Didima: Holiday-makers frustrated, other hotels still open

2008-03-19 00:00

While police are giving the assurance that no tourists are being targeted in the Cathedral Peak area and that a heavy police presence has been deployed there, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has defended their decision to close the Didima camp for the Easter weekend, saying their main reason is the safety of guests.

The Witness was contacted yesterday by irate callers who said they were unable to find alternative accommodation for the Easter long weekend and alleged that the camp was closed because of bad planning by Ezemvelo.

“They knew what was coming last week already and should have made alternate plans to staff the camp over the Easter weekend,” said one caller, who alleged that the real reason the camp was closed was because staff from the area are too afraid to come to work.

Tensions over land in the area have escalated between two communities in recent weeks, culminating in a clash on the weekend during which 15 to 20 houses were set alight.

Local resident Eric du Preez said he feels Ezemvelo has not told the truth about the reason Didima was closed. He said he was told by Ezemvelo staff that staff problems were the real issue. He said promises to accommodate Didima guests at other locations have not been met.

“I was told by reservations that they did not have places anywhere.”

Cathedral Peak Hotel manager Craig Walker said the area is being patrolled by about 50 police members. “Since the police have arrived, our guests are moving about freely.”

He said that, while tourism has been affected, the assurance from the community that their quarrel is not with tourists and the large police presence means that most of the guests who were contacted by the hotel decided not to change their bookings.

Maureen Zimu of Ezemvelo said that when they heard about the unrest in the area, they stopped taking bookings for the Easter weekend.

She added it would have been impossible to pull staff away from other resorts to staff Didima as the other resorts are also booked up for Easter and staff are busy at their own camps.

“We know that this was very bad timing, but we had to look at all angles. No one knows what this could erupt into. We would rather say to our guests, please don’t come.”

Ezemvelo spokesman Jeff Gaisford added that it is a case of being “damned if they closed and damned if they didn’t”.

“Our over-riding consideration is the safety of our guests.”

Police said yesterday that meetings were being held between police, government roleplayers and the two groups involved to resolve the issue and bring calm to the area.

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