PIETERMARITZBURG’s Brookside mall will be fully operational by October next year.
It will cost close to R200 million to rebuild the mall including the rebuilding work that will be undertaken by some of the businesses that were operating there. Developer Andrew Barnes promised that it would be even better than it was before.
The mall was looted and set alight during the riots in July. Images of the mall on fire during the week of the riots was shared on social media with several residents expressing their dismay as the mall was fairly new.
At least one person, Ndumiseni Khetho Zuma, 35, has been arrested and appeared in court in connection with the destruction at the mall.
This week, rebuilding work began in earnest as the rubble has been cleared and the construction workers are on site.
Msunduzi mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla visited the site on Tuesday and laid a symbolic first brick, signifying the start of the rebuilding process.
Barnes told The Mercury that while business confidence had been affected, he had never considered abandoning the city of Pietermaritzburg.
“The extent of the damage in this building is in the region of R130m of construction value, damage to internal shops is probably another R70m or R80m,” he said.
He said construction was expected to take about about eight months and then for the mall to be ready for trading would take another two or three months.
He said the businesses that had been operating at the mall were eager to return.
“We have had a lot of interest from existing tenants to come back. That means current business and jobs for the city and we are also working extremely hard to ensure that as much business as possible goes to the inhabitants of Pietermaritzburg,” he said.
Barnes, who described himself as “a local Pietermaritzburg boy”, said he was passionate about what he does and believed the city was a good place with good people that needed to be provided with services.
“I have been in business for 20 years in this city, I am home grown in this city and have led my trade in this city.
“Without doubt business confidence has taken a knock in the city. Some businesses will not come back and some will, we have seen proof of that on both sides,” he said.
He said despite the damage, businesses would recover.
“We must remember that businesses are resilient, businesses are tenacious and businesses need to keep growing.”
He called for a safe and secure environment that would allow for businesses to thrive.
“You can't grow a business in an unstable environment, we can't have instability, we need to grow our city.
He said he had confidence that Pietermaritzburg would bounce back like other cities in other parts of the world.
“What we experienced here has not not only happened here, it has happened in various parts of the world for millennia,” saying those areas too had recovered from similar experiences.
Thebolla said the process to rebuild the city had started. He said the speaker of the municipality, Eunice Majola, had earlier presided over the reopening of a building materials business near the Edendale area that had been looted.
“We as a city are grateful that business has shown confidence in our city. The fact that none of the businesses has decided to leave our city and some have reopened says there is that confidence.
“We need to say this because there had been a notion that the leadership was in support of what happened, not one of us in the ruling party would have really wanted that situation.
“We are very grateful that business is here and are committed to stay and grow our economy and rebuild the city,” he said.