The Village in a Game Park: Local Response to the Demise of Coal Mining in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa



Abstract: Changing economic circumstances as a result of deindustrialization and market forces dramatically affect local areas and lead to a variety of local-level responses. Economic change and the reaction to this process have received much attention in the context of the decline of old heavy industrial regions in Western Europe and North America. But deindustrialization is also occurring elsewhere, for example, in countries such as South Africa, where the decline of mining and related industries is having a severe impact on the livelihoods of individuals, households, and communities. Considerations of institutional thickness, resourcefulness, and capacities inherent within host communities contribute to an understanding of the likely potential of the development response undertaken. This article considers the situation in a once important coal-mining region in northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, focusing particularly on the community of Utrecht. In the postapartheid period, unemployment in the area has escalated, at a time when greater empowerment of the historically disadvantaged black population is urgently needed. Through cooperation within the community, together with the injection of external funding and collaboration in a series of joint ventures, Utrecht is progressively rebranding itself as a center for tourism. A number of community-initiated projects are discussed, and the dynamics of the formulation and implementation of the projects are evaluated in the context of the capabilities of individuals and institutions.