Anthony Benadie MPL
Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga
13 Pilgrim’s Rest business owners and civil associations on Tuesday filed an urgent application with the North Gauteng High Court to seek an interim interdict against the Mpumalanga Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport, following the department’s questionable tender process.
This urgent application, to be heard by the high court on 24 July, is aimed at preventing the department from evicting current occupants and business owners from premises in this historic town, and at the same time to prevent the new tenants taking occupation of business premises on 1 August, as intended by the department.
The applicants will argue that the department did not follow correct procedures in the bid adjudication process, that the process was not transparent, as well as ignoring existing lease agreements – some which only expire in January 2014. The applicants also point out the department’s systematic neglect of the town, as well as its complete failure to engage with stakeholders and put an end to years of uncertainty of security of businesses’ tenure.
The applicants further express concerns over the long-term sustainability of Pilgrim’s Rest as tourism destination and the very real possibility that the 2012 World Gold Panning Championship would be destined to fail, should the evictions go ahead.
This court action is the culmination of tireless attempts by the DA and the community of Pilgrim’s Rest to engage government in addressing the crisis facing this town.
It is sad that businesses and community organisations have to resort to court action in a desperate attempt to address the arrogance of government. The MEC and her department and the entire provincial government should hang their heads in shame, that they have risked the existence of an entire economy, tourist region and community through their questionable conduct.
The DA fully supports the application for an interdict, and reiterates its call on the MEC to reveal the full truth surrounding the debacle. Surely if government has nothing to hide they should wilfully cooperate with all stakeholders.
MEC Dikeledi Mahlangu and her department are now facing increasing public opposition to the evictions and tender process, and will now have to face the court. The DA appeals to the MEC not to oppose this application and use state funds to fight the ordinary citizens of this province. Instead, the MEC should show some decisive leadership and intervene directly to find an amicable solution to this crisis and to save Pilgrim’s Rest.