The controversial R4.5-million Khoisan Rock Art Centre project in Joubertina is still in shambles – more than 10 years after construction started.
While the centre was meant to celebrate the Khoisan community, it has now been vandalised, with roof timbers stripped and parts of the fencing stolen.
And the Gamtkwa Khoisan Council believes every project meant to celebrate the Khoisan in the Sarah Baartman area is falling apart.
Council representative Kobus Reichert described the project as a sad state of affairs.
“Our culture is now abused to enrich certain people. The government has proven with this project and others that they don’t take us seriously,” he said.
Construction was started in September 2006 and was to be completed by March 2009, according to the construction schedule.
But the centre – once touted as a future Langkloof tourism hotspot – has become a white elephant after construction stopped six years ago.
The project was managed by the national Tourism Department and allegations of fraud and corruption surrounding the centre emerged in 2010.
But the department is yet to finalise the forensic probe commissioned by the department, according to Koukamma municipal spokeswoman Siphokazi Nonyukela.
She said their hands were tied as the project was not in their control.
“We are waiting for the department to finalise its investigation. The department commissioned a forensic investigation after fraud and corruption was detected. As a result the project had to be stopped,” Nonyukela said.
Several attempts to get comment from Tourism Department spokesman Trevor Bloem were unsuccessful.
Joubertina resident Ivan Smith, 75, said the building still looked the same as it did in 2012 – apart from the vandalism.
Located at the at the entrance to Joubertina, the centre was intended to create jobs and attract tourists to the impoverished community.
“It is a waste of money. I have sent e-mails to the tourism minister [Derek Hanekom], and the previous minister before him. I’ve asked about it during a tourism meeting at Koukamma municipality a year ago. Nobody responded to my queries,” Smith said.
He said residents had even started burying their loved ones in an open space behind the centre due to graveyards filling up.
Former worker Evelyn Salmons, 56, said 65 residents employed as general workers had lost their jobs after the project was halted.
“We were 65 in 2008 when the project started and the numbers dropped drastically. When the project was stopped we were about 35 workers because people lost hope. Some people never got other jobs. “I now work as a domestic,” Salmons said.
Joubertina ANC councillor Fundiswa Herman said: “Most people had depended on the project to feed their families, now they are sitting at home without jobs.”
DA Koukamma constituency leader Malcom Figg said he was disgusted by the state of the project.
“This is such a waste of public funds. The community is suffering because this project was meant to create jobs for them. It is totally unacceptable,” he said.
Weekend Post first reported about the project in 2012.
At the time, townsfolk reported that about 40 workers had been sitting around on the site daily, doing nothing for more than three months.