Everatt D., Ebrahim Z. (2020) Urban Policy in South Africa. In: Kundu D., Sietchiping R., Kinyanjui M. (eds) Developing National Urban Policies. Springer, Singapore.


For over two decades, South Africa has lacked a coherent and consistent national urban policy. The work of developing a vision of and practical steps towards post-apartheid cities has been left to local government, academics and consultants, with occasional spurts of interest from the national government.

At the national sphere, and despite policy-making attempts from 1994 to the present day, the South African government’s willingness to remove the watermarks of exclusion, inequity and fragmentation leftover by apartheid have not been adequately consolidated or implemented.

This chapter traces the history of attempts to develop urban and/or city policies and suggests why it has failed. Typically, genuine urban development requires a 50–80-year investment window. In the South African case and despite an IUDF in place, the government seems unable or unwilling to fully enact long-term urban development planning. Conversely, but equally problematic, the government is also reticent to act on proposals even for short-term policy shifts set forth in the IUDF, which may have the potential for far-reaching consequences in terms of long-term sustainable urban growth required by various Sustainable Development Goals.