Time for Cinderella suburbs to join the party.

Posted On Wednesday, 29 January 2003 10:01 Published by
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Political musical chairs in the Cape Town unicity administration has led to urban renewal being given a low priority, according to Clifford Sitonga, a member of the executive committee.

Political musical chairs in the Cape Town unicity administration has led to urban renewal being given a low priority, according to Clifford Sitonga, a member of the executive committee.

But all this will change as the city gets set to tackle urban renewal projects with great urgency, says Sitonga.

Ten projects, including markets, station plazas and a play park, were completed in the city in 2001. And with more than 100 smaller projects under way, the challenge to the city is to tie them all together.

Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha, which were established as dormitory towns during the apartheid years, were identified by President Thabo Mbeki in 2001 as participants in a national government programme for urban renewal.

The suburbs were selected because they have the highest crime rates in South Africa. Both flank the sensitive False Bay coastal ecosystem and straddle aquifers, and both have to integrate with each other and in turn integrate with Cape Town.

According to Shahid Solomon, the city council's project manager for urban renewal, sizeable private investment has been secured for the development of a new retail complex in Khayelitsha, while the town centre at Mitchells Plain will be expanded.

Services have already been installed and construction will get under way later this year.

Sitonga says a number of projects have been identified, but a business plan has not yet been drawn up because urban renewal was not a priority of the previous administration.

'We need to drive it home that urban renewal is not just another project. We need to deal with the high levels of poverty and of crime.

'The president understands that we cannot reduce crime by employing more policemen. He also understands that we need to address the causes of crime, the socioeconomic causes,' Sitonga says.

Urban renewal must be a priority for the city and will be driven by the mayor, Nomaindia Mfeketo. Everybody from the city manager to officials must ensure that urban renewal projects are implemented.

He is aware of a deep frustration in the two communities that nothing has been done since the president's announcement two years ago.

In contrast, since mid-1999 investments of R9 billion - either planned or under way - have poured into the Cape Town central business district (CBD).

With a rejuvenated CBD, retailers are returning. Demand is increasing for retail space, with respondents asking for more supermarkets, restaurants and stores selling clothing, furniture and furnishings.

This small geographic
area accounts for about a fifth of the economic turnover of the metropole, 15 percent of the province's entire economy and over a quarter of all employment in the metropole.

While the CBD has been turned around, the focus is now on Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain, the Cinderellas of Cape Town and home to an estimated 1 million people, Sitonga says.

As the executive committee member responsible for human resources, economic development and tourism, Sitonga serves on the Khayelitsha Development Forum, which will later this year present a business plan to drive urban renewal.

An urgent task is the upgrading of informal housing, and with an estimated 70 000 shacks in the metropole. The city has commissioned a report to deal with the upgrading of shacks to serviced sites. The priorities are sanitation, water and electricity.

The report should be ready by the end of March so that it can influence the budget. Collective action needs to be taken so that shack dwellers can take charge of their own destinies, he says.

Solomon says Cape Town is lagging other development nodes and it is accepted that Alexandra, outside Johannesburg, is about three years ahead.

Transport minister Dullah Omar and finance minister Trevor Manuel have been assigned by Mbeki to give leadership in the urban renewal projects in Mitchells Plain. Safety and security minister Charles Nquakula will oversee Khayelitsha's development. They will be aided by Mfeketo, Western Cape premier Marthinus van Schalkwyk and a special executive committee subcommittee.

For urban renewal to succeed, however, the communities need to be part of the decision-making process and to sit on a board along with the councillors and political champions.

'The solution to Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain lies beyond the grasp of any one stakeholder. You are looking at such massive challenges and only integrated efforts by the community, business and central government can succeed,' says Solomon.

'We are talking about trying to better meet communities' needs for the full spectrum of services because the urban renewal programme also includes the other two levels of government.

'We are not just talking about taps and tar, we're talking about the schools, about systems, about the welfare system. Its all on the cards.

'In South Africa generally, we have gone through a lot of policy and strategy in government and legislation. But are we seeing delivery to the poor?

He says all three spheres of government must commit themselves to perform in addressing the community's real needs.

'We also need to empower communities to access the many opportunities Cape Town has to offer through development programmes like job creation and internet training programmes for the youth, for women.'

Solomon says the first executive committee meeting is scheduled for next month and he hopes that a lot of implementational recommendations will be adopted.

'Urban renewal does not mean that you flood the place with money. It rather means that you prioritise and align what you are doing with what the community wants to do.'

He says the city can aim for a five-year donor target of R1 billion and it can, with the other spheres of government and the private sector, put together a programme of between R2.7 billion and R6.5 billion over five years.

'If Alexandra, as one urban renewal node, could secure R1.2 billion of national government funding surely Cape Town, with two nodes, would be able to make its target.'

The city is already well advanced in negotiations for R150 million of grant funding from KFW, a German development bank, which picked out Khayelitsha in particular.

'We can't as a city turn our backs on the huge problems and challenges of Khayelitsha. In terms of our bill of rights and our constitution we're obliged to be concerned with all the citizens in our city,' says Solomon.

'If we don't deal with burning issues in our communities, those issues are going to affect everybody in the city.'

Michael Farr, the chief executive of the Cape Town Partnership, says interest is very high in stimulating inner city residential living, and the catalyst is the implementation of an effective city transportation system.

From April 11, 36-seater buses will operate for 18 hours a day in the CBD, Waterfront, Green Point and the lower City Bowl at 15-minute intervals, and for 12 hours on Sundays.

People will be able to move around without using cars because all the bus stops will be covered by closed-circuit cameras. This can lead to retailers extending trading hours, creating jobs in the process, Farr says.

'We're going to have this world-class inner city transport system that links with the metropolitan system, which was far from world class.'

It is ultimately the responsibility of Spoornet and the Rail Commuter Corporation, under which Metro Rail falls, to upgrade rolling stock and ensure that travel by train is safe, Farr says.

n This is part two in a four-part series on urban renewal, looking at Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria. Look out for part three tomorrow

Publisher: Business Report
Source: Business Report

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