Photography by:
  • GCRO

Landscapes of peripheral and displaced urbanisms

Much current policy oriented spatial research is single-issue driven, with the research question set by a policy problem in need of resolution – the affordability or poor location of housing; what sustainable human settlements are all about; how to activate transit oriented development; and so on. This research is important and valuable. But very often it is normatively driven rather than dispassionate and objective, and it does not carefully enough examine actual spaces and spatial processes through a multidisciplinary perspective. This project moves from the premise that a ‘landscape’ study approach – involving both careful empirical analysis of specific places over an extended period, as well as new theorizing of the urban processes shaping them – may better elucidate the global and generalisable and the local and idiosyncratic forces (including government policy) producing this region’s settlement forms.


Photo: Phola, Mpumalganga along the Moloto Road (R573).

This longer term project studies the northern GCR’s peripheries and ‘zones of displaced urbanisms’. These are homes to hundreds of thousands of people, often without discernible economic centres. This spatial focus is important because the idea of an extended city-region, spanning across the borders of the Gauteng province, is often mentioned, and the need to situate the trends and dynamics shaping Gauteng within its wider frame – the platinum belt in the west, the coal and energy economies of the east and south – is frequently highlighted. However to date GCRO has done very little sustained and in-depth research into the areas adjoining Gauteng proper. The ex-bantustan and homeland areas in and adjoining Gauteng are a significant and generally under-studied feature of the region. There are arguably few major metropolitan regions in the world that have such a periphery, with city-sized populations forced by past policies into inefficiently located, not-quite-urban and not-quite-rural settlement forms. We know very little about how these areas are changing. Do long term commuting patterns still sustain them? Are they ageing and depopulating over time? Are they benefiting from investments of migrant worker wages? Are any new local economies emerging over time? What are the government's plans for them, and how do such plans articulate with the long-term strategies (spatial and otherwise) being generated by Gauteng? Could it be that these areas are forming into socio-spatial, political and economic spaces with dynamics that are common with, unique and divergent from one another and the modernist parts of the city-region?

Video: KwaMhlanga Crossroads, Mpumalanga, located at the intersection of roads R573 and R568.

The first year of work (2017) was preliminary. It involved the collection and review of relevant work ranging from the Urban Foundation’s first study in the late 1980s on ‘displaced urbanisation’, to recent Moloto Corridor feasibility studies for possible major rail infrastructure investment. This scoping exercise also involved site visits in the outer reaches of the GCR. The end of 2017 and 2018 have seen in-depth interviews conducted in the former KwaNdebele, Mabopane, Soshanguve, and Rustenburg. The quantitative study using the Quality of Life survey V instrument was completed in June 2019. The project team has grown to include Dr Sally Peberdy, a former GCRO Senior Researcher; Dr Cathy Dzerefos, an independent researcher; and Avhatakali Sithagu of the School of Architecture and Planning. Although the writing of the research report is currently underway, it has already provided materials for a number of other publications, including 'Ecology of an Egalitarian City'. These are identified below.



Mosiane, N. (forthcoming). ‘Governing the peripheries of the Gauteng City-Region’. GCRO Provocation, Johannesburg: GCRO

Mosiane, N. (forthcoming). ‘Mobility, Access and the Value of the Mabopane Station Precinct’, in Richard Ballard and Alexandra Parker (guest editors). The scale of belonging: three decades after apartheid. Urban Forum special issue.

Academic publications

Mosiane, N. (2021). 'Livelihoods, the Body and the Space of Phokeng, Rustenburg'. In: L. Marais, M. Campbell, S. Denoon-Stevens, and D. Van Rooyen (eds.). Mining and Community in the South African Platinum Belt: A Decade after Marikana, Nova Science Publishers, New York: Nova. pp. 39–68.

Map of the Month

Mosiane, N. and Murray, J. (2020). ‘Distribution of population and economic activity in the Gauteng City-Region’, GCRO Map of the Month, Gauteng City-Region Observatory, August 2021.

Mosiane, N., Sibisi, R. & Katumba, S. (2018). ’Commutes through Mabopane Station’, Map of the Month, July 2018.


Ngaka Mosiane (October 2020). 'Mobility, Access and the Value of the Mabopane Station Precinct’, Wits Interdisciplinary Seminar in the Humanities Seminar Series, 26 October 2020.

Ngaka Mosiane (June 2020). 'The Ecology of an Egalitarian City', GCRO Brown Bag, 24 June 2020.

Ngaka Mosiane (November 2019). ‘Revisiting the transformative potential of the city of Rustenburg’, at the Mining and the future of Rustenburg workshop, University of the Free State, 19-20 November 2019.

Ngaka Mosiane (November 2019). Respondent to the compendium and presentation on the Future of African Cities, Mombasa 8-10 November 2019.

Ngaka Mosiane (January 2019) ‘Governing the periphery of the Gauteng City-Region’, the Urban Annual Research Conference (City and the Region) at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, 10-12 January 2019.

Ngaka Mosiane (October 2018) ‘Mobility, Displaced urbanisms, and the Remaking of Tshwane, South Africa’. Spaces and Flows Conference, Heidelberg University, Germany, 24-26 October 2018.

Ngaka Mosiane (August 2017) ‘Synecdochic governance of the Gauteng City-Region periphery’. Faces of the City Seminar, Wits. 29 August 2017.

Ngaka Mosiane and Mamokete Matjomane (June 2017) 'The lives, sights and sounds of the Gauteng City Region Periphery'. Brown bag Seminar. GCRO offices. 28 June 2017.

Ngaka Mosiane (July 2017) 'Livelihoods, and Body, and City Space'. Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies and African Centre for Cities conference on Refractions of the National, the Popular, and the Global in African cities, University of Stellenbosch. 31 July - 1 August 2017.


Ngaka Mosiane, Mamokete Matjomane and Avhatakali Sithagu (2020). Categorising South Africa’s resilient urbanisms. Urbanet blog of the German Corporation for International Cooperation). Available at

Last updated: 10 September 2021.


The GCRO sends out regular news to update subscribers on our research and events.