MSHENGU is no more

MSHENGUVILLE in Mofolo, Soweto, is no more. Formerly home to more than 600 families, the informal settlement will now be turned into a park.

MSHENGUVILLE in Mofolo, Soweto, is no more. Formerly home to more than 600 families, the informal settlement will now be turned into a park.

With no running water, toilets or safely built homes, the area was the epitome of poverty.

Mshenguville was given the clan name of former Soweto mayor Ephraim "ET" Tshabalala.

The area was an 18-hole golf course until 1985. Tshabalala, who was a populist, allowed people to erect shacks there when he was running Soweto.

These residents had to endure all kinds of hardship because the area is a wetland and streams of water flowed next to or through their homes.

Though the mushrooming of shacks at Mshenguville meant a decrease in property values for their formalised neighbours, the two later developed a bitter-sweet relationship.

The residents of Mshenguville used water with - or sometimes without - the permission of their neighbours.

Relationships were strained but some even used their privileged neighbours' toilets.

But after 20 years the government decided to end one of the most inglorious establishments of the apartheid era.

The City of Johannesburg council rescinded all previous decisions and decided that Mshenguville residents and those of six other areas would benefit from the Lehae housing project.

The relocation of residents and the demolishing of shacks started in 2007. People were moved once their houses in Lehae were completed.

Lehae is a housing project in the south-western quadrant of the intersection of the Golden Highway and R554 Road in Lenasia.

Now, with less than 20 shacks remaining and the natural vegetation springing up beautifully, the place has been transformed into an eco park.

Though the foundations of some of the shacks remain, Mofolo residents support the area not being remodelled into a golf course.

Resident Mpho Mokoka said: "It will be like the tennis court we have in the community. Who is going to teach us golf and provide us with golf clubs because they are expensive."

Another resident, Puleng Ndlovu, said since the relocation the place was clean and greener and would be fit for a park.

He said that as a theatre technician it would be possible for him to host shows and entertain residents.

City of Johannesburg spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane said the plan for an eco park would only be finalised after extensive consultations with the communities.

He said the features and completion of the park would depend on what the community wanted.

Modingoane said it should be emphasised that development at local government level was undertaken in accordance with the relevant legislation [Municipal Systems Act].

After being robbed of a golf course that might have produced the next Tiger Woods, Mofolo residents can now relax and take a breath of fresh air as they walk in their park.