Umphakathi Mall shows way forward for retail in SA

Diminishing footfall and growing vacancies are increasingly the reality for many major shopping malls in cities such as Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.


But demand in rural and underserved areas, such as townships, is proving to be a new golden opportunity.


That’s why in 2018, Ancora Property Group and MET Developments took the bold move to break ground and start development of the 14 000m²Umphakathi Mall in Randfontein, an old gold mining town 40km west of Johannesburg.


Despite recent challenges with the pandemic, the mall officially opened at the end of April 2021, and it is expected to hit 100% tenant capacity in the coming weeks.

Many will find it surprising that this new mall has opened in the middle of a pandemic, in a period that has had a big impact on the retail and commercial property sectors in South Africa.


However, Umphakathi Mall is a long-term play that will illustrate how pent-up demand and underserved consumers in our country’s outlying areas are the next big opportunities.


Gold has a new city


Randfontein is a town in the West Rand of Gauteng that owes its existence to gold, with mining activity having started in the area in the 1890s.


Over the last 130 years, Randfontein has undergone many changes, but, interestingly, retail has often been overlooked with a limited number of shopping options in the area.


That’s why we believe the site of the new Umphakathi Mall, which is situated off Main Reef Road (R28), will play an important role in the area’s economic upliftment. (The word Umphakathi also means ‘community’ in Zulu.)


The local community — which consists of just under 129 000 people and 38 000 households — largely comes from the adjacent townships of Mohlakeng and Toekomsrus. Up to 2 000 social housing units are currently being built along the R599 road, while an additional 3 000 units are expected to be added in the next 24 months.


At Umphakathi Mall, we encourage retailers to employ 40% – 60% of the local community, and we believe strongly in youth and women empowerment. Already, in excess of 6 500 CVs have been received from the community for job placements at several of the mall’s outlets.


In addition, the mall has a mix of retailers that cater to the area’s needs, including the likes of Pick ‘n Pay, Boxer, OBC Butchery, Mr Price, Ackermans, Pep, Russells, Sleepmasters, a KFC drive-through, and Cashbuild.


Furthermore, the mall is equipped with its own fibre internet and solar energy infrastructure. We’ve also worked with the local municipality to build a new taxi rank and, in future, there will also be a filling station that will make it a prominent transport node.


At Ancora Property Group we have many exciting and unique future developments that include the likes of Vryburg Mall and Autumn Leaf Mallin the North West province, the Leseli Neighbourhood Mall in Lesotho, among many others. These are set to join Ancora Property Group’s other existing centres such as Steeledale Mall, Parkdene Junction and Fourways Gardens in Johannesburg, as well as others like Menlyn Maine in Tshwane and Maerua Mall in Windhoek, Namibia.


Meryl Bessesar, Director at Ancora Property Group, says:I strongly believe that Umphakathi Mall will show the way forward on how we can make our economy more inclusive in South Africa. In the future, one won’t have to move to cities to experience the benefits of convenient, quality retail. High quality shopping centres will exist in many more areas in our country and, in turn, will boost these towns’ and our country’s economic prospects going forward”.


Moegamat Behardien, Managing Director at MET Developments, says: “When it comes to Umphakathi Mall, we’ve gone the extra mile in ensuring that everybody in the community can benefit. That’s why from day one, we’ve been holding regular meetings with community members as well as putting forward commitments for locals to be employed by retailers at the mall. We’ve also received great support from the local municipality and we’ve assisted in constructing a brand new taxi rank which will significantly improve transport in the area. Umphakathi Mall is a blueprint for future development in our country”