Kopanong Precinct misses golden opportunity

By Alan Fuchs MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Infrastructure Development:

The DA welcomes the relaunch of the Kopanong Precinct Project, but given the history of this controversial project and the inability of the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development (DID) to effectively manage projects; its future does not look bright.

Initiated by former premier Mbazima Shilowa in 2003, the project intended to create a group of government buildings to effectively house the entire Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG), and contribute to the regeneration of the much dilapidated Johannesburg CBD.

A total of 18 buildings were purchased at a cost of over R300 million, and included ambitious plans to create a grand public square, along with an underpass and underground parking.

Soon after its inception, the project became mired in controversy.

Firstly, the cost escalated from R1 billion to R2.5 billion.

Secondly, the approval by the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) of the demolition of 10 buildings to make way for a new public square was met with fierce opposition from the heritage community.

In 2010, the project was placed on hold indefinitely. The GPG ascribed this to “reprioritisation”, which translates to “we have run out of money”.

Buildings were left partially renovated and others were boarded up. Many of these buildings became eyesores – exacerbating the decline rather than uplifting the CBD.

Now the project has been re-launched, but the cost has escalated to R5 billion.

With the inability of the DID to effectively manage such a project, the only hope is for the private sector to be involved via a public private partnership.

The capital flight and economic slump in the CBD must be properly arrested if we are to see positive economic growth and job creation in the heart of Gauteng.

If Kopanong is to succeed, the GPG must commit the proper resources and plan effectively to achieve effective urban regeneration and the realisation of a golden opportunity.