Remarks by honourable Premier RM Mtshweni-Tsipane on the occasion of the God’s Window Skywalk Project sod turning ceremony
17 September 2021Programme Director;
The Member of the Executive Council for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, Honourable Prince Vusimuzi Mkhatshwa;
Members of the Executive Council present;
The Executive Mayor of Ehlanzeni District Municipality Cllr Jesta Sidell;
The Acting Executive Mayor of Thaba Chweu local Municipality, Cllr Fridah Nkadimeng;
All Councillors present;
The Chairperson of the Mpumalanga House of Traditional Leaders, inkhosi SG Ngomane;
The board of Directors of the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, led by Mr. Victor Mashego;
Senior Government Officials, led by the Director General, Mr Makhukhu Mampuru;
Representatives of Communal Property Associations (CPAs) in Blyde;
Our private sector partners in the delivery of the project, led by the Executive Director of Mapulane Canyon (Pty) Ltd, Mr Jerry Mabena;
- Programme Director, it is a great pleasure to join you all on the occasion of the sod turning ceremony of the God’s window Skywalk Project;
- This event marks a significant milestone in our Province’s journey to once again assume our status as one of the country’s major tourism destinations.
- We are impressed not only by the beauty and the unique ingenuity of this project, but also by the concrete benefits that this project will bring to the people of Thaba Chweu.
- I know that the innovative concept of developing a glass walkway suspended off the edge of the cliff, to give a 360-degree panoramic view will accelerate local economic activity in a manner similar to what has been achieved by the Graskop gorge lift a stone throw away from where we are gathered.
- I fully agree that when completed this walkway will give a truly breath-taking and memorable experience to visitors from both near and far.
- At a time when the economic fortunes of the country are showing improved prospects, as seen in the recently released second quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures, we are heartened to see that as a province we also intend to make a contribution through the God’s Window Skywalk project.
- It is encouraging to hear that close to R500 million will be invested over the life of the project.
- Furthermore, whilst the construction phase will create around 300 job opportunities, the facility is expected to offer more than 100 permanent jobs once complete and operational.
- Such a commitment to the people of Thaba Chweu is very welcome especially at a time when the governing party, our beloved African National Congress (ANC), has stated at its recent NEC Lekgotla that ; “the central task of the moment is to create jobs and reduce poverty….we have to act with greater purpose and focus to stimulate growth in our economy and create employment opportunities as a matter of urgency”.
- We cannot be more excited than this as a Province that this investment landed right in our shores, at the time when the lekgotla statement had just been made.
- Programme Director, It is fitting that the occasion of the sod turning of the God’s Window Skywalk project takes place during this month of September where we celebrate tourism and our diverse cultures and heritage.
- The God’s Window Skywalk project is an extraordinary example of how our Province can utilize its resources such as its natural beauty, scenic landscapes, well-managed national parks, culture, the arts, and what is referred to as the ‘creative economy’, in order to create a better life for our people.
- Programme Director, until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic many analysts agreed that “Tourism constitutes one of the most dynamic and fastest growing economic sectors in the world today”.
- Before the advent of Covid-19, the Department of Tourism’s annual report, stated that if tourism’s indirect and induced benefits across a very broad value chain are factored in, the total contribution amounts to R412,5 billion, or 8.9% of our GDP, and is responsible for around 1,5 million jobs.
- Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on these statistics and our overall ability to generate income through the celebration of our culture and heritage.
- However, it is through initiatives and partnership projects such as the God’s Window Skywalk that we can position our province better to benefit from domestic and foreign tourism foot traffic.
- In order to accelerate the calibration of our tourism industry, we must accelerate the rate of Covid-19 vaccination across the Nation and the Province.
- The roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme affords us an opportunity to transition out of this phase of the pandemic and return to life as we knew it.
- It is our hope that the tourism sector will benefit from an increase in the number of people who have been vaccinated and the greater ability of people to travel both locally and afar.
- We also draw comfort from analysis at the International Labour Organization that shows that the tourism sector is known for its resilience to economic downturns and crises, and may bounce back quickly, as was the case following the outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic in 2003 and the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.
- Programme Director, as I familiarised myself with the history of the project, I once again recognized the importance of partnership of provincial stakeholders for planting the seeds of our economic reconstruction and recovery.
- It is pleasing to see provincial government entities entering into partnership with communities and the private sector, as is the case in this project.
- I wish to commend the MTPA, the Communal Property Associations (CPA) and Mapulane Canyon (Pty) Ltd for the seamless way they have worked together to bring this project to fruition.
- We will be watching the roll-out of the project and we shall provide the necessary support to ensure that it succeeds.
- We will support the project’s objective of contributing to the growth of international and domestic tourism in the province.
- We will also remove barriers that prevent us from optimizing the value proposition of our tourism industry. One such barrier is the poor quality road network leading to our tourism attractions.
- I have directed the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport, under the stewardship of MEC Latchminarain who is with us today, to prioritise the rehabilitation of the road networks leading to key tourism attractions such as Graskop in the short to medium term.
- It is my wish to see this model of collaboration being replicated across the Province, particularly as the province prepares for the hosting of a provincial Economic Summit where it will adopt the Provincial Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (MERRP).
- It is my belief that as a province we can do more to realize our potential both in tourism and the broader ‘creative economy’.
- I am encouraged by the commitment of the MTPA and its partners and wish to urge the newly appointed Board to continue in the same vein in optimising the development of tourism in our Province.
- Let us move with speed and agility to ensure that we utilize our tourism assets and resources as a province in order to deliver a better life for our people.
- I thank you all