Plan to fix the Falls

2019-12-03 15:24
Plans are in place to upgrade the Howick Falls area. INSET: The lookout point at Howick Falls littered with waste. PHOTOS: Moeketsi Mamane

Plans are in place to upgrade the Howick Falls area. INSET: The lookout point at Howick Falls littered with waste. PHOTOS: Moeketsi Mamane

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The uMngeni Municipality is hard at work turning around the beleaguered Howick tourism scene by implementing recommendations made by a parliamentary committee after visiting the Howick Falls area.

Among the proposals are an access gate to the Howick Falls tourist site, and a full-time tour guide.

Other recommendations include ensuring visible policing and a tourist safety strategy, a R5-million upgrade for the Gorge Walk Restaurant and a plan to house the informal community living at the top of the waterfall in proper RDP houses.

uMngeni on Monday said it was in the process of developing a Howick Falls Precincts Development Plan and a motivation for funding submitted to potential funders.

Municipal spokesperson Thando Mgaga said they were finalising the establishment of a Howick Falls forum.

He said crime prevention and safety programmes were under way at Howick Falls, in Mpophomeni, Nelson Mandela Capture Site and Midmar Dam.

The mayor, Sizwe Sokhela, is leading clean-up teams to clear litter from the area, Mgaga said.

uMngeni and other government bodies are urged in the committee’s report to reach out to develop a schedule for school tours of Howick Falls to “boost domestic tourism”.

Mgaga said a steel barrier may be erected at the top of the waterfall to prevent people from falling over.

The committee recommended that the community living at the top of Howick Falls be housed in RDP housing, but uMngeni is facing a challenge with many living there being Lesotho nationals without proper documentation. uMngeni is engaging with Lesotho in this regard.

The report also proposes declaring Howick Falls a national heritage site.

The sorry state of uMngeni’s once proud tourist attractions has led to eight business closures, business revenue dropping by 25%, and the loss of about 60 jobs.

Tourism at the Falls has also suffered, with a massive 40% drop in tourist activity and the report noted that in its heyday at least 10 busloads of tourists visited the area daily, but that has dropped to just two.

Howick Falls’ demise has also affected Mpophomeni tourism, which the report says has suffered greatly because of the lack of traffic to the Falls.

The report cites “rampant crime” and other activities like drunk driving, public drinking, litter, drug dealing and abuse, and broken toilet facilities as reasons for the area’s downfall. The report asks uMngeni, the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs and Department of Tourism to provide a quarterly report on a turnaround plan.

The oversight team also found that uMngeni has not been effectively utilising the “vibrant” Mpophomeni area for tourism activity, and has now been tasked with developing a “long-term” Mpophomeni tourism business plan.

The Mpophomeni Tourism Information Centre was found to have “incomplete” facilities, be short staffed and to have no security whatsoever.

“Crafters, traditional dance entertainers, traditional healers [sangomas] and other tourism service providers at Mpophomeni need training and re-skilling,” the report added.

The area’s councillor, Hazel Lake, said Howick Falls continues to be plagued with the same issues, adding that there was heavy partying there this past weekend. She said revellers were now taking to partying under thatched roofing erected for crafters. Lake said the oversight committee’s intervention was a positive step, but she was waiting to see action from uMngeni.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  howick falls
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