Construction boom in Mthatha - now a vibrant Eastern Cape city

Established in 1883, Mthatha, the capital of the former Transkei, is a hive of bustling activity and recognised as the leading city of the area. 

The town hall in Mthatha

Situated on the N2, almost midway between Durban and East London, this colourful and lively city is the gateway to the area and the world-famous Wild Coast, with regular flights to and from Johannesburg, says Wayne Rubidge, Pam Golding Properties area principal in the Mthatha area and North Eastern Cape.

Here in Mthatha the Walter Sisulu University for Technology and Science attracts many up and coming young students in a region which was home to many leading South African statesmen such as Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, and which is renowned for the Nelson Mandela Museum - a domed building which was the seat of the former Transkei’s Parliament. The town still has some beautiful colonial buildings, such as the sandstone town hall with its prominent clock tower.

Says Rubidge: “With a population of around 500 000 people, Mthatha is undergoing a construction boom visible everywhere you go, from the upgrading of airports to the building of roads, bridges and at least three new shopping malls. There’s excitement in town, with the new and biggest shopping mall Mthatha has ever seen currently underway.” Ninety percent of construction work on the BT Ngebs Mall is completed, with the mall scheduled to open its doors in April 2015. Comprising 58 808sqm, the mall will have 1 975 parking bays and will service about 390 000 households. It will be the largest shopping centre in the Mthatha region, which has a retail undersupply of 477 341sqm.

“In 2013 the government earmarked R5 billion to rehabilitate the city’s infrastructure over a 20 year period. Projects include a runway completed four months ago at the Mthatha airport, while a new terminal building is underway. A two-lane bridge opened in November 2014 to ease traffic congestion around the city and streets are being upgraded with robots. Also included in these projects is the new 60 bed Mthatha Hospital which recently opened.”

Mthatha has a variety of large suburbs, with the more affluent being Hillcrest, Southernwood and Northcrest, where properties sell for anything between R1 million and R2 million, with vacant stands selling between R200 000 and R250 000. In more affordable areas like Ncambedlana and Mbuqu, residential properties sell for between R400 000 and R650 000.

It is appropriate that Pam Golding Properties has established a presence in Mthatha, as founder and life president Mrs Pam Golding was born and schooled there, in later life being awarded an honorary doctorate from the Walter Sisulu University.

With spectacular views over the Umzimvubu River and marketed at R4.85 million through Pam Golding Properties, this lodge includes a main house with three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, six chalet en suite rooms and two further rooms with a shared bathroom.

Says Zuki Khumalo, Pam Golding Properties resident agent in Mthatha: “We are still experiencing huge stock shortages and that has really pushed up prices, particularly in popular suburbs such as Northcrest, Ikwezi and Mbuqe Extension. However, from 2015 onwards this will be alleviated to some extent with a number of developments focusing on middle-income houses and gap houses planned and to be approved. Currently, Mthatha is landlocked in terms of housing developments as a result of the peri-urban areas also termed ‘rurban’ areas along the urban fringe. These transitional areas, between rural and urban, are the constraints for new developments as the city has been boxed in by the peri-urban settlements. The city’s economy is substantial as there are at least 15 towns whose economy is linked to that of Mthatha. The city supplies goods and services to towns like Flagstaff, Mvezo and Libode, where facilities that Mthatha offers are not available, making Mthatha the key economic hub in the region.”

She says at present Mthatha is abuzz with a couple of new full title developments underway. One developer who has made his presence known in the city has completed 49 housing units which were quickly sold out in a development called ‘The Palms’ in the suburb of Ncambedlana. “This development catered for middle-earners at prices ranging from R489 000 for a 40sqm unit, R545 000 for 50sqm and R598 000 for a 62sqm unit. Another new housing development in  Ncambedlana, ‘Fernhill’ - comprising 88 units and catering for the medium income market, which was also launched in 2013, is about to commence construction, with services already being installed.

“For investors there is a great deal of opportunity in Mthatha and surrounds because within the current property market, not many in the lower LSM groups can afford to buy, making small apartments the ideal investment to cater for this market. The rental demand is also substantial in this sector, with entry level rentals houses with two or three bedrooms achieving rentals in excess of R4500 per month. Across the Mthatha property market in general there is a huge demand for rental properties. This has resulted in the escalation of rental prices with houses that would normally be rented out for R8000, fetching R17 000 per month,” says Khumalo.

Roads from Mthatha lead to the Wild Coast with Port St Johns being 90 km away. On the market 12 km from Port St Johns on the Mthatha Road is an exceptional, fully-furnished establishment located on 2.3ha of freehold, full title land. Situated 90km from Mthatha Airport, the property is situated on a hill with spectacular, scenic views of the Umzimvubu River and the surrounding countryside. The lodge has a main house with three  bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, six chalet en suite rooms and two further rooms with a shared bathroom. In total the lodge sleeps 22 people in the 11 rooms. Water for the resort is from a fountain gravity fed to the lodge. Priced at R4.85 million through Pam Golding Properties, the property has substantial tourism potential due to its prime, elevated position just above the main road entering Port St Johns.

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