A R20-million medicinal plant conservation project at Maila outside Louis Trichardt in Limpopo has collapsed, allegedly due to financial mismanagement.
The project, which was launched six years ago, was to develop, promote and protect natural resources.
The Indigenous Knowledge Systems of South Africa Trust was appointed by the Department of Environmental Affairs to administer the project.
Alleged financial mismanagement is blamed for the collapse of the project which was launched in 2010. It was set to be completed in 2013.
The Department of Environmental Affairs allocated a tender to the Indigenous Knowledge Systems of South Africa Trust to build facilities for traditional healers to harvest and process traditional medicine.
The project is located on land full of medicinal plants. The construction of the administration block, factory storeroom, traditional clinic, reservoir and other structures have been completed on the 142 hectares of land.
The project was halted in the last phase as proper equipment had not been bought and installed. The multi-million rand buildings are now unused.
The chairperson of the Vhembe traditional healers, Mbulaheni Neluvhola, says the Hawks must investigate because he suspects some of the money allocated by the Department of Environmental Affairs has been stolen.
“The project has collapsed because the department and the people (who were supposed) to come and do the development could not consult (with) us because they abused the money. The project has stopped today and we are worried about that. The Hawks (must) come and help us.”
The chairperson of the Nthabalala Royal Council, Dick Nthabalala, says they want the project to start operating. He says they are worried that the buildings might be vandalised or become dilapidated.
“This project is not yet completed because there are some equipment that are supposed to be delivered here at the project. Factory machines that were supposed to be used by these traditional healers. We are so worried that there’s a problem here at the project, the worry of the royal council is that these project might be vandalised.”
SANCO chairperson at Maila, Maita Ramaite, alleges that the company that was given a tender to build the project, the Indigenous Knowledge Systems of South Africa wanted to hand over the incomplete project to the community.
Ramaite says they refused to receive the incomplete project.
“So far when we look at the progress of the project we don’t see any benefit that we could get in the creation of employment, minimisation of poverty. Of course we still have a hope, the departmental people could come to us and we sit down and talk, hopefully we can reach any solution. Even if we can take the key there’s no way where we can use that project.”
The Indigenous Knowledge Systems of South Africa Trust and the Department of Environmental Affairs were not available for comment.