The north of the city is a peculiar mix of the haves and have-nots, with informal settlements perched next to rural small-holdings, themselves living cheek-by-jowl with industry and housing estates.
FREIGHT trucks and lorries heavy with cargo, sports cars with their debonair drivers, commercial textile and furniture industries, huge mercantile businesses, grandiose properties and a motley assortment of smallholdings juxtaposing the squalor of informal settlements – this is Region A.
Thembani Masilo, Region A directorRegion A is a place of haves and have-nots, says Thembani Masilo, Region A directorThe gateway to the northern part of the metro, Region A is free from emotional agitation and has an unruffled spirit. Its large concentration of industries and technology companies, sophisticated shopping malls, posh houses and well-heeled residents are its pride.
The region is divided into nine wards; another four will be added after the local government elections on 18 May. This is because there has been cross-border migration and residents are being incorporated into the region. Overall, it has 54 informal settlements, four of which were recently formalised.
Region A borders Tshwane to its north, Mogale City to its west and Ekurhuleni to its east, Joburg regions B and E are along its southern flank. “We are really at the north,” says the regional director, Thembani Masilo.
It is characterised by big commercial businesses, industry, agricultural smallholdings and housing tracts. “We are experiencing a lot of growth in Midrand, west of the N1, with lots of buildings going up. However, there are infrastructural constraints,” she admits.
In most of its settlements, there is a peculiar construct between infrastructure, affluence and deprivation. “The differences are really diverse,” says Masilo.
Dusty roads crisscross paved and tarred ones, with informal traders carrying out their daily trade, obliviously competing with big commercial industries. Top-notch infrastructure sits opposite collapsed and obsolete infrastructure, and the busy-ness of industry opposes the lingering peace in the atmosphere.
The air is generally humid, though it can be cold. Minibus taxis, which ferry people to work, are abundant in the Midrand CBD, yet scarce in industrial nodes.
Haves and have-nots
Here, people in the high income brackets, who include in their ranks the glitterati, business moguls, politicians, sports and television personalities and the like, live side-by-side with those on the fringe of poverty. “This area consists of the haves and the have-nots,” says Masilo.
IndustrialRegion A's many industries attrac a lot of migrant workersShe notes that the region has established a blueprint that focuses on tackling such challenges, which have been linked up with other priority issues of development, providing schools, and mitigating poverty and unemployment.
Some of the major challenges that the region is grappling with are the rapid influx of migrants, poverty, crime and squalor. Most residents are seasonal inhabitants, migrating mostly from the northern and southern parts of the country.
Lack of a sustainable maintenance plan for infrastructure, budget cuts, inadequate manpower are other challenges, says its director. “We are not only saying there are challenges and more challenges, but we have put up intervention plans in place to address those challenges. We are doing this in partnerships, because working as islands will only diminish our power,” Masilo explains.
Plans are afoot to revitalise the urban areas and attract public and private investment, improve road infrastructure, establish spacious community areas that are environmentally healthy, and promote by-laws. Priority areas are Ivory Park, Midrand CBD, Diepsloot, Fourways and Kya Sands, which all need environmental attention, including eradicating informal settlements and illegal dumping, and improving service delivery.
“For me the environment is very important,” she adds. Social issues plaguing the region include an inadequate number of schools, lack of adequate health care services, libraries, recreational amenities, a lack of housing and adequate infrastructure.
“We need a public health institution which opens for 24-hour health,” she points out.
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