Menlyn general manager Olive Ndebele and mayor Solly Msimanga during his visit to Menlyn Park Shopping Centre. Picture: Bongani Shilulbane/ANA Pictures
Pretoria - Shoppers at Menlyn Park Shopping Centre were treated to a rare thrill when the capital’s number one citizen, Mayor Solly Msimanga, visited the mall on Wednesday morning.

Msimanga went on a walkabout at the shopping mall as part of the city’s drive to promote economic growth and job creation through partnerships with private investors.

He constantly stopped to shake hands with some shoppers, who were only too happy to oblige and who took pictures with him.

He also walked into some stores and chatted with workers, who were pleasantly surprised to see him.

Msimanga said his stop at the shopping centre was to signify that the city meant business when it came to job creation.

“The significance of our visit to Menlyn ties in with the theme of the city for this month, which is job creation.

"We are looking at how the retail sector can contribute to our agenda,” he said.

Menlyn in particular had a role to play in the city’s job creation agenda, he said, especially after its recent refurbishment. “Menlyn is one of the businesses that is contributing to our job creation agenda. Menlyn is contributing because it is now a city within the city. It is one of the greatest economic hubs that we have,” Msimanga said.

The mall was recently launched as the biggest in Africa after it underwent a massive revamp.

When it reopened in November after two years and a R2.5 billion redevelopment, it presented a total lettable floor space of more than 170 000m².

It had existed in the east of the city since 1979 and had become an iconic part of the capital.

It was described as a leader in the retail industry, making a significant contribution to the city’s economy. Employment at the mall stands at just over 3 000.

Accompanied by Transport MMC Sheila Senkubuge, Msimanga said the city’s transport planning included Menlyn because of the planned Bus Rapid Transit route that would go through the centre.

“Our plan is to integrate with what Menlyn stands for right now. The centre is creating thousands of jobs in the retail space and it created more jobs during the construction projects that took place place,” he said.

In addition, there were other projects such as the Menlyn Maine expansion, including a casino and other entertainment centres within close proximity, Msimanga said.

“There is also a new hotel that has been built,” he added.

Centre manager Olive Ndebele expressed gratitude at the opportunity to work hand in hand with the city in an effort to grow the local economy. “There are people coming here for leisure and others for work. We want to contribute positively to the economic growth of the city,” Ndebele said.

She said the shopping centre had a police contact point, where police officers were stationed to assist with affidavits and certifying of documents. “It is not a police station but what we aspire for is to get a localised police station because the centre is accessible to the public,” Ndebele said.

She said it was important to ensure the safety of people coming to the mall. “These are not just shoppers, they are our citizens as well and we need to look after their safety.”

Ndebele said the centre also wanted to play a part in promoting tourism in the city.

“We have sufficient space to host a tourism fieldworker, who doesn’t only talk about Menlyn but the capital city as a tourism destination,” she said.

According to Msimanga, the visit to the mall was only the beginning of a mission by the municipality to stimulate economic growth.

“Going forward we will have similar visits in the North. I am going to be aggressively pushing for something similar there so that we can also stimulate the economy in that part of the city,” he said.

The major objective was to look at business opportunities in the city and businesses contributing highly to the local economy, he said.

Without disclosing more information about potential investors likely to do business in the city, Msimanga said: “I recently had a meeting with investors who will be coming to do business in the city soon. We are now drawing up plans with regard to that.”

Besides the business side of his visit, Msimanga also displayed his love for shopping and good taste when it came to clothing.

“I love the fact that we have more South African designers here and we don’t have to buy imported goods. There are designers here who are manufacturing their own products and creating jobs,” he said.

Pretoria News