THE Motumo Trading Post, situated on the foot of the Motumo mountainside at the threshold of Botlokwa along the N1 highway, has been a white elephant for quite sometimes, triggering an aura of dejection among the locals who see the establishment as a waste of taxpayer’s money.
However, there is an overwhelming atmosphere of jubilation after Capricorn District Municipality (CDM) announced that plans are afoot to rehabilitate the facility following years of vandalism and decay.
The R22-million government facility, which was officially opened by former Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Rejoice Mabudafhasi on July 13 2006, was erected on top of several graves of the Motumo people who lived there in 1800s before relocating to current-day Matseke village.
The small mountains are still regarded as sacred by nearby communities who used to conduct traditional clan rituals back in the day.
The yellowish rondavel setup, which is situated along the N1 highway between Polokwane and Makhado, was meant to stimulate local economy and create hundreds of jobs for the rural residents.
After its launch, ownership challenges emerged and the local traditional council wanted to be part of the running of the project, effectively forcing CDM to approach the department [Environmental Affairs and Tourism] to have the trading post to be transferred to the district municipality.
The intention was that stores and other facilities would allow locals to sell crafts and cater for tourists.
The centre has chalets, conference facilities, restaurants, sports amenities and game farm but very little has come of the project.
At some stage, more than 70 locals occupied the premises on a regular basis but most have long abandoned their stalls, saying they received little support from the national tourism department, which initiated the project.
Scores of people used the facility on a weekly basis for catering and beading.
Art students brought on site by the district municipality have since left because they claimed the municipality had stopped paying their stipends.
Expressing her displeasure over the Motumo Trading Post, local resident, Makosha Mphasha said very little has happened since 2006.
She complained that: “It’s been a while since there has been no activity there… The projects there have yielded little dividends over the years. Some of us really don’t know what the government’s intention was in the first place. Every time I pass by there, I only see waste of taxpayers’ money. It’s a crying shame.”
Spokesperson for the Limpopo Tourism Agency, Mike Tauatsoala, said the project was not particularly their responsibility but of CDM.
The district municipality has announced a comprehensive masterplan to revitalise the decaying complex.
The powers that be at 41 Biccard Street, the council sitting of CDM, will first have to acquire the land on which the trading post is located on before the rehabilitation work commences.
A service provider will then be appointed at an un-approximated amount to run the facility on behalf of CDM.
Executive Mayor John Mpe, said the apparent mêlée at the trading post was a long-drawn-out process and as a result, security was compromised and the multimillion property began to suffer from vandalism and malicious damage.
“When CDM took over the ownership from the national department, the property was in dire of need of refurbishments. To that end, CDM made significant advances to refurbish the site but due to limited funding, the site could not get a total overhaul as it was initially intended. The ownership challenges we experienced are that CDM is not a registered owner of the portion of the farm on which it is, however, the provincial Department of Public Works and South African National Road Agency Limited share ownership of the land. Our district municipality then approached them to be given the rights to develop it on behalf of government. At the moment, we have just completed a feasibility study for a public-private partnership and it has been discovered during the study that the land on the site is under claim which we are busy trying to verify. Once this is done, CDM will apply to obtain rights to develop and manage the site”
The site, which is located on the De Gladde Klipkop farm, is inclusive of a conference facility with a maximum carrying capacity of 200 persons, four breakaway rooms with a carrying capacity of 40 people, a kitchen, restaurant, workshops, swimming pool, tennis court, clubhouse, lapa and ablution facilities.
The Machaka Game Lodge, a 110-hectare nature reserve is situated across the road on the opposite side of the conference facility.
The site includes 11chalets, two sleepers with thatched roofs located on the Klipbok farm.
The information centre at the Tropic of Capricorn, a site approximately 350m2, is a further 10 kilometres from the conference facility to the north of the N1 highway towards the town of Makhado. The information centre comprises market stalls, an information office, and ablution facilities.
The needle of the Tropic of Capricorn, which is found here; is 15metres high and mounted on a “koppie” on a farm portion of The Grange.
The parallel of latitude that is approximately 23¹/₂ degrees south of the equator reached by the overhead sun, is marked by the Dwars River which runs a heartbeat from the Motumo Trading Post.
Little has been done to turn the Tropic of Capricorn monument at the Mabjaneng mountains into a mega tourist attraction.
Once rehabilitation of the Motumo Trading Post is completed, visitors can still do their shopping at the nearby Botlokwa Mall just after the multimillion state-of-the-art bridge which was recently opened by President Jacob Zuma amid fanfare.