“It is a public secret that we have no practical idea how to undo and remake the legacy of the spatial inequality apartheid has bequeathed us,” says Professor Edgar Pieterse, director of the African Centre for Cities and NRF South African Research Chair in Urban Policy. “Our visions, and much more our concrete plans, are constrained by private property, existing real estate market dynamics and public policies that seem to exacerbate the problem, despite the best intentions of the state.”
So how to effect radical and meaningful change in our cities? This was the central question of the Integration Syndicate a collaborative and experimental project between African Centre for Cities at University of Cape Town, Centre for Humanities Research at University of Western Cape, Centre for Complex Systems in Transition at Stellenbosch University.
The project entailed a year-long dialogue forum on the dimensions of urban integration with 25 invited leaders from a cross-section of institutions in Cape Town. At the end of the process, they distilled five propositions to reframe public debates in the city on urban integration. The ideas were then taken to five focus groups of stakeholders that had an interest in each of the provocations. The ideas were then shared for another round of refinement and visualisation at a one-day conference to stress-test and disseminate.
The documentation of, and reflection on the process of the Integration Syndicate project, as well as the five provocations are distilled into The Integration Syndicate: Shifting Cape Town’s Socio-Spatial Debate, a new book published by ACC.
Beautifully visualised, the book starts off with forewords by Mark Swilling, Premesh Lalu and Pippa Green, as well as two essays Reflections on the Complexity of Transformative Politics by Edgar Pieterse and Rage, Uncertainty and Incrementalism by Mark Swilling, that dive deep into the question of how to enact change.
Each of the five provocations are unpacked with a brief summary of the premise, a reflection on how the idea was received at the public conference, a journalistic piece that places the idea within a broader South African context and ends with useful resources that point the reader to further information.
The provocations are however not put forth as uncontested or definitive answers but rather to incite questioning, critique and debate. In his concluding remarks Pieterse writes:
“We believe that more urgent, more propositional and action-orientated conversations are possible…. and that there is a place for every Capetonian to get involved, not just in debating but also in doing. Beyond everything we hope that this process and this book can incite an imagination of a different praxis, to not only confront the stubborn legacies of segregation and exploitation, but also to invent an alternative urbanism.”