It seems evermore important to get a better understanding of why tourism and conservation spaces in South Africa are still larded with racial segregation that perpetuates for so long, almost 30 years after apartheid was formally abolished. Together with co-authors Bram Buscher and Lerato Thakholi I worked on research that addressed this question, leading to our paper about ‘green apartheid’ and the crucial role of capital in this perpetuation. The paper is part of a special issue we are co-editing in Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space. Moreover, a documentary on Dutch national television (named ‘groene apartheid’) was inspired by this paper and some of our other collaborative research. The abstract of ‘green apartheid’:
In this paper, we explore relations between race, capital and wildlife conservation in the town of Hoedspruit and its surroundings, which has developed into one of the main centres of the lucrative and rapidly growing ‘wildlife economy’ in South Africa. Behind its image as a shining ‘green’ example of wildlife-based development is a highly unequal and racialised state of affairs that is deeply unsustainable. At the core of these dynamics are private wildlife reserves, high-end nature-based tourism and gated ‘wildlife estates’, which have further consolidated land into private, mostly white, ownership. In addition to contestations about the building of a shopping mall and land claims, Hoedspruit’s wildlife economy is dependent upon black labourers who commute daily from former homeland areas. Municipal efforts to mediate this situation by building affordable housing, have been thwarted by several wealthy inhabitants and property developers. We build on Mbembe’s ‘logic of enclosure’ to argue that the wildlife economy and its ‘green’ image perpetuate and reinvent older forms of colonial and apartheid geographies of segregation, in effect creating a form of ‘new green apartheid’. While physical-geographical enclosures are at the centre of the wildlife economy, we show that they are reinforced by class and racial enclosures and ideological enclosures, the latter consisting of both the belief in the market as a natural solution for social and environmental causes and apartheid as an historical era that has now ended. We conclude that Hoedspruit serves as an important example of the regressive and unsustainable forms of development that the wildlife economy in South Africa can create.