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11 July 2012 at 11:12 - Posted by Anonymous

Will Pilgrim’s Rest close?


Declared a national monument in 1986, Pilgrim’s Rest in Mpumalanga is a much-loved historic gold mining town dating back as far back as the 1800s. All the buildings have been restored to their former glory and there are museums, restaurants, ghost tours and gold panning excursions. Anyone who has ever been to Pilgrim’s Rest will have fond memories of stepping into the bygone era of the gold rush.

I personally remember enjoying a beer in the corrugated-iron Royal Hotel and speculating over who else over time had enjoyed a beer there (whilst secretly wondering if they were watching me from the corner and enjoying their own ghostly pint). I filled up my car at the Highwayman’s Garage and took a walk through the graveyard where a robber has the best view of town. I was smitten and bought hordes of fridge magnets and postcards which are pasted up everywhere. So it was with great shock that I read the alarming headlines on Friday on News 24 saying “Pilgrim’s Rest to shut down”.

The report goes that the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport in Mpumalanga has ordered the closure of 17 businesses in this historic town, giving business owners 31 days to close shop. Some of the tenants facing eviction have run their businesses in Pilgrim’s Rest for 20 to 30 years and despite having tendered for their leases in November, were told on Friday that they would be evicted. Seemingly tenders have been awarded to companies that do not have the required capital to start up businesses in the premises they have been awarded and there is concern that the entire bid allocation process was rigged.

However, business owners and the community of Pilgrim’s Rest plan to fight back. Lawyers and an advocate will be arriving in Pilgrim’s Rest on Wednesday to advise on what action can be taken to stop the process going forward. At the same time a concerned group from the community will be going to see the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport with their demands.

Pilgrims Rest is a valuable part of South African history and now faces uncertainty. It also provides employment to residents of the local Schoonplaas township, who now face losing their jobs. This is something everyone should be concerned about.

I for one really hope that the community of this historic town win the battle against those who possibly just want it to add to their personal goldmine.


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