The Politics of Digitised Boundaries in Vhembe District Municipality of South Africa

Ingwani, Emaculate and Musetha, Rendani and Gumbo, Trynos and Moyo, Thembani (2019) The Politics of Digitised Boundaries in Vhembe District Municipality of South Africa. REAL CORP 2019 – IS THIS THE REAL WORLD? Perfect Smart Cities vs. Real Emotional Cities. Proceedings of 24th International Conference on Urban Planning, Regional Development and Information Society. pp. 751-760. ISSN 2521-3938

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Abstract

The advent of the fourth industrial revolution witnessed the introduction of digitised boundaries in local municipalities of South Africa. Digitised boundaries are simply imagined lines between spaces. In many rural local municipalities of South Africa, digitised boundaries define territorial bounds as well as people’s identities within the bounded spaces. Several villages in Vhembe District Municipality experienced spatial changes as a result of the introduction of digitised boundaries as recommended by the National Demarcation Board. The introduction of these digitised boundaries engendered widespread protests as community residents raised their dissatisfaction with the new development. In their minds, the ‘new’ Boundaries (digitised) undermined their social base through exclusion from access to services from ‘their’ local municipalities, and thus infringed their rights to belonging. The aim of this paper unravels the politics of digitised boundaries using a case study of Vuwani Village in Vhembe District Municipality of South Africa. The paper (1) highlights the perceptions of community residents of digitised boundaries; (2) characterises the impact(s) of digitised boundaries on community residents; (3) proposes sustainable strategies for managing complexities from digitisation of boundaries in villages from below. This research adopted the mixed methods approach that enables layering methods and methodologies in data collection and analysis. A critical case study design was chosen to extract meaning from the experiences of community residents of Vuwani Village with regards to the politics of digitisation of boundaries vis-à-vis insurgence of protests in this community. Vuwani Village, and the community residents were purposefully selected to participate in this research. A total of 185 questionnaires were distributed to community residents layered as heads of households, youths, and community leaders - while observing social constructs such as gender, age, and language. In addition, 15 spatial planners from three local municipalities under Vhembe District Municipality were interviewed using the Delphi Technique (serious brainstorming with experts). Data collection also involved extensive desktop review of pertinent literature on related theories, concepts, and policies. Quantitative analysis of data from questionnaires was aided by SPSS. Whereas, text analysis was applied to qualitative data from interviews. Lefebvre’s theory on the production of space; and Hirschman’s exit, voice, and loyalty model were adopted as modes of analysis through which descriptions from struggles in contested spaces, and people’s responses to ‘new’ circumstances (digitised boundaries) were enunciated. Community residents of Vuwani Village, and the digitised boundaries were the unit(s) of analysis that provided a unique case of the struggles flowing from politics of digitised boundaries, and spatial thinking. In Vuwani Village, the ‘new’ digitised boundaries engendered violent protests including arson, shutdowns of institutions and disruption of services. These contestations are on-going. Community residents of Vuwani Village and spatial planners from the local municipalities are in disagreement on where exactly the digital ‘line’ (boundary) must fall. Community residents want social digitised boundaries that define community identity and belonging, whereas municipal planners want digitised boundaries that simply separate spaces. Exit, voice, and loyalty responses are clearly apparent in Vuwani Village as community residents react differently to the spatial representations from digitizsd boundaries. This paper proposes prioritisation of social boundaries as key to dealing with politics flowing from digitised boundaries - from below. Strategies that serve as platforms for rethinking the implementation of digitised boundaries in local rural municipalities of South Africa and elsewhere are clearly needed.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Digitized boundaries, municipality, protest, social, space
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Depositing User: The CORP Team
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2019 21:18
Last Modified: 01 Apr 2019 21:18
URI: http://repository.corp.at/id/eprint/543

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