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Building a post-apartheid city on the banks of the Vaal River; reversing spatial injustice and economic marginalisation – David Makhura

DavidThis week the Gauteng Province opened a new chapter in the historical evolution and economic history of Sedibeng. We gathered to witness the regeneration of a key industrial node in the south of Gauteng which had once been a thriving hub of the steel industry and burgeoning towns of Vanderbiljpark and Vereeniging.We marked the birth of the Vaal River City, a new Hydropolis and entertainment hub in the south of Gauteng.

Together with the people of Sedibeng we witnessed the rebirth of a new Sedibeng economy which will serve as a catalyst to unlock the massive potential of the Vaal River as an asset that can create a new economy for the people of the region.

When we presented the first State of the Province Address of this administration on 27th June 2014, we made a commitment that the Gauteng Provincial Government will work with municipalities and national government to ensure that the marginal districts of West Rand and Sedibeng become the focus of key infrastructure investment and industrial interventions so that they too can grow as part of the mainstream economy of the GCR.

During the second State of the Province Address on 23rd February this year, we outlined a number of bold interventions to spatially reconfigure Gauteng as part of our programme for radical Transformation, Modernisation and Re-industrialisation.

These interventions included the following:

  • Industrial restructuring of the Gauteng along five development corridors that have specific industries and sectors with distinct comparative advantages;
  • Driving decisive spatial transformation through massive infrastructure development, including building of mega human settlements and post-apartheid cities, rollout of public transport, expanding broadband access to townships and marginal regions, broadening the energy mix, investing in water and sanitation infrastructure;
  • The revitalization and mainstreaming of the township economy as a sector that should grow into 30% of the provincial economy and contribute significantly to employment creation and economic empowerment;

With regard to Sedibeng, the Southern Development Corridor, we announced specific projects that we will implement with a view to building a new economy in the region, anchored around the Vaal River.

We know too well that part of our province has experienced significant economic decline following deindustrialisation as well as challenges facing the steel industry which for many years has been the backbone of the region’s economy.

Faced with this reality, we sought to intervene in a manner that will bring much needed economic development in the area. We seek to diversify the economy of the region away from its traditional reliance on the steel industry.

Among the things we said we would do is to will leverage the economic potential of the Vaal River. If one looks at the world map, you will see that many well-known and major cities of the world are built around rivers. Great river cities include New York City in the USA; Buenos Aires in Argentina; London in England; Cairo in Egypt; Kolkata in India; and Shanghai in China.

The plans we announced for Sedibeng were well received by all the relevant stakeholders. They ignited hope in the people of Sedibeng that tomorrow will be better than yesterday and today. Our plans give practical meaning to our on-going commitment to pursue even and balanced development across all parts of our province.

As we were outlining our plans we emphasised that gone are the days when some regions and municipalities will be neglected as the Cinderellas on the periphery of the provincial economy. We are determined to reverse the spatial injustice and economic marginalisation of regions such as Sedibeng.

We are indeed unrelenting in our quest to build a socially and economically inclusive Gauteng City Region. The launch of the Vaal River City Development is therefore the practical implementation of the vision and the plans we have outlined for this part of our province.We are a government that not only talks but we are a government that implements; a government at work!

We thank our private sector partners for walking with us on this important journey. We assure them of our on-going support on this and many other projects. Gauteng is open for business and that this government regards the private sector as a partner in development. We will, therefore, continue to form transformative partnerships with the private sector.

The Vaal River City Development will be a major boost to the economy of the Vaal. Our private sector partners are planning to invest more than R4 billion into this development. The development is estimated to be worth between R7 and R11 billion, and will create up to 7 500 jobs in the construction phase alone. The multiplier effect of similar projects is about 1.5 times which will result in economic spin-offs of between R3 and R 5 billion for the region.By any account this is a major injection into the economy of Sedibeng. It further justifies our optimism in saying that Sedibeng will never be the same again; and that a new major economic node is on the rise in this part of our province.

In addition to the Vaal River City Development, work is currently on-going to maximise the agricultural potential of the Southern Development Corridor focusing especially on agro-processing. Our intention is to make Sedibeng the food basket of the Gauteng City Region.

With regards to Human Settlements over the next four years, more than 120 000 houses in this corridor will be built in the following areas: Boiketlong; Golden Highway; Evaton; Vereeniging, Savanah City, Ratanda and the R 59 Corridor.

We will also continue to support the Gauteng Highlands development which is a R40 billion investment that will create 25 000 direct and indirect jobs. These are some of the plans we have to make Sedibeng a better place to live in, to work and to do business.We call on all stakeholders to rally behind these plans, so that together we can ensure their effective implementation.

We owe it to our people who perished during the Sharpeville Massacre, Boipatong Massacre, Sebokeng shooting and many other incidents that placed the Vaal at the centre of the struggle for liberation in the 1960s and 1980s. There is no room for failure. There is no room for petty squabbles and fights among us.

The provincial government and municipalities must do their part to ensure that the rebirth of Sedibeng into a new economic giant in the south of Gauteng succeeds.

The private sector has also done a lot by catalyzing this development of the Vaal River City using their own land and own resources.

We must crowd in more private and public sector investment leveraging state-owned land – municipal, provincial and national government land. The era of random sale of government land must come to an end. We need to use our own land strategically for industrial development and mega human settlements.

Sedibeng will never be the same. Never again will Sedibeng and West Rand be marginalized regions characterised by high levels of poverty and unemployment and underdevelopment.

Article by David Makhura, David Makhura is the Deputy Chairperson of the ANC in Gauteng and Premier of the Gauteng Province

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