The end of apartheid as a political force heralded the start of the post apartheid era. However, post apartheid South Africa is in many ways still attempting to liberate itself from the legacy of apartheid and precursors. The multiscalar spatial reach of apartheid impacted upon every area of life for individuals and communities in a complex, interlinked manner. Therefore, the success of efforts to overcome the legacy of apartheid in one sector of South African life are contingent on addressing many other aspects at a range of scales. For example, equal, or even redistributive, funding of education will not result in all schools having equal economic and educational resources. Historical underfunding of education has left many Coloured and black African schools with a significant proportion of underqualified teachers, particularly in rural areas. The spatial legacy of apartheid places black schools at a disadvantage in terms of access to valuable teaching resources and amenities in the city centers. The economic legacy leaves schools in poorer areas with less ability to raise school fees and additional funds to supplement state education provision. The legacy of lack of investment in black areas leaves the school community resource poor in terms of libraries and sports facilities. The educational legacy leaves schools contending with undereducated parents unable to provide the educational support for their children that children in areas of historic privilege have.
Returning to the idea that apartheid's power used spatial reordering at many scales to reinforce a political ideology, it is possible to observe the legacy of apartheid. At the macro scale, the state has stated its objective to redistribute 30% of South Africa's agricultural land to black farmers by 2014. The purpose of this is to break down the historical legacy of the homelands and reserves policies, which forced the black African population onto just 13% of South Africa's land, enforcing racial segregation. Land reform is critical for promoting equity, addressing past injustices, and providing sustainable rural livelihoods. However, at the time of writing, just 4% had been redistributed. This slow rate of change can be attributed to the protracted negotiations that take place within the current 'willing buyer, willing seller' system. There have been allegations that white farmers are only offering their worst land for sale and asking way over market value. There have been counter allegations that the state is not offering reasonable payment. As yet, land redistribution and land restitution have failed to significantly disrupt apartheid spatiality. In 2006 the government announced the first expropriation of land as a result of the failure of negotiations between a farmer and the Department of Land Affairs.
At the mesoscale, urban areas in South Africa are still largely constrained by the pre existing spatial framework. Individual movement across the Group Areas Act demarcations has been fairly limited for a number of reasons. An initial reason was the overcapitalization that had taken place in wealthier Coloured and Indian areas due to a shortage in housing stock. After the Group Areas Act was repealed in 1991 the value of these properties dropped, therefore making it difficult for people who wanted to buy into historically white areas. Houses of equal quality in historically white areas are still considerably more expensive than those elsewhere, therefore the economic legacy of apartheid makes racial desegregation difficult. In addition, many people do not wish to move from areas where they have developed a sense of community, into areas where they fear hostility from the existing racial community, part of the apartheid legacy of a racialized mindset. This limited desegregation is less evident in newer areas and in Johannesburg's wealthy Northern Suburbs, reflecting the rise of a considerable black middle class in Johannesburg.
Government has attempted to encourage desegregation through means such as the land restitution program. This program allowed individuals and communities dispossessed of land after 1913 to make a claim for the land from which they were removed, alternative land, or financial compensation. This program has had little impact in urban areas as, for various reasons, most urban claims have been settled through financial compensation, rather than land. The postapartheid city has been characterized by continued peripheralization of poor households. Since 1994, 2.3 million houses have been delivered by means of a capital subsidy toward site and service and a starter house. There is currently an estimated backlog of 2.4 million houses. This figure far exceeds original estimates of housing need and is driven by migration and reduced household sizes.
The vast majority of the new government provided houses have been located on the periphery of urban areas, largely as a result of the high cost of urban land. It has also been asserted that urban spatial policy was less radical than had been desired due to factors such as weak local government and pressure to demonstrate urban economic stability for international investment. In 2004, the Department of Housing identified a new policy focus, Breaking New Ground, which seeks to address this peripheralization. However, it is likely that the majority of poor households will continue to live in peripheral areas, whether in formal or informal housing, as a result of the chronic housing shortfall and limited budgetary capacity of the state.
In the post apartheid era the role of the country within the southern African region and the continent as a whole has been transformed. South Africa is now a critical political influence and economic driver within the region. At the same time as South Africa is realizing its new role in the regional and global economy, it is now also finding that its ability to overcome the apartheid legacy is profoundly influenced by the challenges of the global economy.
South Africa has undergone radical transformation in many spheres since the end of apartheid; however, given the continued impacts of many aspects of the system on the experiences of citizens today, it is not yet possible to conceive of the country without reflecting on apartheid. Apartheid and post apartheid remain fundamentally linked.