WIT Press

National Planning In South Africa: A Critical Review


Free (open access)





Page Range

193 - 204




64 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


J. E. Drewes, M. van Aswegen


According to the European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter (1983), “Regional/spatial planning gives geographical expression to the economic, social, cultural and ecological policies of society. It is at the same time a scientific discipline, an administrative technique and a policy developed as an interdisciplinary and comprehensive approach directed towards a balanced regional development and the physical organisation of space according to an overall strategy”. It is against this background that this study reviews past spatial planning policy and how it gave “geographical expression” to economic, social and cultural policies in South Africa

This paper aims to provide a critical and objective perspective on national spatial planning since the inception of the concept in South Africa in the 1970s till the most recent directive in 2012. The paper will discuss the understanding of national planning in South Africa in terms of the economic approach and spatial implementation of each plan.

It is argued in this paper that over the past three decades the national space has been left open for interpretation in terms of economic growth and development, which has led to a lack of execution of the well-intentioned spatial guiding documents from the various levels of government. It could be interpreted that spatial planning in South Africa has come full circle since the 1970`s, being once again politically driven, this time by social policy, and not economic policy. The paper proposes that national spatial planning should, once again, start to focus on giving clear guidance on how, where and when the magnitude of social and economic goals should be reached.


national planning, spatial planning, regional planning; South Africa planning history