22 April 2022
Proposed in 2010, the R28.5-million Tshakhuma Conference Development Heritage and Tourism Project near Thohoyandou in Limpopo was meant to create jobs and bring tourism to the area. A conference centre and 20 camping chalets were planned.
Instead, the Department of Tourism paid a service provider R9.3-million before the project ground to a halt in 2014 with very little to show for the expenditure.
According to Lesley Singo, who worked for nine months on the project, a site office was constructed, the area was cleared of bush, and a small makeshift footbridge was built.
Asked what work was done to warrant a payment of R9.3-million, the department told GroundUp it was for site clearance, purchase of a bakkie, a fridge and bags of cement, and the payment of a planning consultant and the training of workers.
GroundUp visited the site on 9 April. Thick bush has grown back over the area that had been cleared and a maize field now stands where the site office once stood.
The land at Goedverwachting farm near Tshakhuma Dam had been allocated by the Traditional Council to the Department of Tourism for the project.
Been Around GP Advert and Consulting CC (BAGP) was the service provider.
It failed to comply with the contract, mismanaged the project funds, and a criminal case was opened against the service provider, according to Seapei Lebele, Tourism Acting Chief Director at the national Department of Tourism.
We were unable to trace or make contact with BAGP.
“The community is really waiting for this project,” said Joel Mulaudzi, a community leader. He said the development would create much-needed jobs and boost economic activity for local small businesses and vendors.
For a while, the project employed about 130 people from the community.
The Department of Tourism claims it met with the Tshakhuma Community Trust in 2014, informing the trust that the project was discontinued pending a criminal case against the service provider.
Lebele said the project is not going to be revived. The department had advised the trust to liaise with and seek approval from the Traditional Council to take over the project.
Chief Netshavhani Edson Ramadi from the trust, speaking through an interpreter, said in 2014 he informed the community of the developments. He said he hoped the project would be revived to help reduce youth unemployment.
He said he would welcome anyone willing to take over the project and contribute to the development of the community.
But Osliy Nyamande, a community leader, said the community have had no feedback since 2014 from the trust or the department.
“If the department feels the project has been stopped forever it must give us permission to get people who can take over the project,” said Nyamande.
Meanwhile, Singo and other former workers wait, hoping that someone will someday resume the development.
GroundUp tried for days to confirm with the department what had happened with the criminal case, where and when it was opened, and which law enforcement agency was investigating. A reply will be added if received.
The Department of Tourism said the matter was reported to the Assets Forfeiture Unit and South African Police Services at Sunnyside Police Station in 2011 already, who referred it to the National Director of Prosecutions.