Town's dispute over tenders rages on
Pilgrim's Rest bidding process 'shambolic', says judge
A MORE than two months delay by the Mpumalanga department of public works, roads and transport in disclosing tender documents for the contentious awarding of leases at Pilgrim's Rest is raising concerns over the bidding process, which a Pretoria High Court judge described as "shambolic" in July.
The department issued eviction notices to 17 business owners in June to make way for new tenants, after the court labelled the tendering process as flawed, corrupt and racially motivated.
Judge Stanley Makgoba granted the business owners an order stopping their evictions, which was to be effected at the beginning of last month, pending a full review of the tendering process.
However, the department is yet to furnish business owners with the tender documents to enable an application for a full review.
Chairman of the town's Chamber of Business Marius Brummer said they have not received the requested documents from the department.
"We have not received anything, and we are not getting any feedback from the department but everything continues as normal in Pilgrim's Rest," Brummer said yesterday.
But Democratic Alliance leader in Mpumalanga and member of the provincial legislature Anthony Benadie smells a rat, saying they were extremely concerned that the tender documents could possibly be tampered with.
"If they (department) have confidence (in the legitimacy of the tendering process), what is taking them so long?
"The more they delay the more credible the community's case becomes," Benadie said.
He said the delay in finalising the matter left business owners in limbo because they could not invest in their businesses not knowing whether they will be allowed to continue running their businesses.
"Without the tendering documents, they cannot continue with their court challenge, and the delay by the department to hand over these documents is in effect costing the entire town, which should serve as a catalyst for opportunity in the tourism sector," Benadie added.
It was also reported that:
- Multiple leases were awarded to each of five bidders, with Matletle Construction and Projects receiving five leases,
- Pilgrim's Rest Caravan Park is said to have been awarded to a company that will pay a monthly rent of R36. The Caravan Park's previous tenant paid R19000 a month, and
- A bidder who offered more than R3000 was allegedly turned down in favour of a bidder who offered R33 monthly rental for Pilgrim's Rest Golf Course.
The leases are also the subject of an investigation by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
Public works, roads and transport department spokesman Dumisane Malamule did not respond to questions sent to him.
The small mining town, which was declared a National Heritage Site in 1986, will be a hive of activity next weekend as international and local gold panning enthusiasts descend on it for the Gold Panning World Championships.
The town will be hosting the prestigious tournament for the second time in six years.