Could Louis Trichardt become a popular student destination like Stellenbosch or Potchefstroom? This scenario is not that far-fetched, seen against the backdrop of recent talks between the Makhado Municipality and the University of Venda (Univen) for the establishment of a satellite campus in town.
Things have already moved beyond the point of talking, however. In February this year, a strategic planning session was held between the Makhado Municipality and Univen regarding the establishment of such a satellite campus. A task team was also formed to fast-track the process. This is in line with former Makhado Mayor Shonisani Sinyosi’s call to speed up the process during her budget speech in June 2018. In her speech, she also referred to the donation of a piece of land to Univen for such a campus. “We have also had engagements with the University of South Africa and the Vhembe TVET, so that they also have fully fledged campuses in our town, thus expanding and diversifying the population base of our town,” the former mayor had said.
Where exactly, then, will this Univen campus be situated if it becomes a reality? The answer to this question remains unclear, however.
Chances are that the campus will be situated on a piece of vacant land just east of Ridgeway College in Leeu Street. This is in accordance with a Council decision taken during the 117th Special Council meeting on 8 December 2016 (ITEM A.210.08.12.16). According to this resolution, the municipality donated the 5,76ha Erf 6105 in Extension 13 to Univen under several strict conditions.
However, the site for the establishment of the proposed campus does not appear to be a done deal yet. The Zoutpansberger took a closer look at the town-planning maps and saw that no Erf 6105 in Extension 13 (east of Ridgeway College) can be found. More specifically, none of the proposed erven in Extension 13 has been approved. In fact, the proposed town-planning map for new erven was rejected. An Erf 6105 is, however, situated at the “Padkamp” (road workers’ camp) south of town in Extension 14. During the 85th Ordinary Council meeting of 30 January last year, a proposal was also set forward under Item A.4.30.01.18 that the Makhado Show Grounds be considered as possible location for the campus.
The precise location of the proposed campus does, however, seem to be a minor obstacle for the parties involved.
Municipal media liaison officer Mr Peter Muthambi confirmed this week that the task team was hard at work. “The project task team has developed the terms of reference and a plan of action with deliverables that will guide the process of planning and implementation,” said Muthambi. Coming back to the issue of the proposed site, Muthambi said: “Amongst the first priorities is the review of the council resolution donating the land for the proposed campus by the Makhado Municipality.”
The specific reason for the review is not clear. Muthambi only indicated that the project team had been tasked with submitting a “reviewed item to Council” regarding the donation of the land, as well as related matters. “Only when the Council has passed a resolution on the reviewed donation of land, the university will proceed with the finalisation of its business plan, which, in summary, includes the construction of lecture rooms, office park, student and staff accommodation, conference and seminar facilities,” said Muthambi.
The municipality and Univen clearly do not want to dwell on the issue for too long. As to a time frame, Muthambi said that as soon as the plan of action was agreed upon by both parties, the idea was to have a site handover by February 2020 “and the 1st phase of the project should have kick-started”.
Muthambi said that they were very excited about the proposed development. “…the satellite campus will bring social and economic opportunities to the residents of the municipality and the town in particular,” said Muthambi. He added that all would benefit. “Businesses in the town and residents alike will benefit greatly from ‘new consumers’ that will use local business services and facilities,” said Muthambi.
According to Muthambi, the campus will be accessible to the many students who still travel long distances daily between Louis Trichardt and Thohoyandou. “The study programmes [certificates/diplomas/degrees and postgraduate qualifications] that will be offered at the satellite campus support the municipality’s vision of becoming a hub for socio-economic development,” said Muthambi.