<< PREVIOUS | 1 | 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 | 2 | NEXT >>

1.2 Botshabelo
Botshabelo is the single largest monument to apartheid planning in the region and owes its existence to apartheid subsidies exceeding R80 million per annum in 1996 (which was inherited by the Free State government from Pretoria). The challenge of undoing ideologically moulded spatial patterns in the BBT region may imply doing away with this settlement where 200 000 people are living at present in the third-largest urban area in the province. The analysis of Botshabelo will focus on the changing vision, function, demographics, economics and transport situation, as well as on the challenge of changing the area from a highly subsidised to a more financially sustainable settlement. One of the few internal spatial changes to apartheid planning is the project to settle farmers on land which was originally earmarked for the expansion of the urban area in order to accommodate future population growth.
[Map of Botshabelo]
a. Changing vision and function

The vision of Pretoria during the apartheid era was to develop Botshabelo into a 'Golden City' for the South Sotho people. From 1986 onwards this imposed, top-down vision started to disintegrate with the dismantling of apartheid. In the post-apartheid dispensation a shared vision has to be formulated by the people of Botshabelo. Within the spatial planning strategy of apartheid the original function of Botshabelo, like that of other similar settlements in former homelands, was to form part of the Verwoerdian Grand Apartheid vision, an ethnic city, a demographic growth point for both forced removals and canalised urbanisation, a regional labour market and a dormitory town for Bloemfontein (core).

[Changing vision for Botshabelo]
(S. Krige, 1996)
[Changing function of Botshabelo]
(S. Krige, 1996)

After six years its original function started to change and today the future role and function of this settlement area must be determined by both the provincial government and the people of Botshabelo themselves. It is important that Botshabelo should be integrated into a provincial and regional development strategy in order to determine the city's role and function within a broader perspective. Four years have passed since the first democratic elections and as yet there is no sign of a proposed development strategy for either the province or the region.

b. The changing demographic profile
The 19 years of Botshabelo's existence tell a dramatic story of change, from the heyday of apartheid planning during which social engineering made it the fastest-growing urban centre in South Africa, to the post-1990 situation where the settlement, for its size, is probably the slowest growing urban area in the country. The annual population growth rate fell from 24,6% in 1980-1985 to 1,7% in 1988-1991 and indications are that it has decreased even further since 1991. The implication of a population growing at a slower rate than the national level has been an ageing effect, as younger people leave in search of jobs. It is foreseen and suggested that future population growth in the BBT region will and should focus on Bloemfontein. This pattern has at any rate emerged spontaneously over the last ten years.
[Changing population growth trends
in the BBT region, 1980-2010

Botshabelo's natural increase should be absorbed by Bloemfontein, thus forming part of the reconstruction process. This is indeed apartheid planning in reverse (spatial infilling). Bloemfontein has land available for residential expansion, as well as for social and physical infrastructure. It is also the economic core of the region. It is anticipated that Botshabelo's population will stabilise at the present number of 200 000 and it is felt that this zero growth rate is a positive factor. A population model is proposed for BBT 2010 based on a growth rate of 2,7 % p.a. (Urban Foundation Demographic Model) and a zero population growth for Botshabelo. The effect will be substantial growth in Bloemfontein and a significant decrease in Botshabelo's share in the BBT's population. This will bring growing pressure to bear on Bloemfontein for land, services, housing, facilities, jobs and management, while there will be little demand for similar needs (except for jobs) in Botshabelo.

c. The changing economic profile
Botshabelo was established as one of the 28 industrial development points in the former homelands that received a wide range of incentives in order to attract industries. At present two thirds of the industries are run by Taiwanese business people. Employment in the manufacturing sector increased until 1989 and then decreased by a few thousand jobs to approximately 12 000 jobs in 1996. As far as job opportunities are concerned 39 500 of Botshabelo's economically active population are formally employed (less than 50% of this number in Botshabelo itself), 7 000 are employed informally (mainly in Botshabelo) and 28 000 (or 32%) are unemployed seeking work.

The major sectors in which people are employed are services and manufacturing (in Botshabelo and Bloemfontein), and mining (migrants working on the Free State Goldfields some 200 km away). There are fewer than 1 000 small businesses, mostly in trade and services. The general trend is that formal employment opportunities are declining, e.g. the municipal services in Botshabelo had to cut back on 700 jobs due to fiscal constraints, employment at the factories is static, and employment in the gold-mine industry has decreased by 60 000 jobs since 1991 with a possible retrenchment of between 20 000 and 30 000 jobs in 1999 due to the poor gold price. The reduction in formal job opportunities suggests that small-, medium- and micro-enterprise (SMME) programmes should be promoted.

d. The changing transport profile

In 1996 the bus subsidy amounted to R15,2 million as 64% of a bus ticket was subsidised. The price of the monthly bus ticket to Bloemfontein rose from R12 in 1983 to R139 in 1998. If the subsidy is discontinued a month's ticket will cost R390, which amounts to more than one third of the mean monthly income per household. There has been a substantial decrease in the number of subsidised bus commuters from 14 500 in November 1988 to 10 600 in April 1990 and 8 400 in early December 1995. No data are available on the number of taxi passengers in the past or whether the taxis have picked up a share of the declining number of bus commuters. Nevertheless, the fact that at present only about 2 000 passengers are transported by taxi between Botshabelo and Bloemfontein on a daily basis suggests that job opportunities for Botshabelo residents in Bloemfontein have decreased and/or that workers have settled in Bloemfontein.

e. From a subsidised to a more financially sustainable settlement?

Unlike many other formerly black townships, Botshabelo's isolated location means that it cannot be integrated easily with the adjacent formerly white city, thus benefiting from its economic infrastructure, rates and service payments, and institutional capacity. The TLC's utter financial dependence is evident from the fact that its recurrent expenditure in the 1996/97 budget year amounted to R69,5 million, while it expected services payments of only R6 million, 9% of the required amount. Even if all levies were paid - a flat rate which varies between R16 and R56 per month, depending on the services available in the zone - the TLC would only raise R15,6 million, 23% of the required amount, thus 77% of the running costs of the TLC must be subsidised. The difference between income and expenditure is made up by the Free State Government which controls Botshabelo's finances. The tariff required to cover the existing cost of municipal services is R141 per household per month, which represents 14% of the average household income and is thus unrealistically high.

From the analysis of current development challenges it is clear that Botshabelo is indeed facing the severe consequences of apartheid planning. The establishment of Botshabelo 19 years ago is a costly mistake. Regardless of good community spirit and commitment to place, harsh economic realities will increasingly affect the future of the settlement. Seen in this light, population growth scenarios largely depend on external factors such as the continuous increase in transport costs, a lack of increase in formal job opportunities, possible retrenchment of local people employed in the public sector, and the fact that Botshabelo has lost its 'special case' status and is increasingly becoming a 'normal' town which now has to face up to diminished service subsidies and industrial decentralisation incentives. External forces created Botshabelo and will probably determine the future of the settlement.

<< PREVIOUS | 1 | 1.1 | 1.2 | 1.3 | 1.4 | 2 | NEXT >>

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