Millions of rands of taxpayers’ money has been flushed down the drain as a promising tourism project in Tsholomnqa’s KwaSandile village lies rotting, neglected and vandalised.
The Department of Tourism failed to complete the rustic riverside resort, valued at about R10-million, by its 2012 deadline.
The construction of the community-driven Tyolomnqa Estuary Project commenced in 2011 with a vision of creating hundreds of jobs.
Today all that remains are eight ravaged little chalets surrounded by piles of building materials and two shipping containers almost obscured by overgrown bush.
A Daily Dispatch special report found scores of mattresses and equipment stored in the two containers at the construction site. It appeared as though some of the equipment had been stolen.
Tons of crushed stone and hundreds of unused building bricks are lying around the site, which is just a stone’s throw from the Tyolomnqa River.
Copper wire has been stolen and random equipment litters the site. A pile of hard hats and clock-in tags sprawl in the corner of one of the chalets.
Former workers told the Daily Dispatch the containers had just recently been broken into and equipment stolen by thieves.
They claimed the appointed implementer of the project, Performance Unlimited, left without paying them what it owed.
“For four years we worked as security guards without getting a cent back from the company. We took shifts, day and night trying to protect this community project but in the end we got tired and stopped.
“Right now thieves just do as they please on site. It is so sad to see something that had so much potential dying like this,” said former worker Wakhe Felani.
A notice found on site reads: “Work will be temporarily suspended from June 29 2012 until further notice.”
No work has taken place there since then, said former workers and residents.
Asked if there were any plans to finish the project, Department of Tourism acting chief director for communications Lulama Duma said: “Not at this stage”.
Duma said the project concept was developed in 2001 emanating from discussions with the Tyolomnqa River Estuary Forum. The forum had an interest in conserving and managing the estuary in a manner which would create socioeconomic benefits for the surrounding community.
“The original business model was based on eight four-bed chalets and four campsites with eight people per site. Seven chalets, the campsite and a boma were completed in 2006. The campsite was never operational, and it has deteriorated over time,” Duma said.
While Buffalo City Metro is stated as the project initiator on the project signage boards scattered around the village, spokesman Samkelo Ngwenya distanced the metro from the project. He directed questions sent by the Dispatch to the Department of Tourism.
Duma said the then-Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism contributed R750000 in 2006 for the initial building model, and R8.7-million between 2011 and 2013.
Asked why work stopped on site, Duma said: “Land-zoning needed to be changed and the timelines had not been adequately factored in the planning. There were unexpected cost escalations on the project which resulted in budget constraints.”
She said a private sector partner also withdrew its support as it could not reach an agreement with the community trust on the management of the campsite.
Asked about action taken by the department after the implementing company left site, and the ongoing vandalism and theft of equipment, Duma said: “Performance Unlimited left the site having completed work that was possible within the budget constraints. It was not possible for the department to make provision for the unexpected project escalations.”
Performance Unlimited’s Phillip White had not responded to messages sent by the Dispatch on Friday by the time of going to print yesterday. — firstname.lastname@example.org