Gauteng, the smallest and most densely populated province in South Africa, hosts a multitude of attractions for tourists and expats. At the heart of the province is Johannesburg, Africa’s economic centre, and Pretoria, the country’s capital, is situated in the north of the province. However, if you travel in the opposite direction towards the south of the province you’ll find yourself in the Southern Country. Thirty-five kilometres from the hustle and bustle of the city is Walkerville, a countryside rich in agriculture and adventure and home to a friendly and culturally diverse community.
The greater Walkerville area is comprised of eleven communities. It offers the benefits of rural society within a close proximity to the active and fast-paced metropolis so that one can enjoy its quietness and tranquillity but also have the option of escaping into the city now and again. It may take a fifteen to forty-five minute drive to reach the city, depending on where you are situated.
Owning or renting your own car is the preferred mode of transport as the current public transport system is unreliable and sometimes even dangerous. Older model cars may be rented from R50 ($5.80) per day and newer cars from R350 ($42) per day. However, a large majority of the lower classes depend on the local “taxi” system to get around. It comprises of minibuses which normally transport up to twelve passengers at a time. Taxi’s are often spotted in the cities but only operate on the main public roads in the country. A taxi fare to the city is around R10 ($1.20) and there is no formal schedule for departures and arrivals.
In light of the FIFA World Cup to be held in South Africa next year, the government is working to improve the transport system and infrastructure. New and safer minibuses have been introduced and the planning and construction of a new train and bus system is underway.
As the cost of living is lower than in most countries in Europe as well as the United States and Canada, accommodation is priced relatively low. The national currency, the Rand, has been a little unstable lately due to the world economic crisis and political and economic changes in the country so one U.S. Dollar may buy you anything between eight to ten Rands. In the past weeks however, the currency has held a position below nine Rands to the dollar. It is a good idea to follow the market for some time before purchasing a property or planning to relocate. The price of real estate in the area underwent a boom in late 2004 and early 2005 and has dropped slightly since then. When considering good quality accommodation, cottages may be rented from R4,000 ($471) and houses from R6,000 ($706) per month, excluding utilities. Lovely homes on four to ten acre plots of land are available for purchase from R1 million ($118,000). However, properties can range from half of that price, depending on the condition they are in and the location. Vacant land is priced at about R200,000 ($23,600).
With regards to the cost of living, petrol (or gas) and diesel are both priced below R8 (95c) and a loaf of brown bread costs R8.
Although some believe that county life is better suited for senior citizens and farmers, many of the inhabitants are middle-class families supported by corporate jobs in the city. People with international qualifications and experience are welcomed into the market. There are also jobs available in Walkerville from the local employers. It is common for people to start their own small businesses at their homes, since they have the space and due to the fewer restrictions on starting a business from your home in the country. Agricultural businesses are indeed the most common, but there is a variety of printing, botanical, animal welfare, educational, community services, auto repair, retail and charity businesses as well as others.
School, pre-school and tertiary education facilities are available in and close to the area. Parents may choose from public, semi-private (schools which are partly funded by the government and partly funded by additional school fees) and private schools for their primary and high school children. The Vaal University of Technology is situated south of the area and the University of South Africa has facilities located both to the north and south for distance-education learners.
There are many churches for the different faiths, book clubs, pony clubs and other organisations. There are also local clinics, nearby hospitals and other services provided by the local municipality and government. You’ll also find shopping corners, restaurants, pubs, hotels and cafe’s. Two rivers are also situated nearby. Namely, Kliprivier and the Vaal. So, it is definitely not a deserted country town. Tedderfield Air Park is situated in Tedderfield, Eikenhof in the north. The Air Park’s runway supports the resident Barron (hangar33) and a Beech 1900 frequently comes in for a visit.
Saturday mornings mark the beginning of numerous family activities. Every Saturday people pay a visit to the De Deur Flea Market, where they can buy locally produced goods, second hand items and food, or just browse for something interesting and meet with friends. At least once a month, on either a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, Speedway races are held at the local raceway where motorcyclists come to compete and young riders learn the trait.
Another flea market has recently opened on Sundays and there are show grounds for horses with occasional events held there. For the past thirteen years, the Annual Tour de Walkerville has taken place. Residents and tourists take part in a walk throughout the countryside, sponsored by the local businesses. Participants buy tickets in order to take part in the day’s events, including raffles and competitions.
Some of the major concerns of the community include the welfare of its residents, animal welfare and nature conservation. From this has sprung the various charities for impoverished and orphaned children, care for elderly citizens and feeding schemes, as well as animal rescue centres and veterinary clinics. These charities are supported by the Annual Tour de Walkerville which helps to raise funds for them.
Furthermore, Walkerville is not immune to the high rate of crime in South Africa and it is a factor that is continually raised by residents and the police. Measures that have been implemented to tackle this problem include the hiring of private security services, the installing of alarms into private homes and police patrolling. In some neighbourhoods the residents have come together to ensure that the area is patrolled every night and to help in keeping each other safe. Severe incidents of crime are not often heard of. The usual and widespread crimes include the theft of telephone cables and livestock. Most thieves resort to crime as a result of poverty and are inexperienced, therefore thefts normally occur when homeowners leave their houses uninhabited to go on holiday, or cars and other property is stolen at night in garages, carports and gardens whilst people are sleeping inside the house. However, with time these robbers gain experience and there are others who are already masters in the art of crime. They then progress to crimes like armed robbery.
This is a national crisis that is being dealt with and no place can be undoubtedly labelled as “safe”, however, the rate of overall crime as well as serious crimes such as rape and murder is much lower in the countryside than it is in the cities. Although this should not be a reason for somebody to compromise their plans or stay, it is always a good idea to take all of the safety precautions available to you.
There are few visa restraints for South Africa, especially when immigrants come from developing and first world countries. Along with the usual documents, proof of income, employment or enrolment at a South African educational facility and proof of residence may be required. Persons who later qualify as permanent residents may also apply for citizenship, which may also be achieved by proving birth or decent.
When in South Africa, people will want to take advantage and see all its other attractions. The southern tip of Africa has many experiences to offer like natural African landscapes, wildlife, amusement parks, world class shopping malls and golden beaches. It has become the home of visitors from all over the world, who fall in love with the tropical climate, diverse culture, history, lifestyle and friendly smiles they receive from the locals. For these reasons and others it is often referred to as the Rainbow Nation.