James Masango MPL
Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition.
The Botshabelo heritage site outside Middelburg has been neglected to such an extent that only a drastic intervention can save it from complete collapse. Once a jewel of Mpumalanga’s heritage tourism attractions, the famed “Place of Safety” has become a place of heartbreak and despair.
As part of the DA’s Blue Wave community outreach initiative, I yesterday visited the site where Lutheran missionaries created a safe haven for refugees in the late 19th century, and where I, like so many other young Bapedi and Ndebele children during the apartheid years, attended school.
The shock I experienced as I was confronted with the absolute decay of this living museum was indescribable. The mission church was locked, but broken windows allowed easy access to priceless antiquities inside; Fort Merensky is overgrown with grass and undergrowth, with the purpose-built houses for tourists are in an alarming state of disrepair.
Upon speaking to locals selling Ndebele crafts, I was told that days and weeks go by without a single tourist arriving, when just a short few years ago, tourists flocked in by their thousands to visit and stay over at this attraction.
Government has a duty to both the people of Botshabelo and the rest of the province to preserve an important part of Mpumalanga’s history. Its failure to do so leaves the DA no option but to call for a public private partnership in its management.
Mpumalanga cannot afford to lose its heritage because of a dysfunctional tourism management strategy.