Public Space Inequality in South Africa

Uneven distribution of public space for play areas and parks is a global plight that is present in abundance in South Africa. Due to the lasting effects of the apartheid era, areas of wealth have higher access to public parks in comparison to the lasting townships and informal settlements where land was not set aside and designated for public service in their haphazard design process. In an analysis of nine townships in the western half of Cape Town, the inequality of public space distribution was significant. The study showed that areas of high densities resulted in inadequate access to green play spaces with 15 times less public green space area per household than in the suburbs of South Africa. Townships throughout South Africa average 4.1 people per household with 18.9 m^2 of public space per person, which is below both international standards and those Johannesburg has set (Matthew McConnachie, 2010). Informal settlements, in comparison with their associated townships, suffer even greater deficits of public space inequality. According to this study, the public green space available per person averages to 3.5 m^2, which is significantly lower than the national guideline of 40m^2 per person (Matthew McConnachie, 2010).

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High-density areas oftentimes allow for little to no private green space for residents around their homes, making public areas even more imperative. The benefits public parks pose for high-risk communities are unique in their independence from social class or economic standings. By providing a free area for social activities, residents of all socioeconomic standings can participate and interact with one another. In comparison, public areas of shopping and entertainment tend to exclude community members with lower incomes. Providing free public spaces for social interaction creates a greater sense of community and belonging for a wider range of residents making it imperative for community development.



Matthew McConnachie, M., & Shackleton, C. M. (2010). Public green space inequality in small towns in South Africa. Habitat International, 34(2), 244-248. doi: 10.1016/j.habitatint.2009.09.009