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Aerial photo showing location of Cato Manor,
seven kilometres from Durban’s CBD. The Drakensberg
mountain range lies 200 kilometres to the west.

Cato Manor is a 1 800 hectare area located seven kilometres to the west of Durban’s Central Business District (CBD) and traversed by the national N2 freeway. Cato Manor is currently home to some 90 000 people with a future population expected to reach 150 000.

Durban, also known as eThekwini, lies on South Africa’s eastern seaboard in the KwaZulu-Natal province and is home to some three million people. Its port is the busiest in sub-Saharan Africa, handling over 30 million tons of cargo annually. KwaZulu-Natal is one of nine provinces that make up South Africa. Although covering only 7.6% of the total land area, it is the most populous province in South Africa.

Cato Manor’s history is intertwined with the history of South Africa as a whole. Under the apartheid Group Areas Act of 1955 people living in Cato Manor were forcibly removed to the African townships of KwaMashu and Umlazi and the Indian township of Chatsworth. By the late 1960s, most of Cato Manor had been emptied and remained largely unoccupied and derelict for the next 20 years.

In the lead-up to South Africa’s transition to democracy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Cato Manor re-emerged as a contested urban space which attracted waves of land invasions, resulting in widespread informal settlement.
The political significance of the forced removals from Cato Manor in the 1960s, coupled with decades of official neglect, environmental degradation and the social consequences of rapid, uncontrolled informal settlement, provided the challenge for key role-players in Durban’s public community and non-governmental sectors to embark on a ground-breaking collaborative urban renewal initiative in line with the spirit of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).


Cato Manor emerged from apartheid South Africa as an area characterised by dislocation and social disarray. In the early 1990s, it was identified as a prime metropolitan redevelopment opportunity.

Over the last decade, the Cato Manor Development Association (CMDA) has facilitated the redevelopment of Cato Manor’s physical, social and economic landscape. The Cato Manor Development Project (CMDP) is the largest inner-city urban renewal project in post-apartheid South Africa and demonstrates that development can and must be comprehensive, holistic and integrated. Internationally, the CMDP has achieved the status of being a Best Practice model for sustainable urban development.


In 1992, delegates from 172 countries gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. For the first time, world leaders recognised the severity of the international crisis facing the environment. At the same time, in Cato Manor, Durban, South Africa, local community organisations, political parties, city and provincial authorities assembled to establish the Greater Cato Manor Development Forum, laying the foundations for a project that would become a national and international success story of integrated and sustainable urban development.

Ten years later, heads of state and government representatives from across the world are gathering once again in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the World Summit on Sustainable Development to review progress made since Rio and to explore new solutions to the problem of sustainability. Meanwhile, in Cato Manor, a vibrant, sustainable city-within-a-city is rapidly emerging, embracing and demonstrating the principles and approaches developed in the Local Agenda 21.


Mayor of Durban Councillor Obed Mlaba

"Cato Manor is one of our great success stories – not only for Durban, but also in the history of the redevelopment of South Africa. The Cato Manor Development Association (CMDA) was mandated to create an integrated development plan that would redress the imbalances created by the apartheid regime. This against a background of life threatening problems like violence and unrest.

Cato Manor has always been driven by the community, even in its glory days, it was a people’s place. This spirit has prevailed through all the development and planning and implementation phases and the people of Cato Manor are once again a community.

The European Union has expressed their delight with the success of the Cato Manor project and wants to replicate it in other areas, precisely because it does not merely create a housing development – it builds a community."


In 1997 the Cato Manor Development Association (CMDA) received substantial funding from the European Union (EU) as part of the EU’s Programme for Reconstruction and Development in South Africa. This followed the CMDP’s designation in 1995 as a Presidential Lead Project of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), under a programme targeting the renewal of key urban areas long neglected by the apartheid regime.

Of the EU’s 22.7 million budget, 14m was allocated to Infrastructure Services, 2.07m to Housing Finance, 2.39m to Income Generation, 2.88m to Administrative Support Services, 880 000 to Institutional Capacity Building and 480 000 to Administrative Costs. The guiding principles behind the EU’s investment are sustainability and replicability.