Mpumalanga won’t budge on vanity projects

Picture: SABC
Picture: SABC

The government of Mpumalanga is going ahead with the construction of two vanity projects – a centre to train future athletes and a cultural hub – and, at R10.2 billion, they cost one-third of the entire provincial budget.

The R5.3 billion High Altitude Training Centre in Emakhazeni (Belfast) has been billed as a world-class sporting facility where future sports champions will be trained.

When completed, the province hopes that the sports training centre will produce the next Bafana Bafana stars, swimming and running competition medallists, as well as rugby and cricket champions. The centre also boasts facilities to train those interested in other sporting codes such as judo, karate, kayaking, cycling, boxing, wrestling and gymnastics.

At 2 100m above sea level, the Emakhazeni area was chosen because of its altitude, which is conducive tosports training.

Over the past few years, the nearby tourist town of Dullstroom has attracted top athletes such as Dutch ice-skater Bart Veldkamp, Danish long-distance runner Carsten Jørgensen, the Dutch women’s cycling team, the Finnish national athletics team and Norwegian cyclists.

The adjacent cultural hub, which is costing the province R4.9 billion, is being built to train those interested in film, television and video production.

The Mpumalanga government has already spent R172 million on the two projects, but there’s little hope that they will be finished because of the high price tag.

Money has been spent on purchasing land, on consultants, civil engineering services, impact assessment studies and quantity surveying.

Realising the steep costs associated with such a grand project, the province has been trying to court private investors to bail it out financially, but no one has yet come on board.

Premier David Mabuza had initially sought the assistance of the Portuguese government, but they pulled out when the county’s economy hit a crisis.

Both projects are the responsibility of the department of culture, sport and recreation, but its 2015/16 budget is a mere R459 million.

This means the project is valued at 20 times the department’s annual budget, and costs one-third of the provincial government’s entire R31.3 billion budget.

DA legislature member Anthony Benadie said the R172 million already spent on the project could have been channelled towards service delivery.

“With Mpumalanga desperately in need of basic services such as water and decent sanitation, it is concerning that so much money is spent on projects that may never benefit our communities and which are clearly not direct service-delivery projects,” Benadie said.

Mpumalanga culture, sport and recreation department spokesperson Sibongile Nkosi referred questions to the department of public works, which manages all government construction projects.

But public works spokesperson David Nkambule did not respond to written questions about the issue

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