The upgrading of Singaphi Street in New Brighton may have been completed five years ago, but the infrastructure is still in good shape and continues to make a difference in the life of the community, New Brighton community leaders told the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) this week.
As part of its 20th-anniversary celebrations, the MBDA held a community imbizo at Red Location Lodge in Singaphi Street on Wednesday [23 August 2023] to reflect on the impact of the R40m upgrade completed between 2014 and 2018.
Ward councillor Mpumelelo Majola said the upgrading had been done as a partnership between the community and the MBDA, and the improvements made were not taken for granted.
“We have lighting, outdoor gym areas and children’s play areas. The upgrades have changed people’s lives created employment and skills and turned a rundown area into a vibey area that is now like a town centre,” Majola said.
“The MBDA doesn’t behave like a government department – they genuinely work with the community. We were consulted as a community on the rehabilitation of this area, and we benefited from it,” said ward committee member Mike Mambara.
MBDA project manager Giovanni Taft said a key legacy of the upgrade was the development and skills transfer to almost 40 small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) that worked on the project, as well as the partnership with the community that made the project one of “mutual growth”.
Speaking on behalf of SMMEs that participated in the work, Brenda Nondumo of Spano Construction said the small contractors had worked as a team and benefited from training and mentorship by the MBDA.
“We are still so proud of the project today,” she said, while Taft emphasised that the quality of the work performed by the SMMEs could be seen in the good state of the infrastructure five years later.
Taft highlighted the involvement of the Jarvis Gqamlana Primary School on Singaphi Street, where the pupils were involved in planting trees and succulents along the upgraded street and had taken ownership, still maintaining the greenery today.
Teacher Linda Baliwe said the upgrading project had also benefited learners by involving them in the creation of public artworks, sparking creativity and imparting practical art and life skills Artist Vuyo Magongo said he had acquired new skills in mosaic work by participating in the upgrading, which had opened new doors into other art fields for him and gained him hospitality training enabling him to set up his own catering business.
Both Majola and Mambara, however, challenged the MBDA to return to New Brighton and do more.
Majola appealed for the original vision for the precinct to be revived and for the upgrading to continue from the Olaf Palme Street intersection up to the Red Location Museum to create an integrated cultural gateway as originally envisioned.
He called for “action rather than more consultation” to ensure the digital library and art gallery at the museum could be opened, to the benefit of local schools and tourism.
“We must look at what can be fixed, and start somewhere,” Majola said.
Mambara, along with local food vendor Mhina Mdaba, reminded the agency representatives that the project had originally included permanent stalls for vendors, from Singaphi Street through to the museum precinct, but these had not materialised.
The Singaphi Street upgrade was the MBDA’s first major intervention into township development, extending its scope beyond an initial mandate for inner-city urban renewal. The upgrade included resurfacing the street between Ferguson Road and Olaf Palme Street, paving the sidewalks and improving stormwater drainage, as well as public amenities including public artworks, benches, litter bins, tree planting, a children’s traffic education cycle park and sports training park.
The precinct was intended to be a “cultural gateway” linking the inner city and Route 67 through to the Red Location Museum.
MBDA spokesperson Luvuyo Bangazi said that while the community feedback and usage of the facilities showed that the completed Singaphi Street upgrade was a success, political issues around the Red Location Museum and shifts in the MBDA’s focus after 2018, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic and vandalism had stalled further progress.
Majola also referred to the need for security and cleaning in the area, saying that projects such as the Singaphi upgrade needed to have a proper handover and dedicated management to ensure sustainability.
“This is aligned with our new strategic plan and total precinct management approach. We have taken on board the comments and concerns raised in today’s imbizo, and will investigate and consult on further development in the area,” Bangazi said.