help or hindrance?
School of Architecture, Planning and Housing
University of Natal, Durban
The paper will focus on the use of Information Technology on the Cato Manor Development Project in Durban, an endeavour committed to the reconstruction of South Africa's second largest city. The focus will be on an instant where the legitimacy of the project was challenged by former residents, removed from the area during the Apartheid era, and the role of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Technology in resolving that conflict. The paper will seek to explore the relationship between technology and marginalisation and will argue that technology is not necessarily a value-free tool. It will show that the incorporation of Information Technology in the planning process can be instrumental in influencing a development decision that is often contrary to the interests of those directly affected by it.
1. GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS, INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES AND DEVELOPMENT: AN INTRODUCTION
The use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is accepted by planning professionals in developing countries as valuable in advancing development. As a system that enables one to capture, store, update, manipulate, analyse and display all forms of spatially referenced information (ESRI, 1990) it provides the development practitioner (planner, technician, researcher) with a powerful tool in the management and monitoring of the development process. It is also a product of its time: the maturation of GIS as technical method, its evolution as a professional field, cannot be disassociated from the cultural and socio-economic environment within which it evolved. The advantages afforded by a GIS in gathering, storing and using geographic data efficiently and speedily not only reflects the ongoing concerns of a society married to the advantages of computer technology but is also reflective of the currency of information as a means to progress.
As a spatial information tool, the use of GIS is representative of the focus on spatiality that has come to dominate our social and cultural existence. In its visual representation of the social, economic and physical complexities, it not only aggregates complex phenomena into an accessible spatial construct, but also places "the ‘visual' and the ‘spatial' at the center of social life" (Pickels, 1995: viii). It is able to do so through a system of techniques and methods that have evolved into a disciplinary code and practice which, in the context of South Africa, is employed in practice as one of the more valuable tools available for development.
This paper seeks to engage with the theme of Information Technology and Planning on three levels: at the project level, it seeks to uncover the use of GIS and its impact on the end-user. It will argue that GIS is not value-free, and has an impact that stretches beyond the technical. However, in order to give a fair interpretation of this dynamic, the use of information technologies needs to be seen within the larger context of reconstruction and development. Thus, at a broader level, this paper seeks to engage with the developmental goals of planning in a post-Apartheid South Africa. The Cato Manor Development Project, in Durban, the largest integrated development project in South Africa will be discussed. Particular attention will be paid to an instant in the progression of the project when its legitimacy was challenged by former residents that were removed from the area during the Apartheid-era. However, through examining the more abstract and perhaps theoretical dimension of this case study, the paper also seeks to engage with issues of memory and space: people's relationship to space and the impact of memory on that dynamic.
The paper is intended to ask normative questions with regards to the use of technology in the planning process, but it also engages with larger issues surrounding the interplay of power in the planning process and how the planner mediates that relationship through the use of Information Technology.
2. THE CATO MANOR DEVELOPMENT PROJECT (CMDP)
2.1 An overview of Cato Manor and its history
Cato Manor, its history, its present composition and perhaps its future, is representative of the complexity and intricacy that is South Africa. Located approximately 5km west of the centre of Durban (a city of approximately 3 million people, the second largest in South Africa) the area comprises 2000ha of undulating topography that is home to approximately 86 000 people (CMDA: 2000). A large number of these live in informal settlements while the remaining formal dwellings consist of relatively new low- to medium income dwellings flanked by established medium- to high income residential areas.
The area has a problematic history that spans more than a century from when George Cato, Durban's first mayor, settled there in 1845. Cato and his descendants farmed this land until the early 1900's, after which it was subdivided into a number of smaller farms. Land was hired out or sold to Indian market gardeners, many of who substituted market gardening for shack farming from the 1930's. The market for shack farming was facilitated by the influx of African labour into Durban as the City became more industrialised; thus shacks were mainly occupied by African migrants in an area that became known as Mkhumbane. By the 1950's there were between 45 000 to 50 000 people living in the area, many of them in congested shacks.
Following the entrenchment of racial spatial segregation through the Group Areas Act of 1950, as well as Local Authority concerns with public health, "temporary" Emergency Camps were created by the Local Authority in anticipation of future removals. This fate was sealed when Cato Manor was declared a "White Area" in 1959, following which Africans were forcibly removed to the new townships of Kwa-Mashu and Umlazi, and Indian people to an area called Chatsworth.
By 1968 Cato Manor was left vacant, with the exception of some Hindu temples, vacant stores and half-empty schools. The area was to remain vacant as initiatives to have it redeveloped failed. In the 1980's approximately 200 families were still living in the area, some of them related to former residents (Butler-Adam and Venter, 1984). Some middle income housing was developed in the late 1980's, after the area was declared an "Indian" Group Area in 1979, but opposition to the racial policies that Cato Manor was such a familiar victim of was beginning to mount under the leadership of local community organisations. In the transitionary period following the unbanning of the African National Congress in 1990 re-occupation of Cato Manor began in earnest the early 1990's. Large tracts of land were invaded by people fleeing violence in townships, or seeking accommodation closer to the City (Edwards, 1989). By mid-1990's, Cato Manor was inhabited by a large number of informal settlements, some middle income housing and some physical remnants of its past.
Given the area's history, its new composition and its favourable location, the area became a focus of development efforts in the early 1990's when the Cato Manor Development Forum (GCMDF) was established as a collaborative effort to engage all relevant stakeholders in determining a way forward for the area. Development of Greater Cato Manor has, since 1993, been facilitated by the Cato Manor Development Association (CMDA), a Section 21 (not for profit) organisation that acts as an agent for the local authority, the Durban Metropolitan Council.
2.2 Reconstruction and Development in Cato Manor
CMDA's mandate to develop the area is the outcome of the collaborative process facilitated initially by the GCMDF. The overall directive of this mandate is to develop Cato Manor as an integrated urban development project aimed to address the housing and social needs of the poor. As a multi-sectoral initiative it combines the delivery of housing, social services and infrastructure with economic development and capacity building. The project was given national status when it was declared a Presidential Lead Project in the nation's Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) in 1995. As a result the project represents funding in excess of R300 million from amongst others, the European Union, local and provincial government.
The CMDA facilitates, manages and monitors this development, and collaborates with a number of public (national, provincial and local government) and private (consultants) partners to do so. With the spatial and policy framework for development indicated in its Policy Framework and Structure Plan, development of the area is essentially project-based in accordance with a number of sectoral programmes: economic, social, educational, recreational etc. An annual work programme of projects is formulated each year, located spatially and implemented within an overall budgetary framework. Each project is subject to stringent deadlines with delivery being the overriding factor in the progression of the project.
CMDA's GIS was established in 1996 with the initial objective of aiding the land assembly process. It soon became apparent that the system was capable of playing a larger role in the ongoing implementation of the project. Today it serves as an information resource as well as a management tool. It provides information to CMDA staff and consultants on a continual basis whilst tracking the progress of more than sixty projects within the study area. Project information is mapped and updated whilst the base information required to inform the design and implementation of projects is stored accordingly. (CMDA, 1999) Thus, the GIS is an important cog in the wheel of implementation that underpins the success or failure of the CMDP. It is often used as a reporting tool (mapping, visual indication of progress) and seen to be an important institutional tool, a fact acknowledged by the project's primary funding source, the European Union, as reflected in its ongoing funding of the CMDA GIS.
The CMDP is an important initiative that has achieved status as an area-based urban development initiative. The project is endorsed by the Local Authority as an important contributor to revitalising the Durban Metro region (CMDA, 1999). Development of the area has not remained uncontested however. Opposition to the project has often been due to its location as well as its history. Its location on the fringes of established middle- to higher income suburbs, and its mandate to focus on lower-income development has led to a number of inter-neighbourhood conflicts. But the most profound challenge to the project stems from Cato Manor's history when former residents from the area challenged the principles underpinning the project. This conflict was one surrounding access to land within Cato Manor, and was focussed around the issue of Land Restoration.
2.3 The Cato Manor Land Claims Court Hearing and Settlement Process
The apex of this conflict occurred when the CMDA applied to the KwaZulu Natal Land Claims Court for a Section 34 order in terms of the Restitution of Land Rights Act of 1994. The nature of the application was such that it sought from the court an order that land not be restored to claimants dispossessed of their land during the Apartheid years. An important feature of Section 34 is that it does not compromise claimants' access to other forms of restitution, such as financial compensation or access to alternative land. The granting of such an order by the Land Claims Court is to be based upon the notion of the "public interest". No such order shall be granted by the Court unless it is satisfied that "it is in the public interest that the rights in question should not be restored to any claimant" (DLA, 1994) in such a case.
CMDA was the first applicant to appear before the KZN Land Claims Court in December 1996. The case continued in 1997. The court hearing proved to be highly charged with emotion. Of the over 3000 former residents of Cato Manor that lodged claims with the Regional Land Claims Commissioner, roughly 450 opposed the application by the CMDA. Perusal of the court transcripts, news reports and opinions of stake holders with regards to the Section 34 application reveals a complex and painful web of intrigue. Whichever level one analyses the process, the hearing reflects the power of memory, of recollection of the past, in the present. Where restitution was intended to facilitate the "political ideals of reconciliation, reconstruction and development by redressing the past", the Section 34 hearing showed just how powerful that past is in trying to negotiate a future (Thompson, 1999: 1). Popke (1999: 3) describes the conflict as one between "competing visions of social space deployed by the land claimants and the CMDA". A reflection on the hearing supports this to some extent and perhaps questions of space and identity are pertinent to this case study. How that identity is defined and exactly who defines it is in some ways a product of history. For in South Africa the way in which people's identity's were intrinsically linked with where they were mapped to be in space is perhaps one of the most profound legacies of Apartheid. It was through a series of spatial strategies that the discourses of exclusion came into play and Cato Manor is perhaps one of the most prominent examples of this in reality.
As it became apparent that the time and cost associated with the court hearing was essentially prohibitive, a settlement was agreed upon as an alternative more conducive to reaching consensus on the issue. The aim of the Agreement was to find a way through which respondents' claims could be considered in the CMDP. A Memorandum of Agreement was finally signed between the local authorities, the CMDA, the Participants (former residents), the Regional Land Claims Commissioner and the Department of Land Affairs in May 1997. The preamble to the agreement reflects the "uneasy compromise between restitution and development " (Thompson, 1999: 9) in the words" ...noting further that the participants would have preferred to challenge the constitutional validity of section 34 of the Act, the applicant and the participants have nonetheless resolved to settle their differences with this agreement" (North Central Local Council et al, 1997: 2).
The Agreement was subject to strict time frames and makes enormous demands on the capacity and management of the CMDA and the Regional Land Claims Commissioner. The onerous time limits led one of the legal representatives to note in a newspaper article that "The Cato Manor settlement was negotiated by gun-point" (Daily News, 24/4/97). So strong was the feeling from a number of claimants that an interdict was brought before the Land Claims Court to stop the development of land parcels which constitute the subject matter of claims representing a group of 180 claimants. The feeling was that "despite demand, no data which assists the (claimants) ...had been made available while development in Cato Manor proceeds...there has likewise been no more than a feeble attempt to engage land claimants in the social process unfolding in Cato Manor" (Daily News, 15/5/96). An urgent appeal to the interdict by the CMDA was granted and the Settlement Agreement was implemented with the inclusion of these claimants.
Th settlement process required the investigation of the feasibility of restoring land to claimants by the CMDA. This assessment was based on a number of criteria that include land ownership, topographical elements, geotechnical stability and planned projects on the CMDA Annual Work Programme. An automated GIS process tested each claim against these criteria reaching a conclusion on whether the restoration of the claim was deemed feasible or not. This information was then submitted to the claimant and his/her legal representative and used during the course of the mediation. In many ways the GIS assisted in ensuring that the stringent deadlines prescribed by the Agreement be met. It also proved to be a useful information management tool for this purpose. More significantly, however, the process was essentially a planning exercise, driven to a large extent by GIS technology.
An assessment of the feasibility process from respondents interviewed reveals a varied reaction to the output. The fact that it allowed for a process whereby a one-on-one interaction could result in an agreed solution was supported as a more positive alternative to the Court process. Yet, many felt that the nature of the mediation were too technical, and the outcome essentially determined by technical / planning concerns. From those outside the CMDA, the response was that the result must be pleasing to the CMDA....implying that it was the CMDA that gained most from the process. The initial feasibility exercise resulted in 290 out of 353 claims deemed not feasible to restore (another 94 claims could not be mapped). Of the 290, 6 cases were referred to arbitration, with 2 of these deemed feasible to restore, contrary to the initial definition of not feasible by the CMDA.
The Agreement was seen to be historical in many ways however: some saw it address some of the inherent contradictions between urban development as envisioned by the RDP and the restitution ideals of the Restitution of Land Rights Act. Others felt that the Restitution of Land Rights Act was not sufficient in dealing with urban land claims and that the Agreement addressed some of these shortcomings.
Regardless of the opinion on the outcome of the Agreement, the process portrays an interesting case study of how the planners technical tools and expertise can be used in the negotiation process. Conversely, it also shows how powerful technical knowledge is in determining the outcome of a consensus-seeking process.
3. SYNTHESIS OF ISSUES PERTAINING TO GIS AND PLANNING
In assessing the actual conflict, as reflected in the Court Hearing, and the Settlement thereafter, on is struck by the complexity of the issues that impact on planning and development in a post-Apartheid South Africa. History is powerful, and how that recollection relates to people's experience of space and identity is particularly poignant. But perhaps more relevant is how that space is defined and represented, and by whom. The following looks at two sets of issues that emerge if one consider the interface between technology and planning in this particular case study.
3.1 Planning, the use of GIS and the "public interest"
The notion of the "public interest", as presented by the CMDA was one that centred on implementation and results. It was one assisted by the technical tools embedded in the project, the most prominent being the GIS.
There were two levels at which the CMDA represented this argument during the Court Hearing: the first centred on the development process and the potential disruption that would be afforded by the settlement of land claims. The initial emphasis was on the fiscal and funding aspects of the project. Given the large financial commitment to the CMDP, the various land agreements in place with local authorities, and the complex nature of the project, restoration of land claims was seen to be potentially disruptive and a threat to future development. Emphasis was placed on the actual process through which claims would need to be validated and verified and the impact that would have on the development cycle. The mere practicalities of reserving land claims areas until claims are resolved through the Restitution of Land Rights Act process would make development on the scale of the CMDP difficult and delay the development process.
Secondly, the CMDA maintained that restitution was seen to be an important objective that could be addressed through means other than restoration; restoration was simply not practical from a spatial point of view. This was illustrated visually through deployment of the CMDA's GIS: through overlaying the claims mapping onto the spatial location of projects, the difficulty in allowing for claims was illustrated. A key element at the Court Hearing stage in proving the CMDA's claim legitimate, was therefore the GIS. It was decided initially to include the system in the Court proceedings, but this was later dismissed as impractical. Whilst the Act made provision for alternative land and financial compensation, the CMDA makes provision for former residents in its allocation policy as well as by designating "suitable" land for alternative settlement by claimants. The latter was a land analysis process driven by GIS in identifying "suitable" land, in most cases on the fringes of the actual development.
The definition of the public interest is of course subject to who defines it and is therefore reliant on the rationality that informs that denotation. Reflection on the court hearing illuminates a planning rationality informed by sound technical principles, illustrated through the use of information technology, which was juxtaposed with an argument infused with emotion and a need to redress past injustices. The view of one planner that "we can't turn back the clock." (Sunday Times, 22/9/96) is challenged by Popke (1997: 18) as forgetting that the past "is not a mere slice of time, but is preserved in memory". The "irrationality" of memory, emotion and history were argued to be essential elements of the social processes towards reconstruction and development (Stewart, in Sneller, 1997: 902).
The settlement process that followed the Court Hearing was also seen as one driven by technical concerns and methods. A number of respondents interviewed felt that feasibility reports were based upon the premise of "not feasible". It was emphasised that the role of the planner and the GIS-produced plans was indeed a key determinant in affecting the outcome of many of the mediation procedures. Observation at Mediation procedures, and subsequent interviews with some of the claimants support this view: those involved in the mediation procedures felt themselves technically unequipped to challenge the GIS-produced reports and maps. Although an effort was made by the CMDA in making the documentation as "user-friendly" as possible, there were no technical staff actually present at these proceedings. Thus, in formulating a spatial compromise (in the spirit of mediation) between the claimant and the CMDA, the legal staff representing both parties were essentially unequipped. Arbitrations however are presided upon by technically minded people and reflected a better technical understanding of the issues at stake. Ironically, these proceedings were seen to be more reflective of joint solutions.
3.2 Technocracy or democracy? - the planner recast as technocrat
Reflected in the arguments posed by legal council for the objectors, is a perception that the CMDA's approach to planning was technocratic, mechanical and inflexible. The fact that the CMDA was going for an "all or nothing" approach in not accommodating restoration at all was indicative to some of a narrow approach to development.
This was most vigorously and competently expressed by the University of Natal's Campus Law Clinic. The inclusion of land claims was explored in a breakdown of the planning process from the policy through to spatial planning level. The suggestion was made that a land claim was just another constraint, such as a property under private ownership or any other caveat, and could therefore be dealt with in a similar way. It was argued that not only was this technically possible but that "it reflects a proper and appropriate approach to planning - people-centred planning, adopting a social justice model, not a social engineering or technicist approach to planning, and that really the exigencies of Cato Manor demand that approach to planning is taken..." (Stewart, in Sneller, 1997: 379). The response to that was that given the enormity and holistic nature of the planning of Cato Manor , and the fast track approach needed, dealing with each claim at the micro level in such a way was not feasible. The delay in confirming the validity of each claim would sterilise and cause delays in the development of land and delay development (Ibid.: 380). Yet, the contrary view was, that given the technical means at the CMDA's disposal (in particular the GIS), this should be possible. CMDA was not unable, but unwilling factor land claims into its development procedures.
On another level, the CMDA, as an agent of the Durban City Council, was seen as representative of the old regime. Its resistance to restoration was interpreted as a resistance to restitution per se. The impression that people were again to be deprived of their land was reflected when the remark was made: "...this smacks of the old regime. A process was started. People did a piece of work. They didn't worry about the people who were really concerned, who were really affected by the disposition. And the very same thing I see happening again." (Narain, in Sneller, 1997: 403). What became apparent was that the distrust and the resentment of the Durban City Council in view of the history of Cato Manor was extended to the present council and by extension to the CMDA. At one time the CMDA was accused of being engaged in old time social engineering through their GIS-produced plans, "that the applicant is involved in the same kind of racist social engineering that the City Council was about..." (Moosa, in Sneller, 1997: 1030), a statement vehemently denied by the CMDA.
Technical concerns and approaches were seen to be the drivers of the Settlement Procedure also. The central role that technical staff played in this process placed the CMDA in a very powerful position, according to some of the key respondents (Walker and Ramgobin, 1999). The opinion was that the conflict resolution process had become a technical process and limited in the amount of debate generated between participant and applicant. Ironically, planners were not required to be present at the Mediation procedures, although the material used to determine an outcome was essentially technical in nature. The output from the GIS was seen to be self-explanatory and rational.
4. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND PLANNING: SOME ISSUES FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION
The case study in this paper was intended to illustrate an instant in South Africa's recent development history where the underlying notions of reconstruction and development were challenged by those so severely impacted on by the country's history. It is interesting from the point of view from those engaged in the practice of planning. Notions of progress, delivery, implementation feature highly in South African development discourse, mainly because the pressures to deliver are so pressing. The need for people-centred development is embedded in the key principles of the government's's Reconstruction and Development Programme and is certainly one of the key tenets that the CMDP is based upon. Yet, what makes this case study interesting, is that the "people" around which development efforts are centred, are not represented by one unifying voice or one set of concerns. Concerns of history, reparation, restitution feature as highly on the post-Apartheid government's agenda. Yet marrying these concerns with goal-oriented planning - as assisted by technology - is, as seen in this example, problematic.
Thus, in examining the interplay between Information Technology and planning, one sees that the use of GIS is not value-free but intricately connected to the objectives and the agendas of those that control its use. In doing so it becomes a powerful technical resource; one that relies on the skill and training of those that use it. Given the current thematic relationships in planning discourse surrounding knowledge and power, the relationship between experiences of space, power and technology are difficult to ignore as intimated by Planning theorists such as Bent Flyvbjerg and Charles Hoch. In examining Technological tools in planning, one immediately comes face to face with the power relationships embedded in planning as discipline. As shown in this exploration of Cato Manor, exploring how the use of Information Technology impacts on people's relationships to, and experiences of, space; reflects on how they experience planning and planning intervention. The Cato Manor example is particularly relevant for two reasons: its spatial planning history is particularly problematic, given the history of forced removals and Apartheid planning. Secondly, this experience informed the way in which former residents responded to, and participated in the Cato Manor Land Claims Court Hearing and Settlement process. The court hearing reflected the outcome of a conflict between claimants wanting their land back and the CMDA. Scratch the surface a little harder and a struggle over a new spatial and social order emerges with questions of space and identity pertinent to this case study. How that identity is defined and exactly who defines it is in some ways a product of history. For in South Africa the way in which people's identity's were intrinsically linked with where they were mapped to be in space is perhaps one of the most profound legacies of Apartheid. It was through a series of spatial strategies that the discourses of exclusion came into play and Cato Manor is perhaps one of the most prominent examples of this in reality.
A number of themes emerge. There are two that are particularly pertinent to this paper:
The use of information technology, and particularly GIS, is pertinent to the notion of progress and advancement, and within the context of South Africa, an essential part of achieving results within the practice of planning and development. The latter is associated with the ideals of traditional developmentalism: development that achieves results within a specific time frame, with sophisticated technical tools being used within the ambit of the "development project", the unit within which this progress is achieved.
Debates focussed on the power relations embedded in development practice often refer to the relationship between planning "expert" and those affected by "development decisions". Thus, the tools, techniques and methods utilised in establishing, maintaining and operating GIS can be seen as a deepening of this dynamic. The product that is an outcome of these processes is one that, firstly, represents a degree of aggregation and generalisation; and secondly, represents a degree of interpretation particular to the use of the product. Basically, the practice and outcome of a GIS-led process is not value-free. It is often representative of those that operate it, the agency that uses it and the funder that pays for it. It does not necessarily reflect the interests of those affected by it. GIS must be seen as an extension of larger institutional goals, which in the context of the development project, is associated with the development goals contained within that project. (Harris et al, 1995: 201).
The CMDP has been largely successful in its developmentalist aims; and
these objectives are relevant in a society experiencing increasing poverty
and inequality. What the paper has attempted to illustrate through the
uncovering of this case study therefore, is the following: Information
technology is powerful and influential, as powerful and influential as
those that pay for it, use it and interpret it. The intention, therefore,
is to advance a critical perspective on the use of information technology
and its interface with the inclusionary as well as the exclusionary results
of planning. It asks questions of the use of technology in development;
but in doing so it asks questions of those that use it.
Court Transcripts as recorded and transcribed by Sneller Recordings (Pty) Ltd. In the Land Claims Court of South Africa held at Durban-Westville in the Matter of Cato Manor, Volumes 1 to 5, January to April 1997.
Republic of South Africa, Department of Land Affairs, Restitution of Land Rights Act (22 of 1994).
Cathy Ferguson, Manager: Spatial Planning and Information Systems (1996 to 2000), CMDA.
Asha Ramgobin, Director, Campus Law Clinic, University of Natal, Durban.
Cheryl Walker, Kwa-Zulu Natal Land Claims Commissioner.
A. Cebekulu, Former resident of Cato Manor.
Z. Haneef, Legal Representative, CMDA.
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Popke, J. 1997. (Post) Colonial Spirits: Deconstructing Apartheid Space and Identity in Cato Manor, presented at the History and African Studies Seminar Series, University of Natal, Durban.
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Daily News, 15/5/96
Sunday Times, 22/9/96