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Once a dusty, dry and forgotten dormitory for the city of gold, Soweto is staking its claim to Joburg’s riches. At the same time, it is becoming a vibrant, sustainable and economically active city in its own right.
STREET hawkers unpacking their stock on the side of the road, pedestrians walking to and from work, taxis hooting for passengers and schoolchildren laughing as they walk to school – this is a typical morning in Soweto.

 

LaliLali Mohlabane, Region D manager for programmes and strategyOver the years, Soweto, which is in Region D, has risen from the apartheid era rubble to being one of the country’s main tourist destinations. The township has transformed; once consisting of mainly matchbox houses and dusty roads, today it has middle class and even upper class housing.
 

A number of high rise buildings, malls and shopping centres can also be spotted, another feature that contributes greatly to the changing look of the area.

The streets are tarred and most households have access to running water and electricity. Yet, a united community is still embraced and the principle of “it takes the whole village to raise a child”, are still applied in many parts.

And there is a concerted effort to green the once dusty brown area. According to the Region D regional manager for programmes and strategy, Lali Mohlabane, in the last financial year, three mini parks in Naledi, Meadowlands and Freedom Park were built.

Lufhereng
Development is keeping pace. Progress is steadily being made on the Lufhereng project, a mixed use, mixed income township. Already, families have moved into more than a thousand RDP houses. Once complete, it is expected to yield 24 500 homes, with schools, clinics, sports fields and recreational amenities making up a sustainable community.

The project will include a significant component of urban agriculture, through small-scale intensive urban agriculture open-field plots, hydroponic farming units and fish breeding schemes.

 

The Soweto Theatre is taking shapeThe Soweto Theatre is taking shapeSituated west of Dobsonville, the name Lufhereng is derived from a Venda word and a Sesotho word, "lufhera" and "reng", respectively. The combined word refers to a place where people come together with a united commitment.
 

Three categories of community have been identified for allocation of houses in Lufhereng:

The 3 200 Protea South residents;
People on the 1996/97 Soweto housing waiting list; and
The Doornkop farming community.
Soweto Theatre
Meanwhile, 30 percent of construction is completed on the long-awaited Soweto Theatre in Jabulani, the first of its kind in a township. When complete, the theatre will comprise a 420-seat main venue with an end stage, furnished with wings and buttress; two smaller venues of 180 and 90 seats; an indoor foyer serving all three venues; multilevel change rooms; storage rooms; and a greenroom.

“We are expecting it to be finished by November this year, if all goes according to plan,” Mohlabane explained. “The theatre will provide job opportunities for artists, actors, waiters and waitresses and cleaning staff.”

The theatre will eventually have 55 employees. However, not all 55 positions will be filled immediately; filling positions will be phased in as theatre requirements grow.

Construction started in June 2009, but stopped in October of the same year because R60-million of funding from the developer had not yet been released. However, the misunderstanding was corrected.

The building of the Soweto Theatre is part of a fully fledged business and residential node planned for the suburb of Jabulani, with a variety of things, including cluster homes, a technikon and a fire station.

 

Orlando EkhayaOrlando Ekhaya will change the face of Soweto when completeThe precinct will have a R320-million shopping mall, the 300-bed Jabulani Provincial Hospital and a residential area with three-to-five storey walk-up apartment blocks. Unit prices are expected to range between R300 000 and R500 000.
 

Orlando Ekhaya
In 2010, Heroes Bridge was completed at Orlando Ekhaya, a complex in the Sowetan suburb of Power Park. The complex will take up 300ha of land, consisting of 30 000m2 of retail and office space, in the possible seven floors to be created in the power station building. Some 60ha of land is to be allocated to conservation space.

There are to be three levels of shops and restaurants within the old power station, with a townhouse complex behind it, and a bird sanctuary and a walkway around the dam, with jetties for water sports.

The development will link the University of Johannesburg campus across the road, in particular with the distinctive koppies behind the main campus, where trails are laid out.

Other developments in the region include: an emergency shelter in Tladi and Rea Vaya, the flagship Bus Rapid Transit public transport system.

“Rea Vaya came and changed the whole aesthetic structure of Soweto,” Mohlabane said. “The people are really using the buses so we cannot complain in that regard.”

Challenges
Though the region continues to make significant progress, there are still minor issues that are a continual thorn in the side of its administrators, including: illegal dumping, decaying buildings, blocked sewages and rehabilitation of streets.

“To a large extent, communities are to blame for not using properly the equipment that the City has entrusted them with. Take illegal dumping for an example; there really is no reason for it because each household was given a 340-litre bin and our people from Pikitup collect waste on a weekly basis without fail.”

 

LufherengLufhereng, one of the biggest housing developments in JohannesburgRegion D consists of a number of suburbs, including: Diepkloof, Meadowlands, Freedom Park, Devland, Naturena, Meredale, Dobsonville, Greater Soweto and parts of Protea Glen. Dominating languages in the region are Zulu, Xhosa, seSotho and Tswana.
 

According to Census 2001, in terms of age, the highest age group is between 15 and 34, which is also the economically active group. This is followed by the zero to four-year-old group, which is also relatively high.

A large number of households have no monthly income at all, while 12 604 households have a monthly income of between R1 000 and R4 800. Many families survive on pension and child grants.

“A huge sector of the region’s economy is made up of the informal sector,” Mohlabane said. “A lot of people in this area who are unemployed operate some kind of informal businesses from their homes or street corners.”

It is also home to the world’s biggest hospital, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Diepkloof. In addition, there are a number of provincial hospitals and City clinics. There are two private clinics, Tshepo-Themba Clinic in Meadowlands and Lesedi Clinic in Diepkloof.

And there is the four-star Soweto Hotel on Freedom Square in Kliptown and a number of bed and breakfasts. Along the famous Vilakazi Street, there are well known restaurants including Nambitha and Sakhumzi.

Related stories:

Region C fights its way out of recession
Lufhereng residents move in
Soweto Theatre is taking shape
Orlando Ekhaya takes shape
It has been an excellent year
Business node for Jabulani
Vilakazi Street takes a bow
Soweto: a sleeping giant awakens
Rea Vaya