Forget conservation, Krugersdorp wants a 'Disneyland' fun park
A portion of the Krugersdorp Game Reserve may soon be developed into a massive theme park
A portion of the Krugersdorp Game Reserve may soon be developed into a massive edutainment centre hoping to draw tourists from around the globe – but questions have been raised about why a conservation area is being targeted for the development.
The Mzanzi Dreamland was proposed by The Hadassah Group, and the estimated cost of R3-billion will be funded by the developer. No decision has yet been taken, as the relevant impact studies still needs to be completed.The proposal for the theme park reads: “The opportunity is there to develop Africa’s first theme park, similar to Russia’s Dream Island that will serve as a world-class entertainment centre.”
Acting CEO of the West Rand Development Agency Zeblon Mphaphuli said: “The mandate of WRDA is to facilitate investment in the West Rand region. The Hadassah group approached the WRDA with a view to invest in the tourism sector within the region.
“It is in this context that we initiated and identified the Krugersdorp Game Reserve as a possible destination for the kind of investment that they proposed.”If given the green light, 400 hectares – rougly the size of 400 rugby fields – of the total 1,600 hectares of the reserve would be utilised for the development.
The reserve has various facilities such as a conference centre, chalets and a camping area, and visitors can enjoy a host of activities such as horse riding and viewing of birds, giraffes, zebras and hippos.
Mphaphuli stressed the group has not been appointed but is a potential investor. “Discussions are still under way as we were still waiting for the approval of the land reservation for this development.
“It should be noted that in terms of the approved land reservation agreement between WRDA and the Mogale City municipality, the developer shall within a period of six calendar months prepare a comprehensive development proposal.”
Dr Nandi Msimang, director of the Hadassah group, said she cannot respond at this point, as “no decision has been taken yet”.She said the WRDA has not informed the company yet of where the theme park will possibly be situated.
“We are very excited about this project,” she said. “We are a South African company who looks for opportunities for foreign investors.”
The group has an ambitious plan to develop a theme park of the standard and magnitude of Disneyland.
According to the proposal's submiters, the park will include an educational centre with simulation facilities for professions like engineering, medicine, fire fighting and more. There will be a mall, sports grounds, aquarium and a beach area.
A Brics village will showcase each of the five Brics countries’ heritage, traditions, food and culture.
Msimang said The Hadassah Group is a consortium of several other entities and facilitates investments.
“Our investors are very keen. The Chinese are interested and others are still in discussions as there has been no conclusion yet.”
She could not name specific projects the company has been involved in before and only said that there are a few projects they are currently in talks to develop.
Msimang is a dentist and businesswoman. In 2014 her company Mzansi Lifecare was involved in controversy when it provided the KZN health department with a mobile clinic costing R52-million over three years.At the time Michelle Connolly, spokesperson for the Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa, said: “Since when does a newly registered company, with no verifiable experience, land such a big tender?”
Msimang said the company had registered an application to supply mobile medical units and, after complying with legal tender requirements, was transparently awarded the tender contract in 2013 to supply one mobile truck, which the company delivered.
The Krugersdorp Game Reserve has been managed by the Red Ants for the last four years and the contract comes to an end in November this year.
The Mogale council decided that the WRDA would take over its management through a land reservation agreement followed by a Service Level Agreement.
A report from the executive mayor, Patrick Lipudi, on the reserve said the KGR required massive funding for refurbishment and upgrade of all assets for the lodge to be considered a three-star or at best four-star grading game reserve.The Gauteng department of Agriculture & Rural Development (GDARD) said they were unaware of the plans and said the area is included in the Gauteng Conservation Plan.
Spokesperson Roleta Lebelo said the Krugersdorp Game Reserve was an important protected area in Gauteng, as it had been set aside for the protection of biodiversity.
“The declaration of the site as a formal protected area will afford the site some protection.
“The reserve offers habitat for numerous species and due to its size allows ecological functioning to take place in the form of producing clean water and ecosystem services such as pollination services and habitat for pest regulators such as bats.
“This is important as the reserve is a grassland that sustains a high diversity of species of fauna and flora and significantly is important for adaptation to climate change by taking up greenhouse gases.”
DA councillor and caucus chairperson Jaqueline Pannall said this is not the only land available for a development and there are other options.
“Mogale City and the region has lots of other land available. For example, there’s a property of over 400 hectares called Carmel Estate outside the Magaliesburg Mountains that would be perfect for this.”