial centres; and
  • Build regeneration partnerships.

In 1998, we experienced the quite bizarre provincial government period when Mathole Motsheka was appointed premier. During his short term in office a second Vusani Amadolobha conference was held; he proposed local development committees to provide a "highly organised and coherent system of inter-governmental programmes and structures for rapid development and social services delivery".

My response to this, in CitiChat on 7 April 1998, was "Nou, ja fine!" Shortly after this the Vusani Amadolobha process ground to a halt when the MEC responsible was "re-deployed". Motsheka also organised an Inner City Workshop which took no cognisance of anything that had been or was happening in terms of urban regeneration programmes.

iGoli 2002

In 1999, an iGoli 2002 Summit was held, focusing on the metropolitan area, in which it was acknowledged that "the current financial crisis was caused by an institutional crisis" and steps were taken to address the institutional crisis.

In 2001 iGoli 2010 was born, again metro wide, but it proved to be a consultant-driven process of research and data collection that proposed no new strategies and, in fact, was never endorsed by the council.

Then, in 2002, Joburg 2030 was launched. It was basically a long-term economic vision for the metropolitan area that was based on the premise that the city would not progress without growth in order to generate "a better life" for all its citizens.

The Johannesburg Inner City Regeneration Strategy and Business Plan 2004 – 2007 was developed by the City's economic development unit in 2003 and accepted by the mayoral committee in 2004. Known as the "five-pillar strategy" it focused on:

  • Addressing sinkholes;
  • Undertaking intensive urban management;
  • Maintaining and upgrading infrastructure;
  • Promoting ripple pond investments; and
  • Supporting economic sectors.

A business plan was developed from the strategy detailing 63 programmes and activities to be completed by June this year, but 44 percent of these had no budget allocation and all the objectives of the plan have therefore not been achieved.

A metropolitan Growth and Development Strategy was adopted in 2006.

Inner city today

In 2007 the major problems that the inner city continued to be faced with were crime, grime, informal trading, residential accommodation, transportation, and urban design and development.

Although, on face value, these are still the issues first identified in 1991, it would not be true to say that some progress, to a greater or lesser extent, had not been made over the past 16 years and, in particular over the past five. The investment figures quoted at the latest summit reflect the progress that has, in fact, been made.

The inner city visioning process in 1996 was the starting block for the inner city revitalisation or renewal, through the logical development of a variety of structures that retained the involvement of the sectors responsible for the crafting of the vision (with the exception of the provincial government). These structures were:

  • The Inner City Development Forum, later the Section 59 Committee and then the Section 79 Inner City Committee;
  • The Inner City Office, later the Johannesburg Development Agency; and
  • The Region 8 directorate and office, including the Inner City Task Force.

The tools that were developed and formed the basis of the processes were:

  • The 1999 Inner City Spatial Framework and Inner City Economic Framework;
  • The initial Inner City Strategy; and then
  • The 2003/2007 Inner City Strategy.

The combination and integration of the above processes and structures provided a coherence to the revitalisation process as well as maintained important communication linkages between public and private sectors.

Mayoral priority

The broader metropolitan processes undertaken during this decade, iGoli 2002, 2010 and 2030 and so on, always appeared to be proceeded with with little or no specific recognition of the critical importance of the inner city to the metropolitan area. That the inner city was one of the mayoral priorities of the executive mayor's first term of office, led to a reversal of this situation and the tremendous gains made by the inner city during that period are evidence of this.

The virtual "destruction" of the structures that supported the inner city regeneration process at the end of the first term of office in order to once again make the inner city fit political imperatives and the metropolitan planning mould were, to put it mildly, regrettable.

The 2007 summit and charter needs to be seen against this history and offers an opportunity to redress some of the questionable decisions of the last year as well as re-energise the regeneration process.

At the summit Masondo spelled out his vision for the inner city:

"I have been very clear about what I want to see happen in the inner city. Within the next few years, by the time of the 2010 Soccer World Cup and the end of this council's term of office, we want the complete transformation of our inner city. We want this inner city to be clean and green. We want it to be safe for residents and visitors. We want a proper balance between residential development and business development. We want it to be a desirable location where both the wealthy, and those who are just getting on to the ladder of prosperity, can live, work and enjoy themselves in harmony."

It's a great vision but how do we get there? Well, the executive mayor in his speech, highlighted the following response to the issues raised in the consultation process:

  1. New structures and improved urban management;
  2. Public environment upgrading;
  3. Improved waste management and collection;
  4. Extended CCTV;
  5. An inclusionary residential accommodation programme;
  6. State of the art public transportation; and
  7. 7
  8. Managed informal trading.

Let's see - crime, grime, informal trading, housing, transportation - shades of 1991.

Cheers, Neil


PS: If you want a copy of the draft charter e-mail me on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and I'll let you have a copy, as well as a copy of the mayor's speech. Send me your comments on and suggestions for the charter and I'll see that they are considered. Next week I'll deal with some of the more critical programmes and initiatives proposed at the summit.


Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust

There are a number of walking or bus tours planned by the trust. The costs below are for members and non-members respectively. Bookings can be made through Computicket on 011 340 8000 or on the Computicket website.

For more information, phone 011 482 3349, in the mornings only.


Saturday, 19 May: Observatory Ridge

For this walking tour, meets at 2pm at St Francis Catholic Church, 43 Cavendish Road, Yeoville. The tour lasts about two-and-a-half hours and costs R50 or R70.



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Last Updated on 10 January 2013