The Story of Kliptown: A JDA Perspective


In 2001, the Johannesburg Development Agency was appointed as the implementing partner for The Greater Kliptown Regeneration Development, responsible for project management and coordinating it with government.

Historic Context

kliptownIn 1955, the Freedom Charter was adopted by the Congress of the People, a political summit organised by the African National Congress and a number of other anti-apartheid organisations in Kliptown, Soweto. This document espoused the democratic values and human rights upon which the South Africa Constitution was subsequently drafted. In hosting this monumental event, Kliptown and its community secured an important place in the history of the anti-apartheid struggle.

The historical significance of Kliptown has been recognised by various municipal, provincial and national government agencies, which have together invested significant public resources into rehabilitating the social and economic infrastructure of the area. The Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) in particular has been closely involved in Kliptown's modern day development and has invested around half a billion rand since 2002.

Although Kliptown is historically recognised as the place where the Freedom Charter was signed, its development has been shaped by a much longer history. Considered one of the oldest urban settlements in Johannesburg, Kliptown was established in 1903 from the consolidation of two farms, named Klipspruit and Klipriviersoog.

The population at the time consisted of a diverse mix of communities and races including Indians, Malays and Africans and small-scale white farmers. This was in stark contrast to the rest of Soweto, where the apartheid government rolled out large scale-housing programmes to accommodate and contain workers to serve the needs of the fast-growing manufacturing industry.

Over the ensuing decades, more people moved to Kliptown, either as the result of forced removals or to find employment opportunities. Many of these new settlers started small-scale businesses, trading in necessities and consumables. This provided the impetus for Kliptown to develop into a vibrant retail node, offering the residents of the greater Soweto township a place to shop. The Kliptown retail district became (and still is) characterised by a vibrant mix of informal and formal trading along Union Street.

Much of Kliptown's development has consequently been informed by its geographic location. In many ways, Kliptown's discrete location to the south of Soweto meant that it fell outside the boundaries of the municipality and hence developed more or less independent of the city of Johannesburg. Therefore, unlike the rest of Soweto, where transport networks were designed for greater mobility between Soweto and the rest of Johannesburg (particularly the mines), transport networks in Kliptown were not integrated into the greater region.

By 1994, the majority of Kliptown's residents did not have access to basic infrastructure and welfare services, and high levels of unemployment prevailed. Moreover, Kliptown's status as a retail node in Soweto was being eroded as formal and informal retail activity took hold and started to spread throughout the township.

By the late 1990s, the Greater Kliptown area had seen continued and systematic disinvestment. Social infrastructure was inadequate to service the needs of this densely populated area. Economic infrastructure suffered from a similar fate: electricity, water, sanitation and transport and communication networks were neglected and in a state of desperate disrepair.

Access to safe and secure housing for residents remained a significant problem in the area. Informal dwellings had spread across the tracts of vacant land found within the Greater Kliptown area, including the banks of the Klipspruit River, below the flood line, where those dwellings were susceptible to flooding.

High levels of poverty combined with a lack economic development in the area also gave rise to increasing social problems, including violence against women and children, increasing teenage pregnancies, high rates of HIV/Aids prevalence and substance abuse.

A new future for Kliptown

kliptownThe Greater Kliptown Development Framework, drafted in 1997, was the first attempt at a comprehensive analysis of the problems faced in the area. The framework identified two key challenges faced by residents of the Greater Kliptown Area.

  • Firstly, a lack of formal housing meant that most residents lived in often un-serviced and unsafe informal dwellings. This problem could only be addressed through significant investment in housing. The Greater Kliptown Development Framework therefore called for the upgrading of informal settlements and the creation of new housing opportunities. The framework also recommended relocating communities from unsafe informal settlements around the river banks to a more suitable area.
  • Secondly, the framework noted the spatial isolation of the Greater Kliptown area as a result of poor transport connectivity. It proposed that the road network connecting Kliptown with the rest of the region be upgraded.

While the framework was adopted in 1997 by the municipal council, none of the proposals were implemented until 2001. This was largely due to the lack of capacity within the municipality but also because of the uncertainty around the consolidation of local municipalities into a large metropolis.

The Greater Kliptown Regeneration Development was established in 2001, in part to resuscitate the proposals contained in the framework, but also to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Freedom Charter in 2005. The recently formed JDA was appointed as the implementing agency. It is important to recognise that the Greater Kliptown Development Framework and the proposed memorial square had been decided upon before those were handed over to the JDA for implementation.

Strategic Development

kliptownThe Greater Kliptown Regeneration Development consisted of seven strategies. Each strategy included a number of outputs. These outputs were discrete pieces of work that were managed by the JDA but may have been implemented by either outsourced contractors and consultants, or by other government agencies.

  • The first strategy focused on creating a safe recreational public space along the Klipspruit river.
  • Maximising economic growth and empowerment was identified as the second strategy. Kliptown had a fairly well-developed retail node. Part of this strategy involved leveraging existing formal and informal trade to boost economic activity. This included relocating traders to a more suitable location within the Square and using Kliptown-based SMMEs and local labour in township regeneration activities.
  • A strategy to maximise the heritage, tourism and educational significance and importance of the square was seen as central to the development of Kliptown. The bold vision at the time was to turn Kliptown into a prime tourist attraction. It was envisaged that the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication (WSSD) would become a major heritage site comprising a number of attractions, including an open area, a monument, an eternal flame, a museum, two large buildings located at the north and south ends as well as slabs inscribed with the rights espoused in the Freedom Charter.
  • The fourth strategy was an attempt to create an integrated, safe, secure and efficient transport system. This strategy focused on upgrading the existing road infrastructure within the area and developing new connections between the Greater Kliptown area and the surrounding region. In addition, the strategy contained proposals on the integration of rail and road networks through the upgrading of train stations and taxi ranks.
  • Housing remained the biggest challenge faced by residents of the Greater Kliptown area, therefore the fifth strategy was aimed at the creation of sustainable neighbourhoods and providing homes in safe, secure, and healthy environments for a mix of income groups.
  • The sixth strategy comprised the maximising human potential through pro-active social development programmes. In regenerating the Greater Kliptown area, plans and programmes were also targeted at building skills and capacity amongst residents to benefit from increased economic activity. Social development programmes were crafted to up-skill people in artisanal work, improve their business skills and develop an arts and crafts industry that could subsequently service the tourism market.
  • The last strategy was created as a response to the deterioration of basic service infrastructure in Kliptown. In particular, there was a need to upgrade the sanitation and sewerage system to cater for the needs of the residents as well as the proposed new developments.

Enter the Johannesburg Development Agency

kliptownThe JDA was appointed as the implementing agent for the Greater Kliptown Regeneration Development. In terms of the service level agreement between the JDA and the City, its responsibilities were to plan, manage and deliver on identified projects within the Greater Kliptown Regeneration area. The JDA's role in Kliptown could be into three distinct functions:

Project management
As the project manager, the JDA was responsible for:

  • Developing the terms of reference for each project;
  • Identifying and contracting suitable consultants or companies to deliver the project;
  • Monitoring the performance of the consultants or companies against agreed milestones;
  • Disbursing payments against agreed milestones; and
  • Approving the final deliverables for the project.

Development facilitation
In general, development facilitation refers to the planning, designing, coordination, consultation and facilitation functions undertaken by a development agency during its area-based interventions. For the JDA, development facilitation has become a critical aspect of project implementation across all of its locations and functions. In Kliptown, this included:

  • Supporting the establishment of the Greater Kliptown Development Forum as a mechanism for community participation;
  • Providing administrative and technical support to the Greater Kliptown Development Forum;
  • Initiating environmental health campaigns to rehabilitate the wetlands surrounding the Klipspruit river;
  • Supporting human development and training initiatives (e.g. environmental education programmes, metalworking manufacturing projects, a reed harvesting and craft making projects; and
  • Marketing the WSSD as a premier heritage attraction.

Governmental coordination
Development efforts by government often fail due to poor coordination amongst government agencies. Within the Greater Kliptown Regeneration Development, the JDA acted as a coordinator of inter- and intra-governmental efforts. According to various stakeholders, the success of various projects was largely dependent on the coordination function played by the JDA.

Interaction with other partners

kliptownBetween 2001 and 2013, a number of private, civic and government agencies initiated development programmes within Kliptown – not all of which fell within the ambit of the Greater Kliptown Regeneration Development.

Blue IQ
Blue IQ Investment Holdings is a provincial entity established to deliver strategic economic infrastructure to:

  • Catalyse sustainable economic growth and to indirectly contribute to job creation;
  • Influence the composition of exports, and
  • Influence the diversification of Gauteng's gross geographic product.

As the provincial entity responsible for strategic economic infrastructure, Blue IQ seemed well placed to lead the development of the WSSD in 2001. In practice, Blue IQ disbursed funds to the JDA to implement the project and was responsible for the final approval of all deliverables.

Johannesburg Property Company (JPC)
The Joburg Property Company (JPC) is mandated to manage and develop the City of Johannesburg's (CoJ) property portfolio. Once the WSSD was completed in 2005, it was handed over to the JPC to be managed as part of its portfolio. The Greater Kliptown Development Forum has raised concerns around the JPC's approach, and in particular, its apparent failure to fulfil its obligation to maintain the infrastructure or market the square. It seems likely that these operating costs were not properly budgeted for by the JPC.

Metropolitan Trading Company (MTC)
The Metropolitan Trading Company (MTC) supported informal trading and the taxi industry in the City through the management of dedicated infrastructure the City has set aside for micro retailers and taxi operators. The JDA has handed over the Kliptown traders' market to the MTC. However, it would seem that the MTC has not fulfilled its obligations to collect rent from traders within the square and regulate the activities of these traders.

Greater Kliptown Development Forum (GKDF)
The Greater Kliptown Development Forum is a multi sectoral forum comprising ward councillors, ward committees, representatives from the broader community, including: informal traders, formal traders, youth, women and the tourism sector. The JDA was deeply involved in the consultation which led to the establishment of this forum and has continued to enjoy a good relationship with it.

This has contributed greatly to the high level of trust and credibility earned by the JDA in the Greater Kliptown Area, and consequently, a good working relationship between the community forum and the JDA.

Individual stakeholders
The Soweto Hotel and Johannesburg Tourism were all involved as partners in various stages of the development.

On the Money

Budget estimates
The business case which was based on the Kliptown Urban Design Framework, estimated that the Greater Kliptown Regeneration project would cost in the region of R545-million. At the time of the development of the business plan, expenditure of R339-million had already been incurred.

Expenditure analysis
Between 2001 and 2010, R497-million was received for the Greater Kliptown Regeneration Project. This estimate is based on the grants received by the JDA for implementing projects in Kliptown. It does not include other government expenditure such as housing development, which falls outside of the JDA mandate.

From 2009 to 2013 a further R40-million was spent by the JDA to achieve a new phase of objectives.

Outcomes and impacts

It is difficult to isolate the direct and marginal impact of the JDA in the Greater Kliptown Regeneration Development, largely because much of the likelihood of success of a project is determined by its design process. By the time the JDA was appointed as an implementing agent, some key project design decisions had already been made, including the development of a "bold" memorial to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Freedom Charter. Nevertheless, it is worth reflecting on the contribution and impact of the JDA against its seven strategic objectives in the area.

Maximising the recreational public open space system along the Klipspruit
The neighbourhood park developed by the JDA remains well used by the community. Other initiatives undertaken by the JDA have not been sustained. Although, the environmental clean-up programme was transferred to the CoJ's department of environmental affairs, interviews with informants suggest that the clean-up and rehabilitation of the wetlands has ceased. This is partly because the CoJ's department of environmental affairs does not appear to have sufficient operational budget to continue to maintain the scale of activity required. In addition, the Greater Kliptown Development Forum indicated that the project fell apart once the consultants left; because no institutional structures had been put in place to sustain it within the community.

Maximising economic growth and empowerment
There is some evidence that SMMEs from the Greater Kliptown area have benefited from the WSSD. For example, a number of SMMEs have become regular subcontractors to larger construction firms. Information received from one construction firm shows that SMMEs from Kliptown accounted for 5% of their total contract value on five large-scale projects, namely Maponya Mall, Orlando Stadium, Soccer City, Eastgate Refurbishment and Heineken Brewery.

As a result of the construction of the WSSD, formal traders were relocated. However, it is widely acknowledged that businesses tend to locate in close proximity to transport hubs and high-traffic pedestrian areas. As a result of this relocation, these traders have lost much of the "walk-in" trade previously captured. They claim that trading volumes have deteriorated.

Another important output of this strategy was the development of a traders' market. Informants suggest that a direct consequence of this development has been the reduction of traders around the square, possibly as a result of inadequate space and the failure to complete the Southern Block of the Square. The trading market also presents a number of challenges for the WSSD.

  • Firstly, traders have moved closer to the road to facilitate the loading and unloading of goods, hence negating the benefits of the pedestrian access areas created around the square.
  • Secondly, because the new traders' market is further from the station and taxi rank, a number of "trolley-pushing" businesses have emerged.

Maximising the heritage, tourism and educational significance and importance of the square
The WSSD was built as a world-class economic heritage site at a cost of R180-million. This investment was made with the intention of leveraging the heritage value of the square to foster private investment. Hence, the four star Soweto Hotel was built at a cost of R24-million through a public private partnership between the Zatic Group and the Industrial Development Cooperation. The hotel depends on the marketing and maintenance of the square in order to attract tourists.

The break-even point for this hotel stands at around 45% occupancy. Over a three-year period, the hotel only managed to surpass this break-even point during the World Cup. The hotel remains afloat in large part due to capital injections from the IDC and its private partners.

These figures suggest that the Greater Kliptown Regeneration Development has yet to reap the heritage value of the square in attracting more tourists. Two factors may have contributed to this situation:

  • Firstly, the Johannesburg Tourism company has been unable to market Kliptown effectively as a tourism destination in Gauteng. This is in sharp contrast to the vibrant Vilakazi Street - renowned as one of the primary tourism attractions in Soweto.
  • Secondly, the property company responsible for the management and marketing of the square has not fulfilled its obligations in terms of maintaining the square or marketing it. A cursory overview of the WSSD website suggests that it has not been updated in at least a year. Large rental arrears may have compromised the management company's ability to maintain the square - as at June 2011 it had over R1.6-million of rent owed to it.

Creating an integrated, safe, secure and efficient transport system
The jury is still out on whether the interventions have been successful in achieving this objective.

Creating sustainable neighbourhoods and providing homes in safe, secure, and healthy environments for a mix of income groups
The data collected from SAPS shows a decrease in crime between 2002 and 2007. Caution must however be exercised in interpreting these statistics as they may not have been direct the result of JDA interventions; crime has declined in other areas of Soweto where the JDA is not active. It is also disconcerting that crime has risen, marginally, from a recent low in 2007.

Maximising human potential through pro-active social development programmes
Key informants indicated how the social development programmes supported by the JDA had impacted on certain individuals. For example, one participant in the photography course has now become a full-time photographer and has established his own photography studio. Unfortunately, it would seem that there has been no systematic attempt to capture all of these "stories".

Providing effective and efficient infrastructure and service delivery
As with the creation of the transport system, the jury is also still out on whether the interventions have been successful in achieving this objective.