Abstract: As part of long-term comparative research into the Gauteng City-Region, this article presents mixed-methods studies in the informal settlement of Denver, located in the industrial belt southeast of Johannesburg’s city center. It unpacks the results of focus groups, ethnographic and expert interviews, as well as mapping with an innovative smartphone tracking application, comparing everyday life for several households in this area before the pandemic in 2019 and during the pandemic in 2020. Findings show that the pandemic exacerbated the disproportionate burdens related to gendered roles of household management, childcare, and mobility, both on the macro- as well as the micro-scale. The article thus defines the “gender–poverty–mobility nexus” that shapes space and everyday life in the Gauteng City-Region, precluding places like Denver from overcoming their marginality. Post-pandemic planning policy could be transformative for such spaces if it can build on this knowledge to better identify the needs of these vulnerable social groups and connect them to opportunities. It concludes with suggestions on how these empirically revealed dynamics could be translated into responses on the urban and regional scales, in the name of more equitable, resilient planning futures for Johannesburg and beyond.
Keywords: Covid-19; Denver informal settlement; Gauteng City-Region; gender inequality; infrastructure development; Johannesburg; mobility; poverty; South Africa