New hope for ‘Gar­den Town’

Com­mu­nity tourism fo­rum gets off ground to breathe life in to Uiten­hage and Des­patch

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - NEWS - No­maz­ima Nkosi nkosino@ti­soblack­star.co.za

NOTH­ING ever hap­pens in Uiten­hage and Des­patch, is a state­ment of­ten made by some peo­ple in the city. But the Nel­son Man­dela Bay Mu­nic­i­pal­ity hopes to change that stereo­type, with the for­ma­tion of a new Uiten­hage Des­patch Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Tourism Fo­rum.

The fo­rum sprang into ac­tion this week, kick-start­ing dis­cus­sions around re­vi­tal­is­ing the towns in an ef­fort to at­tract new busi­ness – and vis­i­tors.

At present, de­vel­op­ment is stag­nant, mon­u­ments and mu­se­ums re­main un­der-utilised, while build­ings in Uiten­hage’s main road stay va­cant – for months on end.

Pre­vi­ously known as the “Gar­den Town” in ref­er­ence to the colour­ful flow­ers that lined Cale­don Street, the in­dus­trial town is a shadow of its for­mer self – com­pared with a decade ago.

Now in a drive to re­vive the town, two stake­holder meet­ings, fa­cil­i­tated by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity and the fo­rum, were held in Des­patch and Uiten­hage on Thurs­day.

Speak­ing at the Des­patch Town Hall, fo­rum chair­man Martin Pram said they were hop­ing to use the fo­rum to mo­bilise the tourism sec­tor and broaden con­sul­ta­tion among all sec­tors, in­clud­ing restau­rant own­ers, crafters and pub own­ers, among oth­ers.

Pram said the fo­rum’s brief was to come up with a plan of ac­tion for Uiten­hage and Des­patch to be in­cluded in the metro’s mas­ter plan for tourism.

“We need to stim­u­late ex­ist­ing busi­nesses; we need to lobby the pri­vate sec­tor to col­lab­o­rate with the cre­ative in­dus­try and when these part­ner­ships grow big­ger, more jobs will be cre­ated for our peo­ple.”

Pram said there was an im­mense amount of un­tapped tal­ent in the towns which was not given the at­ten­tion it de­served.

“We’ve had six Spring­boks from Des­patch, from the likes of Danie Ger­ber to the cur­rent head coach of the Boks, Rassie Eras­mus.

“We need to cre­ate a plan of ac­tion for Uiten­hage and re­vive busi­ness con­fi­dence in our town,” he said.

Dur­ing the ses­sion, a sug­ges­tion was put for­ward for a rov­ing fes­ti­val to pos­si­bly re­place the Uiten­hage Street Car­ni­val, with it al­ter­nat­ing ev­ery year be­tween Uiten­hage and Des­patch.

An­other sug­ges­tion was to part­ner with Metro­rail to ferry peo­ple from Port El­iz­a­beth to ex­pe­ri­ence the fes­ti­val, with­out the has­sle of driv­ing all the way to Uiten­hage.

Pram said most peo­ple did not know that Uiten­hage had been home to Enoch Son­tonga, com­poser of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, and that could prove to be a sig- nif­i­cant draw-card for the town.

Man­dela Bay De­vel­op­ment Agency spokesman Lu­vuyo Bangazi said the agency was plan­ning on re­vi­tal­is­ing the Uiten­hage Science Cen­tre as well as the sheds ad­ja­cent to the cen­tre.

“We want to make it more rel­e­vant in terms of ex­hibits, bring­ing it up to speed, make it rel­e­vant in the age of tech­nol­ogy, and we’re also do­ing fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies on the Uiten­hage sheds ad­ja­cent to the cen­tre.”

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s may­oral com­mit­tee mem­ber in charge of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, tourism and agri­cul­ture, An­drew Whit­field, said the plan was to es­tab­lish the fo­rums to in­te­grate the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s tourism strat­egy at grassroots level.

“What we found was that tourism takes place in cer­tain ar­eas, more so than oth­ers and those are par­tic­u­larly Uiten­hage and Des­patch ar­eas, but more so our town­ships or pre­vi­ously dis­ad­van­taged ar­eas.

“The idea is to also make com­mu­ni­ties aware of the ben­e­fits of tourism be­cause ul­ti­mately we need com­mu­ni­ties to em­brace op­por­tu­ni­ties that tourism brings but only from a jobs per­spec­tive.

“Jobs are pri­mary, but tourism also up­lifts com­mu­ni­ties, and not just from a fi­nan­cial per­spec­tive but it cre­ates vi­brant trade,” he saidd.

On Thurs­day at about 2.30pm, the Drostdy Mu­seum, a ma­jor Uiten­hage at­trac­tion, was closed and the Des­patch Mu­seum was also shut.

The fa­cil­i­ties have mul­ti­ple bro­ken win­dows.

And, at about 3.15pm yes­ter­day, Langa Mas­sacre memo­rial site was also closed.

A for­mer staffer in charge of the Uiten­hage and Des­patch of­fice, un­der then mayor Danny Jor­daan, Mike Kwe­naite, said when he was in of­fice, he had been in­structed to con­vene a peo­ple’s coun­cil which in­volved all busi­ness stake­hold­ers in both towns. Kwe­naite said the coun­cil had de­vel­oped a five-year pro­gramme look­ing at de­vel­op­ment projects in Uiten­hage and Des­patch.

“The things that came out of that coun­cil were, among oth­ers, the de­vel­op­ment of the Langa Mas­sacre Precinct as well as plans to de­velop Maduna Road in KwaLanga as a his­tor­i­cal road, the en­trance of KwaNobuhle be turned into a dou­ble car­riage­way, and that the area around Sho­prite and Spar in Des­patch be de­vel­oped into a trans­port route,” he said.

Fol­low­ing the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions in 2016, these plans had fallen by the way­side.

Christo Louw from Des­patch said he hoped the fo­rum would cre­ate jobs, ex­pand busi­nesses and cre­ate a plat­form for tourism in the area.

“We’ve got a mu­seum here [in Des­patch] and a lot of peo­ple don’t know about it. It’s been van­dalised and it re­mains closed be­cause peo­ple don’t know where the key is,” he said.

BAT­TERED AND BRO­KEN: The van­dalised Des­patch Mu­seum is a shadow of its for­mer self

PHO­TO­GRAPH: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

CROWD-PULLER: Uiten­hage’s Drostdy Mu­seum is a pop­u­lar site in the town

BOLTED UP: The Langa Mas­sacre memo­rial site in Uiten­hage was locked up on Thurs­day

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