three arrested during protest
October 30, 2009 Edition 1 – The Mercury
Suren Naidoo & Nompumelelo Magwaza
BOASTING 150 retail and commercial outlets over 40 000m178, the two-level Bridge City Shopping Centre opened in KwaMashu yesterday, offering residents the convenience of stores including Shoprite, Spar, Woolworths, Edgars, Spur, MacDonald’s, Truworths and Foschini Group stores on their doorstep.
The R740 million centre has been built atop a new underground railway station, which is set to open in 2011.
The 650 000m178 Bridge City precinct will include flats, government and commercial offices, a 400-bed provincial hospital and a regional magistrate’s court – all linked to an intermodal transport hub for taxis, buses, rail and cars.
Construction has already started on the R700m Dr Pixley ka Seme Hospital and the court. The eThekwini Municipality has committed more than R90m to building a regional bus and taxi rank adjacent to the mall, which is scheduled to open during the first half of 2010.
Wayne van der Vent, the head of properties at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) , a major investor in the mall, said that despite the shopping centre not being 100 percent ready on opening day – with final touches to construction still under way, toilet facilities not operational and several shops not trading – the centre did good trade yesterday.
However, the opening was marred when about 2 000 unemployed people from the area protested outside the centre, demanding jobs in the facility.
Three people were arrested when the protesters blocked and littered the main entrance to the mall. People in the crowd said they had been promised jobs by their councillor.
As locals made their way to the centre to take advantage of opening specials, they were met by the angry mob, who threatened them with sjamboks and sticks. Police were called to control the situation.
The main entrance to the mall was littered with burning tyres, rubbish and stones.
Traffic coming into the mall was redirected and motorists were told to turn back. Police fired rubber bullets and used water tanks to disperse the crowd, who ran into nearby houses and later blocked another part of the road.
“Police are patrolling the area and making sure that the mall opening goes ahead without any disruptions,” said KwaMashu police Constable Mumsy Mfeka.
She said councillor Lefaso Majola had tried to address the crowd but his car had been stoned and he left. Majola said that 85 percent of people hired to work in the mall were from surrounding areas.
“There was a process facilitated by the municipality to get people to fill in forms that would enable them to be on the waiting list. Big retailers… have hired people in the area. People should also understand that this development will create more jobs in the future because other projects are in the pipeline,” said Majola.
Van der Vent said the mall had created 600 permanent jobs and 1 400 during construction – most of which had gone to locals.
“The shopping centre is the first development here to open and will serve as a catalyst for further development,” he said.
“So there are many more job opportunities for local people to come out of this broader development.”
In Cape Town, job seekers also looked on as shoppers snapped up opening-day specials at the R350m Gugulethu Square mall.
Earlier yesterday, police had fired rubber bullets to disperse anti-eviction campaign protesters who claimed jobs had been “sold to people from Khayelitsha”. Six people were arrested.