The rural communities around Sekhukhune in Limpopo sighed with relief when the new R55million shopping mall complex opened in GaNkoana at the weekend.
The Nkoana Shopping Complex will cater for the thousands of people who have previously had to struggle to get to Polokwane to do their shopping.
The buildings were funded entirely by the Limpopo Economic Development Enterprise (LimDev).
The shopping complex boasts supermarkets, banks and clothing and jewellery shops.
LimDev spokesman Leo Gama said the development was the result of an agreement between Eddie Ratsoma, a prominent businessman in the area, and LimDev.
Gama said Ratsoma, who has been a businessman in the Sekhukhune area for more than 20 years, approached LimDev to apply for funding for a small shopping "town".
"As LimDev we fell in love with the concept, given that it would ease people's suffering and improve lives," Gama said.
"Also, Sekhukhune has long been regarded as an underdeveloped area and has also been declared a presidential nodal point for development," he said.
Gama said they were inspired to do the development in Sekhukhune because bothNelson Mandela and President Thabo Mbeki had encouraged investment in the area.
The new Nkoana Shopping Complex will cater for people living in GaMphahlele, GaNkoana, Mohlaletse, Apel and GaNchabeleng villages.
The complex is located in GaNkoana, which is in the middle of all these areas.
Gama said chiefs from the Sekhukhune area had supported the concept saying that it was difficult for them to get to Polokwane to shop.
The Nkoana Shopping Complex was officially opened at a glittering function attended by most of the area's chiefs, including acting paramount chief of Bapedi ba Sekhukhune, Kenneth Kgagudi Sekhukhune.
Limpopo Premier Sello Moloto, provincial economic affairs MEC Collins Chabane, Tom Boya and chief executive of Limpopo Gambling Board, Serobi Maja, were among the dignitaries at the event.