Cultural hub takes precedence over heritage sites

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition

The Mpumalanga provincial government needs to consider a different approach to promoting and preserving the province’s culture and heritage, as its narrow focus on one single capital project at the expense of everything else will do little to promote or preserve our cultural diversity.

The Department of Culture, Sport and Recreation (DCSR) seems to have shifted its focus away from preserving Mpumalanga’s heritage and cultural sites, completely ignoring all its targets except the construction of the state-of-the-art R1,8 billion cultural hub in White River.

However, more questions than answers seem to arise from this project, as the department has already admitted that it is underfunded, and therefore runs the risk of taking years and years to complete, costing the province millions and millions every year.

Past experience has shown that the provincial government’s obsession with capital projects opened the doors to large-scale corruption and profiteering by politically connected individuals, such as the Mbombela Stadium, the Ehlanzeni disaster management centre and the provincial archives building, which is still incomplete after five years.

The DA believes that history will in all likelihood repeat itself, and that the hub, like so many other projects will be shrouded in controversy. Instead, arts and culture MEC Sibongile Manana should rather focus her department’s attention on:

  • The preservation of Pilgrim’s Rest and the elevation of the town to National Heritage site;
  • The resurrection of Botshabelo near Middelburg, where visitor numbers have dwindled from almost 2 000 each week to 10-15 every two weeks;
  • Completing the Pixley ka Isaka Seme memorial site in Daggakraal, where community members were promised an extensive investment to promote tourism to the area; and
  • Finalising the Boomplaats development, where the Dinkwanyane community were promised assistance with the promotion of tourism to this area rich in prehistoric rock engravings.

These cultural and heritage sites could play a vital role in job creation and local economic growth while tourism to Mpumalanga flourishes, but only if government provides the necessary financial and business support.