Lodges in court over new gate at Tembe Ele­phant park

The Witness - - NEWS - SHARIKA REGCHAND

TWO­ game­ lodges­ in­ north­ern­ KZN­ are­fight­ing­ over­ a­ new­ gate­ which­ givesone­ di­rect­ en­try­ to­ Tembe­ Ele­phan­tPark.

Tembe­ Sa­faris­ claims­ in­ court­ pa­per­sthat­ its­ com­peti­tor,­ the­ Roy­alThonga­ Sa­fari­ Lodge,­ de­signed­ the­gate­ and­ wall­ to­ carry­ ad­ver­tis­ing­which­ will­ amount­ to­ “am­bush­ mar­ket­ing”.Thonga­ hit­ back­ say­ing­ its­ ri­valis­ try­ing­ to­ “sti­fle­ le­git­i­mate­ busi­ness­com­pe­ti­tion”.

Tembe­ yes­ter­day­ brought­ an­ ap­pli­ca­tionto­ the­ Pi­eter­mar­itzburg­ high­court­ for­ an­ or­der­ to­ have­ the­ gate­and­ its­ supporting­ struc­ture­ re­moved.

It­ also­ wants­ Royal­ Thonga­ stopped­from­ ad­ver­tis­ing­ on­ the­ wall.

The­ mat­ter,­ which­ is­ be­ing­ op­posed­ by­ the­ lodge,­ was­ ad­journed.

Tembe­ Sa­fari’s­ di­rec­tor,­ Ernest­ Rob­bertse,said­ in­ court­ pa­pers­ that­ itruns­ a­ com­mer­cial­ game­ lodge­ in­ thep­ark,­ to­ which­ ac­cess­ is­ reg­u­lated­ byEzemvelo­ KZN­ Wildlife.

The­ Tembe­ com­mu­nity­ trust­ has­given­ him­ the­ sole­ and­ ex­clu­sive­ man­dateto­ de­velop­ and­ op­er­ate­ all­ tourism­busi­nesses­ in­ the­ park.­ Tembe’slodge­ is­ sit­u­ated­ out­side­ the­ park.

Rob­bertse­ said­ his­ ob­jec­tion­ to­ the­new­ gate­ and­ ad­ver­tis­ing­ wall­ is­ be­causeRoyal­ Thonga­ al­ready­ has­ ac­cessto­ the­ park­ through­ an­ ex­ist­ing­gate.­ He­ said­ the­ route­ in­ the­ parkhas­ to­ pass­ the­ new­ gate­ and­ ad­ver­tis­ing­will­ be­ vis­i­ble­ to­ all­ vis­i­tors.

He­ added­ that­ Ezemvelo­ has­ noright­ to­ per­mit­ the­ build­ing­ and­ openingof­ the­ gate­ with­out­ his­ con­sent.

“The­ open­ing­ of­ the­ new­ gate­ willad­versely­ in­ter­fere­ with­ the­ ap­pli­cant’s[Tembe’s]­ busi­ness­ op­er­a­tions,”­ he­said.

Di­rec­tor­ of­ Royal­ Thonga,­ Hlengi­weTembe,­ said­ in­ re­ply­ that­ the­ new­gate­ has­ been­ in­ op­er­a­tion­ since­ Novem­berand­ the­ old­ gate­ has­ been­closed.­ Pre­vi­ously,­ ac­cess­ by­ his­ lodgeinto­ the­ park­ was­ only­ through­ thep­ark’s­ main­ gate.­ How­ever,­ in­ terms­ ofan­ agree­ment­ with­ Ezemvelo,­ he­ was­given­ ac­cess­ via­ the­ “old­ gate”.

This­ old­ gate­ opened­ to­ what­ canessen­tially­ be­ termed­ a­ cut­ line/fire­breakor­ man­age­ment­ track.­ It­ was­ an“awk­ward­ sandy­ track­ and­ not­ of­ the­same­ stan­dard­ as­ the­ tourist­ roads”.

“The­ track­ was­ nar­row­ and­hemmed­ in­ by­ the­ bor­der­ fence­ onone­ side­ and­ bush­ on­ the­ other.­ It­ did­ not­ pro­vide­ easy­ or­ com­fort­able­ ac­cessto­ the­ tourist­ roads,”­ said­ Tembe.

He­ said­ ac­cess­ through­ the­ new­gate­ was­ sanctioned­ for­ op­er­a­tional­rea­sons.­ From­ Ezemvelo’s­ point­ ofview,­ said­ Tembe,­ giv­ing­ ac­cess­ via­ the­new­ gate­ made­ more­ sense­ as­ itsstaff­ finds­ it­ much­ eas­ier­ to­ mon­i­torthe­ lodge’s­ ve­hi­cles.

He­ said­ his­ guests­ are­ only­ al­lowedac­cess­ into­ the­ park­ on­ game­ drivesop­er­ated­ by­ his­ lodge.­ They­ have­ touse­ the­ main­ gate­ if­ they­ want­ to­drive­ their­ per­sonal­ ve­hi­cles­ into­ thep­ark.­ “It­ would­ seem­ that­ the­ main­rea­son­ be­hind­ the­ ap­pli­ca­tion­ is­ tos­ti­fle­ le­git­i­mate­ busi­ness­ com­pe­ti­tion,”he­ said.

Ezemvelo­ did­ not­ sub­mit­ any­ re­ply­ing­pa­pers. •­ [email protected]­ness.co.za

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