The 11th of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals adopted on 25 September 2015 (the new sustainable development agenda), focuses on the pursuit of cities that are inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. ‘Sustainable cities’ in a broad sense refer to cities that are environmentally, socially and financially smart and that are efficient and inclusive, with sound governance institutions, infrastructure and financing systems.’ Large parts of the available literature in urban studies, law and public administration focus on sustainable cities in the northern hemisphere (eg publications by the European Commission: World and European Sustainable Cities 2010; Evans et al 2005) and do not cater for the specific urban and development challenges of the African continent, amongst others.
As part of a joint Alexander von Humboldt funded research project on Safe and Sustainable Cities in Germany and South Africa: Comparative Legal Perspectives (2016-2018), this sub-project explores a number of governance theories and the reasoning in and implications of the Le Seuer-case to question the role of the judiciary in the interpretation and extension of the more traditional scope of local government power in South Africa. The main hypothesis is that the contemporary pursuit of ‘sustainable cities’, in South Africa and elsewhere, requires the reimagining of local government / city level authority in relation to the environment. The ultimate aim of this sub-project is thus to critically assess the role that the judiciary could, and ultimately should, play in more novel conceptions of city governments’ environmental authority in the establishment and maintenance of sustainable cities in South Africa.