The current state of the naturally heated swimming pool at the once beautiful Mphephu Resort in Nzhelele. Photo: Lutendo Bobodi.
The Mphephu Resort in Nzhelele, currently managed by the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment, and Tourism (LEDET), was once a highly popular relaxation destination that attracted tourists from across the country.
Situated beneath the sacred Tswime Mountain, at the borders of Siloam, Sendedza, and Mahlarini villages, the Mphephu Resort featured a natural heated pool, two regular swimming pools, a hot spring, a large park, a disco, and well-equipped accommodation facilities. The entire area was surrounded by lush, beautifully landscaped gardens and well-maintained green lawns. It was also used as a venue for meetings, matric farewells, and entertainment events.
The resort was officially opened in 1989 by former Venda President Mr Frank Ravele, a year before he was removed from office in a military coup. In May 2009, former Limpopo Premier Ngoako Ramatlhodi announced the renovation of the resort. However, things took a downturn.
In 2021, heavy rains badly damaged the access bridge to the resort and parts of the fence, but unfortunately, no subsequent effort to repair them has been made. This once-proud resort is now in a dilapidated state, resembling nothing more than a sad, white elephant. The park’s once-vibrant lawns and gardens now lie dead and untended, the swimming pools have dried up and become dirty, and some of the buildings have been vandalised.
The closure of the Mphephu Resort has not only impacted the local economy but also the entertainment sector. Speaking on behalf of the community, Mr Samuel Lusunzi expressed their feeling of disrespect and hurt by the government for abandoning the resort. “They are not respecting our heritage. This resort was our pride and a tourist attraction. It also provided valuable knowledge, like where this hot water originates. We have to travel all the way to Durban for entertainment, but we want people to come here for entertainment and to enjoy this place.”
Lusunzi pointed out that the resort has a rich history, having hosted popular artists such as Brenda Fassie, Arthur Mafokate, and many other renowned names.
“Our children now have to travel far just to swim for a day, even though we have this beautiful resort in our area. We have written a letter to the MEC (Mr Rodgers Monama), informing him that we are willing to renovate the resort ourselves. Our community has all the skills required to run this resort. Our children have gone to school and are employable. We have security guards, chefs, bartenders, lifeguards, managers, assistants, and more. The Vhembe community is more than capable of managing the resort without government assistance,” he said.
LEDET spokesperson Mr Zaid Kalla said that the Department of Public Works had conducted a conditional assessment, which required funding. “The funding will allow us to appoint service providers in the built environment, such as architects, engineers, and a quantity surveyor, to create detailed, costed designs. Afterwards, we will apply to the Treasury for funding to start the renovation,” he stated.
Date:21 October 2023
Maanda Bele, born and raised in Nzhelele Siloam, studied journalism at the Tshwane University of Technology.
He is passionate about current news and international affairs.
He worked as part of the Zoutnet team as an intern in 2017.
He is currently a freelance journalist specialising in news from the Vhembe district.