In the heart of Cape Town's Khayelitsha township.

Posted On Tuesday, 18 February 2003 02:00 Published by
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SA's most densely packed settlement - lies a huge empty expanse of land.

In the heart of Cape Town's Khayelitsha township - SA's most densely packed settlement - lies a huge empty expanse of land. It is flanked on one side by the station and on the far edge there is a public swimming pool.

This sandy piece of ground, with a cow ambling slowly across it, is the Khayelitsha CBD - or at least, one day it will be.

The Khayelitsha CBD is part of the 'integrated urban renewal strategy' which, with its rural counterpart, is government's answer to the problem of development. The strategy was launched and is championed by President Thabo Mbeki himself, who announced it at the opening of parliament three years ago.

 The idea was to identify the poorest, most deprived areas of SA and to concentrate development there in a way that would make a visible difference. It was also hoped that by taking 'an integrated approach' in which all spheres of government and government departments worked together, development would be less haphazard. For example, clinics would not be built without a water supply and schools would not be built without toilets.

What does Mbeki have to show for the strategy three years later?

Progress has been slow. For most of the first year nothing happened. By year two the nodes due for special attention had been selected: 13 rural ones and eight in urban centres. There are now 137 rural projects and more than 100 urban ones, about half of which are ready for implementation.

In rural areas these projects include roads, bulk water supply, sanitation, construction of clinics and agricultural projects. In urban areas they are focused on trying to make proper urban centres in townships, which historically have been nothing more than the dormitories of nearby city centres.

Provincial & local government deputy DG Elroy Africa says a great deal of time has been spent on putting the necessary inter-governmental and support structures in place.

More than R500m has been committed to the projects across all government departments, says Africa, but he is unable to say how much of this has been spent. 'The rate of expenditure is not what we would have liked. One of the reasons for this is that when the president announced these projects, we were in the middle of establishing a new system of local government. Some of the nodes were completely new municipalities.'

In Cape Town, where two urban nodes were selected (Khayelitsha and Mitchell's Plain), progress has been slowest. Political wrangling and a change in the city and provincial administrations from DA to ANC have stalled development. All projects are on hold while new mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo takes stock.

In Khayelitsha, the only sign of progress is workmen digging holes to put R500m of bulk services into the sandy patch of ground. Council officials have specified the highest level of engineering services in the hope that big chain stores and retailers will invest here. When they do, Khayelitsha will have its own shops and become more than a dormitory for the first time in its history. Meanwhile, despite the over crowded shanty towns bursting out all over Khayelitsha, not a single shack has been built on 'the CBD'.

'The people are expecting development here and are waiting anxiously. They won't allow a single shack to be built here,' says an official.

The CBD project is the only one that has been approved as part of the renewal strategy in Khayelitsha. Several others proceed in an ad-hoc way. At Site C, a tightly packed shanty town, households are being marked for removal - either to a new location or rightwards or leftwards. In the path between them bulk services will be installed.

But none of these projects has benefited directly from its declaration as a presidential node.

In Mitchell's Plain, renewal plans are a little more advanced. A large new shopping mall is under construction, the town centre is being revamped at the cost of R22m and the informal traders moved out.

A taxi rank and bus terminus are being rebuilt, new office space is being planned and there are several housing developments.

As a transport and busy shopping area, Mitchell's Plain town centre has lots of appeal for private investors. But the overwhelming problem in the area is crime.

Africa says Cape Town has lagged behind because it 'failed to establish the institutional capacity' to run with the projects. By contrast, Johannesburg poured huge resources and capacity into the urban renewal node at Alexandra.

With a budget of R1,3bn, Alex's rehabilitation is well under way. It includes new types of housing initiatives, both housing for rent and high density 'walk-ups', the upgrading of hostels, rehabilitation of rivers and river banks for recreational purposes and the reclaiming of school grounds from squatters to convert them back into recreational areas. It also includes the development of the town centre by clustering social services and providing trading facilities.

Africa believes the real success of the integrated strategies lies not so much in the projects on the ground but in what has been achieved so far in getting the three spheres of government to work together.

'When we identified the 21 nodes, we wanted to begin to show in an exemplary way how to tackle problems of development together. Local authorities (working alone) develop plans that don't create opportunities for other spheres of government to interact,' he says.

After three years, Alexandra has provided an exemplar. But for rest, and particularly for the Cape Flats, the 'visible difference' has yet to be seen.

Source: Financial Mail

Last modified on Thursday, 20 August 2015 15:55

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