Call for papers: Special issue December 2024



Special Issue for Town and Regional Planning journal / SACPLAN December 2024

Theme: Planning, Land and Chiefs

Whether you are looking at Umhlanga town in South Africa, Siphofaneni town in Eswatini; Maseru in Lesotho; Nakuru in Kenya, the encounter between planning, land and chiefs is undeniable. Urban or peri-urban development of land under traditional councils or leadership is now widespread. Many of these developments under chiefs are rapidly growing due to mineral, tourism, and agriculture resource frontiers, as well as cheap land and advantageous transport routes amongst others. Such developments have led to competition for land and creation of new avenues for accumulation by chiefs and other local elites. Consequently, there is rapid contestations of power and control over land. Disputes are taking place between the state, developers, chiefs, politicians, communities, and local landholders about the ownership of resources, their exploitation, and their benefits. The clash between traditional and modern approaches, the struggle for inclusivity, and the rising conflicts over land rights constitute part of the narrative. There is a worrying trend of corporate interests and local elites particularly chiefs, inserting themselves as major beneficiaries or suppressing local opposition to their authority. A growing number of ordinary people are threatened with displacement and dispossession. In many circumstances, planning in these areas is objectionable, resisted, or dysfunctional. Research has revealed widespread grassroots discontent and significant resistance by chiefs to formal planning activities or inclusion in municipal planning. In South Africa, specifically, the prime example is the rejection of the Spatial Planning, Land Use and Management Act (SPLUMA), 2013 by chiefs. Subsequently, many areas under traditional councils or leadership are experiencing rapid growth of informal settlement growth, urban sprawl, land disputes, social conflicts, land degradation, etc. This is transpiring in an environment that is shaped by three main trends:

Resurgence of traditional authority: Traditional chiefs have seen a resurgence in their power, including their responsibility to allocate land. Numerous African governments have actively introduced laws increasing the power of chiefs for the allocation of land. For example, In Ghana, the 1979 constitution gave traditional leaders power over land in the north of the country; In South Africa, the 1994 Ingonyama Trust Act put the land in the province of KwaZulu under the trusteeship of the Zulu king; In Zambia, the 1995 Land Act formally recognised the role of chiefs in land administration. Similarly, new policies have been adopted in Cote D’Ivoire, Mozambique, Niger, and Zimbabwe to increase the formal powers of traditional leaders in the Administration of land. Traditional chiefs have primary responsibility for land allocation in countries such as Burkina Faso, Ghana, Lesotho, Mali, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe amongst many African countries. For example, power over rural land has become more and more concentrated in the hands of local chiefs in post-apartheid South Africa, especially in areas earmarked for mining. Elsewhere, mega-projects have affected the allocation of land under traditional leaders and planning for local communities e.g. development of the King Mswati International Airport in Sikhuphe Area in Eswatini; prospecting of mining in the Zoxobeni community in the Eastern Cape, South Africa to mention a few.
Rapid urban growth: Cities are growing larger and denser than ever before, and urbanity has reached levels of complexity never seen. United Nations Habitat (2016) conjectures that by the middle of the 21st century, four of every five people might be living in towns and cities.[1] Research also found that urbanization is expanding faster in the developing regions of the world. With approximately 500 million people residing in urban areas, sub-Saharan Africa is considered the world’s fastest urbanizing region (Saghir and Santoro, 2018).[2] In many rapidly urbanising African cities, the expansion of urban centres into their peri-urban and rural environs is a ubiquitous phenomenon (Adam, 2014; Kombe, 2005; Selod and Tobin, 2013). Unfortunately, the rapid urbanization rate in Africa has been associated with uncontrolled development, poverty, weak planning laws and policies etc. (Güneralp et al., 2017; Pieterse & Parnell, 2016).[3] The main urban issue that sub-Saharan Africa is facing is rapid growth in its urban population without the urban governance structures in place that can meet their responsibilities and manage the change.[4]
Planning failures: peri-urban areas have expanded and are growing rapidly not only in population, but also in spatial influence and scale of planning and management challenges (Anane and Cobbinah 2022; Akaateba et al. 2018; Gough and Yankson 2000),[5]. Within planning, chiefs are still largely viewed as anachronistic institutions. In planning legislation, the powers of chiefs are not explicitly defined or espoused commensurate with their development responsibilities, if not adverse. Within development planning, chiefs often distribute land, alienate land rights and sign complex e.g., land or mining deals on behalf of rural residents – which have no precolonial precedent. These matters affect the livelihoods of millions of people on the continent. Communities are facing grim conditions characterised by extreme poverty, severe inequalities, and high unemployment. There is often a lack of transparency and accountability and serious allegations of corruption levelled against chiefs and planners.

In this special issue, SACPLAN is issuing a call for papers from academics, scientists, and practitioners across the world working on issues of planning, land, and chiefs on the African continent. The Council calls upon authors, academics, scientists, and practitioners with articles that explore the encounter or juxtaposition between planning, land, and chiefs to explore various aspects of these subjects. The articles should be textured and carefully researched case studies that analyse the details of local struggles with planning on land that is under traditional authority especially experiencing the pressures of urbanising.

Papers could explore the following:

-The challenges of traditional leadership and governance under the prevailing planning legislation of an African country.

-An assessment of the Legislative mandates of chiefs concerning planning under the prevailing legislation of a country (s).

-The histories of chiefs and planners in land management in the post-colonial period of a country. 

-Planning under chieftain authority reflecting local struggles, and how local power and authority have been asserted and resisted.

-Exploring customary planning (vision, law, vision, institutions, processes/procedures, plans, etc.) under chiefs in the facilitation of accessing, sharing, controlling, distributing, and defending land rights to facilitate social justice.

-Land rights for community members under chiefs under prevailing legislation of a specific country. 

-Explore the power of urban planners, chiefs, and land managers in terms of centralisation, decentralisation, concentration, and de-concentration of authority.

-Transformation of planning due to shifts in the chieftaincy and land management systems and vice versa.

-Discussing conflict/contradictions/disputes between current statutory planning and customary planning systems concerning land management.

-The role of traditional councils or leadership in addressing environmental and health disasters e.g., climate change, pandemic, and hazard readiness for disasters.

-Environmental impact due to the shifts in planning, chieftaincy, and land management systems in areas under chiefs.

-Spatial implications due to the shifts in planning, chieftaincy, and land management systems in areas under chiefs.

-Exploration of the ‘right to the city,’ ‘right to development,’ ‘right to be rural’ and ‘the right to say no’ when planning for areas under chiefs.

-Exploration of alternative planning models, chieftaincy systems and land management models/processes for development of areas under traditional leadership.

-Urban/rural nexus encompassing tenure on the urban periphery, land use planning for tenure security in and around urban, peri-urban, and rural areas, and Fit-for-Purpose land administration and management systems.

-The role of new technologies and software in land use, tenure, and surveying e.g., BIM, GIS, Drones, 3-D Printing, Spatial Digital Data for Resilient Land Governance and Environments, Digital Twinning in Land, Rural and Regional Development, Cadastral AI and Remote Sensing etc.

-Land Governance, Sustainability, Reform and Land Policy

Any other related and cognate themes on planning, land and chiefs are most welcome.

We are hereby inviting both scholarly articles as well as review articles (papers that have a strong practical implementation aspect) on the mentioned topics.

Provisional timelines for writing:

Submission deadline: Draft papers: 30 July 2024

Papers under review: August - September 2024

Comments send to authors: September – October 2024

Author revisions of peer-reviewed papers: October 2024 (two weeks)

Editorial processes: November 2024

Special issue published: December 2024


Journal contact details


Author agreement

Publisher agreement

More information on the journal and guidelines on the formatting of papers can be found in the journal or archive 


[1] UN Habitat (2016). The report on United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development that took place in Quito, Ecuador, from 17 – 20 October 2016.
[2] Saghir, J., and Santoro, J. (2018). ‘Urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa Meeting Challenges by Bridging Stakeholders’ Project on prosperity and Development < https://csis-websiteprod. publication/180411_Saghir_UrbanizationAfrica_Web.pdf >1-7.
[3]Guneralp, B., Shuaib Lwasa, Hillary Masundire, Susan Parnell and Karen C Seto (2017) Urbanization in Africa: challenges and opportunities for conservation. Environmental Research Letters, 13 pp.1-8; Parnell, S., and E. Pieterse (2015). Translational Global Praxis: Rethinking Methods and Modes of African Urban Research.  International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 40, 1, 236-246., p.36.
[4] Satterthwaite, David (2017) The impact of urban development on risk in sub-Saharan Africa's cities with a focus on small and intermediate urban centres. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, Vol. 26, p. 16-23., p.16.
[5]Anane GK, Cobbinah PB (2022) Everyday politics of land use planning in peri-urbanisation. Habitat Int 119(2022):102497; Akaateba MA, Huang H, Adumpo EA (2018) Between co-production and institutional hybridity in land delivery: insights from local planning practice in peri-urban Tamale, Ghana. Land Use Policy 72:215–226; Gough KV, Yankson PKW (2000) Land markets in African cities: the case of peri-urban Accra, Ghana. Urban Stud 37(13):2485–2500