The FF Plus sent an urgent letter to the Mpumalanga MEC for Public Works, Roads and Transport, Mohita Latchminarain, requesting that she intervenes and puts an end to the violent protests affecting Pilgrims Rest these past few days.
The violent protests by a dissatisfied local community in Pilgrims Rest – about a goldmine that was promised but is still not operational – could deliver a severe blow to the town's already fragile economy.
According to members of the community, the planned goldmine of Theta Gold Mines will create much-needed job opportunities. The mine, however, still needs its final approval.
Over the past five years, Theta Gold Mines has invested approximately R221 million in Pilgrims Rest.
Pilgrims Rest's economy is mainly dependent on tourism and the protests could result in tourist numbers dwindling and tour guides dropping the town from their tour programmes.
Pilgrims Rest falls under the Thaba Chweu Local Municipality (Graskop, Lydenburg, Mashishing, Pilgrims Rest, Sabie), but Mpumalanga's Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport is responsible for the town's management.
A few years ago, this historical town's image was tainted by serious mismanagement.
In 2012, the Department unilaterally terminated the lease contracts of several businesses in the historical town and gave them 30 days to evacuate the premises. And then new leases were reportedly given to new tenants at extremely low rates.
The FF Plus lodged a complaint about this with the Public Protector (PP) who found that the tender processes were unlawful and instructed the Department to start the process from scratch.
The ongoing protests are jeopardising existing job opportunities; it could cause unemployment to increase even further and put Pilgrims Rest on a slippery slope to utter ruin.