Secondary Cities in South Africa

  • Ronnie DonaldsonEmail author
  • Lochner Marais
  • Etienne Nel
Part of the GeoJournal Library book series (GEJL)


As early as the mid-1980s it was noted that there was no agreed-upon definition of what a secondary city is, and little progress has been made since then in finding common ground. Further complicating the matter, terms, such as ‘metro towns’, ‘satellite cities’ and ‘middle cities’ and, more commonly, ‘secondary cities’, ‘ordinary cities’, ‘small cities’ and ‘medium-sized cities’. The term secondary is generally viewed as being broader in scope, implying a city positioned somewhere around the middle level of the national urban hierarchy and playing a supplementary role in respect of functions. Urban research in South Africa is largely dominated by work on Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, and over the past decade there has been an emerging focus on small towns (Visser in Canadian Journal of African Studies 47(1):75–93, 2013; Visser & Rogerson in Urban Forum. pp. 1–11, 2014). This chapter builds on the small but emerging work on secondary cities over the past few years (Marais, Nel, & Donaldson in Secondary cities and development. Routledge, London, 2016) by presenting case studies of six secondary cities in South Africa: the City of Matlosana (Klerksdorp), eMalahleni (Witbank), Emfuleni (Vanderbijlpark and Vereeniging), uMhlathuze (Richards Bay and Empangeni), Polokwane (formerly Pietersburg) and George. First we define a secondary city and then briefly discuss national secondary city strategies. Before the discussion on the case studies we present a brief discussion on where these cities are located in South Africa.


Secondary cities Economy Development City function 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of StellenboschStellenboschSouth Africa
  2. 2.University of the Free StateBloemfonteinSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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