Tembisa is a large township situated to the north of Kempton Park on the East Rand, Gauteng, South Africa. It was established in 1957 when black people were resettled from Alexandra and other areas in Edenvale, Kempton Park, Midrand and Germiston.
The name Thembisa is a Nguni word meaning “promise” and “hope”, was later misspelled as Tembisa. When the settlement was founded, it carried a lot of hope and promise for a brighter future for its inhabitants. Though its initial residents were forcefully removed from parts of Kempton Park and Edenvale, for the purpose of clearing blacks from “white areas”, settling in Tembisa also marked the end of years of harassment by apartheid authorities, and a reprieve from a life of squalor in their previous settlements. Today Tembisa enjoys better infrastructure and its population has grown exponentially in the past 20 years, with its attraction being its location in the heart of Gauteng province’s industrial zone.
The township was founded in 1957. After the Afrikaner-dominated National Party gained power in 1948 and began to implement apartheid, the pace of forced removals and the creation of townships outside legally designated white areas increased. The Johannesburg council established new townships for black people evicted from the city’s freehold areas.
In 1956, townships were laid out for particular ethnic groups as part of the state’s strategy to sift black people into groupings that would later form the building blocks of the so-called “independent homelands”. It is the second largest township in Gauteng, following Soweto.
In 1977 the government initiated the Community Councils and in 1982 upgraded them to Town Councils, under the Black Local Authorities Act. The government vested limited powers on these councils but without financial muscle. Therefore, to raise revenue for purposes of developing the townships, the councils increased rent and service charges. This caused the residents in different townships, including Tembisa, to establish civic structures to resist the rent and service charge increases.
In 2016, on July 25, residents were caught off guard when a tornado hit the area. The twister started in Kempton Park and moved over to Tembisa, causing the most destruction here. Around 20 individuals were seriously injured and in excess of 400 were left destitute. A standout amongst the most noticeable sights was the damage caused to the Phumulani Mall, where the rooftop crumbled after the tornado passed through it.
The township was not historically allowed to create employment centres within its area, so almost all of its residents commute daily to their employment destinations in places such as Kempton Park, Olifantsfontein, Pretoria, Johannesburgand Midrand.
Metrorail operates commuter trains between Tembisa and central Johannesburg. Train stations are Tembisa in the east, Limindlela in the center and Leralla in the west. Oakmoor and Olifansfontein stations are in the far east but is serviced by trains heading to Pretoria.
Taxi’s are used by most people to travel around Tembisa, South Africa and to neighbouring countries.