Areas and Places

Secunda – a happy mix of coal and cosmos

Founded forty years ago to house a few thousand people working on the then-new Sasol Two and Sasol Three plants in Mpumalanga, Secunda has since grown into a thriving modern town with about 300 000 residents and a complex economy of its own.

Situated about 135km from Johannesburg and at the centre of the “energy belt” in the Mpumalanga province, Secunda is probably still best known for the very high chimney stacks of the nearby Sasol Synfuels plant, and for its proximity to one of the biggest underground mining complexes in the world, made up of five huge coal mines.

However, says Natasha Herbst, the local Rawson Property Group franchisee, it is also remarkable for its location in the heart of Cosmos country – a swathe of countryside in the south-west of the region that is absolutely carpeted with pink and white wild flowers every autumn – and for several other attractions that are draw cards for hundreds of tourists and other visitors every year.

These include:

– The Graceland casino and hotel complex which offers an array of entertainment options as well as a golf club on an excellent Gary Player-designed course;

– The Lake Umuzi Waterfront development on the banks of the Trichardt River, which is the home of the annual Cosmos 3-in-1 MTB and Cosmos 3-in-1 Marathon events and incorporates a water park, miniature golf course, bowling alley and indoor cricket, soccer and netball facilities, as well as a selection of restaurants and event venues;

– The 60 000sqm Secunda Mall regional shopping centre, which opened in 2013 and has more than 90 stores as a well as a Ster Kinekor multiplex and a wide variety of restaurants; and

– The Grootdraai Dam on the upper reaches of the Vaal River, which is very popular with windsurfers, campers and anglers.

Herbst also notes that while the local economy has been hit by the slump in the demand for commodities such as coal and oil over the past two years, Secunda remains an active business hub with a highly urbanised – and growing – population, which is positive for the residential property market.

“This is underlined by the fact that Nedbank recently financed a second major retail development here – the Secunda Value Mart anchored by Builders Warehouse – to the tune of around R70 million”.

“And according to a recent municipal planning report, our population is growing at a rate of 2,8% a year, or about double the national rate, so as long as we can continue to create new jobs, the demand for homes locally should also continue to grow.”

Properties currently for sale in Secunda include stands at prices from around R200 000 and one and two-bedroom apartments from around R600 000 which are sought-after by first-time buyers and buy-to-let investors, as there is a perennially strong demand for rental properties, she says.

“For families, there are many modern townhouses available at prices from around R750 000 and houses that are somewhat older but in excellent condition from around R1 million. And of course the town offers great education options, with about 10 primary schools, three public high schools and a Curro private school that accommodates both primary and secondary learners.”

Herbst says there are also several new retirement developments in Secunda which, along with top-notch medical facilities including three private hospitals, are encouraging older residents to stay on rather than leave town after they stop working.

“In fact, the latest figures from property data company Lighstone show just how stable the Secunda property market is, with 56% of homeowners having been resident for 11 years and more. And the prices of their properties have doubled in the past 10 years, with the average for a sectional title unit having risen from R400 000 to R850 000 currently, and that for freehold homes having risen from R680 000 to R1,35 million.”