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1.1 Bloemfontein

The scale, intensity and variety of spatial processes undoing the structures of the past in Bloemfontein are much more dynamic as apartheid boundaries and containment of all kinds have eroded substantially since 1986. As it is the core of the region and the provincial capital, significant as well as symbolic spatial changes have occurred in one of the country's most conservative cities.

The analysis of Bloemfontein will focus on the way in which one of South Africa's 'model' apartheid cities, with a railway line cutting the city into an eastern black and a western white section, has been transformed from a 'white man's' city to everybody's city. Concepts which will be analysed are the institutional framework, the expansion and upgrading of Mangaung, spatial infilling, desegregation and a changing central business district (CBD).

Click on image for larger version
[Spatial development of Bloemfontein: 1910, 1950, 1985]

a. The institutional framework

The four fragmented local government bodies of the past were consolidated into one TLC in 1994. Minor expansion of municipal boundaries was approved in order to obtain a more appropriate spatial area of jurisdiction. The shift of political power from the National Party in 1993 to the ANC in 1994 is the single most significant factor influencing the formal (and informal) undoing of the spatial patterns of the past. The spatial shift of the budget (capital estimates) since the change from the previous four separate municipalities to the present local government dispensation tells it all.

The next Table illustrates how the capital estimates have changed spatial focus from 1993/94 (the last financial year for separate municipalities) to 1997/98. For instance, traditionally white Bloemfontein's share in the budget has decreased progressively from R64 million (75%) to R16 million (12%) in 1997/98, while Mangaung's share has increased from R11 million (13%) in 1993/94, to R68 million (R51%) in 1997/98. This trend is in line with the RDP policy of eradicating backlogs in the areas of greatest need.

Click on image for larger version [Changing spatial focus of public spending, 1993-1997]
b. The expansion of Mangaung
The number of stands in Mangaung has increased from 20 270 in 1990 to more than 46 000 by the end of 1997. This more than doubling of the number of stands within seven years has increased the pressure on bulk services and infrastructure substantially and funds are simply not available to provide basic services such as water and sewerage. The additional 25 700 households all obtained their stands by means of land invasion, except in the case of the 3 000 formally planned stands at Turflaagte and Hillside View.
[Expansion of Mangaung (Bloemfontein)]

The next table indicates the number of stands per residential area, the increase in the number of stands since 1991, and the type of service provided. The land invasion process started in February 1990 when homeseeking families in Mangaung were mobilised by the Mangaung Civic Association to settle on adjacent state land and open spaces inside Mangaung. The first phase of land invasion was pioneered mainly by landless people in Mangaung (64% in 1990) while the follow-up process is characterised by the arrival of an increasing number of people from Botshabelo (8% in 1990 and 16% in 1993 and an estimated 20% in 1996) and from other rural and urban areas in the Southern Free State.

Click on image for larger version [Increase of stands in Mangaung, 1990-1997]

Findings of the Botshabelo Investment Study in 1996 inter alia indicated that the majority of people who considered leaving the settlement, mainly due to job- and transport-related issues, considered settling in Bloemfontein (63%). Of those who had a home elsewhere, this home was once again in Bloemfontein in the majority of cases (60%). The same was true of the people who had left. 54% had moved to Bloemfontein. Matiso's recent study (1998) shows that the ex-Botshabelo people in Bloemfontein see their future in Bloemfontein as being much brighter than it would have been had they remained in Botshabelo. The following are some of the people's views in this regard: access to jobs (83% in Bloemfontein against 15% in Botshabelo), general future of the place (70% against 8%), community spirit (45% against 15%), shopping facilities (70% against 8%), implementing the RDP (42% against 2%), and transport (42% against 2). However, life in Botshabelo had the following advantages: educational and health facilities, sanitation, access to electricity and houses were all of a better quality in Botshabelo.

The spontaneous movement of people from Botshabelo to Bloemfontein should be seen in a positive light. Bloemfontein should accommodate Botshabelo's future population growth as part of spatial infilling and spatial reconstruction of the BBT region (apartheid planning in reverse) in order to normalise the region. In territorial terms the expansion of Mangaung is the most significant aspect of the process of undoing the consequences of the past in the region; the process of land invasion had the greatest impact on resources, authorities and administrative procedures; while the increasing number of ex-Botshabelo residents settling (permanently or semi-permanently) in Bloemfontein is part of spatial infilling.

c. The upgrading of Mangaung

Since 1994 Mangaung has become the spatial focal point for development aid from the TLC, provincial and national RDP funds and NGOs. The first main development project of scale since 1990 was the R30 million Independent Development Trust (IDT) funded Capital Subsidy Scheme ( site and service at R7 500 per stand) which not only paved the way for upgrading informal settlements but cut across the former contained boundaries of Mangaung.

The following aspects of the upgrading of Mangaung can be highlighted:

  • Housing:
    State houses; Discount Benefit Scheme
  • Hostels
  • Transport network:
    The transport network has effectually integrated Mangaung with Bloemfontein.
  • d. Spatial infilling

    Three dimensions of spatial infilling have contributed towards undoing the spatial patterns of the past, viz. Botshabelo people settling in Bloemfontein, the upgrading of informal settlements and the proposed development at Vistapark (Figure - Hamilton 1, 2 & 3). Vistapark is ideally located for urban infill on 280 ha of an ex-buffer strip separating Mangaung from the former white suburbs. The proposed development product for this area is a fully serviced stand (350 - 800 m2) and house (47 m2) for R80 000. This project has already been delayed for four years. If this project is not managed properly, land invasion can be a possible outcome.

    e. Desegregation

    Next residential and educational desegregation will be discussed briefly. In 1991 it was suggested that limited residential desegregation could be expected in Bloemfontein in the short term due to various factors, e.g. a particular historical-political ecology, the sectoral structure of the city which promotes proximity to the CBD and industries from Heidedal and Mangaung, the upgrading of Mangaung, and economic realities. It was also suggested that, according to international experience, the CBD and its fringe areas, and Hilton would probably be the first grey areas in Bloemfontein. Seven years after the repeal of the Group Areas Act, the following observations can be made: flats in the CBD and fringe areas are predominantly occupied by Africans, and high levels of desegregation have occurred in four former low-income white suburbs, viz. Hilton, Oranjesig, Lourier Park and Erhlich Park. In the two latter suburbs new low-cost housing projects contributed to the settlement of Africans in these areas.

    As far as educational facilities in the former white Bloemfontein are concerned, the following can be reported: high levels of desegregation have occurred at tertiary institutions, e.g. the Technical College is predominantly black, at the Technikon the ratio is 70% Africans and 30 % other population groups while at the UOFS the ratio is 60% white students and 40% other population groups. At school level the general pattern is that visible desegregation is limited to English-medium schools which are all located in the northern and central suburbs. High levels of desegregation are reported at Brebner, Christian Brothers College (CBC), Navelsig and Kruitberg (the latter two schools were both former Afrikaans-medium schools and now offer double-medium classes), while much lower levels are reported at St Michaels, St. Andrews, Eunice, Grey College and JBM Hertzog (the latter was a former Afrikaans-medium school which now offers double-medium classes). The majority of the Afrikaans-medium schools are experiencing an influx of pupils from the 'platteland', who stay in formal and informal hostels. This trend ensures growth and thus no pressure to consider the double-medium route (which implies desegregation).

    f. A changing CBD
    The heart of the city has experienced a variety of rapid changes since 1994 as a result of changing spatial, economic, social and political dynamics. In a short period of time downtown was transformed from a traditional 'white man's' CBD to a cosmopolitan downtown where the different cultural worlds meet. One of the end results of an increasingly African CBD is that the symbolic railway line separating Bloemfontein into two political and social worlds no longer does so. Residentially the CBD and its fringe areas are predominantly African. (It should be noted that there is not a high concentration of residential space in the CBD and its fringe areas as in other South African cities).
    [A cosmopolitan downtown]

    The next visible and challenging change is the invasion by informal hawkers, who conduct their business on pavements in Central Park, at the taxi rank, and on Hoffman Square and Floreat Avenue. The highest concentration of informal sector activities is in the vicinity of Central Park (bus terminal) and the taxi rank from where they have spread north- and westwards through a process of diffusion. Pedestrian space is increasingly invaded. There is also rising tension between formal businesses, the public and the hawker industry. A process of consultation has been started between the mentioned parties in order to regulate informal sector activities. A major test for the Bloemfontein City Council will be the extent to which they succeed in managing processes of informal land invasion, the expanding unregulated hawker industry and patterns of taxi behaviour.

    Due to the changing dynamics of the CBD, the business profile is also experiencing change. The changing composition of potential clients has resulted in different services and products being required. A significant outward movement of business towards the Zastron (western) corridor and to a lesser extent towards Church Street and Park West has resulted in the development of a subordinate core on the western corridor. With the proposed development of Mimosa Mall a predominantly African CBD (as is the case at present) and a white subordinate core can be expected. The outward movement of business is not only due to a desire to be more accessible to their traditional clients as well as to the growing African middle class, but also to expansion of existing facilities and modernisation in order to keep up with modern technology. The figure indicates the approved commercial building plans exceeding R1 million since 1994.

    It is clear that the private sector has made up its mind where to invest, and that is not in the CBD. The last major investment in the CBD was the Southern Life Plaza and the upgrading of the Sanlam Plaza. A major spatial gap regarding commercial development is to be found east of the railway line. Only one project exceeding R1 million is located in Heidedal and there has been none in Mangaung since 1994. Potential commercial projects are also indicated in Figure ?  and follow the existing spatial pattern of decentralisation. Dr Belcher and Mosheshwe Roads will hopefully develop into activity corridors taking opportunities closer to the majority of residents of Bloemfontein.

    The general trend is that vacant floor space in the CBD is occupied by African business initiatives (smaller floor space), while the public sector (provincial and national government departments) is also increasingly expanding office space towards the CBD. This has prevented a hollowing effect in the CBD (as in Johannesburg) characterised by an increasing amount of vacant floor space, declining buying power or a fall in the volume of people. Although the CBD is more energetic, dynamic and alive than before, with more people, more potential clients, increasing buying power, increasing informal activities such as hawkers, taxis, parking watchers, job seekers, criminals, and solid-waste pollution, the challenge is to ensure that downtown remains the heart of the city for all, accessible to all, a safe and pleasant shopping environment for all and that new investment will be attracted to 'Bloemfontise' the heart of the city with a Mapikelo Square, Hoffman Square, Maitland Street and Winkie Direko Avenue.

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    created: October 1999; last alteration: February 15th 2000 - JL