Historically and presently, still, cities remain focal points for economic growth, innovation and social development. It is where the vast majority of modern productive activities are still concentrated and where most opportunities for employment are located. It has been proven that “well-managed cities have the potential to offer important opportunities for economic growth, social engagement, and development” (Cunningham, 2016). Durban as a prominent metropolitan area in South Africa, Kwa-Zulu Natal Province should be the successful residual focal point of economic growth, adapting to new knowledge, technologies and responsive to a rapidly growing socio-economic need. The latest Sustainability Index report (2018) indicates a not so normal growth pattern within the eThekwini municipality. The trend is indicating abnormalities between the estimated growth of the city and the actual population growth. Abnormally increasing service delivery backlogs, increasingly high demand for accommodation and associated social facilities particularly in areas where the city is not expecting to grow in population. As a result, the municipalities are playing catch up which is challenging the validity of estimated 2% as annual population growth of the Municipality (Stats SA, 2015). The same growth rate is a baseline to guide service delivery planning, guide model to support socio-economic needs and guide land use allocation to support a good function city. The abnormalities in city growth are also questioning the role of Durban metro in the context of ability to provide financial sustainability to it, citizen, by providing access to economic activities, new knowledge, improved technology and employment opportunities to a growing society.
The first part of the study is aimed at providing an analysis of urban population growth dynamics that currently challenging the sustainability of city planning. Secondly, it will give a high level of urban currently available information about city dwellers' dynamics, city livelihood activities (both informal and illegal). The study will also define how current city challenges are directly and indirectly linked to urban migration, competing for land uses and the impact of unaccounted urban densities on planning processes. The research will provide a platform for understanding how urban services are being accessed (housing, water, electricity and waste management) by the migrants with a deeper observation in navigating the discussion of the appropriateness of the current model. The third aspect of this study will be reflecting deeper on consideration of urban policies and institutions for urban management or provisions that are in place. Then finally revisit city urban management programmes to ascertain what worked or not and how the city is coping with the rapid growth of service demand with the view of guiding a sustainable urban management model.