Communities Must Benefit from Training Centre

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition.

The DA welcomes the announcement by the Ms Sibongile Manana, the MEC for culture, sport and recreation that construction would start on the High Altitude Training Centre (HATC) in Emakhazeni, but is concerned over the business plan of the centre the perceived benefits it would hold for nearby communities, and whether the municipality will be able to provide proper services while it expands.

The HATC will be a welcome addition to Mpumalanga’s list of attractions, and the economic spin-off to Belfast and the Emakhazeni municipality will be astronomical. According to the draft environmental reports, the proposed 110-hectare location will be constructed around the southern end of the Belfast Dam, and “at 1850metres above sea level, is ideally suited for high performance training by elite athletes”.

· Click here to view the background information document (pdf 600Kb).

· Click here to access the draft environmental impact assessment report (pdf 11,3Mb).

· Click here to view the draft environmental management plan (pdf 1,84Mb).

The centre promises a range of specialised services, and would be staffed by a number of highly specialised personnel and for it to be cost-effective, it would have to have a number of athletes in attendance and training throughout the year. Its one-stop nature also implies specialised management and external marketing, as the Belfast HATC would have to compete with more well-known high performance centres such as those at the universities of Cape Town and Pretoria. While MEC Manana made no mention of the operational details of the centre, the DA is concerned that the ANC will continue with its “jobs for pals” scheme and deploy insufficiently skilled cadres to run the centre.

According to the department’s planning, construction will be divided into two phases, with the first focussing on infrastructure establishment. The DA hopes that Siyathuthuka’s residents will benefit from this too, and that decent roads, sewerage and sufficient water will be brought to them as well. The draft EIA makes specific mention of air quality, due to the lack of electricity to households and mining activities in the area, and this will have to be addressed. Government has the perfect opportunity to bring full services to residents, as well as to impose stringent emission controls on mines.

The DA is also concerned over the expectations that the HATC would create in local communities. Will its highly specialised nature provide sustainable jobs and livelihoods to residents, or would they (as is the case with the Mbombela Stadium) be on the outside, looking in?

To this end, the DA has submitted a number of questions for oral reply to MEC Manana, where we ask her to address our concerns. We will ask the MEC to explain the facility’s management, and whether it will be in government hands, or in partnership with a private entity. We will ask about the total cost of the HATC, the funding models used and who will be managing the project.

In conclusion, MEC Manana will be asked to provide details of the positive spin-offs for the local community, such as infrastructure development, as well as for sustainable job creation and the expected long-term economic benefits.

The DA is convinced that the HATC will be highly beneficial to Emakhazeni and Mpumalanga, and believes that this is the ideal opportunity to showcase Mpumalanga and our capabilities.

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