The Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism (KLCBT) used the inauguration of president Oupa Pilane on October 18 as a platform to update business and government leaders on the progress made in a number of areas.
Chief Operating Officer Linda Grimbeek said that the KLCBT is pleased to see real improvements following the implementation of Mbombela local municipality’s turnaround strategy. “We are hopeful that the surrounding towns will follow their good example,” she said.
“I am excited about the formation of the Mbombela Economic Development Partnership which will see the city and private sector stakeholders identifying and implementing projects to develop the local economy,” added Grimbeek.
She explained that chamber priority areas include improving the private sector’s relationship with government, the regional water supply, poor state of roads, poor state of public tourism attractions, finding a permanent solution for Pilgrim’s Rest, the safety and security of tourists, the buy local campaign and corruption and the promotion of integrity.
A number of successes have been achieved. KLCBT and other stakeholders are in constant communication with the Minister of Water Affairs regarding the region’s bulk water supply and the request for a dam South of Malelane. This will enable the farmers in the Onderberg to irrigate without the current restrictions. “We recently received news that national surveys have been completed and we are awaiting news on the results,” she shared.
Grimbeek said that many of the problems with the roads have been solved, thanks in some part to private sector involvement and funding. “KLCBT is currently surveying all roads and will compile a list of those needing attention.” This will be shared with the relevant government departments, she explained.
Repair work and improvements have commenced at some of the public attractions, but Grimbeek said there is a lot of work still to be done. However, she added that the KLCBT is excited about the possible privatisation of reserves within the region.
2015 saw the formation of the Pilgrim’s Rest Integrated Development Engagement, which was charged with finding solutions to the end the deterioration of Pilgrim’s Rest. “Some progress has been made and the task team has been ready to present the solutions to the relevant HODs since December 2015. However, we are relieved to see renewed interest in this regard and look forward to the rebirth of this important tourism product.”
One of the most successful interventions involves the safety and security of tourists. The Hazyview Chamber of Business and Tourism, with the assistance of the KLCBT, appointed a crime liaison officer who provides intelligence from the community and liaises with the chamber and the police on a daily basis. This has resulted in a big reduction in robberies. With the collaboration of Ehlanzeni District Municipality, a team of Ehlanzeni tourism ambassadors were recently deployed in a pilot project that could be replicated in other areas.
Strides have been made in combating roadside corruption, particularly in Hazyview and Bushbuckridge. The KLCBT printed business-size cards to educate motorists that it is illegal to pay a ‘fine’ on the side of the road. The cards also contain essential contact numbers and were widely distributed. Grimbeek acknowledged that it takes two to tango and emphasised that the anti-corruption campaign is aimed at both government and the private sector.
“The buy-local advocacy campaign is the most recent addition to our task list and holds great potential. We will design and implement various programmes and initiatives to promote local procurement by government and the private sector and will provide assistance to small businesses to become compliant as service providers,” said Grimbeek.
As the official representative body of business and tourism in the Kruger Lowveld – Ehlanzeni District, the KLCBT enables business to speak with one voice when tackling issues of common interest.
Grimbeek explained that the diversity of its member base makes dialogue between business and government more meaningful. “We are here to join hands to create a better business environment and a better province for us all to live and work in.
“When it comes to representing our members, we are faced with an increasing demand on our advocacy role and for this reason we came to the conclusion that we needed to join forces with other chambers in the region to enable more effective and focused engagement with government and other stakeholders.
“During May 2015, all the chambers and major stakeholders within the Ehlanzeni district held their first conference and the Kruger Lowveld Ehlanzeni Business Alliance (KLEBA) was formed. The alliance focuses on practical ways of improving the local economy and identifies stumbling blocks which hamper growth.
“It is our explicit mandate to maintain a good relationship with government and other organisations – to share our abundant expertise with you and to ensure that your strategies and your vision, which is also our vision for the future, are successfully carried out.”
For more information, contact the KLCBT on 013 755 1988 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.