Mthatha gets dressed for success

2013-10-09 10:00

Mthatha was once notorious for its potholed roads, daily power cuts and appalling service delivery.

Not any more: the former capital of Transkei is undergoing a massive makeover which has set it on the road to a bright future and is creating thousands of jobs.

This Eastern Cape city of

500 000 people is undergoing a construction boom visible everywhere you go, from the upgrading of airports to the building of roads, bridges and at least three new shopping malls.

Resident Lazolo Qangule (29) captures the upbeat mood.

“We have been longing for development in Mthatha. It’s about time things change. We want to see our town respected like places such as East London.”

The makeover that has brought Mthatha into the 21st century was triggered by the Presidential Intervention – an initiative announced by President Jacob Zuma in Mthatha in 2009.

Zuma promised back then that the government would spend

R5 billion towards rehabilitating Mthatha’s decaying infrastructure.

It is a 20-year plan, and already the results are starting to show.

All across Mthatha construction workers in protective gear can be seen hard at work despite the unbearable heat, while the sound of heavy duty trucks moving on and off building sites can be heard afar as they kick up dust that fills the sky.

The jobs growth potential is huge.

As chairperson of the Sibangweni Development Committee, Advocate Mlamli Ndamase, told City Press, just the R2 billion mall earmarked for Sibangweni will create more than 500 jobs.

Says Ndamase: “It will bring much needed business and stimulate the economy of this region. Life will never be the same again. These developments will change the lives of our people for the better and make Mthatha totally a different place, with lots of opportunities and possibilities.”

Locals agree. Jobless graduate Mcebisi Mqikela is hopeful about new prospects.

“I am so excited because things are looking up for us. People will get jobs and provide for their families.”

As residents relish the possibility of more jobs and motorists get accustomed to new one-way streets introduced in October to improve traffic flow in the CBD, there is a feel-good mood on the streets.

Thabo Lingani said he could not wait to see BT Ngebs Mall open because it will be closer to his home in Mbuqe.

“I won’t have to take a taxi to do my shopping once this mall is completed. I will just walk in.”

King Sabata Dalindyebo (KSD) Municipality, which encompasses Mthatha and neighbouring Mqanduli, developed a plan in 2009 to transform Mthatha into a vibrant city with a world-class infrastructure by 2030.

Completed projects include:

» A runway completed four months ago at the Mthatha airport. A new terminal building is underway;

»?A two-lane?bridge opened last month and aims to ease traffic congestion around the city;

»?Madiera and Sprigg streets converted into one-way streets to allow free flow of traffic – a first for Mthatha; and

»?Six new set of robots introduced at intersections which previously did not have robots or were broken. (see sidebar)

KSD spokesperson Sonwabo Mampoza said the council was excited to see things finally taking shape and the fortunes of Mthatha starting to change.

“There are lots of investment opportunities in KSD as the area is growing and developing fast,” he said.

A City Press team drove around Mthatha on a look-see and found:

»??The BT Ngebs City mall going up at Vulindlela Heights next to the?new Mthatha Stadium. The mall is being developed by property mogul Sisa Ngebulana of Billion Property Group. On track to open in 2015, mall is being constructed at a cost of R1.3 billion.

»?The new 60-bed Mthatha Private Hospital is nearing completion along Nelson Mandela Drive and is due to open in January.

»?A shopping mall is being built near the Shell Ultra City at?Mthatha’s south entry at a cost of R400 million.

»?Another mall is earmarked for development in Sibangweni, where President Jacob Zuma’s son-in-law, Sonwabo Sambodla’s company Aquifin Investments bid along with two other developers. The R2 billion mall is set to start construction early next year.

»?A new fuel station opened last month along the N2 towards Durban, while another is under construction next to Ngebulana’s mall.

KSD’s Mampoza says other developments include a water works and electricity power sub-stations at Thornhill to deal with the problems of cuts and outages which have plagued the city in the past.

The local business community is optimistic about Mthatha’s booming future – as long as the council does its job efficiently.

Says the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce president in Mthatha, Vuyisile Ntlabati: “These developments are great news for the people of Mthatha. People are in dire need of employment and other services.

“This is what we have been crying for as business; that if you improve service delivery in Mthatha you could change the outlook of this town.

“We just hope the council can be consistent and continue to improve.”

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