27 May 2009
Gone are the days when Alexandra residents had to travel to other parts of the city to do their shopping. A new mall, featuring the country’s major retail chains, has just opened for business in the township to the north of Johannesburg.
The Pan Africa Shopping Centre, a fully integrated shopping mall and taxi facility located in the heart of Alexandra, was officially opened by President Jacob Zuma on Sunday.
Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane and several government officials also attended the function, along with thousands of Alex residents who wanted to catch a glimpse of the President.
A few hours earlier, Zuma had been to Soweto, where he had laid a wreath at the Hector Pieterson Memorial and had visited Maponya Mall.
Zuma said it was apt that such a huge development was built in Alexandra, one of South Africa’s best-known townships, which played a remarkable role in the fight against apartheid.
“Alexandra is home to many leaders of the ANC,” Zuma said. “We can count leaders like Kgalema Motlanthe, Alfred Nzo, Thomas Nkobi and many more who were residents of this township. [It] has given this country expertise and talent.”
However, while the township was well-known for resistance actions like the Alexandra bus boycott, “from today, Alex must be known for development and progress.”
To loud cheers, Zuma said all townships needed to have infrastructure like the Pan Africa Shopping Centre, and basic services like water, roads and electricity. Economic development should not only be the preserve of the former white suburbs, but should spread to previously disadvantaged communities.
The shopping centre would be a catalyst for employment in “ekasi” – the slang term for township – and people would be able to shop “right on their doorstep”.
“One can walk to the township and buy a suit without spending any transport money,” Zuma said. “Parents working at the centre can now spend quality time with their children. Before the opening of the centre, parents only had a chance to see their children during weekends because they had to wake up very early and knock off very late when their children were already asleep.”
Opening the shopping centre was an important occasion, he said.
“This is a celebration of investment in the city of Johannesburg. But this is not only a celebration of investment, but what we are seeing today is urban renewal and rejuvenation.”
In the south of the city, a similar kind of development had taken place, he said, referring to Maponya Mall in Soweto.
“During the opening of the mall, Richard Maponya said we had taken Sandton and placed it in Soweto. This shopping centre is part of developing our townships and also part of empowering our people.”
Mall developers Pan Africa Development Company’s CEO Tebogo Mogashoa said the 16 000m² shopping centre was already fully let and more than 1 000 jobs had been created.
“Pan Africa Shopping Centre represents the dreams and aspirations of the Alexandra people,” Mogashoa said. “We developed it for them”.
Falling under the Alexandra Renewal Project (ARP), a programme to upgrade infrastructure and living conditions in one of Johannesburg’s oldest townships, the Pan Africa Shopping Centre forms part of a comprehensive retail and taxi node that includes a 50 000m² taxi rank, a three-level holding facility for taxis, public parking and structured informal trading.
It is anchored by a 2 800m² Pick n Pay, the first in Alexandra. Other national retailers have also taken space, providing a quality shopping environment structured along the lines of leading shopping centres in the country, according to the developers.
The Pan Africa Shopping Centre is located in one of the busiest and most cosmopolitan areas of Alexandra, with a plethora of informal traders and an assortment of shops selling a range of goods from traditional medicine to exclusive boutique clothing.
Besides the Pan Africa Shopping Centre, Zuma said Alexandra boasted some other economic and social developments. Quality schools, houses and infrastructure had been built since the inception of the ARP.
“Surely but slowly, we are changing the face of our townships,” he said.
Source: City of Johannesburg