An­other milestone for plan­ning and science in SA

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - Pali Le­hohla is South Africa Statis­ti­cian-Gen­eral and Head of Sta­tis­tics South Africa.

MON­DAY, July 3, marked yet an­other milestone in the progress of Stat­stics SA in its strate­gic con­tri­bu­tion to the nascent sub­stance and ethos of re­gional science and plan­ning in the coun­try.

In 2009 Stats SA, through Pro­fes­sor Her­manus Geyer, cre­ated the Cen­tre for Re­gional In­no­va­tion and Sta­tis­ti­cal Ex­plo­ration (Cruise) at the Uni­ver­sity of Stel­len­bosch for pur­poses of train­ing statis­ti­cians in re­gional science and mak­ing the value of sta­tis­tics vis­i­ble and valu­able in plan­ning.

This even­tu­ated a dream I shared with Pro­fes­sor Geyer on our very first meet­ing in 1992 at the Uni­ver­sity of Potchef­stroom where af­ter read­ing his jour­nal ar­ti­cle I pro­posed to him that we need an in­sti­tute that will train statis­ti­cians in this dis­ci­pline, be­cause with­out it there will not be con­ver­gence be­tween sta­tis­tics and plan­ning.

It took an­other 16 years for this dream to even­tu­ate and the first batch of of­fi­cials from Stats SA to be trained started in 2011. This batch of 12 con­sisted of deputy di­rec­tors-gen­eral and chief di­rec­tors, the ma­jor­ity of whom had doc­toral de­grees.

The choice was de­lib­er­ate, be­cause the pro­gramme needed both in­tel­lec­tual lead­er­ship and in­sti­tu­tional au­thor­ity.

To date, 71 of­fi­cials have taken a year’s sab­bat­i­cal to train at this cen­tre. The jour­nal through­put of the cen­tre has el­e­vated Stel­len­bosch aca­demic out­put.

Stats SA out­puts have be­come in­creas­ingly rel­e­vant in the state, al­beit ma­jor plan­ning sys­tem deficits per­sist.

This ar­ti­cle cap­tures the pro­ceed­ings of the launch of the Africa Re­gional Science As­so­ci­a­tion (Arsa) at this the 3rd ISIbalo Cruise and the chal­lenges that lie ahead.

A num­ber of us from Stats SA ar­rived in Stel­len­bosch a day be­fore, on Sun­day, July 2, at dif­fer­ent times and Risenga, Sathie and I were on the last flight.

Usu­ally we choose this time of the year for our ISIbalo Cruise con­fer­ence to take ad­van­tage of uni­ver­sity va­ca­tion and oc­cupy stu­dent res­i­dence ac­com­mo­da­tion at the Uni­ver­sity of Stel­len­bosch. Un­like a ho­tel, the toi­lets and bath­rooms are out­side and com­mu­nal and a trip that far can in a minute wipe out your hard earned sleep.

Sub­dued faces

When I ar­rived at about 9pm, I was con­fronted by many sub­dued faces and the dis­cus­sion was about the prob­lem of open show­ers where up to six male stu­dents can trans­par­ently shower.

This dis­cus­sion oc­cu­pied us for al­most 20 min­utes. Ob­vi­ously there was no so­lu­tion. We had to go to bed by 10 to be ready for break­fast that ends at 7am and be at the open­ing of the con­fer­ence by 8.30am.

By 6.30am all of us had taken a shower undis­turbed by oth­ers. I must say when it comes to re­spect­ing pri­vacy, I am con­vinced that the men at Stats SA can be trusted with the data of ci­ti­zens, they proved it can never be shared.

Back to the con­fer­ence, there were a num­ber of prom­i­nent pro­fes­sors, es­pe­cially from Europe, where the Euro­pean Re­gional Science In­ter­na­tional plays a cru­cial role in the mak­ing of the EU.

Pro­fes­sor Ni­jkamp, a renowned re­gional sci­en­tist from the Nether­lands, pointed to three chal­lenges the world will face. First he sees lo­ca­tion and mi­gra­tion as the ma­jor plan­ning chal­lenges the world will have to con­front. Not only where you stay, but where you in­tend mov­ing to. But more im­por­tantly the rea­sons for stay­ing are cru­cial.

How­ever, while one would con­clude the push fac­tors to a des­ti­na­tion are a com­ple­ment of the pull fac­tors to des­ti­na­tion, it is sadly ob­served that that is not the case as the rea­sons are com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

The sec­ond prob­lem re­lates to spa­tial dis­par­i­ties, where the key ques­tion is: Can such dis­par­i­ties co­ex­ist and be sus­tain­able? And the third re­lates to set­tle­ment sys­tems of our world and herein the key ques­tion is about the qual­ity of life and the emer­gence of mas­sive ag­glom­er­a­tions and the fu­ture of set­tle­ments quite dis­tinct from how we know them to­day.

In this re­gard China re­mains one of the pre-em­i­nent coun­tries and a pathfinder for th­ese new phe­nom­ena.

For papers on South Africa, the key ques­tion that emerged was about the phe­nom­e­non of ur­ban­i­sa­tion, but the nascent and strong streams of po­lar­i­sa­tion re­ver­sal where move­ment to smaller ur­ban cen­tres is ev­i­dent and ac­com­pa­ny­ing th­ese are trends in counter ur­ban­i­sa­tion. Th­ese pat­terns are ac­com­pa­nied by dom­i­nant de­mo­graphic, as well as spa­tio-tem­po­ral pat­terns, which far sighted pol­icy ini­tia­tives should an­tic­i­pate. The pol­icy ques­tion is how de­lib­er­ate are South African plan­ning sys­tems to con­tend with this?

All data used in th­ese stud­ies came from Stats SA and im­por­tantly Cen­sus and Com­mu­nity Sur­vey Data.

In his open­ing re­marks the min­is­ter in the Pres­i­dency Jeff Radebe con­firmed South Africa’s long-stand­ing ap­petite for re­gional plan­ning as he said: “To­day marks a sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment in the re­gional science fra­ter­nity as we launch the Arsa, a trail-blazer in re­gional plan­ning for our con­ti­nent.”

This his­toric gath­er­ing is tak­ing place within the sur­rounds of Stel­len­bosch – a town that can be de­scribed as bear­ing fea­tures of in­te­grated land use plan­ning across the pri­mary, sec­ondary and ter­tiary pro­duc­tive sec­tors. In that sense, it is be­fit­ting that the launch of Arsa takes place here – where we also have the Cen­tre for Cruise at Stel­len­bosch Uni­ver­sity (SU). But more on that later.

This ini­tia­tive is wel­comed within the space of ur­ban and re­gional de­vel­op­ment. The Na­tional Plan­ning Com­mis­sion that I chair is also ex­cited about this de­vel­op­ment, as the work done here gives us data for re­spon­sive pol­icy for­mu­la­tion and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives.

The launch of Arsa could not have come at a bet­ter time. I re­cently told par­lia­ment that South Africa needs a plan­ning in­sti­tu­tion that has staff who are com­pe­tent across dis­ci­plines such as plan­ning, econo­met­rics, so­ci­ol­ogy, po­lit­i­cal econ­omy, modelling, re­gional science and sta­tis­tics to men­tion but a few crit­i­cal skills.

Above all, we need a sys­tem that is longterm and strate­gi­cally led.

The launch of Arsa is one pil­lar in our march to­wards solv­ing the com­plex phe­nom­e­non of un­der­de­vel­op­ment.

For some time I and Pro­fes­sor Manie Geyer, the di­rec­tor of Cruise, have put their heads around this glar­ing anom­aly or gap in hav­ing a vi­brant in­sti­tu­tion for re­gional science in Africa.

What we are wit­ness­ing to­day is an ex­am­ple of what col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions and uni­ver­si­ties can achieve in build­ing strong hu­man re­source ca­pac­ity for emerg­ing de­mands of sta­tis­ti­cal pro­duc­tion.

The Cruise pro­gramme is a part­ner­ship for Mas­ters De­grees, of­fered through the Cruise at the Uni­ver­sity of Stel­len­bosch.

Spa­tial plan­ning

Since 2011, more than 60 staff mem­bers have com­pleted Mas­ters De­grees through this ini­tia­tive.

It is im­por­tant for the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan and Agenda 2063 to un­der­stand re­gional and ur­ban dy­nam­ics and how th­ese im­pact on spa­tial plan­ning.

We all agree that once the demo­cratic gov­ern­ment took over in 1994, it was easy to dis­man­tle for­mal apartheid, how­ever the legacy of this sys­tem, which was de­clared a crime against hu­man­ity by the UN, is prov­ing much harder to get rid of within a gen­er­a­tion.

Apartheid spa­tial plan­ning is one such legacy that is prov­ing dif­fi­cult to end. It is a struc­tural prob­lem. To this end, the gov­ern­ment has taken a de­ci­sion to move Spa­tial Plan­ning and Land Use Man­age­ment Act (Spluma) to my depart­ment – DPME.

Among other things, Spluma seeks to pro­vide for the in­clu­sive, de­vel­op­men­tal, eq­ui­table and ef­fi­cient spa­tial plan­ning at dif­fer­ent spheres of gov­ern­ment. The launch of Arsa will play a ma­jor role in im­prov­ing knowl­edge in this area.

Pro­fes­sor Ni­jkamp sees lo­ca­tion and mi­gra­tion as the main ma­jor chal­lenges the world will have to con­front.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Stel­len­bosch Uni­ver­sity’s open shower ca­pac­ity caused some con­ster­na­tion.

Pali Le­hohla

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