While there may be those who regard living next to the biggest coal liquefaction plant in the world a bit of a drawback, the leafy suburbs of Secunda are the ideal place to raise a young family.When compared to other towns in South Africa, Secunda may be classified as the new kid on the block. This fact has, however, has not hampered its growth and as the industrial hub in Mpumalanga, it is regarded as one of the country’s biggest success stories. Rich in coal, oil and gas reserves, the town was officially promulgated in 1974, although the government of the day recognised the importance of the natural resources the region offered as far back as the 1950s. Secunda’s Sasol Oil Refinery literally put the town on the map and played a strategic part in the drive by government to boost economic development and growth for the country as a whole. The fact that South Africa had no domestic oil reserves left the country extremely vulnerable to disruption of supply from external sources. Although the process of producing oil from coal as opposed to natural petroleum is expensive, mining and developing its own natural resources became a number one priority during the global oil crisis in 1974. The move to independence proved vital on both political and business fronts and Sasol went on to be privatised, holding its own in the global markets in post-apartheid South Africa. Today the town houses the largest coal liquefaction plant in the world. In 2001, stock prices rose by over 50% year-on-year, prompting the Dow Jones World Sustainability Index to name Sasol as the second-best performer of the year in global markets.It goes without saying that industry growth and property demand go hand-in-hand and the housing market exploded in the 1970s as workers flocked to the area and residents chose to make Secunda home. The area has adapted well to the boom and with close proximity to Johannesburg, families are able to encompass community living at its best, while still enjoying easy access to amenities on offer in the surrounding areas. Perhaps because there was a massive industrial plant on its doorstep, the actual town of Secunda has been well thought out and developed. The layout is unique and the residential sections are dotted with numerous green strips. The result is quiet neighbourhoods with roads that are used only by local residents living in the area. The design has made it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to access the local schools and the central business district.Unfortunately the town has recently been caught up in a number of protests by locals living in nearby eMbalenhle who are unhappy with the lack of services delivered by the local municipality. Although some of the marches have been peaceful, there have been a number of occasions when things have turned violent. The town has a thriving commercial centre that includes a number of shopping centres with a variety of large anchor tenants. There is a wealth of entertainment facilities available, including a ten-pin bowling alley, an indoor cricket court as well as numerous restaurants that are situated near the town’s sports stadium in the newly-constructed Waterfront development.
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