Rapid growth since the fifties

The old Town Hall in Van Riebeeck Avenue, Alberton North, which is still a proud landmark in Alberton.

FROM humble beginnings in the early 1900’s, Alberton experienced a boom and kept on developing, growing into a town to be reckoned with. In 1950 the bus service was established amid the traditional storm of protest from ratepayers. Nine buses were provided for white passengers and 10 for blacks. The public library began and the first maternity home opened its doors.

The 1960’s began with Alberton being declared an independent magisterial area, and circuit court hearings took place from 1964.

A pavilion for the rugby grounds at the Piet Fick Stadium was erected, new fire-fighting equipment acquired and the proclamation of Alrode Extension 2 as well as Randhart occupied the attention of the town council.

More new suburbs where proclaimed: Alberante, the elite area, receiving some public jeers for being placed on the site of the old sewage disposal area and General Alberts Park saw the light. Plans for a new civic centre was also brought to light with a huge public outcry of course.

Tar roads where proposed in both old and new suburbs and 63 industries where established – prosperity was steadily growing.

More buses where purchased, bringing the total to 12 for whites and 29 for blacks. The registered votoers in Alberton in the 60’s where about 9 000 and the population figure for Thokoza (then described as the most modern Bantu township in the Repulic) is given as 24 000 in 1967. The town council took over the remainder of Palmietfontein to make room for the expansion of the township.

By 1970 there was a new fire station, administrative offices for the new Non European Affairs Department, mechanical street cleaning equipment, a new bridge over Natalspruit, administrative offices for the Parks Department and two new white suburbs.

In 1975 there where five new white suburbs, the new Civic Centre was under construction and the council announced a R20 million budget.

Almost unnoticed was the establishment of the coloured suburb Eden Park (deriving from Edenvale and Kempton Park, since this township would house families relocated from these areas). The first house was handed over in 1976, but development was hampered by a financial snarl-up and the area was only proclaimed in 1982. Interesting to note that street names in Eden Park derived from motor cars.

Frieda Lindique was the first woman to be elected to council in 1977. Another break in tradition came with the election of the first English speaking mayor. Doug Harris held this position for two terms and later in 1983, his wife Louise became mayor of Alberton. She again accepted responsibility of mayor in 1987, despite the recent death of her husband, and in that year the council tabled a budget of R108 million.

While life was appearing to be all good and well in the white areas of Alberton, the late 1980’s early 90’s was a time of horror and fear for black people. Hard to pinpoint the exact cause of violence in Thokoza and its satellite settlement of Phola Park, it has gone down in history as a vast conflagration of many things: intense unease that goes with political change, traditional enmity between cultural groups, feuds between hostel dwellers and residents. Thokoza, once known as the place of happiness became a war zone.

February 11, 1990 changed the lives of every South African and the freedom of one man brought freedom to all.

Violence began to wane and the first democratic elections was held on April 27, 1994 and Alberton responded with its first black mayor, Ms Nomsa Maseko, for many years an energetic head of the ANC Women’s League. The council’s budget for the year of 1997 was well in excess of R150 million and the focus was moved to bring upgrades and services to Thokoza and Phola Park.

In this time Alberton could proudly boast its road from rags to riches being ranked the 13th largest town in South Africa.

*Taken from An Alberton Album, published by the Alberton Town Council 1997

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