oupa-pilane-600x800New Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism (KLCBT) president Oupa Pilane may not be a large man, but he packs a mean punch.

He captivated business leaders and government officials during his inaugural speech on October 18, when he passionately championed causes close to his heart. Issues included the importance of government and the private sector combining their resources and talents for the betterment of the region and its people, the importance of township economies, nurturing local entrepreneurs and local procurement.

He told the Mpumalanga MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism Sikhumbuzo Eric Kholwane that ‘we are comrades in the betterment of our people’.

Pilane first became involved with the KLCBT when he was advisor to Nelspruit/Mbombela’s executive mayor and the spokesman for former Premier Mathews Phosa. At the time, he sat in on the discussions that eventually led to the founding of the organisation that would evolve into the KLCBT.

He said in his inaugural speech that the time for talking about strengthened government and business relations is over, emphasising that combined actions to strengthen the region were now needed.

“KLCBT members have the resources and skills to help government achieve its objectives,” he said, adding, “we are not partners but one people connected together.”

Pilgrim’s Rest, the once thriving tourism town that is now battling to survive, is a ‘low hanging fruit’ that can serve as an example of how business and government can together achieve greatness. “It has dragged on long enough,” he said of the beleaguered town, adding that it is owed to Pilgrim’s Rest residents to find a lasting solution.

In response, MEC Kholwane said government is committed to solving the issue of Pilgrim’s Rest and is mindful of both the urgency and the fact that the contribution of all stakeholders is needed.

MEC Kholwane touched on the tough economic climate, saying that it is important to understand that government needs to take tough decisions. “However, we know that we cannot travel this difficult road alone. We need people to help us take the right decisions at the right time.”

With regard to township economies, Pilane said that rejuvenating township economies should not be seen as the responsibility of government only. “As business people, townships present exciting opportunities not only for us, but for the region as a whole.

“Remember, when the poor are hungry, they will eat the rich,” he said, urging local procurement.

He spoke with as much passion about government’s black industrialists’ programme, saying that business must lead efforts in this regard.

“We are about to give birth to something amazing in this province. Black and white people will sit side by side in a boardroom as partners and discuss how we can create an inheritance for our people and our children.”

On the natural beauty of the region and its tourism potential, he joked that, ‘God said: Let us create Mpumalanga… and the rest!’

On the tourism front, MEC Kholwane generated much excitement when he said that the province would host World Tourism Day 2017 in the latter part of next year. “Let us use this event to enhance our working relationship,” he said.

“I am excited to be a child of this province,” concluded the new president, explaining how personally he takes the region’s success. “It has to do with the success of a place that has given birth to me. We can make Mpumalanga a pilot for the rest of the world.”

For more information, contact the KLCBT on 013 755 1988 or email info@krugerlowveld.com.