A thriving coal mining city in crisis? The governance and spatial planning challenges at Witbank, South Africa

The city of Witbank in the eMalahleni Local Government, or municipality as it is referred to in South Africa, and its economy are experiencing rapid growth. The growth is largely as a result of coal mining and associated activities such as power generation and the metal industry, which attracts an inflow of migrants to the area.

The paper discusses how a flourishing city such as Witbank, with its economy based on non-renewable resources, manages its vulnerabilities. This was researched against a background of eMalahleni being placed under Administration, because the local government failed to deliver basic services. An administrator was appointed to manage and monitor the financial affairs of the local government, by the second sphere of government, known as the Provincial Administration in South Africa. The results show that Witbank prioritised mineral wealth above social, agricultural and environmental concerns. While good governance is generally important for a growing city, Witbank appears to manage with a limited contribution from the local government as the wealthier citizens are able to provide for their immediate needs or move elsewhere. It was suggested that South Africa needs to have a more balanced perspective on the costs and benefits of mining and to develop a long term vision for mining areas, which includes plans for the community once the mineral reserves are depleted.

Article available at Land Use Policy. March 2017 (volume still in progress but this article is final). (Sub required).

Photo: Construction of the Kusile coal powered power station in Witbank, May 2013. (Wikimedia)


Publication Type Journal Article
Publisher Land Use Policy
Year 2017
Author(s) Maléne Campbell, Verna Nel and Thulisile Mphambukeli
ISSN 0264-8377
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