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Residents of the impoverished Umzimkhulu area in southern KwaZulu-Natal have commended the provincial government for changing their lives for the better.
This comes after the launch of the Umzimkhulu Tourism Gateway project costing R3million.
The tourism project was funded by the provincial department of arts, culture and tourism.
It is set to benefit women who sell their handicrafts.
Umzimkhulu Tourism Gateway comprises a tourism information centre, museum, Internet café, restaurant, craft outlet and a storage facility, and four shops.
A resident, Thembeka Dzanibe, said since the area had been incorporated into KwaZulu-Natal from the Eastern Cape in 2004 the people had seen an improvement in their lives.
"Our area has been neglected for a long time by previous governments. Now, for the first time, the people can see meaningful development in their lives because of the local government," she said.
Dzanibe said they were now really able to see themselves as South Africans.
"We have been selling our crafts to feed our children.
"We appreciate what the KwaZulu-Natal government has done for us."
Weziwe Thusi, MEC for art, culture and tourism in KwaZulu-Natal, said the government was committed to fulfilling its mandate to improve the lives of the people of Umzimkhulu by providing infrastructure that will provide job opportunities, and in this way develop the local economy.
"Not long ago we accompanied the premier, S'bu Ndebele, to an imbizo in this area to see for ourselves the plight of the community.
"We made a commitment that funds would be set aside to uplift this area to be on a par with other towns in the province.
"We are doing this to ensure that people enjoy the better life we promised them," said Thusi.
She said her department had injected a lot of money into the area with the aim of improving people's lives.
The area has also benefited from the construction of the R2,8million May Lodge at Ensikeni Nature Reserve to train crafters, and R1million in a tourism development strategy.