Considering spatial planning for the South African poor: An argument for ‘planning with’


  • Juaneé Cilliers North-West University, South Africa
  • Hestia Victor North-West University, South Africa



informal areas, ‘planning with’, spatial planning


This article considers the notion of ‘spatial planning’ in South Africa, elaborating on the challenges relating to the wide disparities between formal and informal areas. Town and Regional Planning theory and anthropological approaches are fused together in this article in an attempt to provide a more integrated approach to spatial planning, arguing in favour of ‘planning with’ poor South Africans, in contrast to ‘planning for’. By using qualitative participant observation, an ethnographic fieldwork study conducted in Marikana informal settlement, Potchefstroom, South Africa, helped form reflections that offer valuable insights in support of the ‘planning with’ approach. Marikana residents’ innovative DIY-formalisation plan of installing communal taps is considered a vivid example of pragmatic local solutions to service-delivery issues and it is argued that these solutions should be considered when ‘planning with’ the poor. The research argues that, despite being different in context, ‘planning with’ approaches have a prominent role to play in both formal and informal settlements. As such, the research elaborated on the value of ‘planning with’ approaches in South Africa, relating to environmental, social, economic, political and broader planning considerations. The article does not offer a generalizable solution to all planning challenges in South Africa. It concludes with a reflection of the ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the case study linked to broader themes of the possible planning interventions, considering the delineation of social power, context-based needs, ownership and accountability, and the importance of environmental education for all socio-economic classes, in an attempt to inspire planners, policymakers and anthropologists to find new ways of ‘thinking with’ and ‘planning with’ each other.


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How to Cite

Cilliers, J., & Victor, H. (2018). Considering spatial planning for the South African poor: An argument for ‘planning with’. Town and Regional Planning, 72, 29-42.




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