Pilgrim's Rest must be saved - Anthony Benadie

DA Mpumalanga leader says revocation of business leases could lead to town's collapse

Legislature must cancel recess to save Pilgrim's Rest

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Mpumalanga has made an urgent appeal to the Speaker of the legislature to cancel recess so that the province can debate how to save the town of Pilgrim's Rest from shutting down on 31 July (see Citizen report).

In the letter to the Speaker, the DA has also asked that Public Works MEC, Dikeledi Mahlangu, be summoned back from France to deal with the imminent crisis being caused by her Department.

Public Works has awarded the majority of 21 business leases for core premises in the small tourist town to individuals or companies with no capital, business plan or knowledge of the town. 

This means that the economic heart of the town is facing imminent collapse if the situation is not rectified within two weeks.

If the town shuts down on 31 July, hundreds of jobs will be lost. Businesses have already had to submit notices of retrenchment to their workers because Public Works failed to guarantee their job security when the leases were awarded.

There is also the danger that the collapse of Pilgrim's Rest will have a domino effect on the entire tourism industry in Mpumalanga. 

Tour operators offer packaged deals to clients that include Pilgrim's Rest as one of the main attractions on routes through Sabie, Graskop and other tourism hubs. If this option is no longer viable, jobs will be lost everywhere, not just in Pilgrim's Rest.

We are appealing to the Speaker to take the jobs of workers and the provincial tourism industry seriously by cancelling recess and ordering the Public Works MEC to return to South Africa immediately.

Statement issued by Anthony Benadie, DA Mpumalanga Leader, July 9 2012

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