22 May 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
Prof Das Steÿn was announced as the recipient of the prestigious Stals Prize this week (19 May 2020), awarded by the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns.

Prof Das Steÿn, former Head and currently a research fellow in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of the Free State (UFS), has been named the recipient of the prestigious Stals Prize this week (19 May 2020), awarded by the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns (South African Academy for Science and Arts).

The current Head of the Department, Prof Maléne Campbell, together with two academics from the North-West University, Profs Juanée Cilliers (Head of the Urban and Regional Planning group) and Ewert Kleynhans (School of Economic Sciences), nominated Prof Steyn for the award.

A lifetime’s work

The Stals Prize for Urban and Regional Planning was awarded to Prof Steÿn, based on his numerous publications in Afrikaans, the important role he played in the planning profession in South Africa, his major contribution to the planning of literature, as well as the academic development of urban and regional planning. The award recognises Prof Steÿn for a lifetime's work in the field of urban and regional planning – including his appointment as a lecturer (1980-2009) and also for his time as editor of the journal Stads-en Streekbeplanning / Town and Regional Planning / Meralo ya Ditoropo le Mabatowa (2000-2019).

“As editor of the journal for Urban and Regional Planning, Prof Steÿn set a very high standard. So much so that this UFS journal was listed earlier this year on the international SciELO (Scientific Electronic Library Online), a Norwegian database. As an academic, his research and theoretical knowledge of normative planning are also highly regarded,” says Prof Campbell.

Motivating Prof Steÿn’s nomination for the Stals Prize, Prof Campbell states that as editor, he has sought to highlight issues in the South African planning industry through well-founded headlines. “The journal also grew from a small local journal to a journal that is being read every month in more than 60 countries on the free access platform,” she adds.

In addition to this journal, Prof Steÿn has also published in other journals and written books that have appeared bilingually in South Africa. Then there is also a work that has appeared in Dutch in the Netherlands with his contribution in Afrikaans.

He applied a combination of the urbanistic concept with Christian philosophy in his work and published some articles on the topic.

Distinction between thought and action

Prof Steÿn says that in urbanistics, a distinction is made between the framework of thought and action. It is a matter of answering the ‘what?’, ‘how?’, and ‘why?’ questions.

He believes urbanistics is particularly useful in public participation to bring the various role players in planning together. It makes it possible to distinguish between the considerable number of factors that complicate matters. South Africa, with its unique situation regarding planning, may be able to make good use of this concept.

As example, he uses the matter of providing basic services such as electricity to a community. “At the first level of infrastructure, the problem of providing electricity is easy to solve: x people use y units, implying that z units must be provided. This solves the ‘what?’ part of the problem. The ‘how?’ question in the superstructure is also relatively easy to answer. Different engineers may have different solutions about the appropriate design of the distribution network and how it should link to the greater whole. Still, in the end, the most effective design will be sufficient.”
“The major crisis is in the ‘why?’ question. At the ideological level, basic services mean different things to different people. Basic services to the Marxist are a right that every person must receive free of charge, while the capitalist considers it a commodity that every human being should pay for to receive.”

“This simple example shows that there is a definite difference in viewpoints about the mere provision of electricity and that these attitudes of people will, as a matter of course, influence the planning process itself,” he explains. 

Recognising outstanding work

The Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns awards the Stals Prize for, among others, high-quality publications or a series of high-quality publications (preferably in Afrikaans) whereby extraordinary contributions are made to the practice of science.

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