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The contestation for, and management of, public places in Johannesburg, South Africa

Neil Fraser (Urban Inc., Atholl, South Africa)

Journal of Place Management and Development

ISSN: 1753-8335

Article publication date: 25 July 2008




The purpose of this paper is to show the changes to date between the apartheid (ideological) and democratic use and management of public space. The abolition of apartheid laws in urban areas led to a great deal of contestation for space and also to new forms of management of public space.


This paper looks briefly at the background which led to public space being “reserved” on a racial basis. It then examines examples of the contestation for space that developed with the relaxation and, finally, abolition of apartheid legislation. It finally provides and discusses some of the solutions that have developed in both the use and management of public space.


Little has been practically resolved in relation to contestation over various aspects of urban public space. Where public space interventions have been private sector led, such interventions are not without their own difficulties.

Research limitations/implications

Generally the paper confines itself to Johannesburg. The paper relies on the personal experience of the author and research of written material – time constraints have not permitted research through questionnaires.

Practical implications

The practical implications of the results to date are summarised and recommendations made for application to other South African towns and cities.


Relatively little is available on the practical applications of the subject matter in South Africa. The paper could be of value in developing further debates, both in South Africa and in world cities subject to mass immigration.



Fraser, N. (2008), "The contestation for, and management of, public places in Johannesburg, South Africa", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 177-198.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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