The City of Johannesburg and Gauteng provincial government have spent R802-million over the past decade on redeveloping the historic suburb of Kliptown in Soweto, and will be investing a further R677-million in the area over the next three years, Joburg Executive Mayor Parks Tau announced on Tuesday, 23 June.

Joburg Executive Mayor Parks TauJoburg Executive Mayor Parks Tau at the unveiling of the revamped Square. SEE GALLERY BELOW FOR MORE IMAGES.Mayor Tau was speaking in Kliptown at the launch of the new Kliptown Development Projects, which took place together with the unveiling of the new-look Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication ahead of the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Freedom Charter on 26 June.

The Square, where the Charter was adopted by the Congress of the People on 26 June 1955, has undergone a major revamp over the past few months. The project, coordinated by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), has seen green landscaping introduced to soften the hard open space, and artwork and plaques erected to reflect the history of the area.

In addition, CCTV cameras have been installed in and around the Square, lighting on and around the Square has been improved, and new cables have been installed at the Visitors’ Centre.

“In these upgraded gardens, we envision not only the people of Kliptown but also those of Greater Soweto and Johannesburg using the facilities for social and other events that will promote community interaction and social cohesion,” Mayor Tau said.

“We envisage a space where our people will continue to congregate in numbers in a similar manner as the multitudes of delegates that adopted the world-acclaimed Freedom Charter that forms the foundations of our rights-based constitutional democracy.”

The new-look Walter Sisulu Square – view gallery below
New artwork at the SquareNew artwork seeks to connect residents and visitors with the rich history of Kliptown. SEE GALLERY BELOW FOR MORE IMAGES.He noted that the revamp, and the newly launched projects, were the latest in a series of initiatives to revitalise the neglected township, starting with the drawing up of the Greater Kliptown Development Framework in 1996, and followed by the establishment in 2001 of the Greater Kliptown Development Project.

Driven by the provincial agency Blue IQ, with the JDA as the implementing agency, this project sought to develop a strategic economic node in Kliptown through integrating capital investments by government departments and agencies, facilitating partnership initiatives, and providing human settlements to give meaning to the Freedom Charter clause which states: “There shall be houses, security and comfort”.

The project resulted in the development of the Walter Sisulu Square as a historical tourism site complete with a museum, public spaces, a park and a range of retail and informal trading spaces, along with a new taxi facility and improved access roads in Kliptown, the rehabilitation of the area’s wetlands, and the construction of housing and community facilities.

The Freedom Charter gardensThe Freedom Charter gardens provide a space for activities promoting community interaction and social cohesion. SEE GALLERY BELOW FOR MORE IMAGES.In 2010, the City of Joburg followed this up with a new four-year project to extend the public environment updgrades to the residential and business areas surrounding Walter Sisulu Square. Through this initiative, Mayor Tau, said the City had spent R60-million on:

Refurbishing the Kliptown Study Centre, Creche, Community Hall and Youth Centre.
Updgrading the Union Road pedestrian bridge and installing new ramps across the railway line.
Creating a safe pedestrian walkway along the western side of the railway line, with new lighting installed and 600 metres of paving laid.
Upgrading Union Road, Beacon Road, Main Road, 1st to 4th Avenue, Future Road and Affodil Street, as well as Klipspruit Valley Road and the Northern Precinct.
Mayor Tau said the City had a clear vision when upgrading these streets and sidewalks, namely, “to create an improved environment for economic activity in the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication neighbourhood, to create a safe environment for pedestrians walking to public transport services, and to improve or rehabilitate basic municipal services such as storm water drainage and street lighting”.

The R677-million to be spent over the next three years on the Kliptown Development Projects, he said, would support the City’s human settlement development work in the area.

“Work on the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication will be on strategic interventions, supporting the activation of this public space and improving the functioning of community and urban management systems.”

Member of the Mayoral Committee for Development Planning Roslyn Greeff, also speaking at Tuesday’s launch, said the City looked forward to “a transformed Kliptown as the years progress.

“This will reflect in the public environment upgrades, housing developments and future use of the Walter Sisulu Square and Freedom Charter gardens as the centre of human activity and economic development in the area of Kliptown.”

Elsie Malindi, one of the residents who attended the launch and unveiling, said the Square looked completely different and much more pleasant. “I remember my mother used to come here often to buy our clothes,” she recalled.