Alexandra: A Post-Apartheid Urban Planning failure

When we think of the structure of the apartheid landscape, we often do not consider that the doctrine of segregation was that of design intent. Racial segregation disposed black South Africans for a long period in history forcing them into settlements with no servicing, while still under the supervision of the Apartheid government. Alexandra in 2001 however, became an example of urban renewal and planning, creating the potential for better living standards for more than 500 000[1] South Africans  living in the township (meant for 70 000 people)[2], but unfortunately, the failure of the government to pull through fully with these plans speaks to a wider issue regarding the healing of the nations people. Will South Africa ever be able to establish a nation that radiates newness and equality?

The Hope of Urban Planning

The Alexander Renewal Project was to be administered by three sectors of government through the standard policies of urban design: residential housing development, green space, and services available to all people. This project was assigned over a million Rands in order to implement 96 projects within the township[3] and it was successful but to a very limited effect, with improvements ranging from,

  1. The implementation of schools, a library, parks and a clinic,[4]
  2. the new social initiatives aimed also to renew schools and the upgrade of infrastructures such as road networks and social services[5],
  3. The relocation of 7000 families from living along the unsanitary Jukskei River[6] to other townships such as Diepsloot and for those offered government subsidies, RDP housing in Bramfischerville, Roodepoort[7].
Closer shot of RDP Housing


NOMAZIMA NKOSI, “Concern over RDP houses converted into spaza shops”, Herald Live, 14 May 2018, Accessed 3 May 2019, https://www.heraldlive.co.za/news/2018-05-14-concern-over-rdp-houses-converted-into-spaza-shops/
Long shot of RDP housing


MOTLALEPULA MADUNA, “LISTEN: VIOLENT CLASHES CONTINUE TO FLARE UP IN ALEX OVER RDP HOUSES”, Power987, 25 Jan 2019, Accessed 3 May 2019 https://www.power987.co.za/news/listen-violent-clashes-continue-to-flare-up-in-alex-over-rdp-houses/

However, if I had to show you an image of what you imagined urban re-planning to look like, you would be shocked to see that Alexandra looks no different than it did prior to these changes. Residents in Alexander have criticized the work of the government and have speculated over the squandering of the million rands assigned to the redevelopment of Alexander.

Elizabeth Mabuza (a resident of Alexander), in an interview with the daily maverick, expressed her concerns with this issue: “I cannot tell you where that money went. It would have built many, many houses. We have far too many greedy people at the top, who want nothing to do with us except take our votes.”[9]

South African’s are yet to see the day when their developments become more than just poorly maintained neighborhoods with traces of the Apartheid regime. However, I believe in its ability to change, and for urban renewal to become the forefront of a new post-apartheid era.


[1] SABC Digital News, “Issues Affecting Alexandra Township,” YouTube video, 4:07, April 21, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59cnqAgxCWA.

[2] ALEXANDRA URBAN RENEWAL:- THE ALL-EMBRACING TOWNSHIP REJUVENATION PROGRAMME. Unknown publisher, unknown year. Accessed 3 May 2019. http://mirror.unhabitat.org/downloads/docs/7291_55448_AURSubmission.pdf

[3] ibid

[4]ibid

[5] ibid

[6] ibid

[7] Cox, Anna. “Jukskei squatters have no choice in move”, iol, 25 January 2001, Accessed 3 May 2019,  https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/jukskei-squatters-have-no-choice-in-move-59221

[8] ibid

[9]Bheki C Simelane and Yanga Sibembe, “Alexandra Renewal Project: Search for the missing R1.6bn”, Daily Maverick, 12 April 2019, Accessed 3 May 2019, https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2019-04-12-alexandra-renewal-project-search-for-the-missing-r1-6bn/

[10] Tom Head, “Alex Renewal Project: Who’s responsible for Alexandra’s missing R1.7bn?”,  The South African, 2019-04-09, Accessed 3 May 2019, https://www.thesouthafrican.com/what-is-alex-renewal-project-alexandra-how-much/

Featured image: u/my_name_is_brad, “Alexandra, Johannesburg, South Africa”, reddit, unknown date, Accessed 3 May 2019, https://www.reddit.com/r/UrbanHell/comments/b018s7/alexandra_johannesburg_south_africa/?depth=1