Economic Transitions in South Africa’s Secondary Cities: Governing Mine Closures

Lochner Marais, Verna Nel, Kholisa Rani, Deidré van Rooyen, Kentse Sesele, Phia van der Watt and Lyndon du Plessis

Many South African secondary cities depend on a single economic sector, often mining or manufacturing. This makes them vulnerable to economic change and national decision‐making. We describe change in three secondary cities—Emalahleni, Matjhabeng and Newcastle—all at different phases of economic transition due to imminent mine closure. We investigate the way local governance and planning are dealing with the change. We draw on concepts from institutional economics and evolutionary governance theory, material from strategic planning documents, and approximately 50 key informant interviews. We show how difficult it is to steer economic planning during economic transitions, and we demonstrate how both economic change and governance are path‐dependent. Path dependency in South Africa’s mining towns has several causes: the colonial influence, which emphasised extraction and neglected beneficiation; the dominance of a single sector; the long‐term problems created by mining; and the lack of the skills needed to bring about economic change. The local governments’ continuing reliance on the New Public Management paradigm, which focuses on steering as opposed to building networks, compounds the problem, along with poor governance, inadequate local capacity and inappropriate intergovernmental relations. Of the three towns, only Newcastle has shown signs of taking a new path.

Marais, L., Nel, V., Rani, K., van Rooyen, D., Sesele, K., van der Watt, P., & du Plessis, L. (2021). Economic Transitions in South Africa's Secondary Cities: Governing Mine Closures. Politics and Governance9(2), 381–392.

South Africa
Economic Transitions in South Africa’s Secondary Cities: Governing Mine Closures