Barberton has put in a strong bid for Mpumalanga University
to be built there and the Umjindi municipality has already donated 135 hectares
of land for it.
The project is set to cost about R6bn.
Formal and informal businesses in the town that is going to
be home to the province’s first university should brace themselves for economic
growth, according to organised business formations.
The National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and
Industry (Nafcoc) and the Barberton Chamber of Business in the gold-mining town
said the additional 15 000 or so extra people that the university would bring
to town, would boost both emerging and established businesses.
President Jacob Zuma confirmed this week that new
universities would be constructed in Mpumalanga and Northern Cape and that
R300m had been allocated for preparatory work.
A forum in the gold-mining town of Barberton has already put
in a strong bid for the university.
Residents of the provincial capital city, Nelspruit, have
however not lobbied as much as the Umjindi University Forum.
The forum is selling Barberton’s gold-mining activities,
agriculture and its best-preserved fossil remains of the earth’s formation as
foundations for the new university’s geology and science faculties.
Barberton’s serenity as a conducive environment for
education, its proximity to both Mozambique and Swaziland and tourist
attractions are also part of the bid document.
Nico Oosthuizen, president of Barberton Chamber of Business,
said: “The university will stimulate new jobs, partnerships, infrastructure and
knowledge-based industries and serve as a powerful magnet for private and
“But it can also improve the town’s physical
characteristics, attracting more restaurants, shops and housing.”
Thulani Gwebu, secretary of Nafcoc in Barberton, said
vendors, backroom owners, gardening and cleaning service companies would have
more reliable sources of income.
“The extra people, even if they bring R500 each, translates
to more income for any business.
“New entrepreneurs in the townships could emerge as they
would be anticipating to cash in on students who will not stay on campus. And
they may have to extend their houses and rent out some rooms,” he said adding
that: “The benefit to the municipality’s revenue cannot be over-emphasised as
it will get more in property rates, electricity and water tariffs.”
Estate agent Marietijie Pienaar of Huizen Properties said
property developers had shunned Barberton because they saw no potential.
“If I ask a property developer to build a block of flats
now, he will ask who is going to rent them,” said Pienaar.
“A university can bring vibrancy in this sector in that
cluster homes can be built and people can invest in buying houses to rent them
The Mpumalanga government still has to decide the location
of the main campus.
Initially, the government wanted different faculties to be
built in all the province’s three regions – Ehlanzeni, Gert Sibande and
“There are several proposals that are being considered,”
said provincial government spokesperson Lebona Mosia.
The Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism agreed that the
university would inject economic growth into the region but had not yet
conducted a detailed research on its effect and where it should be located.
- City Press