Lubombo plan lays trail from SA's Hluhluwe to Maputo
A R30-MILLION hotel overlooking Kosi Bay lagoon and five multimillion-rand resorts at St Lucia are some of the anchor projects set to be unveiled at the launch of the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative in Durban this week.
The initiative, due to be opened by President Nelson Mandela and two neighbouring heads of state on Wednesday, plans to transform KwaZulu-Natal's poorest and most neglected area into an international tourism destination.
The SDI, which straddles South Africa's international borders with Mozambique and Swaziland, will offer a combination of beach, mountain, game reserve and cultural tourism products.
Although only the third of SA's eight planned spatial developments to get started, the Lubombo SDI is already being touted as the best-researched and packaged initiative of its sort, focusing exclusively on new tourism and agricultural development.
Proposed anchor projects, all on state or tribal land, include a possible R50-million resort flanked by four smaller luxury hotels in the St Lucia Wetland Reserve.
Similar staggered developments are planned for Lake Sibayi and Kosi Bay, where the Crane Hotel Group has just had the go-ahead to construct a luxury R30-million, 40-bed hotel.
Related developments have also been designed for the renovated Mozambican holiday town of Ponto do Oura, where a Club-Med style resort will serve both Kosi Bay and a new planned game reserve just north of the town.
All developments are expected to be private sector-driven and the SA government has pledged only to build the transport infrastructure and bulk services necessary.
Construction has already begun on a R180-million road along the coast from Hluhluwe to Ponto do Oura and on to Maputo city.
The road has opened up secondary tourism and agriculture opportunities, including cashew nut, palm wine and citrus estates, said to be worth some R935.7-million.
Lubombo project manager Andrew Zaloumis stresses that interested investors will be able to register only for pre-qualification selection for the SDI's anchor projects at Wednesday's launch.
Detailed pre-qualification documents will be released for the first selection of bidders in June. Two months will be allowed for investors to consider the projects until early August, when a bidders' conference will be staged and full tender documents launched.
"We've deliberately opted for a more cautious approach than in the Wild Coast and Maputo Corridor initiatives to avoid raised expectations," says Zaloumis.
"We're putting more preliminary planning into our proposals and including specifically packaged opportunities for investors."
However, the SDI's multi-national character is also its weakness.
Mozambican planners are hamstrung by tight budgets and have not yet been able to begin construction on the Mozambican leg of the planned highway.
Mozambique industry and commerce minister Oldemiro Baloi conceded last month that alternative funding models such as toll roads or donor grants would have to be looked at.
Swaziland has not yet begun any concrete infrastructure projects. - African Eye News Service