Lo­cal com­mu­nity ‘un­grate­ful’

Lesotho Times - - News -

HA Kome vil­lage Chief Te­boho Kome has ac­cused Tan­ger­ine Inc, the or­gan­is­ers of the Kome Caves Beer and Glamp­ing Fes­ti­val, of giv­ing the com­mu­nity a raw deal and reneg­ing on their prom­ises.

Tan­ger­ine Inc was se­lected by the Le­sotho Tourism De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (LTDC) to man­age and ad­min­is­ter the Kome Caves Arts and Crafts Cen­tre, the Kome De­vel­op­ment Trust and pro­mote the Caves as a tourist at­trac­tion.

The events’ com­pany also launched the Kome Caves Beer and Glamp­ing Fes­ti­val in 2013, an an­nual three-day mu­sic, beer and glamp­ing fete. In ad­di­tion to sam­pling var­i­ous types of al­co­holic bev­er­ages, the fes­ti­val also of­fers var­i­ous out­door ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing horse-rid­ing, quad-bik­ing, ex­treme paint­ball, archery tar­get shoot­ing, and cave tours among oth­ers.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Chief Kome, they were not par­tak­ing in the ben­e­fits of the tourism ini­tia­tive, since they were largely ex­cluded from it.

“Peo­ple who come here to host events don’t in­volve lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties; we don’t feel like it is ours,” he said.

“In ad­di­tion they don’t live up to their prom­ises.”

Chief Kome said last year Tan­ger­ine Inc hired vil­lagers from 10 sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties to fence and re­pair the ground on which the fes­ti­val was held. The fes­ti­val ran from 28 — 30 Novem­ber 2014. The chief, how­ever, said the m600 the vil­lagers had been promised per head was yet to ma­te­ri­alise.

“I get asked ev­ery time the ques­tion; ‘Chief when will we be paid?’ and I don’t know how to re­spond to it,” he said.

Chief Kome added that the fes­ti­val or­gan­is­ers had also made use of the vil­lagers’ yards to camp rev­ellers for a fee, “and they have also not been paid ei­ther”.

The Kome Caves are dwellings carved out un­der tow­er­ing rocks and are a Na­tional Her­itage Site. With a history dat­ing back to the 1800’s, the Kome Cave Vil­lage, as it is oth­er­wise known, served as a fortress for its first set­tlers who fled the li­faqane wars that dev­as­tated much of the south­ern African re­gion in the early 19th Cen­tury. It was also a hid­ing place for its in­hab­i­tants from can­ni­bals. The caves are still in­hab­ited by the de­scen­dants of the peo­ple who built the caves.

Con­tacted for com­ment, Tan­ger­ine Inc Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Mofihli Makoele, ac­knowl­edged ow­ing the vil­lagers, say­ing they were al­ready set­tling their debts with the vil­lagers.

“Due to the losses we in­curred last year, we could not start mak­ing pay­ments im­me­di­ately af­ter the fes­ti­val,” mr makoele said.

“The com­mu­nity was di­vided into three groups and each had to get m25 200, but we have only man­aged to pay one to date. We in­tend to set­tle the next group next month and the last one in Septem­ber.”

He slammed the vil­lagers for be­ing “un­grate­ful”, say­ing Tan­ger­ine Inc was only ob­li­gated to con­trib­ute 10 per­cent of its earn­ings to the com­mu­nity but had also em­ployed lo­cals in the prepa­ra­tion and dur­ing the fes­ti­val.

“To host the fes­ti­val costs us more than TAN­GER­INE Inc Ceo ‘ mate­bello Phomane has slammed the Ha Kome vil­lagers for be­ing un­ap­pre­cia­tive of the ef­forts the firm was mak­ing to im­prove their plight.

“I feel of­fended by this treat­ment from my fam­ily and peo­ple,” ms Phomane said. “We in­vested so much in them.” While it was true that the vil­lagers were owed money, she said, they had been no­ti­fied of the prob­lems the events com­pany en­coun­tered.

“We are not crooks but were be­set by var­i­ous chal­lenges of which we made them aware,” said ms Phomane.

“We em­ployed over 150 un­skilled com­mu­nity mem­bers whom we trained in prepa­ra­tion for the fes­ti­val.”

She said the chal­lenges Tan­ger­ine Inc was fac­ing were raised dur­ing monthly meet­ings the firm held with the vil­lagers to find so­lu­tions and come up with a pay­ment plan.

ms Phomane added that the prepara-

m1.8 mil­lion and we have in­curred losses in the past two years,” said mr makoele, adding that their con­tract with the LTDC ex­pired in march, although they were still tions for the fes­ti­val were un­done by the rain that fell two days be­fore the event. As a re­sult, she said, over m22 000 was spent in fix­ing the soc­cer field which had been de­stroyed by the del­uge.

As a sign of good­will, she said, the com­pany also bought the lo­cal soc­cer team a kit among other ges­tures.

“We were in the process of start­ing a lit­er­acy cen­tre for the com­mu­nity us­ing books that were do­nated by artistes who per­formed at the fes­ti­val such as Amer­i­can group Tor­tured Soul.”

ms Phomane also ac­cused the vil­lagers of van­dal­is­ing rev­ellers’ hired tents and steal­ing their be­long­ings.

“We can­not con­tinue to as­sist them since they stole the tourists’ be­long­ings such as ipads and cell­phones,” ms Phomane charged.

“They failed to see the long term ben­e­fits that come from the fes­ti­val, which we are also yet to get.”

pay­ing their cred­i­tors.

“We can­not re­new the con­tract as run­ning the Kome Caves is very ex­pen­sive since the op­er­at­ing costs are very high.”

“For starters, we roughly made m10 000 a month and then had to pay m4000 rent, staff salaries and con­trib­ute 10 per­cent of the earn­ings to the com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment trust.

“In 2013 we paid all our ex­penses, it’s only last year that we in­curred the high costs be­cause of the rain that ru­ined the prepa­ra­tions and event.”

Also con­tacted for com­ment, LTDC Public Re­la­tions man­ager ‘man­chafalo motšoe­neng said they were aware of the vil­lagers’ griev­ances, and had ad­vised them to in­vite Tan­ger­ine Inc to a meet­ing to iron out the is­sue.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to ms motšoe­neng, the cor­po­ra­tion had been told by the vil­lagers that sev­eral at­tempts to in­vite a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Tan­ger­ine Inc had been fruit­less be­cause they would not show up for the sched­uled meet­ings.

“LTDC is not party to the con­tract agreed upon be­tween Tan­ger­ine Inc and the com­mu­nity,” she said. “How­ever, it was made clear to the com­mu­nity that, if in­vited to in­ter­vene, LTDC was will­ing to do so.”

ms motšoe­neng added that the LTDC was also in­volved in ini­tia­tives to equip the vil­lagers with skills to bet­ter their lives.

“Some of the com­mu­nity mem­bers were re­cently trained in ru­ral home-stays man­age­ment and tour guid­ing,” she said.

“We also in­tend to of­fer other mem­bers of the Kome com­mu­nity train­ing in the pro­duc­tion of good qual­ity hand­i­crafts.”

The Kome Caves are dwellings carved out un­der tow­er­ing rocks and are a Na­tional her­itage Site.

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