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Isipingo: Regenerating and ready to rise up

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This vibrant town conveniently situated 20km south of Durban, faces various challenges including crime, grime and urban decay

Isipingo has the dubious honour of being among the few apartheid-era areas to have involved forced removals of the country’s white population when it was reclassified as an Indian area. 

At the time, the government claimed it was “being fair” in forcing whites to sell their houses and relocate to new neighbourhoods to justify its actions that were forcing millions of South Africans from their traditional homes and areas.

Situated about 20km south of Durban, the town incorporates Isipingo Rail, Isipingo Hills, Lotus Park, Orient Hills, Malakazi and Isipingo Beach and has an established primary and secondary school, library, residential areas and a major shopping centre. The main road connects Isipingo to the M4 as swift access to Durban’s CBD, while Isipingo Beach adjoins the Prospecton major industrial neighbourhood.

In a report released several years ago by the eThekwini Municipality Municipal Institute of Learning (MILE), the original population was predominantly Muslim and Hindu Indians. Now it is characterised by a heterogeneous conglomeration of sub-communities. It remains a vibrant town conveniently located near the major highway and surrounded by several large-scale factories providing a bulk of its employment opportunities.

However, among its challenges are old and dilapidated buildings, unauthorised building works, informal settlements, piecemeal maintenance, illegal land use, land ownership, environmental concerns and a general lack of bylaw enforcement.

The MILE report reflects that, apart from catering for commercial needs within the district, Isipingo is an ideal location for informal settlements and traders as it is a centre of a key railway, bus and taxi terminus linking the surrounding informal settlements, local neighbourhood and CBD.

However, the town faces various challenges including congested space; traders using the pavements to conduct businesses, disposing of their waste materials and storing equipment; crime and grime; urban decay; illegal scrapyards, dumping and mechanical businesses; poor service delivery; and economic growth and ageing infrastructure.

Isipingo’s business hub boasts an eclectic mix of outlets from pubs to car parts, hardware stores, funeral parlours and medical practitioners. This is a general view of Main Street. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

MILE notes the neighbourhood has been earmarked as a focus area for regeneration with the eThekwini city manager tasked with implementing action plans for its CBD.

This has seen the municipality state its intentions for upgrading the public realm and managing it in an integrated fashion by ensuring bylaw enforcement, cleaning, maintenance, informal trader management, and initiatives to reconfigure the public space to accommodate all the users.

“The municipality needs to educate, encourage and inspire the public to change its behaviour and begin making a difference to Isipingo and the way it is viewed. The issues and challenges surrounding (its) underdevelopment are fairly complex. They are historically underpinned by social, economic, environmental, cultural, political and geographic drivers and elements,” the MILE report states.

As a concrete reflection of efforts to improve Isipingo, work has begun on constructing a retail development for the Isipingo Station as part of the national station upgrade programme. The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) called for tenders from construction companies for the project aimed at “improving the station precinct by providing an aesthetically pleasing environment, an intermodal facility, enhanced commuter experience and a place of convenience”.

There is already evidence of the foundations and concrete slabs that will provide Isipingo Station with a retail shopping space attached to its railway entrance and exit point in the same vein as Prasa provided to the Bridge City development in the northern suburbs.

Despite its issues, Isipingo has a vibrant commercial environment and there are a host of different property investments and rentals on the market. Wakefields has a 2038m² plot of land in Isipingo Rail for sale. With a R780000 price tag, the level land is zoned intermediate residential, paving the way for a prospective housing developer to bring new products to the local community.

The Just Property Group has an industrial property for sale at R29.5million. This includes a 9842m² site housing warehouses (4901m²) and offices (533m²) and the road leading to the property has been walled in and is being used as extra yard space as it ends at the property.

This week an owner listed a 1000m² warehousing facility for R3.7m. Located close to the R102 and Old South Coast Road, there are a variety of food stores and transport routes within walking distance.

Earlier this year, the Tyson Property Group listed a double-volume factory measuring 1556m² that includes offices, kitchen and ablution facilities, yard space, covered parking and two gantries (one and sixtons respectively) on its books for R9.5m.

Among the rental opportunities, Private Property has a 25000m² industrial space available for R40/m². Located within easy access of the M4 South and 15 minutes from the harbour, the property includes 20 offices, a reception area and seven 6m-high shutters in the receiving and dispatch zone. The property is ideally suited to a logistics and warehousing business.

Another property, located on Police Station Road, becomes available from the end of July. The 60m² air-conditioned office, occupied by a medical pathology laboratory, has a monthly rental of R92/m².

Isipingo faces various challenges including congested space, dilapidated buildings, poor service delivery, and informal traders using pavements to conduct their businesses. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

Businesses operating in Isipingo

Celani Funeral Services

The local funeral business caters for the inevitable outcome of life. 

Marshalls World of Sport

Benefiting from a long history in the betting industry, Marshalls World of Sport has grown into a dynamic southern African bookmaking group. The company offers gamblers extensive betting opportunities on horse racing and international sporting events via telephone, internet, cellphones and cash outlets situated in KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng. 

Cambridge Food and Liquor

Established in the 1990s with six KwaZulu-Natal stores selling fresh meat, Cambridge Food as a Massmart subsidiary has a chain of more than 30 outlets operating in eight provinces. The group sells a range of high quality national brands and goods – from dry groceries to fresh foods, household products and health and beauty aids – personally sourced and packaged under its own brand label.

Plaza Butchery Group

This is another local business that answers to the community’s requirements. Durban South Training Centre An artisan training centre, the Durban South Training Trust has been training artisans for more than a decade and is accredited with the chemical industries’ skills education and training authority to provide NQF Level 2-4 qualifications in welding, boilermaking and mechanical fitting.

The railway station building will soon be completely redeveloped as Isipingo makes room for a retail shopping complex. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

More facilities are needed to fulfil its role as a town centre’

● The area is characterised by a range of social and economic activities that have developed formally and organically. While representing a vibrant neighbourhood, the urban structure and public realm do not adequately support present development.
● A range of residential conditions and densities exist within the area. Portions of the central area interface comprise residential conversions into businesses, while there are pockets of vacant and/or underdeveloped land that can be developed commercially. 
● A few social services exist within Isipingo, such as a hospital, police stations and pension payout points. However, a range of facilities are required to meet the role as a town centre. 

Construction has begun on a retail shopping space connected to Isipingo Station. Picture: Terry Haywood Photography

● Formal commercial and business development centres on Main Road with connections from the transport complex in the central area and the station in the east. Informal trade is strongly aligned with both the transport generators and formal commercial initiatives.
● Sound transport infrastructure feeds into Isipingo, including the formal taxi ranks and the railway station currently undergoing an extensive upgrade, and redevelopment to include a retail shopping component. 

*Source: eThekwini Municipality Municipal Institute of Learning report

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