Young Urbanists South Africa
Roland Postma, 27, is the managing director of the nonprofit organisation, Young Urbanists South Africa. Roland, who has honours in regional and urban planning from the University of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, works to empower young people in urban areas to shape their cities and towns. This entails working with elected officials, the private sector and other stakeholders to devise solutions and programmes that make cities more livable, inclusive and walkable. Roland has successfully created a platform that encourages and empowers young people to become active citizens who make positive changes in their communities. As part of his work, he organises advocacy events that have raised awareness about critical issues such as urban planning and sustainability to undo apartheid spatial planning and to facilitate policy reforms. Among his achievements is his work in promoting youth participation in decision-making processes related to urban planning and development in Cape Town. He has, for example, facilitated discussions between young people, the City of Cape Town and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa. He is inspired by the words of Gustavo Petro, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, who said a developed country is not a place where the poor have cars; it’s one where the rich use public transportation. His dream for South Africa five years from now is one where cities have reliable and affordable public transportation such as trains, taxis and buses. Neighbourhoods will no longer be filled with endless concrete and monotonous malls, but will instead have walkable neighbourhoods with safe mixed-use and green spaces.
First class honours in regional and urban planning from the University of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia
I organised the first mayoral debate in post-apartheid South Africa on the role of urban planning, housing and land.
During my gap year, I had the opportunity to revisit my home country, South Africa where I explored our various cities and neighbourhoods by foot and public transportation. This experience inspired me to envision a different kind of urban South Africa, one that is responsive to the diverse needs of its citizen
The one piece of advice I would give to my younger self is to pause and try to be more mindful of the outcome I want to achieve rather than running a million miles an hour to achieve change.
Plus I would advise my younger self to have a balanced approach to life and look after myself before I try to look after others.
In my dream for South Africa five years from now, owning a car will no longer be a must. Instead, we will have safe walking and cycling infrastructure for women, children, people with disabilities and older people, as well as reliable and affordable public transportation such as trains, taxis and buses. We will transform our polluted rivers into thriving urban waterways that bring people together and break down apartheid spatial planning. Our neighbourhoods will no longer be filled with endless concrete and monotonous malls, but will instead have walkable neighbourhoods filled with safe mixed-use and green spaces.
In this vision of the future, we will no longer be a car-dependent and polluted country. Our rail system will be revitalised, and we will have supported light rail options like double-decker trams in Jozi or bullet trains connecting our major cities. Zebra crossings will be in abundance and respected by motorists, and we will have public spaces that prioritise people over cars, in return, allowing democracy to flourish where people can connect from all walks of life. Parents will feel safe letting their children play outside, and our people will no longer have to spend a significant portion of their income and time on transport.
This future is possible and if we start working towards it today it can be a reality in just five years’ time.