It was three years ago, in 2017, that the Tzaneen Tourist Information Centre was destroyed by a fire. It has still not been rebuilt, or moved to a new location. Photo: Joe Dreyer

On the 17th of October 2017, the Tourism Information Centre at the entrance to Tzaneen burnt to the ground. In its wake it left a few rondawels (chalet) and a pile of rubble that now greets visitors as they enter town or drive past to the restaurant situated behind the site.

It has been three years and nothing has been done in the form of developing the land on which the tourism centre once stood, rebuilding the tourism centre, rebuilding an entirely new building or office block, or perhaps even transforming the vacant plot into a free market for the street hawkers. Not a word has been said about this piece of land either.

Two weeks ago, Bulletin sent an inquiry about the matter to the spokesperson of the Greater Tzaneen Municipality. We asked the GTM what their plans were for the site, why a security guard is stationed there and why there appears to be people living in the rondawels that were not destroyed by the fire. If the site is just a vacant plot with no development intended for it, why spend taxpayer money to employ security guards to guard it?

All that was left after the fire, was the four small rondawels situated on the border of the centre. The Beads Bazaar has in the meantime been trading out of a container parked next to the premises. Photo: Joe Dreyer

Neville Ndlala, the spokesperson for the GTM, referred us to Ntlekeng Kgatle, spokesperson for the Limpopo Economic Development Environment and Tourism department (LEDET). We repeated the process with Kgatle who referred us back to Ndlala as the tourism information centre was run by LEDET but stood on ground owned by the GTM.

This week we finally received a response.

“The plan is to rebuild the centre. The project is in the GTM’s Integrated Development Plan (IDP). We have also sent a letter of request to the Department of Tourism to assist in the rebuilding. (kindly take note that the land belongs to GTM while the structure to ĹTA),” Ndlala said.

Responding to our inquiry on why the security guards are being paid to guard a vacant site, Ndlala said that two of the Department of Tourism’s officials operate from one of the rondawels near the back of the site to apparently assist with information and to “through their website”. We do not know exactly what is meant by that statement but we have to accept the response as meaning that there are actually two officials sitting in a tiny rondawel on an unmarked plot of land hidden ini long grass and building rubble without any visible signage directing travelers to their whereabouts… assisting with information.

We further asked whether the municipality was aware that four people were operating a manufacturing business from the site and that other businesses were being operated there? “Yes, there’s Beads Bazaar container and a chairs manufacturing SMME who was approved by LTA.”

And the security company? “Security company is appointed by the LTA. They are no guarding rubble, the container full of stock, material for chairs manufacturing etcetera is not rubble.”

Bulletin visited the site last week and we spoke to the people working from there. There is indeed a manufacturing plant, albeit an informal one, base at the rondawels. We saw them working with wood and steel and one of the women who work on the site explained that they mostly weave baskets and garden outdoor furniture which they ship out to outlying areas weekly.

No date was offered in the response, nor was a reason given as to why nothing has happened to the site in the last three years. We were also not told whether the SMME or the Beads Bazaar pay rent to run their businesses from the site. We still do not know where they receive their water and electricity from.