Geographia Polonica (1989) vol. 56

State planning and spatial policy in South Africa

David M. Smith

Geographia Polonica (1989) vol. 56, pp. 29-42 | Full text

Consideration of spatial policy on the part of national governments is usually predicated on the assumption that state planning is directed towards some general welfare objectives. While any planning strategy is likely to benefit some people in some places more than others elsewhere, it is not often recognised that the beneficiaries of spatial policy may be a small and perhaps unrepresentative minority. It is even less frequently the case that state planning and spatial policy has as its objective the perpetuation of some form of society which most if not all other nations find morally repugnant, but such is the case with South Africa under apartheid. In these circumstances, South Africa provides an unusual as well as an interesting illustration of state planning with a strong spatial component, with important implications for the process of uneven development in this deeply troubled land.Core-periphery differentiation is a repetitive feature of uneven development within nations. However, the manner in which core and periphery are related is subject to considerable variation, reflecting the historic process of development as well as specific contemporary economic, political, social and cultural conditions. This paper takes the case of South Africa to show how core and periphery are drawn into a distinctive relationship under the government's apartheid policy. It will be shown that black labour supply is the key to understanding the particular form of domination of periphery by core in a country where uneven development has strong racial overtones. Some specific outcomes expressed in the process of urbanization will also be examined, and there are some concluding observations on the significance of the present phase of "unrest".

David M. Smith, Department of Geography, Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, London, United Kingdom