Ramaphosa’s smart-city dreams are a repeat of 2014

During president Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) last week he spoke about a state-of-the-art South Africa, an entirely new city with skyscrapers, schools, universities, hospitals and factories.

Ramaphosa’s vision is that everyone participates in the building of this smart city which will be linked to other hubs by a bullet train.

He feels that since a new city has not been built in the 25 years of democracy, the time has come for South African’s to begin imagining.

A professor from the African Centre for Migration and Society at Wits University, Loren Landau, told Sunday Times that a smart-city will cause further divide between well maintained areas and poverty stricken ones. We should rather focus on working at connecting existing cities and making them more equitable and productive.

A 2014 attempt to build a smart city in Modderfontein, in the east of Johannesburg didn’t go according to plan.

Chinese development group Zendai Development drew up the plan which included nine functional zones such as a CBD, entertainment centre, residential and educational districts.  The project was estimated it would cost around R84-billion at the time.

A 1600ha plot was allocated for the project and expected date of completion would have been 2030 with housing for 30,000 families and about 200,000 jobs within the community.

BusinessTech reported that Ricardo Reboredo, a PhD Candidate in Geography at Trinity College Dublin and Frances Brill, a research fellow at UCL investigated the reason why the project never became to be and discovered that there was conflict between the developer and the City of Johannesburg.

There was apparently a low demand for housing and office space at the time and the project was viewed as being incompatible with the city’s real estate market.