KWAZULU-NATAL MEC for economic development and tourism Michael Mabuyakhulu has made an impassioned plea to the private sector to invest in townships.
He said this would go a long way towards boosting the lives of the people in these areas.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark the construction of amultimillion-rand mall at Osizweni in Newcastle, in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, Mabuyakhulu said one of the priorities of his government was to develop townships by ensuring that there were economic activities in these areas.
"It is a known fact that townships were ignored by the apartheid government as they were constructed to serve as a labour pool," he said.
"As a result of this, townships have lagged behind when it comes to development and investment."
He said compounding the challenge was that apartheid planning ensured that townships were situated on the outer edges of cities and towns, which meant that "our people" had to travel many kilometers in order to access shopping centres and other amenities.
He said the building of new malls was about "convenience of shopping at your doorstep" and shopping centres that are built in townships drastically reduce transport costs.
"The income and expenditure survey has shown that poor people spend a disproportionately high amount of their income on transport and food," he said.
Mabuyakhulu said the provincial government believed that bringing such facilities closer to the people would go a long way towards boosting the economies of townships and ensuring that people spent their income where they lived.
He said over the past 15 years the provincial government had embarked on an aggressive drive to bring investors to townships.
This project was part of efforts by government and the private sector to revive the economies of struggling towns.
"Working with the private sector through private public partnerships and other investment models, we have brought a number of investors to townships in the province.
"However, we believe that there is still a lot that needs to be done owing to the fact that unemployment is high in townships and these facilities help to stimulate the local economies.
"The current economic downturn has not helped matters," he said.