After more than a decade of delays, corruption, and project mismanagement, a key tourism project in the North West province has been unblocked by the Minister of Tourism, Patricia de Lille.
Construction has restarted on the ambitious Manyane Lodge tourism project in Mahikeng this month – which was first identified for a massive upgrade by the North West Parks and Tourism Agency in 2011 – and is set for completion by October 2024.
Speaking during an oversight visit to the Manyane Lodge project yesterday, De Lille said various stakeholders had raised concerns about its future. “The completion of the Manyane Lodge, however, remains a key priority for the Department of Tourism as investment in infrastructure development will boost further private-sector investment in the region and result in more job opportunities for neighbouring communities.
“The Manyane Lodge is one of the longstanding, delayed and incomplete projects and my visit today was geared towards meeting with stakeholders to inject urgency into this project. The delay on this project has a negative impact on tourism activities, the community and especially the tourism sector in the region and it is imperative that we finally complete this project.”
Chairman of the North West Legislature Standing Committee on Provincial Public Accounts (SCOPA), Job Dliso – who accompanied De Lille on her visit – strongly condemned the fact that the various departments had failed to monitor the control systems in the supply chain management processes.
“This is as money spent cannot be accounted for. It is further worrying that the department will pay the additional funds without holding anyone accountable on the delays that have continued for over six financial years,” he said.
MEC for the North West Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation and Tourism, Virginia Tlhapi, noted that the matter of Manyane Game Lodge was currently under investigation and the department would submit a comprehensive report to the committee.
“We have also developed a monitoring mechanism to assess progress and ongoing developments at the project.”
Background to the project
The North West Parks and Tourism Agency applied to the Department of Tourism for the upgrade of facilities at the Manyane Lodge. The upgrades included refurbishing 20 chalets and the guardhouse, constructing 10 new chalets, a restaurant, parking, and upgrading of water, sewerage and electricity.
In November 2011, the Department appointed a contractor with a budget of R48.4 million (€2.3m). Planning started in 2012, and construction started in November 2013.
Over 90% of those funds were spent on the project. However, by the end of 2015, the contractor requested additional funds to complete the project due to cost escalations and variations. This funding was not approved.
The Department commissioned the Government Technical Advisory Centre in 2016 to review various projects, including the Manyane Lodge project. Work on the project was effectively halted.
Since 2016, no work has taken place at the Manyane Lodge. In his 2018/2019 report for the Department of Tourism, the Auditor-General declared “fruitless and wasteful expenditure on this project”. Consequence management proceedings are now under way against affected parties.
The State Attorney in Pretoria has been instructed to recover the money on behalf of the Department of Tourism. The project is also currently the subject of a case by the Public Protector’s Office.
“The history of this project is extremely unfortunate, but (it is) sadly a common occurrence with infrastructure projects, which are vital for growth in communities and economic growth,” said De Lille.
The way forward
The Department of Tourism contracted the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) in 2021 to complete various tourism infrastructure projects, including the Manyane Lodge.
The DBSA appointed a professional service provider and contractor for the project at a total cost of R27.9 million (€1.3m). This is in addition to the nearly R48 million (€2.3m) already spent on the project.
The scope of work to refurbish and complete the project includes the following:
- Completion of the restaurant building
- Construction of a 50-seat Conference Hall
- Refurbishment of 10 Standard Chalets
- Refurbishment of nine Executive Chalets
- Reconstruction of one Executive Chalet
- Refurbishment of the swimming pool and replacement of the pool pump
- Refurbishment of the guardhouse
- General landscaping (kerbing and cutting grass)
- Refurbishment of paving on walkways and parking areas
- Installation of diamond mesh security fence