Sharpeville 2020: action research inspires change for the better

Marelize Santana -- Thu, 11/09/2017 - 13:39

Sharpeville 2020: action research inspires change for the better

More than 55 years after the Sharpeville massacre, the township is still bleeding, and the youth are suffering the consequences. This is according to Prof Danie Meyer, associate professor in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at the North-West University’s (NWU's) campus in Vanderbijlpark. 

Danie is spearheading the Sharpeville 2020 Development Plan intervention, aimed at rejuvenating the Sharpeville economy.

He has just the right credentials for the task. As the coordinator of the AppLED research initiative in the School of Economic Sciences and the bhive Enterprise Development Centre (EDC), he knows exactly what needs to be done to formulate and implement a strategic Local Economic Development (LED) plan, using applied research and community engagement.

The Sharpeville massacre took place in 1960 and since then, the township has borne the brunt of unemployment, socio-economic backlogs and rapid urbanisation. The Sharpeville 2020 Development Plan is a concerted effort to rejuvenate this national heritage site, situated between the industrial cities of Vanderbijlpark and Vereeniging in Southern Gauteng.

Turning the economy around
The plan sees honours students from the subject group Economics busying themselves with action research and collaborating with community leaders, home-grown business chambers and local government structures to implement an economic turnaround strategy for the area. The students presented an overall development plan, consisting of eight subplans, in April this year. The subplans were the result of extensive research conducted, community interviews and expert observations.
After thorough consultation with the Sharpeville community in May, the development plan is now being implemented by means of a priority scale.  

“Local economic development is a strategic process that builds on the existing strengths of a community in a concerted effort to drive positive and sustainable change,” explains Danie. He adds that the power of a community rests with the people of the community and as such the success of interventions such as the Sharpeville 2020 Development Plan is solely dependent on cooperation. “Development is the community taking responsibility to make change and research is the tool we use to facilitate that change.”

The following projects are currently being implemented:

  1. Seeiso Street (main road) precinct development project
    Three key nodes have been identified along the main road and will be the focus of revitalisation activities. This intervention is the flagship project within the Sharpeville 2020 Development Plan.
     
  2. Tourism and marketing
    Marketing material, reflecting the history, culture and business opportunities will be developed. The introduction of a unique tourism route, clean-up operations, awareness projects and a tailor-made management structure for the Sharpeville Massacre site will also be implemented. A highlight within this subplan is the introduction of a Liberation Centre to boost academic tourism.
     
  3. Local arts and crafts development
    By means of a value chain analysis of existing arts and craft traders and up-scaled businesses, the students have mapped out an entrepreneurial strategy to further develop this sector and encourage self-starting entrepreneurs.  A spin-off research project will see the students investigating the feasibility of theatre and entertainment venues.
     
  4. Dhlomo Dam development
    The proposed development at the Dhlomo Dam includes establishing a tourist information centre, proclaiming a nature reserve, and developing a running and cycling track and a water quality programme. A possible urban agricultural project and a business incubator are also on the cards for future development.
     
  5. Service delivery and community facility development plan
    A plan of action has been drafted and includes identifying major service delivery issues and reporting these to the local municipality. Other interventions include renovating the Sharpeville City Hall, the public pool and sport facilities, and training individuals as service delivery champions.
     
  6. Urban agricultural development plan
    This development plan will focus on developing an agricultural tunnel. This will aid in agricultural training and promote household food gardens as a sustainable food supply solution.  
     
  7. Small business and job creation plan
    This development intervention will see a close collaboration with the NWU’s bhive EDC in Vanderbijlpark. At the bhive EDC, local entrepreneurs will receive assistance with market research, business development, networking and funding opportunities.
     
  8. Industrial and manufacturing development plan
    The manufacturing focus will be on beer brewing, arts and crafts and steel-related activities. A skills training centre and business incubator form part of future development plans.

For more information about the Sharpeville 2020 Development Plan, contact Prof Danie Meyer at Daniel.meyer@nwu.ac.za.


Prof Danie Meyer.