Just-another-township becomes home

2011-08-27 16:28

When first-time homeowner David Lukhele first arrived in Cosmo City he was “a little ­disappointed”. “To me it looked like just another township.” But four years on, Lukhele is a happy man.

“There is no brutal crime like in the old townships. You don’t wake up to find a dead body in the street and you don’t hear stories of people being robbed in the streets.

“Also, this thing that people from RDP sections are responsible for crime is not true. We live together here with people from the RDPs. Some of them are ­employed by people in the other sections which is good because they are closer to work,” he says.

“That’s one of the things that makes this place different from other townships.”

Cosmo City, situated on 1 105 hectares of land about 20km northwest of the Johannesburg CBD, is indeed different.

It is the first fully integrated housing development in South Africa. It provides housing for all income groups, with the result that RDP houses, stylish Tuscan- style houses and residential flats stand side by side.

It is estimated that the Cosmo City project will have cost about R3.8 billion when complete.

There are seven schools, 4 857 occupied RDP houses, 2 723 ­occupied bond houses and about 1 650 occupied finance-linked houses.

The City of Johannesburg and Gauteng housing department ­acquired the land in 2000 to ­relocate squatters who had been illegally occupying land in Zevenfontein and Riverbend.

The first beneficiaries took ­occupation of their houses in ­November 2005.

Musa Sibanyoni was one of the first occupants of an RDP house in the western section of Cosmo City. He says the place has offered him the opportunity to escape the indignity of living in a shack.

“The good thing about Cosmo City is that no one is allowed to build a shack here. I think it’s one of the reasons we don’t have a ­serious problem with crime.

“Here we still leave our laundry hanging outside at night without any worries that someone might steal it,” says Sibanyoni.

Like many residents in the RDP section, he earns his living ­running a car-wash business from home.

Most of the main streets in the RDP section accommodate small businesses such as hair salons, spaza shops and car washes.

But residents decry the lack of recreational facilities for youth, saying it leads to youths loitering at taverns.

Lukhele runs the Cosmo ­Conquerers Youth Development programme to keep young people out of mischief. The project ­includes 150 youths of all ages ­being involved in sport, drama and ­choral activities.

“We don’t have a proper field to play. Sometimes we are forced to travel to Muldersdrift (20km away) to play our home games,” says Lukhele.

Recently, City of Johannesburg officials visited the area for the ­official opening of the ­Cosmo City Early Development Centre.

“Cosmo City has been one of the city’s most successful projects,” says Chris Vondo, a member of the mayoral committee for the City of Johannesburg.

“We cannot continue to build dormitory townships like in the old days.

“All future developments are going to be mixed-income developments with an emphasis on ­access to facilities for everyone, including deprived communities,” Vondo says.

He says that the centre, expected to cater for 100 children, forms part of the city’s Growth and ­Development Strategy.

The strategy aims to address key challenges, including water shortages, ­climate change, ­affordable ­energy supply, inequality, pollution, conservation, economic ­development and ­urbanisation, among others.

Vondo says residents’ displeasure about the lack of recreational facilities is understandable, but points out that the development of Cosmo City is not complete.

There are plans to develop an industrial park on 40 hectares of land in the settlement.

Vondo says this is in keeping with the city’s commitment to ensuring that residents are closer to job opportunities.

» The completion date for Cosmo City was 2010, but development is ongoing

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