Debating future urban land and spatial restructuring towards inclusivity and greater access to all was the core theme at the Urban Land Dialogue Series hosted by the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA). The dialogue series is an initiative by South African Cities Network (SACN) in partnership with the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) and partners. Programme Manager from SACN, Geoffrey Bickford outlined the purpose of the dialogues, saying “the dialogues seeks to debate the practicalities and substance of establishing an urban land commission that will provide the appropriate institutional response to land distribution in cities”.
“Johannesburg hosted the Gauteng dialogue on Monday 26th, Tuesday 27th was Nelson Mandela Bay for the Eastern Cape and Wednesday 28th will the last one in Cape Town for the Western Cape” concluded Bickford.
The broad and representative audience which included academics, property developers, students, municipal officials, heritage practitioners and researchers advanced various views ranging from expropriation of land with or without compensation to densification of urban spaces and containing urban sprawl which locates people far from their places of work.
Professor of History at Nelson Mandela University and panellist Nomalanga Mkhize opened the dialogue by saying “It is important that we bring in the youth into this conversation as they are the future citizens and future drivers of the economy and broader society”.
“It is the youth that will either drive land invasion, land transformation or land expropriation. How society engages with them now beyond the realm of politics will decide the future of land conversations in South Africa” concluded Mkhize.
Students from NMU had a significant representation during the dialogue and naturally issues of student accommodation topped their agenda.
Pedro Mzileni a Masters student at NMU and panellist says ”The government should not box or limit black people as only requiring urban land in order to access work”. “I want to be able to wake up in the morning and go to the beach to walk my dogs. On Tuesdays I want to be able to go and play golf in my neighbourhood. Urban land transformation is not only about access to work opportunities” concluded Mzileni.
The Urban Land Dialogues will continue on Wednesday 27th of March in Cape Town and once complete, conclusions and recommendations will be formulated, led by South African Cities Network for further engagement.
MBDA Chief Executive Officer Ashraf Adam closed the session by highlighting the need for continuous engagement and dialogue between all stakeholders in order to come up with constructive and sustainable solutions. Adam also announced the plans by the MBDA to host a city identity dialogue on who we are, what makes us who we are and how we as a city and a nation can best leverage our uniqueness and diversity for a more inclusive and progressive future state.
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