Dubai to pop up like wonderland in Mpondoland

A farmer at work at the the Magwa tea estate.
A farmer at work at the the Magwa tea estate.
Image: File

The government says it has grand plans to turn the Magwa and Majola Tea Estates near Lusikisiki into a bustling eco-tourism area which rural development & agrarian reform MEC Nomakhosazana Meth has dubbed a “new Dubai”.

These are high ambitions indeed.    

The ill-fated Magwa and Majola tea estates have cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of rand in the past two decades.

They have repeatedly failed as business enterprises and have been wholly propped up by the state.

But Meth insists the futuristic Magwa-Majola Tea Estate will not only see diversification of crops including avocado, hemp and macadamia nuts but will include a majestic glass bridge over the Magwa Falls, a lift to enable tourists to move up and down the gorge, an 18-hole golf course, amphitheatre, cultural village, conference centre and a five-star multistorey hotel with an infinity pool.

“I feel like today is Christmas; I have never felt this good,” Meth said in a press release.

She had been attending the provincial government’s Rural Development Conference  at the Magwa Tea Estate.

“The kind of development I have seen has pumped me up and given me confidence and energy to speed-up the process.”

Yet the press release was short on detail.

A request for comment to Meth’s spokesperson Ayongezwa Lungisa was not responded to at the time of writing.

It is not clear if the plan was a government or private initiative or if the private sector would play any role in it.

It was also not immediately clear what the plan entails, whether or not it had been costed or funded, whether its viability had been researched, whether environmental permission had been granted, or what the timeline for implementation would be.

When the project would start was also not disclosed.

Meth said the completion of the project would be one of her main targets during her five-year term.

“I am very impressed to see people thinking big about development of rural areas. Imagine having a glass bridge in Ingquza Hill, I saw a mini Dubai here today,” the MEC said after unveiling the artist’s impression of the Magwa-Majola Tea Estate.

Meth said she was “confident that a city will be developed” in Magwa, adding that she was happy with the involvement of different stakeholders like the SA National Roads Agency.

Construction of roads was the first target.

After unveiling the plan, she said she was eager to approach the African Development Bank to invest in the infrastructure development of Magwa.

She said she was confident that with support from partners that include government departments like public works, economic development, environmental affairs and tourism as well as investments from financial institutions that “the development of Magwa to become the hub of tourism is doable”.

In 2016, the  collapsed Magwa Enterprises tea company, which is wholly owned by the state via its shareholder the Eastern Cape Rural Development Agency, was placed under business rescue proceedings.

Over the next three years the provincial government ploughed another R100m or more into the two tea estates, which enabled business rescue practitioner Garth Voigt to steer the company back onto an almost sound footing.

In 2019, for the first time in years, it produced the tea for which it was so renowned in the 1970s and 1980s.

But, the two estates are still not out of the woods and it seems unlikely that they will ever be able to survive without state funding.


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