R190m plans for Mkhambathi holiday destination

Mkhambathi offerings to grow

A new holiday destination is on the cards for the Eastern Cape after the province’s tourism department announced a partnership with the Mkhambathi community to build a lodge with 30 beds and 10 villas, to the tune of R190m.

All this is set to be anchored on the existing Mkhambathi Nature Reserve situated on the coast of north-eastern Pondoland.

As is, the 7,720-hectare reserve, characterised by stunning open grasslands, offers visitors access to a hive of outdoor activities ranging from hiking and birding to self-guided game drives and fishing.

Visitors currently have accommodation options of existing lodges, rondavels and cottages.

The new lodge, on which construction is set to begin at the end of 2019, will add a relaxed beachside experience to guests’ holidays.

The news was shared by then Eastern Cape MEC for economic development, environmental affairs and tourism Oscar Mabuyane with newly appointed Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency board chair Nomkhita Mona, alongside the leadership of the Mkhambathi Land Trust community and private investor Colin Bell at the Tourism Indaba in Durban last weekend.

Not only was the development one more luxury destination for Eastern Cape nature lovers, but it would create employment for the benefit of the Mkhambathi community, Mabuyane said.

The popular waterfalls of Mkhambathi Nature Reserve
The popular waterfalls of Mkhambathi Nature Reserve
Image: Supplied

According to the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, construction will create nearly 200 jobs, with 120 permanent jobs once the facility is fully operational.

The project is a three-way partnership between Mkhambathi village, the public sector and Cape Town’s Bell as a private investor.

Bell said: “We got an extraordinary opportunity to take the strengths of each [party] of our partnership to create a winning recipe – an interesting example of what we can create when we work together. I have a suspicion that, if we do this correctly, it could become a world-class model of how communities, the government and private sector should be working with one other.”

Bell is a businessman and co-founder of the Wilderness Safaris group.

Mabuyane said one of the major benefits of the project would be the creation of jobs within the Mkhambathi community, allowing community members to live with their families while employed.

“The project is efficient enough that ordinary people will be employed close to their homes.

“They will wake up, walk to work and walk back to their homes at the end of their work day without having to travel to other towns and cities for employment.

“With this investment we are seeing the real meaning and impact of land redistribution whereby our people are getting their land back, the land is being invested in, and the government and private sector putting in resources for development,” he said.

Mabuyane said the project fitted into the tourism department’s broader plan for sustainable development in the Pondoland area.

As part of the agreement for the investment, Bell will be leasing the land from the community for the next 49 years, with an option to then extend the lease for a further 21 years.

He will be paying R150,000 annual rent to the Mkhambathi Trust for the use of the land where the facility will be constructed.

The three-way partnership results from a land claim lodged by about 40,000 community members from seven villages of Mkhambathi.

Community leader Kholekile Qalaba said: “We welcome and appreciate this partnership with the investor [Bell].

“We look forward to job opportunities, better infrastructure and other benefits that will accumulate from this project,” Qalaba said.

Construction of the establishment will take an estimated 18 months.