by micheal meiring

DEVELOPMENT

"What kind of cities do we want to live in going forward?"

Premier David Makhurs and Steyn City Properties CEO, Giuseppe Plumari, officially opening the development
Premier David Makhurs and Steyn City Properties CEO Giuseppe Plumari officially opening Steyn City.jpg

For all of those familiar with the 2013 movie, Elysium, the striking Marxist under- and overtones highlight what is commonly known as revolution. Besides rampant EFF rantings, South Africa seems nowhere near such a devastating fate, though the growing class differences leaves the cynic wondering.

Slightly comparable to the serene enclaves of the movie, South Africa’s very own Steyn City, situated just North of Fourways Johannesburg, promises to be a haven that shelters those with the means to invest in its opulent offerings. The rewards for those who do indeed decide to take up residence in this urban oasis encompasses the whole spectrum of high-brow estate living: impenetrable security; 24/7 monitoring of estate grounds; open areas for children to meander and play, growing up in the way every child ‘should’, away from the dangers and reality of the drugs, gangs and predation of the world outside the wall. Not to mention the amenities and five-star facilities.

For pet lovers, do not let fences bother you, since there will be none. Dogs will be exposed to traditional Pavlovian conditioning through state of the art collars that will give them a frightening—not too frightening one would assume—electric shock to deter them from moving outside set perimeters. Furthermore, the equestrian centre and 810 hectare of land for horse-riding provides a perfect compliment for the Nicklaus designed golf courses scattered between forested areas on the grounds.

The brainchild of South African multi-billionaire Douw Steyn, the current expenditure figures stands at R6.5 billion and another R50 billion has been planned for the second phase of development. Present on the official launch of Steyn City earlier in March, widow of former president Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel planted trees seeded by the peace icon who endorsed both Steyn and his vision for his city. “Madiba, who endorsed the concept of a new city in 2007 and planted trees at the time, is smiling down on us today. The relationship between Madiba and Steyn was a father-son relationship with great respect between them,” she said.

Following Mandela’s release in 1993, Steyn housed him in his home, which is now the Saxon Hotel. “Madiba stayed in his home as a father, embraced by his wife and children. He needed a peaceful space for reflection while he was going to lead the transition process. It was there he helped to compile the new constitution for the first government of national unity. There, many comrades assisted him. Part of The Long Walk To Freedom was also written from there. He had privacy there. He loved nature, because he felt deeply rooted in the soil of this nation. I am sure he is proud to be here in spirit and in heart,” Machel said.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura said that the partnership with the private sector and the City of Johannesburg has resulted in a R6.5 billion injection into the Steyn City development, including the construction of a new arterial road (R511) and infrastructure for basic services. “This partnership has been in existence for a long time and is evident through the creation of more than 11 500 jobs contributing to the burgeoning micro-economy of Steyn City.

“This has a direct positive socio-economic benefit for neighbouring, disadvantaged communities and the close proximity to certain areas has resulted in the reduction of commuter costs, as employees can walk to work, freeing up much-needed income for education and other vital living expenses,” Makhura said.

Dr Andrew Golding, Chief Executive of Pam Golding Property Group which is jointly marketing the resort’s residential properties with Steyn City Properties says, “This multi-billion rand project is a boom for the local economy and indicates just how much faith investors now have in the rapidly growing Gauteng residential development property market. Pam Golding Properties is delighted to be involved in the marketing of the impressive Steyn City residential properties that are now coming to market.”

He adds that; “Steyn City is a completely new lifestyle concept. In recent years, we have seen that many people want to return back to more traditional village forms of living, but with all of the conveniences of a modern lifestyle. There has been a growing demand for attractive, upmarket properties that offer total convenience combined with a sense of community and serenity. Steyn City is an innovatively designed space that meets a myriad of needs and we believe that it has a fantastic future.”

According to Steyn, the project is “indicative of the confidence I have in our country”. Clearly this is the case considering that the multi-billionaire could have invested his money elsewhere. Speaking at the official launch of the resort, Steyn City Properties CEO Giuseppe Plumari stated; “There is no development on the continent that I know of, that compares in size and infrastructure to Steyn City. This will allow residents to enjoy an unparalleled array of leisure activities and create a unique quality of life that has long been out of the reach of most South Africans, due to high walls, the need to commute and security concerns.”

But many are wondering if these kind of projects truly address the social dilemma at the heart of South Africa’s demographically and socio-economically diverse landscape. In a recent interview with Fin24, former SA Planning Institute (Sapi) president Yusuf Patel raised his concerns about its impact on the spatial fabric of Johannesburg. “It does become a challenge when we can’t see how such developments are integrated in the much broader spatial fabric of the city and how is it trying to contribute to re-stitching the city. These developments just cater for a high-income category individuals [and] they do tend to create isolated places of residence,” he said.

Bafana Mokwena, owner of Dikwena M Trading construction company and manager of the Skills Centre at Steyn City, however stands out as an example of upliftment and empowerment brought about through the construction of this city in a city. “Since getting involved with Steyn City my life has changed dramatically. I’m a former resident of Zewenfontein Informal Settlement that was located on this land. I’m also one of the many residents who chose to be relocated from Zewenfontein to decent housing in Cosmo City where there is running water, electricity and tarred roads.

“In 2009 I phoned Mr Giuseppe Plumari and asked for a meeting; after which he gave us an opportunity to manage the Skills Centre on behalf of Steyn City, together with my partner Brighton Mudau. In that meeting Giuseppe emphasised that Mr Steyn was committed to opening the centre. As you know Douw had a long-term friendship with Madiba—and the Skills Centre is a reflection of that. It is now up and running and wholly funded by Steyn City. It caters for people from Diepsloot, Cosmo City and the surrounding areas like Kya Sands and Thabo Mbeki Informal Settlement,” he says. 

Mokwena says today he is a successful entrepreneur that manages multiple construction projects on a daily basis both in Steyn City and beyond its borders. “I welcome Steyn City’s upliftment of our community through job creation.” He says project has created over 11 500 jobs to date and that if we have people like Steyn investing in multi billion rand projects it has a positive effect since, “one person who is employed at Steyn City—feeds five to six people in his/her family.”

Also in terms of the external infrastructure that Steyn City has put in place, Mokwena says it has benefited them. He says there are now better roads like the R511 that has been improved all the way to the N14 which also includes dedicated pedestrian lanes. “As you have seen when you drove towards Steyn City; hundreds of people are now using those to get to work safely. There used to be traffic congestion in the mornings and the evenings and because of this upgrade; we no longer have that problem

“In addition; we have access to a R35 million rand water reservoir—within the development —that will supply water to our neighbouring communities like Diepsloot. Steyn City is a model for future developments because through Mr Steyn’s decision to re-invest in South Africa it has uplifted neighboring communities and we are very fortunate to have this type of development on our doorstep. In conclusion, this is the beginning of bigger things to come,” Mokwena says.

In his interview with Fin24, Patel emphasised that “It is going counter to the kind of character we’re trying to establish and the kind of city we’re trying to establish. We’re trying to build a more integrated and inclusive city, [so] it does become a challenge when these sorts of developments are done in isolation and when they don’t integrate different income groups. There are societal costs attached to creating these developments. Even though the developers are creating and contributing to some of the infrastructure, at the end of the day there are certain socio-economic costs attached to it, in terms of spatial fragmentation.”

“What kind of cities do we want to live in going forward? Do we want to live in cities that are going to perpetuate this kind of fragmentation or do we want to live in cities that are more integrated, where there is more public space and an overall better city life for everyone? If Gauteng as a province doesn’t come up with a definitive spatial master plan for the city and how we want to see our cities work and function, I think you’re going to tend to get these sort of isolated developments that are linked to specific land opportunities that makes sense for private developers. The logic of what gets installed in that space tends to be driven entirely by the private developers’ logic, rather than a more integrated logic that looks at the city-making concept that ensures that whatever is being developed will work within a more organised spatial restructuring that the city’s after,” Patel said.

Whether Steyn City is indeed the answer for those seeking a safer, more enclosed and sheltered way of life, seems to be a debate that is in contrast with the harsh realities the majority of South Africans are exposed to on a daily basis. Nonetheless, there seem to be pros and cons to the titanic endeavour and whether it will turn out to be a priceless investment or expensive lesson, only time will tell.

Michael Meiring

Swimming Pool at the Show Village Deli.jpg Showhouse Exterior.jpg Graca Machel plants trees seeded by her late husband Nelson Mandela in the aptly named Mandela Park during the official opening of Steyn City original.jpg Steyn City Show Village Aerial - March 2015.jpg
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