QUEST FOR WORK, PART 2
Job optimism as new KZN multibillion-rand ‘mini city’ rises close to gutted Denny plant
A new mixed-use development hub called Westown is mushrooming across the road from where Denny provided much-needed work for locals for decades.
As the devastating impact of the closure of Denny Mushrooms’ burnt-down plant in Shongweni, about 30km west of Durban, starts to sink in, construction of a brand-new, multibillion-rand “city” is under way across the road.
Read Part One here: KZN community feels impact of Denny Mushrooms’ plant closure with lost jobs
The construction is part of the Shongweni Urban Development Project. It is aimed at transforming the area into a mixed-use precinct with more than 20,000 housing units, a private hospital, retirement complex and a mall, as well as a commercial, warehousing and logistics hub.
Proponents say building the new “city”, known as Westown, will unlock “huge secondary investments” and create thousands of jobs during and after construction.
R30bn over 15 years
The total private sector investment for the implementation of all three phases will be about R30-billion over the next 15 years.
But it is too early to tell whether any of the recently retrenched Denny workers will be able to secure employment in any of the developments that are either under way or about to start in Durban’s outer west region.
Many former mushroom plant workers say although they are hopeful of landing jobs in the new facilities, they fear their chances are limited as they may not have the necessary skills.
Massive construction and infrastructure developments started in September 2022, and on any given weekday there are scores of contractors and workers installing pipes, and building or upgrading roads. Eskom workers are extending and linking electricity lines to new transformers.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Hundreds face uncertain future after blaze guts mushroom company factory
Excavators and earthmovers are carving up the former sugar cane plantation, while engineers and surveyors are keeping an eye on the construction. The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) is expanding road lanes and building bridges and on- and off-ramps to facilitate the creation of the logistics hub. The construction of Westown Square, a R2-billion “world-class” mall, is also under way.
The creation of the Westown “mini city” is being led by Fundamentum Property Group, with the eThekwini Municipality and Tongaat Hulett Property as its key partners.
The project is jointly supported by the private sector, all three tiers of government and relevant state-owned companies such as Transnet, Eskom and Sanral.
Carlos Correia, Fundamentum’s CEO, told Bizcommunity in September 2021 that the hard work of the project’s partners was starting to deliver results. “This catalytic project has been a long time in the making and the development team is excited to finally get it under way,” he said.
“In line with our urban sustainability ethos, we believe Westown, with an urban core at its heart, will be a prime example of an inclusive, high-energy, safe and secure retail and mixed-use urban development.
“It will add to and enhance the existing natural character and environment of Shongweni, with a specific focus on building on and expanding the current active recreational activities of equestrian shows and horse riding, mountain biking and trail running,” Correia added.
“This ‘new-town-in-town’ will create a new economic base for this subregion and much of this economic base will be grounded in urban sustainability.”
During the launch of the project in August 2022, eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda commended all stakeholders for their “visionary foresight and courage”. He said he was impressed by the progress made and that, if properly managed, the development could create thousands of jobs.
Kaunda said the municipality was spending more than R500-million on the project, particularly on extending basic infrastructure. He also said the project was in line with the city’s “radical socioeconomic transformation” programme.
Creating 8,000 jobs
“I am pleased to announce that for Phase 1, R200-million will be allocated to local suppliers and 8,000 jobs will be created.
“Once all the phases have been completed, we are anticipating that 30,000 job opportunities will be created. The launch of this development is a clear indication that attracting foreign direct investment in the City remains a key priority.”
Other stakeholders say the Shongweni Urban Development Project will link well to the Cato Ridge Development Project in which billions are being spent on the construction of a dry port. The aim is to improve Durban Port’s efficiency and create additional capacity by decreasing congestion in the Durban CBD. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.