Mayor's vision for Germiston
Germiston lies in the western part of Ekurhuleni, the Aerotropolis City, covers 143 square kilometres, and is home to over 250 000 people. As one of the most important cities in the region, Germiston’s revitalisation has been identified as a priority for the City of Ekurhuleni.
The Executive Mayor of the City of Ekurhuleni, Mzwandile Masina, explains the reasoning behind selecting Germiston for an inner-city renewal programme: “Germiston was chosen very strategically and for a number of reasons. Along with Kempton Park and Boksburg, Germiston forms part of what we dub the City’s economic triangle.”
Executive mayor of the City of Ekurhuleni, Mzwandile Masina
Around 95% of the City of Ekurhuleni’s revenue is drawn from these three nodes and there is an overconcentration of industrial activity in these areas. Kempton Park brings in around 12% of the City’s overall gross value added, followed by Boksburg and then Germiston.
As Germiston is the capital city of Ekurhuleni, and houses the municipal precinct, it should undoubtedly be representative of a forward-looking administration, and its rejuvenation is an example of what the City is prepared to do to drive investment.
“The project aims to engender further business confidence, showing the private sector that we are turning this city around. We are looking at centralising business investment and are showing that the City is an effective partner to private business.” Masina explains.
Germiston is central to economic development within the City as contained in the Aerotropolis Master Plan. Its significance is increased by its proximity to
O R Tambo International and the Johannesburg CBD.
Germiston already has some existing assets to brag about. Germiston Station is the most trafficked railway station on the African continent, and is also known as the SADC Rail Junction. Generally, trains going anywhere on the continent from South Africa head through this particular station.
Germiston is also at the centre of the region. This is important not only from a transport network point of view, but also because the City has determined that one of the best starting points for developing the region is Germiston — it offers easy connections to major national (and subsequently international) arterial routes, such as the N12, N17 and N3.
It is a strategically located site that will offer regional benefits when the many moving parts of city-centre revitalisation are aligned.
Triggering economic growth
A key part of the rejuvenation process is re-establishing a local workforce. The City of Ekurhuleni is planning on drawing people back into the Germiston city centre through the construction of social housing. This will bring back life to the inner city and trigger local economic growth.
It is a mammoth effort to counteract the effects of apartheid spatial planning; programmes such as this are a stepping stone to a more integrated, equal society. Of particular importance are the new housing typologies being built by government in the city centre. These are now nearing completion and will provide quality housing for working-class families. The City is no longer building typical RDP-type houses, but rather units that people are proud and happy to call home.
As much as the City is doing to revitalise Germiston, it has of course a limited budget. The intention, from the onset of the programme, has always been to spark private sector investment. This engagement is further necessitated by the fact that the majority of properties in the city centre are owned by the private sector.
With the City’s hands-on approach in Germiston, the project has garnered positive interest from the private sector, and an added benefit is that the area has been approved by national treasury as an Urban Development Zone, providing further incentives such as tax breaks for private sector investors.
Beyond building social housing units, the administration has identified certain areas within the city centre that it will be developing. These areas include the civic precinct, which houses the City’s administrative core. Then there is the new, world-class Germiston Theatre, student accommodation buildings, the development of Germiston Lake, and others.
Six public-private partnerships have already been registered and approved by National Treasury, with feasibility and business case studies under way.
As proactive as the City’s methodology has been, the private sector has bought into the project as well. What is especially encouraging is that a lot of initiative is being taken and interest being shown by the private sector. They are buying strategically located parcels of land and have plans underway to develop them in parallel with the City’s efforts. The City is also acquiring land, because it’s a case of “you can’t develop what you don’t own”.
Germiston is not the only city in Ekurhuleni set to be rejuvenated and nurtured into a thriving new urban environment, with Kempton Park also having been earmarked for renewal. Ekurhuleni’s administrative capital, however, is certainly leading the way. It is a shining example of how partnerships between government and the private sector can re-establish historic city centres as desirable places to live and work in.