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​​​A makeover for historic Kliptown​
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download (1).jpgThe Gauteng Provincial Government and City Of Johannesburg will jointly give more than R375m towards the renovation of Kliptown, the city's oldest all-race settlement, steeped in political history.

About R293m will come from Blue IQ, a multi billion rand investment initiative of the Provincial Government aimed at promoting Gauteng as a 'smart province'. The metro council is expected to contribute about R30m towards the project over a three year period. The money for the project will be channeled through the Johannesburg Development Agency, making Kliptown the first township to benefit from JDA projects.

Established in 1903, Kliptown is the oldest urban settlement in the Johannesburg area to accommodate people of all races. It is a sprawling collection of settlements with a thriving informal business sector. Many people from Soweto do their shopping in Kliptown. Kliptown has however, suffered years of neglect and most of its historical buildings are dilapidated. There is no water-borne sewerage and some houses still use the bucket system.

The massive provincial and city investment follows years of lobbying by the Kliptown Community Development Forum. The forum is made up of local councillors, community leaders and the city housing department, and was established in 1997 to facilitate economic development and improved housing in the area. Gene Duiker, a prominent community leader and member of the forum, takes pride in Kliptown which, he insists is more of a town than a township. "Kliptown is cosmopolitan in nature, it is a melting pot of various cultures," says Duiker.

Central to the project is the establishment of a monument at Freedom Square, the site where the Freedom Charter was adopted by a coalition of anti-apartheid organisations in 1955. Thousands of people gathered at the square in Kliptown to formulate an alternative vision to the repressive policies of the apartheid state. On the second day, the gathering was broken up by the police, but not before the charter was adopted as a guiding document. It was to remain the cornerstone of African National Congress policy for the next half century.

The square has already been declared a National Heritage site. The 'Kliptown Our Town Trust' has established a photographic exhibition which will be transferred to the Freedom Square once it is complete. Capturing the political and social landscape of Kliptown, the exhibition is temporarily housed at the Kliptown education and training centre, an old building previously used as a municipality store.

According to the manager of the JDA's Greater Kliptown Development Project, Aubrey Manganyi, the JDA is in the process of appointing consultants to conduct environmental and economic impact studies. In the meantime, a competition for the design of the monument will be held. The winning design will be announced in June.

The project also includes the upgrading of the K43 road which runs through the area.

"K43 will start from Klipspruit valley road and go right across to the Soweto Highway. It will improve direct links between the southern and northern of the area," said Duiker. The K43 will run through a built up area, but affected home owners will be relocated to 3 000 sites under the Mayibuye project. The first phase of the project has been completed and the second phase is underway.

Other initiatives are the refurbishment of Kliptown railway station, the development of a new taxi rank and trader market with modern facilities, the relocation of people staying in informal settlements, the building of new houses and the servicing and upgrading of remaining informal settlements.

The most ambitious component of the project is in housing. Skhumbuzo Ndumdum, programme coordinator for institutional housing said 1 400 units will be built under the project. The houses will be owned and serviced by an association, which will function like a body corporate in a residential block. The tender for this project will be awarded in February and construction will resume soon thereafter. According to Ndumdum, a further 5 700 serviced sites, where people can acquire title deeds and land tenure will be made available under the Mayibuye project.

"About 6 900 households will be relocated within Kliptown. People come to our offices to apply for the Government subsidy. There are undercurrents of resistance to the move, but overall, most people are receptive to the idea of resettlement," said Duiker. According to Duiker, most of the people who will be relocated stay in shacks which were built on land belonging to the State. They will therefore not be entitled to compensation.

Once the JDA plan materialises, Kliptown will be developed into a major heritage site with a thriving commercial area and a prosperous residential site. According to Manganyi, all the projects should be completed by 2005.