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Inner city on the up Print E-mail
05 December 2008

We did it: local workers from the area did most of the labour intensive work for the upgrades

Things are looking up for the suburbs of Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville. Managed by the Johannesburg Development Agency, a massive environmental upgrade is underway.

At play in the revamped Donald Mackay Park in Lily Street, Hillbrow
At play in the revamped Donald Mackay Park in Lily Street, Hillbrow

FOR people living in the inner city suburbs of Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville, 2008 will stand out as the year in which their densely populated suburbs took a turn for the better.

The City of Johannesburg made good on its promise of uplifting the inner city when it initiated a R171-million public environment upgrade in January 2008 in the three areas.

The initiative was managed by the Johannesburg Development Agency, also responsible for the Newtown; the Fashion and Diamond Districts; and Constitutional Court precinct upgrades; areas which have not looked back since public money was pumped into them.

Indeed, JDA lives, eats and sleeps the maxim that public investment must precede private investment in order for change to take place. 

“I maintain, where the public environment is poor, you will not get private people to maintain their area,” said JDA’s chief executive officer, Lael Bethlehem at a function specifically to thank the five contractors – Kingsway, Bophelong Joint Venture, Superway Construction, Nyoni Projects and King Civil - who worked on the Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville project. 

The event was held at the newly revamped Donald Mackay Park in Hillbrow on 4 December. It was followed by a live broadcast on Radio 702, anchored by David O’Sullivan, giving the project publicity.

“This project was extremely tough to deliver because of the complex area and the different aspects which had to be done in a very short period,” Bethlehem said.

Now completed, the project upgraded 220 street blocks; high streets were created in Pretoria, Kotze and Rockey Streets; and five parks were revamped with new play and training facilities; landscaping; paving and lighting “to give the suburbs the look and feel of a decent area”. 

The project also focused on the less obvious, placing public art in all the parks, while the Hillbrow alleyways, of which there are a staggering 77, will still be cleaned up.  And work to restore the Governors House in Hillbrow is currently underway.

“This project is a breakthrough in developing the area,” Bethlehem believed.

Work and skills
But more importantly, the upgrades managed to give work to about 1 200 local unemployed residents over a period of about seven months.   

The five contractors who worked on the Hillbrow, Berea, Yeoville upgrade were thanked: Superway Construction’s Richard Bengston receives a certificate from JDA's CEO Lael Bethlehem
The five contractors who worked on the Hillbrow, Berea, Yeoville upgrade were thanked: Superway Construction’s Richard Bengston receives a certificate from JDA's CEO Lael Bethlehem

JDA appointed a social strategist company, NMA, to manage the skills auditing part of the project.

The labour intensive work was almost exclusively done by locals while the transference of skills was a prerequisite for contractors.

Perry Mavuso from King Civil said the community was very participative.  His company employed three local contractors and about 90 local labourers over a period of seven months. Of these, a further 20 received skills training for which they now have certification from the department of labour.

Yusuf Alibhai of Kingsway went even further. He has since employed 50 percent of the local labour used during the project on a permanent basis.

Managing director for Nyoni Projects, Machond Nyoni, confirmed that he is also still employing two local subcontractors to do work for him in Hillbrow.

James Popper from Bophelong Joint Venture said the JDA should be commended for placing such strong emphasis on skills and employment for the locals.

“The JDA insisted that contractors do training before the project commenced to empower the local community and they insisted that we use local sub-contractors.”

Popper and local contractor, Joe Molefi, joined forces to deliver their section of the project.  Molefi has since qualified as a CIDB 5 contractor through the Construction Industry Development Board.

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