Various national government departments have for almost a decade pumped more than R200-million into Mvezo chief Mandla Mandela’s Great Place with the idea of turning it into a tourist attraction.
Despite this, not a single booking has been made and the project remains unfinished.
Mvezo is the birthplace of Mandela’s famous grandfather, Nelson Mandela, and sits high on a hilltop, overlooking a fertile valley and the Mbashe River.
During a recent visit, the Saturday Dispatch counted more than 50 rondavels that had been built at the Great Place. At this stage it is not clear what they will be used for.
A number of new thatched houses were also being built.
The scale of the unfinished development has led to many unanswered questions about funding and progress of the project.
In 2011, Mandela said the construction of a multipurpose centre, tribal court, administration offices, and the installation of bulk water and electricity services were being done through the support of different government departments.
He also mentioned that a backpackers’ lodge, self-catering chalets, fencing of the site, construction of internal roads and the provision of further bulk infrastructure were on the cards.
This phase of the development was approved and funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism under its social responsibility policy programme.
Mandela, who is the chief beneficiary of the project, revealed yesterday he was also in the dark as to why it was not completed.
“I don’t know why they (government) are not finishing this. We also want to know – maybe if you ask them they will give you answers and speed up the project,” he said.
The ANC MP said he had no idea when work would be completed.
Of the R200-million spent on the project so far, R127-million was used to pave a road from the N2 to the Mvezo Great Place gate. A further R48-million was used to build more than 50 modern rondavels.
Mandela said he had built 15 of the rondavels for his family while the rest were being constructed by government.
“I have 15 family rondavels at home that I can talk about. The rest is not built by us and I won’t know when is their time-frame to finish the project. I really don’t know,” he said. Mandela said the project included a garden of remembrance. “From the N2 to Ludondolo (village) and to our Mvezo village, there’s a garden of remembrance including the bridge which is built and the paved road.
“This formed part of rural development (funded) work to this route to Mvezo,” he said. Despite the massive development, many residents from the area still draw their water supply from the Mbashe river.
Andisiwe Kimbili, 20, said: “We get water from the river but at times we do get water from the chief’s [Mandela’s] place. Currently there seems to be no development there [Mvezo Great Place].”
Mandela was appointed to rule the area in 2007 and when he took over the traditional leadership, he promised to turn Mvezo into a tourist attraction with profits made going to the Mvezo Trust Fund for the benefit of the community.
The project was implemented as part of the Expanded Public Works Programme, with the area having been identified in the Integrated Development Plan of the King Sabata Dalindyebo local municipality as a nodal heritage and tourism site.
In 2012, former tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk revealed in parliament that his department had contributed more than R14-million for phase 1 of the project and an additional R28-million for the second phase, which was scheduled to be completed a year later. Van Schalkwyk said various departments were involved, including the National Lotteries Commission.
In response to Saturday Dispatch questions, Department of Tourism spokesman Trevor Bloem yesterday said the budget for phase two had increased to R33-million and the phase was set to be completed by the end of this month.
He could not confirm if any tourists had visited the Great Place.
National Lotteries Commission grant funding senior executive Jeffrey du Preez said two applications for funding were submitted and grants of R22.9-million and R10-million respectively were allocated. “The first grant of R22.9-million was for phases one and two and has been paid in full. The second grant of R10-million was for phase three. R8-million was paid thus far.”
Du Preez said phases one and two were completed and the third phase was in progress.
He said work included the construction of 10 rondavels to house the history of the Thembu tribe and amphitheatre.