Urban governance, urban theory, law and urban space

My academic work on urban law and urban governance employs various methodologies and draws on my expertise in local government law, constitutional law, human rights law, rights-based adjudication and public health law, all of which contribute to the functioning of cities and towns.

My work on the interaction between judicial rights-vindication and urban space has culminated in the book “Rights-based Litigation, Urban Governance and Social Justice in South Arica: The Right to Joburg” published by Routledge in 2017 (see “books”).

Feel free to email me to request copies of any of the peer reviewed academic articles profiled below.

The Relevance of the African Regional Human Rights System in the Urban Age

(2023) Leiden Journal of International Law (online first) DOI https://doi.org/10.1017/S0922156523000122

Considers the extent to which the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as interpreted/applied by the African Commission and Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights, lend themselves to fruitful application in African cities, appropriation by African cities and the development of rights to African cities.

Urbanizing Human Rights Law: Cities, Local Governance and Corporate Power

(2022) 23(9) German Law Journal 1212-1225 DOI https://doi.org/10.1017/glj.2022.77

Argues for increased responsiveness of international human rights law at local government level in relation to the involvement of corporations in urban governance.

Resisting Marginalisation in the World Class City: Eking Out a Right to Public Presence in the City of Cape Town

in Janne E Nijman, Barbara Oomen, Elif Durmus, Sarah Miellet & Lisa Roodenburg (eds.) Urban Politics of Human Rights (Routledge; 2022 – DOI https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003315544-13/) pp. 187-204.

Traces the formation of “new” rights to public presence by urban outgroups, in response to a repressive political environment in the City of Cape Town.

Outsourcing Governance: Local Government and the Future of Democracy in South Africa (with David Everatt)

(2022) 48(5) Journal of Southern African Studies DOI https://doi.org/10.1080/03057070.2022.2119749

Analyses the decline and near collapse of local government in South Africa through a political and legal lens.

Corporate power, urban governance and urban law

(2022) 131 Cities DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2022.103893

Considers different ways that public law is implicated in regulating the co-governance activities of corporations in cities and towns around the world.

Towards a right to the city? The slow convergence of rights to housing and land in South African constitutional jurisprudence

(2022) 11(1) International Human Rights Law Review DOI https://doi.org/10.1163/22131035-11010006

Traces and considers the implications of the culmination of South African jurisprudence on the rights of access to housing and equitable access to land in the Adonisi decision of the Cape High Court.

Perspectives on metropolitan governance – Through the broken hourglass: perspectives from South Africa’s Gauteng City Region

(2022) 26 Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance 160-179 DOI


Part of a series of reflections on legal arrangements for the cross-municipal governance of metropolitan regions in different commonwealth systems, my portion points to missed opportunities and challenges pertaining to the use of municipal and provincial powers in the Gauteng City Region.

Corporate Power, Human Rights and Urban Governance in South African Cities

(2022) 25 Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal DOI https://doi.org/10.17159/1727-3781/2022/v25ia13004

Considers rights-based accountability of corporations involved in the governance of South African cities, both in terms of local government legislation and the horizontal application of the Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution.

Balancing socio-economic rights: Confronting Covid-19 in South Africa’s urban informal settlements

(2021) 39(1) Nordic Journal of Human Rights 33-50 DOI 10.1080/18918131.2021.1918433

Considers the reconciliation of seemingly clashing rights to housing in health in the context of the initial South African state response to Covid-19 in urban informal settlements.

Urban governance and the right to a healthy city

(2020) 2 European Journal of Constitutional Law 185-197 DOI: 10.1007/978-94-6265-431-0_9

This paper briefly reflects on urban governance as a determinant of health and considers how urban local governments can and do work to protect and fulfil the right to health.

Out of the Shadows: Towards a Line between Party and State in South African Local Government

(2020) 36(2-3) South African Journal on Human Rights 131-153 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02587203.2020.1867481

This article aims to show the need for a clearer wall between political parties and state institutions in South Africa. The focus is on local government level where, it is argued, the absence of a dividing line between legislative and executive functions exacerbates the anti-democratic effects of a party/state conflation. The usurpation of local governance functions by unaccountable party-political structures is argued to frustrate urban autonomy and thereby to undermine the federal elements of the constitutional system of cooperative governance, not least through re-centralising local authority in national or regional structures. This undermines participatory and developmental local governance and complicates the achievement of objectives such as the Sustainable Development Goals.

Devolution, Urban Autonomy and Local Governance in the Cities of SADC

(2020) 28(4) African Journal of International and Comparative Law 612-635 DOI: 10.3366/ajicl.2020.0342

Evaluates and compares SADC cities’ constitutional status; operational, functional and financial autonomy; collaborative and strategic space; and the different accountability structures to which they answer. Reflects on structural and political challenges to effective urban autonomy in the region and suggests ways in which it may be better enabled, so as to equip cities of SADC for the role they must play in pursuit of targets in the New Urban Agenda and UN Sustainable Development Goal 11.

Anatomy of a Crisis: Structural Factors Contributing to the Collapse of Urban Municipal Governance in Emfuleni, South Africa

(2021) 32(1) Urban Forum 1-15 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12132-020-09406-4)

Through the example of a major instance of governance collapse in the Emfuleni local municipality, this article discusses the fault-lines in the legal and structural architecture underlying governance of South African cities and towns. It argues that, while human failings explain some of the municipality’s failings, there are also deeper problems around municipal demarcation, intergovernmental relations, urban autonomy and local government financing.

Read the article here

Shifting Paradigms from Between the Lines? Legal Internalizations of the Right to Adequate Housing in South Africa

in Nestor M Davidson and Geeta Tewari (eds) Law and the New Urban Agenda (Routledge, London and New York, 2020) pp 131-144

Interrogates the New Urban Agenda’s non-binding normative nature, deference to domestic law and ambiguity towards legislation by engaging with the uneven legal internalisation of the constitutional right of access to adequate housing, and constitutional commitments to subsidiarity and devolution, in South Africa.

Law and the New Urban Agenda can be purchased in hard copy or as an e-book through Routledge’s website, here.

Components of Rights-based Urban Service Delivery

in South African Cities Network Urban Governance Paper Series Volume 1 (edited by Danga Mughogho, 2019)

Overviews constitutional standards and supporting legislative and policy frameworks, as well as high-level case law on urban service delivery in South African cities, in order to arrive at a sense of both local government and urban residents’ rights and obligations in relation to essential urban services.

The Urban Governance Paper Series is available through the South African Cities Network Website, here.

Local Government Law, Development and Cross-border Trade in the Global Cities of SADC

(2020) 13(1) Law & Development Review 127-157

Considers the interactions and interdependencies between local government law, urban governance, developmental objectives and formal as well as informal cross-border trade between cities in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Urban autonomy in South African intergovernmental relations jurisprudence

(2019) 13(2) Vienna Journal on International Constitutional Law 119-146

Overviews decisions of the South African Constitutional Court that upheld or restrained urban autonomy in intergovernmental disputes, in trying to ascertain the ambit and extent of urban municipal autonomy in the South African constitutional system.

A year of living dangerously? Urban assertiveness, cooperative governance and the first year of three coalition-led metropolitan municipalities in South Africa

(2019) 46(1) Politikon  51-70

Assesses instances of urban assertiveness in a political context of “vertically divided authority”, in three South African metropolitan municipalities which fell to be governed by  opposition-party coalitions after the 2016 local government elections.

Socio-economic rights adjudication and democratic urban governance: Reassessing the “second wave” jurisprudence of the South African Constitutional Court

(2018) 51(1) Verfassung und Recht in Ubersee 12-34

Considers the socio-economic rights judgments of the South African Constitutional Court within a broader framework of judgments concerning different aspects of democratic participation in urban local government.

Where is the periphery even? Capturing urban marginality in South African human rights law

(2019) 56(6) Urban Studies 1182-1197

Questions the usefulness of the notion of an “urban periphery” for efforts to capture and ameliorate urban marginalisation and exclusion through human rights-based litigation, focusing on the complexities of marginal urban life in South Africa’s Gauteng City Region.

Urban assertiveness, legal frameworks, informal networks and inter-city trade in cities of SADC

WTI/SECO Working Paper 22/2017

Investigates formal and informal economic activities and linkages between major cities in the SADC region and considers how these are impacted by cities’ formal powers and by urban governance practices in the region.

Rights, regulation and bureaucratic impact: The impact of human rights litigation on the regulation of informal trade in Johannesburg

(2017) 20 Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal 1-28

Considers the impact of the South African Constitutional Court decision in the matter of South African Informal Traders Forum v City of Johannesburg (the “Operation Clean Sweep” case) on the governance of informal trade in inner-city Johannesburg.

Geography, marginalisation and the performance of the right to have access to health care services in Johannesburg

(2016) 20 Law, Democracy & Development 1-19

Explores geographical and performative dimensions of the right to health by focusing on the way in which it is exercised in urban space, specifically in the city of Johannesburg. A number of target-group-specific and geographically aware municipal health initiatives are evaluated accordingly.

Perverts, outlaws and dissidents: (Homo)sexual citizenship and urban space in Johannesburg

Explores interlinkages between physical enactment of the right to the city, spatial dimensions of urban sexual citizenship and legal invocation of anti-discrimination-based sexual orientation rights in the city of Johannesburg.

(2015) 26 Urban Forum 97-112

A right to transport? Moving towards a rights-based approach to mobility in the city

(2015) 31 South African Journal on Human Rights 294-314 (with Thomas Cogin)

Situates public transport provision in South Africa within a constitutional framework and conducts a rights-based analysis of selected urban transport initiatives.

Law, rights, space and sexual citizenship in South Africa

(2015) 41 Social Dynamics 482-501

Reflects upon legal and spatial dimensions of urban sexual citizenship, and evaluates legal strategies employed to resist legal and spatial heteronormativity in South African cities.

Development, the right to the city and the legal and constitutional responsibilities of local government in South Africa

(2014) 131 South African Law Journal 149-177

Uses the “right to the city” as theoretical lens to consider the legal and constitutional powers, functions and obligations of urban local government in South Africa.

The right to the city and the urban environment: Re-imagining section 24 of the 1996 Constitution

(2014) 29 Southern African Public Law 175-193

Re-conceptualises South African environmental rights in an urban setting, through the lens of the “right to the city”.

Rights and the City: An exploration of the interaction between socio-economic rights and the city

(2012) 23 Urban Forum 257-278 (with Thomas Coggin)

Considers areas of overlap and interdependence between the “right to the city” and different justiciable human rights in the South African Constitution.