Soweto’s Meadowlands is experiencing something of a resurgence in popularity thanks to its entry level properties and the low cost of living the area offers.
So says Joseph Enendu of Royal Real Estate which services the area and surrounds. According to Enendu, Meadowlands and a number of other Johannesburg townships besides are coming back into vogue with those who originally left such areas to move into suburbs further afield.
“These ‘expat’ residents are now coming back, citing the suburbs as too expensive and too far removed from their places of work in town,” explains Enendu.
Although seemingly in favour now, Meadowlands was not the first choice of many of its original residents and did not come about in the most auspicious manner. Indeed, its roots are grounded in the demolition of Sophiatown, one of South Africa’s most colourful townships.
Founded in 1897, Sophiatown was originally located on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Although desperately poor and characterised largely by shacks, the township developed into a vibrant, mixed community of Blacks, Coloureds, Indians and Chinese and thrived despite repressive apartheid laws. Over the years, the liberal nature of the township attracted writers, musicians and artists from all walks of life and became a hub of political debate and jazz alike. Cinemas, shops, shebeens and churches took root and by the time the 50’s rolled round, a distinct penchant for designer fashion had taken hold.
Although not affluent by any stretch of the imagination and known for harbouring gangsters as well as artists, many of Sophiatown’s original residents recall their time in the township with fondness and refer it as a unique and dynamic outpost amidst an ocean of racial and political intolerance.
In 1955 the waves of this intolerance spilled over. Unnerved by the political inclinations of the township, South Africa’s ruling National Party decided to demolish Sophiatown. Over 2000 armed policemen arrived in the township on the 9th of February and forcibly started evicting its residents. Families and belongings alike were packed into trucks and, depending on their racial denomination were unceremoniously dumped in new areas, one of which was Meadowlands in Soweto.
Over the next eight years, Sophiatown’s 65 000 residents were evicted. Sadly, many families were also broken up thanks to the inaccurate racial classification methods of the time. Bizarrely, some family members would be classified as coloured and others black, forcing them to live in separate townships.
Post evictions, Sophiatown was flattened and removed from Johannesburg’s maps entirely. Cruelly, a new white suburb named ‘Triomf’ which means ‘Triumph’ in Afrikaans was established in its place. The Anglican Church of Christ the King in Ray Street is now all that remains of the fabled township. In 2006 Triomf was renamed Sophiatown once more.
Today, Meadowlands is an established suburb featuring a number of zones as well as a variety of public schools and affordable shops. The property market in the area is characterised largely by a mix of old, three and four bedroom homes complete with two bathrooms and a garage and RDP houses. According to Enendu, property prices range from R150, 000 to R600 000. The latest Lightstone report on Meadowlands West Zone 10 puts the average value at R150, 000. To date, ten sales have occurred in this area alone.
“If priced correctly Meadowlands properties sell within a month,” claims Enendu. In terms of other Meadowlands characteristics, sectional title properties have yet to emerge; the rental market is surprisingly flat and new construction projects are mainly occurring in other parts of Soweto.