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Barberton pushes for university

Feb 12 2012 11:39 Sizwe sama Yende

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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 public investments.

“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 out.”

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 Nkangala.

“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 

mpumalanga  |  universities
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