This paper unpacks from a spatial perspective, the duality of urban contexts in South Africa that is of unprecedented opulence on the one hand and remarkable deprivation on the other, as stated by Sen (1999: xi). Although focused on the second economy as required by the terms of reference and the targeted sector of this paper, the paper argues for a position where the binary of first and second economy, formal and informal, planned and unplanned and so on, in the minds of policy makers, technocrats and professionals in the built environment begins to collapse into a unified conceptual spatial imaginary of the city, the urban, the container that we all value as the space to respond to the needs and desires of urban society, both us and them, poor and non-poor.
It considers the contents of government policies and programmes in terms of a number of urban problems that continue to exist despite well-intentioned interventions, using a limited sector analysis approach and case studies and/or secondary sources, mainly based in Cape Town and the Western Cape. Five strategies are put forward including: 1) Take stock of the urban – make cities, not constructed landscapes; 2) Creating a soulful city; 3) Generating homes for all; 4) Designing a sustainable city; and 5) Moving towards urban economic interdependence. A direction for the role of government concludes the paper.