16 April 2017
For weeks, business owners and the rest of the affected community in Pilgrim’s Rest held their collective breath in expectation of the outcome of the latest tender process for the existing and closed business premises. And nothing happened.
Tender documents, in the third tender process in the past five years, had to be submitted by September 30, 2016. It was clear that some of the inputs by the local business community had been considered as the tenders were to include a business proposal which was to carry more weight than the tender amount. The process was to have been concluded by the end of December 2016 but in mid-December an urgent letter was sent out by the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport (DPWRT) for permission to extend the date until the end of February 2017. A similar letter in mid-February requested extension until the end of March. There was no further request for extension during March and excitement mounted.
March 31 came and went without any outcome or communication regarding the tenders. “There has been absolutely no feedback,” said Johnny Reinders, Vine Restaurant. “We have been disappointed once again, although we have gotten used to it over the years.” Most of the business owners feel that they just want closure and clarity for the future. “We just want to be told ‘take-a-lot or go’,” said Gustaf Peach, owner, The Daisy.
Mandla Mokoena, the local councilor, made enquiries after being approached by GPS News. He was informed unofficially by two different persons in government that the process of allocating the businesses was ongoing. However, at the time of going to press, official enquiries by both GPS News as well as Aflead, the economic advisors recruited by Radio Jacaranda last year, have gone unanswered.
Currently Pilgrim’s Rest, and its community of over 1 700 people, relies on one economic sector only, namely heritage tourism. The heritage attractions, including the museums, tours and the old buildings from which the businesses are operated, still provide visitors with a worthwhile experience. However, a true revival and job creation will only be possible once all the businesses, including the caravan park, are open again.