Community still waiting for promised arts centre

Israel Nkate

Israel Nkate

Children play next to a waterfall facing the door of Mmabana, a cultural centre in Tlhabane, North West. They have bunked school to be there.

This cultural and artistic centre was a dream of Lucas Mangope, the erstwhile Bophuthatswana strongman.

As we enter the place there is no feeling of entering a cultural centre. It is as dead as a graveyard.

The stoeps are worn out and cracked. Inside, a group of elderly and young women are sewing garments that they will sell to make a living.

Except for sport, sewing is the only other activity worth a mention at the centre.

In another room, there are karate, tumbling and aerobics rehearsals.

In April 1993 Mangope's government promised Tlhabane residents a fully fledged cultural centre. But nothing has happened.

Instead, the sporting and artistic community have been squatting in the Tlhabane town hall offices.

"A site was identified near Bojanala bus depot. Mmabana in Tlhabane was supposed to be the biggest of the others - there are three in North West.

To show its intention, the homeland government constructed a structure, including a huge, Olympic-sized swimming pool and building was expected to start in earnest.

Sowetan has been informed that the budgeted cost for the structure was R35 million.

"The ANC provincial government, when it took over, stopped the construction dead in its tracks. In so doing, the provincial authorities are said to have paid R5 million as cancellation penalties on signed contracts," said a gymnast who asked not to be named.

"We need our own space. Why can't they just continue with the old structure?

"We are the only Mmabana in North West without our own building," said the gymnast.

The toilets in the main hall are not working. "This has been going on for five years," he said, adding that they also share the hall with the community.

"They vandalise our equipment. To make matters worse, our seniors, the regional director and marketing manager, are based in Mmabatho."

On our arrival at the site, where Mmabana Tlhabane was supposed to have been built, we were met by an abandoned structure surrounded by overgrown, unkempt grass that has turned into a dumping ground. Whether Mmabana Tlhabane will ever be built remains a mystery.