Land claimants in hospitality deal

27 March 2007

The Maruleng community, beneficiaries of a land claim in Mpumalanga, have struck a multi-million rand deal with a local hospitality operator that will see the dilapidated Tembi Guest Lodge near Hazyview being upgraded into a hotel with conferencing facilities.

The R22-million deal between the Sandford Trust, representing the Maruleng community, and the Hippo Hollow will see the Tembi Guest Lodge being upgraded to a hotel with its own convention centre and tourism and hospitality training school.

The community, which is made up of 210 households, holds a 49% stake in the venture, with the Hollow Group owning the majority stake.

According to BuaNews, the project is expected to create more than 120 permanent jobs, complemented by numerous outsourcing opportunities for small contractors and service providers from the Bushbuckridge area.

The deal was brokered with the help of the Business Trust, a privately funded non-governmental organisation that intervenes in developmental matters, brining together the resources of both business and government.

Business Day reports that economic development consultancy company ECIAfrica will revive the lodge, operating it as a “build-operate-transfer” operation under a 51-year lease, the proceeds of which will accrue to the community from the first day.

ECIAfrica will also recruit management and staff from within the local community for the duration of the lease.

Sandford Trust chairman Henry Mabuya said the partnership would ensure the redevelopment, upgrading, expansion and re-branding of the Tembi Guest Lodge. Once operational, the lodge will be known as the Hazyview Hollow Convention Centre and Hotel.

“This investment will play a significant role in improving the lives of beneficiaries through the shareholding, management and lease agreements for the next five decades,” he said.

Owner of Hippo Hollow Hotel, Jack Brotherton, said the partnership plans to develop a 300-delegate convention centre, an 80-bed hotel, a restaurant and a hotel training facility on site.

Brotherton told Business Day that with help from Hippo Hollow, the Sandford community could begin to develop businesses and derive an income, while Hippo Hollow would avoid having an informal settlement across the river.

Capable leadership
The Sandford claim is the second biggest land restitution claim so far in Mpumalanga, valued at R23.4-million. The community’s land consists of 26 adjoining farms, including one of the province’s high-profile tourism attractions, the Shangana Cultural village, as well as a number of other hotels and safari lodges, together with more than 4 000 hectares of mainly banana, citrus and mango farms.

According to Business Day, factors setting the Mabedi Project apart from other failed efforts to assist land claimants included an early community income, cohesion among the land claimants, capable leadership, the willingness to enter into joint ventures with established businesses, and an understanding of the limitations of agriculture.

Sandford Community Trust secretary Riebs Khoza added that the community prefers successful operators to remain on the land, while also welcoming new investors to either farm or start businesses on leased land.

Brotherton said the project would set the standard and create a precedent that could be followed elsewhere in South Africa where land claims were taking place.

“Partnerships such as these are the future of business in this country. The Hippo Hollow team and Sandford community bring significant value to the project and everyone stands to benefit,” he told Business Day. reporter

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