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A Parliament In The Township -- This Is What A Radically Reimagined South Africa Would Look Like

Radical Economic Transformation is an opportunity for us to reimagine SA, it allows us to entertain ideas of what a radically transformed society could be.

08/05/2017 03:59 SAST | Updated 08/05/2017 03:59 SAST
Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters
Alexandra Township, South Africa

The policy of Radical Economic Transformation (RET) announced by President Jacob Zuma at the January 8 statement, essentially the key focus of the African National Congress for the year, and also restated in his State of the Nation Address to formally adopt RET as a government priority, is perceived as an opportunity for the thieves to loot the state and also for the privileged to sharpen their weapons to fight in defence of maintaining their positions of privilege.

However, RET is also an opportunity for us to reimagine South Africa, it sets free our creative imagination to entertain ideas of what nature, shape and form would a radically transformed society look like. The following piece is inspired by a desire to see through the noise around RET, to reimagine South Africa outside of realms of apartheid spatial planning and colonial patterns of economic participation. This first piece will deal with spatial planning and how the worst creation of apartheid, the township, can be transformed into a space that humans can inhabit with dignity and thrive in.

Move parliament to the township

The government announced a desire to move parliament from Cape Town to Pretoria, and there is little question in my mind that it needs to and must move. The cost-cutting reason is a pragmatic consideration, however it seems that government considerations, with regards to where parliament is moved to, are still informed by apartheid patterns of spatial planning.

We must implore government to only consider moving parliament to a township in South Africa, whether that township is in Cape Town or Gauteng - I think is a more pragmatic consideration. What I wish to raise is the principle of delinking the location of parliament in white areas and begin to reimagine parliament piercing the township sky. Parliament needs to be located in township areas and the mere existence of that parliament in a black township will immediately have positive effects on the quality of life for people in that township.

I can just imagine the estate agents of Mamelodi selling a house by saying: "It's just a stone throw away from the RSA parliament!" This would increase the net worth of black property in a stroke. Even if the net-worth increase is on paper, the economic well-being of our people would improve. Government could improve the economic prosperity of township communities by simply relocating parliament to the township.

Having parliament in any township will have an immediate boost to the township economy and lead to an exponential increase in the demand for hotels, restaurants, as well as other goods and other services. Service providers to parliament would want to stay close to parliament and would therefore follow parliament to the township. The primary beneficiaries should be the community, and government would have a role to play to ensure that it safeguards the economic benefits of that township for the people of that township.

Move all government headquarters to the township

In fact, the government should move all government head offices and official residences to the townships at all levels of government, across the country. Can you imagine our townships if they were to become the seats of government, if the mayor's office, the premier's office, the legislature, the ministry of finance and other government properties were all in positioned in spaces that are in close proximity to our people? Imagine a dispensation where the Public Works department and state-owned enterprises, for example, only rented or built office parks in the townships! How fantastic would that be?

Safety and security

The government would be especially obliged to improve the safety and security situation in our townships as soon as that situation has a direct bearing on the safety and security of ministers, the president, members of parliament, and so on. The presence of extra security for all the new government buildings, state owned enterprise head offices and other businesses that would follow, together with security measures taken by SAPS to protect all these National Key Points, would lead to an improved safety and security situation in the townships.

Socio-economic ills

Moving parliament to the lokshin would also lead to a decrease in social ills such as crimes, drug abuse and other ills. It is generally accepted that social ills are a function of economic circumstances, the argument is not that moving parliament and other government headquarters to the township would totally eradicate crime and poverty but rather that it would greatly decrease the prevalence of crime and other social ills.

Social cohesion

Moving parliament would also greatly influence and foster social cohesion, the fact that a secondary central business district would be created in the township means that a lot more people of different races would visit the townships on a near daily basis to visit these offices, interaction amongst the races would improve.

Townships would slowly lose their image as places for black decay and slowly take on the image of a space reborn and a township reimagined.