The Aura of Tshepo through tourism in Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge
Tshepo is the new name of Derek Hanekom, the Minister of Tourism. The King of the Batlokoa Royal House, Morena Montoeli Mota bestowed the name upon the thunderous endorsement by the community that came to witness the handover of the Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge that is valued at R26 million. Tshepo is a Sesotho name that is bestowed upon children because it means ‘’hope’’, hope is a necessary requirement in these tough times when not only the centre does not hold, but politically in South Africa it is a free for all. The times of doom and gloom have descendent upon us like dew with record unemployment, 0% economic growth rate, a possible ratings downgrade, and record levels of government debt. Low levels of domestic savings rate in the economy, less than 5% remains too low to drive to economic growth, leading to South Africa to look overseas for funding. The high levels of debt amongst South Africa, result in the institutionalisation of the cycle of poverty.
The majority of South Africans lack assets, a legacy of apartheid where the state engineered dispossession with the Native Land Act which disposed people. South Africa is experiencing its special period where the social gap between government and private sector is huge, evident on the lowest business confidence in more than 20 years. South Africa which depends on Foreign Direct Investment has experienced a 70% decline in FDI receipts, whilst the companies on the JSE continue their investment ‘toyi toyi’, sitting on record levels of cash instead on investing in the economy. The high levels of unemployment have destabilised communities, leading to many social problems.
The #FeesMustFall movement continues to demand free education, whilst being oblivious to the fact that South Africa has a poor education system, whilst there is a low participating rate in higher education. Inequality remains high, whilst poverty and unemployment remain, therefore the need for labour absorbing economic growth depends on tourism.
Tourism arrivals have increased by 12% from last year, and my hope is that by next year we should be speaking 20%, we are people of Tshepo, therefore we believe in Tshepo. Only if the tourism industry can understand that it is an apex industry that must adopt the Tourism Red Tape Initiative (TRTI) as a strategy that will unlock enablers to ensure that tourism continues on its growth trajectory and continues to fulfil its role as the ‘’new gold’’. Tourism attracts more foreign investment than gold mining, as mining continues its job shedding consistency, tourism continues its job creating consistency. Tourism is order to grow required greater levels of collaboration in delivering the tourism product offering. Tourism is the only sector that continues to be the Tshepo of the nation, the rays that create the glimmer of hope is these times when we need more of Tshepo and less of the unfreedoms of unemployment, poverty and inequality that remain the national stench.
The handover of refurbished buildings at Witsiehoek Mountain Lodge, this creates an opportunity to use as a growth catalyst for the economy of QwaQwa, which has declined ever since 1994, when the homelands were abolished and incorporated into South Africa. The government has answered the question of ‘’what could be done’’ whilst the Public Private Partnership must answer the same question. The commercialisation of pony trails, the development of Mountain Biking Trails, and hiking trails are developed to cater for divergent customer markets. Because of the breathing views that remain an optical benefit, the promotion of photography tourism can benefit the area, and increase its appeal. The mountainous terrain can be used successfully if adventure tourism activities such as hot air ballooning, a zip line and a Witsieshoek Cable Way.
All these adventure activities can increase arrivals and completely transform the economy of QwaQwa. The increase of tourist arrivals can be beginning of realisation that the greatest tragedy is the inability of the post-apartheid state property preserve and commodity heritage in the case of the heritage of the homelands. QwaQwa was one of the homelands that was established for Sesotho speakers and the heritage of the homeland system if preserved, commodified and commercialised could increase the number of tourists to QwaQwa and diversify the tourism product offerings in QwaQwa. Tourism requires that we make heritage apolitical and use it to create jobs, using the lemon of apartheid heritage to create lemonade; jobs. Tourism remains the Tshepo for the country as tourism creates immediate jobs and drives the economy of the country.
Mr. Unathi Sonwabile Henama is tourism consultant and writes in his personal capacity.