Arresting Pilgrim's Rest?

2012-07-06 12:08
The eviction of 17 businesses in the Mpumalanga National Monument town of Pilgrim’s Rest is likely to ruin the tourist destination, according to a poll run on News24.

This is the belief of at least 77 percent of the 7 000 votes received. In all honesty we’re hoping that the public sentiment will in fact be wrong. To lose a living, working reminder of the old Transvaal Gold Rush would certainly be a blow to the heritage tourism of South Africa.

Three percent are optimistic a fresh set of businesses could in fact transform the town’s economy, while 20 percent of the votes think this is simply an issue between the landlords and tenants.

We contacted the Pilgrim’s Rest Business Forum as well as the Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Public Works for the list of operators who had been awarded tenders and what businesses would continue operating in the town, post the 31 July deadline, but neither has as yet responded, despite promises to email it through. Since publication of this article a list of the awarded tenders was received from Marius Brummer, of the Pilgrim's Rest Business Forum and has been detailed below.

According to many news24 commentators who recently visited the town, it does appear to be in a state of neglect and spending a night there on a potential road trip doesn’t necessarily sit well. If R4m has been set aside for the daily maintenance of the town, according Pilgrims' Rest Business Chamber, we hope they will start putting it to better use.

If you are hazarding a visit here’s what you can expect to find according to Mpumalanga Community Information Centre for Pilgrim's Rest. You can contact them directly on 013 768 1060.

The biggest attraction would have to be the Gold Panning experience which allows you to get your hands dirty and feel what it was like to search for gold back in early 1900s. Admittedly they do hide the odd nugget to make the experience worthwhile, especially for kids.

Cost: R135 for adults and R65 for children
: Brummer Tours on 082 522 1958

According to the Community Info Centre the Ghostly tour of Allen Glade House - the old mine manager house built between 1915 and 1916 with all its extravagant Victorian paintings, furniture and glassware - was also still operating but when visiting their website for details it was in fact closed.   

If you wanted to snap yourself in period costumes a visit to the town’s antique dealer Kuzzulo’s was also advised. We contacted Kuzzulo’s and according to them it was business as usual in the town.

Cost: A4 gloss or mat photo, R82. A5 gloss or mat photo, R58. Postcard size A6 gloss or mat photo, R53.
Contact: 013 768 1296

There is also the Royal Hotel which boasts “gracious Victorian accommodation” to suit the setting. You can also check out the Pilgrim’s Rest Anglican Church built in 1884, believed to be the town’s oldest building still in existence. It still has the original copper and lead glass windows from its restoration back in 1919 as well as a piano that is believed to be over a hundred years old.

Pilgrim's Rest Awarded Tenders

Beveldere Metal Crafts
Clewer General Store
Highwayman's Garage
Mr Mac Shop
Old Print Shop
Pilgrims Pantry
Pilgrim's Place
Ponieskrants arts and crafts
Old Stables
Mona Cottage
Scott's Cafe
Pilgrim's Rest Golf Course
The Daisy
The Iron Store
The Leather Shop
The Vine
The Royal Liquor Store
Africa Silk
Central Garage

Here’s a selection of comments posted on the original story of the evictions – why not tell us about your recent visit by emailing us on or sending us a selection of your most recent pics for publication.

amanda.owgan : Wow this is so very sad. I have always felt South African history (way back to Jan van Riebeeck) was not only involving White people. Surely other ethnic groups also had fathers and grandfathers telling them the stories they heard from their elders. They may have been slaves and domestic workers, but future generations surely can’t be blamed for all that. Let us look past our skin colours, the past and fight for our heritage.

elmarie.viljoen.7:  I remember going there for 'veld school'. That town was part of some really happy moments in my life, good memories! It was a regular Sunday outing for us when we were children!! Really sad.

linda.wood.5473894:  How sad! I was there last month whilst on holiday, having been there about 20 years ago, and still really enjoyed the town! My family also has history there, my mom in laws parents have photos in the Royal hotel pub and my husband’s cousin was buried in the graveyard with her great grandfather Mr Jones. Long live Pilgrims Rest!!

: It is sad that a place like Pilgrims Rest is going down the tubes because of the incompetence of the South African Government …

ann.murray.9279: This is a real tragedy. I remember many very pleasant visits to this beautiful part of our country. Actually, I am at a loss for words ...

kevin.watson.7906: (referring to the spate of African curio shops that have popped up in the town during recent years) wouldn’t it be nice if the curios were made in South Africa by South Africans. They're not, they come from Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi and West Africa and sold largely by foreigners. It would also be nice if the tenants in those premises were sufficiently business literate to understand what has been done to them.

Godesha: So a couple more people will become part of the unemployment statistics. Very sad indeed.

annalien.loots: A friend from the area also told me the place is over run with prostitutes, the grass is knee high everywhere, a hotel or some or other building burnt down 3 years ago and they didn’t bother to rebuild it. This article and subsequent comments confirm to me that the place has not been maintained. I'll keep my memories and not pass by again.

: This place is shutting down, because all the hawkers have driven the tourists away. They sell everything but nothing that has any historical value. Anything that could remind us of why Pilgrims Rest came to be has been destroyed.

timmy.khethani: (in response to Verona) - Can you please explain how the hawkers drove away tourists?! And by the way can you give one example of something that has historical value that hawkers can sell? I was in Pilgrims Rest in April this year and I saw a lot of tourists and everything looked fine.

dhavandran.palavar: The first step in the destruction of national monuments which do not represent the struggle against apartheid. This is just the beginning. First was renaming of streets and buildings and now the destruction of monuments. What else under the guise of progress?

gakwi.mashego: I was born in Pilgrim's Rest and I have more than an emotional attachment to this place. A few months ago there were complaints that the town was rotting and that Public Works needed to pump money to restore it to its glory. Shouldn't we be asking Public Works if the new leases include obligation to renovate the space each business is going to rent out since it is obvious that the current businesses were allowing the infrastructure to go to waste under their watch? Shouldn't we, before engaging in this 'have/have-not', Black-White patronising look at the lease agreement. Who knows, maybe the new lease agreement is taking into cognizance the need to invest in renovation. 2. Were the current owners of businesses forbidden from reapplying for a lease when Public Works put them up for tender? I believe the only way to be effective as a civil society is to get information and work on its strength.

AntoniodaCruz: Opportunity comes knocking....rebuild a new Pilgrims Rest on private property down the road. The tourists will flock to a new well designs themed site with authentic artifacts and replicas. Go for it! Start the foundations now.

Read more on:    pilgrim's rest  |  travel south africa

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