Maverick Citizen

PATH OF DESTRUCTION

Blow to Wild Coast tourism as iconic hotel shuts its doors

Blow to Wild Coast tourism as iconic hotel shuts its doors
The iconic Mazeppa Bay Hotel has been a landmark for decades but has now closed. (Photo: Supplied)

The iconic Mazeppa Beach Hotel on the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast has closed its doors, blaming the state of the road as a major contributing factor to its downfall. The hotel’s closure is a significant loss of a major tourism attraction in the area known for its fishing, unspoilt beaches and birdlife.

When tourists had to deal with ruined tyres on the road into and out of Mazeppa Bay on the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast, tour operator Owen Richter knew the writing was on the wall. 

“I have a house in Mazeppa Bay, and in the past few years the roads have just become worse and worse,” he said.

wild coast hotel shuts mazeppa bay

A well-known and popular tourist attraction in Mazeppa Bay, the suspension bridge, had to be closed in December because it has become dangerous to use. (Photo: Owen Richter)

“If you take the road from Centane to Mazeppa Bay you will see very little left there. The road has been washed away. There are just rocks sticking out now. That road cuts up tyres like you won’t believe. Parts of the road have been washed away. You can’t drive there with a car,” he said.

Alles is moer toe [everything has gone to the dogs],” he sighed.

Richter, who has been a tour operator in the Eastern Cape for many years, said the typical tourist did not rent a 4×4 vehicle, but rather a small sedan. It was no longer possible to drive safely on that road with such a vehicle.

“My wife and son stopped to help a driver the other day. She was in a Polo Vivo and that car was just sliding all over that road. It couldn’t get up the hill.”

“I saw a grader on that road the other day, but we already know it will just rain once and then the road will no longer be usable. The contractors are not being paid so they leave. That specific stretch of road is 60km long.”

Richter said you had to drive so slowly on that road now that the trip took three to four hours.

He said property owners in Mazeppa Bay had also closed the suspension footbridge to Mazeppa Bay Island in December because it has become very dangerous to use.

“Now that it needs repairs it is suddenly nobody’s bridge,” he said. “No government or municipality wants to take responsibility for it.”

“I am losing a lot of business through this,” he said. “We now have no hotel and no bridge. People don’t want to have their corporate events here anymore.”

“Even friends who come visit me in Mazeppa Bay will say if they knew the road was so bad they wouldn’t have come,” Richter said.

“Some people lose tyres on the way to Mazeppa Bay and again on the way back,” he said.

Blow to tourism

On 27 January, Mazeppa Bay Hotel manager Vanessa Fisher sent out letters to guests and service providers to announce that the hotel was closing:

“It is with a heavy heart and sincere regret that we announce the closure of our beloved Mazeppa Bay Hotel. The last trading day would be on 27 January 2024 …We have tried all avenues to keep the hotel open and operational since [the Covid-19 pandemic], however, we have simply not been able to recover from the negative financial impact that [the pandemic] had caused the business.

“The poor road infrastructure and lack of road maintenance by our provincial/local government … also played a major role in the poor financial performance of the business,” she added.

wild coast hotel shuts

Mazeppa Bay was once a sought-after holiday spot and known for its birdwatching and fishing. (Photo: Own Richter)

The Democratic Alliance’s leader in the Eastern Cape, Andrew Whitfield, said apart from the tragic closure of the hotel, the DA had also received “a number of desperate complaints from the agriculture sector regarding the state of roads with farmers across the province crying out for the provincial government to intervene before it is too late”.

“Currently, many farmers are repairing roads at their own cost, which is neither fair nor sustainable.”

Chronically underfunded

The Department of Roads and Transport was one of the provincial departments singled out for failing to deliver services after a three-year investigation by the Public Protector.

But the department has always maintained it is not given enough money to carry out its duties. Roads and Transport MEC Xolile Nqatha has admitted that damage to the provincial road network stems from inadequate maintenance over the years, mainly due to underfunding. He said R800-million had been allocated to road maintenance this financial year, but closer to R3.8-billion was needed annually. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: R3.8bn a year – how much the Eastern Cape needs to fix potholes and maintain roads

Whitfield said: “Tourism and agriculture are major contributors to the GDP of the Eastern Cape, reaching into every corner of the province and propping up most of our small towns. These sectors are the backbone of the rural economy and they deserve the premier’s urgent attention – without roads there is no economy. By ignoring the rapid deterioration of our rural road network, the premier is taking jobs out of homes and food off the plates of our citizens.”

He has asked Premier Oscar Mabuyane to prioritise the province’s roads, calling for a special appropriation bill to rescue rural roads in the province.

Last year, the South African Human Rights Commission also began an investigation into the condition of roads in the Eastern Cape as it related to the access of ambulances and other medical vehicles to communities and health facilities. The Public Protector’s Office also investigated several complaints about the dire state of the province’s roads, with a focus on the impact that it had on the work of the police.

But the spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Department of Roads and Transport, Unathi Binqose, said while the department did not want to downplay the role of road infrastructure in economic development, it noted there were other contributing factors to the Mazeppa Bay Hotel’s closure.

“It may be a very complex business problem. We do not know the challenges that they are facing. The road may very well not be the only one. We do not wish to downplay this, but also not over-signify what may have been a very complicated case,” Binqose said. DM

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  • What an absolute tragedy. Another massive failing by an inefficient, ineffective and corrupt bunch of clowns !

  • Lawrence Sisitka says:

    Yes, we have just got together with the neighbours here – not something we do often, as we are a bit of an odd assortment – to fix our own 5km of gravel road which has almost disappeared. We simply gave up expecting anything at all from the government at any level. Of course most of us have gone solar as well, as part of the big move to total independence from government. Unfortunately this takes quite a bit of capital, and the majority cannot do this and must remain dependent – although they do a good job of illegal connections etc., and more worryingly, mob justice, which is seen by many as a good thing in township locations. People actually look to move to areas with a strong practice of mob justice, as they say they feel safer there. Yes I think we can give up on the idea of even a semblance of democracy – not that it really exists anywhere – and put our money on a future of almost total anarchy. Can look like fun, but in reality is very very dangerous.

  • Nomqondiso Jakuja says:

    Forget about the closing of a hotel people in the rural areas of theEastern Cape bear the brunt of the government’s inefficiency when in come to roads. Its HELL to travel on our roads but who cares? We keep voting for the same nonsense.

    • Hilary Morris says:

      Why?

      • Wilfred Walker says:

        If that hotel belonged to Comrade or his friend(s) that road would be in tip top condition !! So much for governing “for the people” . What a joke the ANC has become, not a good joke either.

        • Kenneth Arundel says:

          It will in all probability soon belong to a comrade or his friends. It will sell below it’s worth.

          • Wynand Deyzel says:

            If there’s anything left to be sold! By now, you can be sure that redistribution has already started and new shanties will be resplendent with hotel infrastructure. Any metal would be on the way to the scrap metal dealers, as we speak…

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Terrible! The only thing I can say is – do yourself and your community a favour and vote DA. I can say with confidence that you won’t regret it.

  • Ian Gwilt says:

    Yet the Eastern cape will be solid ANC in the election possibly because no credible alternative on the ground.
    Their citizens will continue to flock to the Western Cape, squat and then complain that the racist DA are not providing homes.

  • Ian Gwilt says:

    Yet the Eastern cape will be solid ANC in the election possibly because no credible alternative on the ground.
    Their citizens will continue to flock to the Western Cape, squat and then complain that the racist DA are not providing homes.

  • Confused Citizen says:

    Another 5-10 years of ANC rule and the other 7 provinces (excl WC) will look like EC.
    Yet come election time, the ANC will be voted in by 95%!
    Why don’t the locals propose their own independent candidates if they don’t want to vote ANC and there is no DA branch? Because the ANC rule through fear and intimidation… Democracy (by the people for the people through free will) is not really a concept the ANC live by.

  • Confused Citizen says:

    Another 5-10 years of ANC rule and the other 7 provinces (excl WC) will look like EC.
    Yet come election time, the ANC will be voted in by 95%!
    Why don’t the locals propose their own independent candidates if they don’t want to vote ANC and there is no DA branch? Because the ANC rule through fear and intimidation… Democracy (by the people for the people through free will) is not really a concept the ANC live by.

  • sandpiper.gary says:

    Note to the polticians: sort out the roads and infrastructure of our beloved country or do the honourable thing and resign so that someone with initiative and energy can do what you are obviously unwilling or incapable of doing! Tourists create employment and further downstream economic growth. Stick to the basics, sort out infrastructure and the rest will follow. You Sir, are a servant of the people of South Africa, serve them or as I politely suggested, do the honourable thing and resign!

  • Mark Hammick says:

    Vote for the ANC to ensure your freedom.
    Freedom from roads
    Freedom from electricity
    Freedom from clean water
    Freedom from sewage treatment
    Freedom from jobs
    the list goes on and on

  • nmontso1 says:

    This is a terrible sad situation on an already highly unemployed country and EC being one of the worst province. How accurate is the R3.8 bn mentioned by Minister? Does the the province have necessary skills for the assignment i.e. engineers, project management and capacity to ensure good quality product and prudent financial management, highly unlikely. Cry the beloved country 😢 💔 😭

  • P C Hem says:

    It seems that the country is returning to the preindustrial pre colonial where there are no roads or electricity or trains or running water, it is just a question of when they start to “redistribute” land owned by whites. The more desperate things get, the more likely that will be seen as a solution to the problem.

  • Heinrich Nel says:

    Excuses, excuses and more excuses, for deterioration, more deterioration and even more. The present rulers will plead poverty and underfunding and tell you what they take credit for. They will never calculate and take responsibility for the Trillions and trillions of rands their actions and inactions, which is the true cause of the misery, have and are costing this country.

  • Johan West says:

    Thanks to the useless incompetent kleptocratic Eastern Cape ANC government more people is losing their jobs and another iconic tourism spot for ever lost.

  • Rob Fowler says:

    Such a pity. It was a wonderful place. The roads to get there have always been critical. Now for travellers it’s also a problem going through the small old Transkei towns like Qumbu where criminals target tourist vehicles and travellers themselves for easy pickings. It’s really not a fun way to have an Eastern Cape holiday. Not to mention the litter which ruins every Vista. The authorities and the SAPS in the Eastern Cape have been aware of these issues for years but done absolutely nothing. Just another Provincial Government that sees the writing on the wall but just couldn’t give a damn. cANCer!

  • Alpha Sithole says:

    This just reflects the desperate state of our broken country after years of theft and corruption. It can be seen everywhere the government has touched.

    • T'Plana Hath says:

      “Remember that the frontier of the Rebellion is everywhere. And even the smallest act of insurrection pushes our lines forward. And then remember this: The [Government’s] need for control is so desperate because it is so unnatural. Tyranny requires constant effort. It breaks, it leaks. Authority is brittle. Oppression is the mask of fear. Remember that.”

      “And know this, the day will come when all these skirmishes and battles, these moments of defiance will have flooded the banks of the [Government’s] authority, and then there will be one too many. One single thing will break the siege. Remember this: try.”

      And if you cannot try, at the very least, vote!

      • Belinda Cavero says:

        So well said.

        • T'Plana Hath says:

          I can’t take credit for this, believe it or not it’s from the Star Wars spin-off ‘Andor’. If it were up to me, it would be required viewing for all of us – at least Episode 10, Luthen Rael’s monologue (you can find it on YouTube, it’s just under 5 minutes).
          We need heroes.

  • Christopher Campbell says:

    So, if you only have R800 million please provide a breakdown of how it will be spent. We need accountability not excuses of underfunding.

  • Soil Merchant says:

    Super sad – I remember holidaying there over 40 years ago … It was amazing back then, as I am sure it was till this tragic day.

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      I was there in December and had the best holiday in years. It’s been looking like the end was nigh for a number of years but always remained my favourite family holiday destination in the country. Spectacularly beautiful location and great people.

  • Simon Lax says:

    The end of the article is a typical government response, i.e., “not our fault or problem”. It isn’t a complex issue at all because if your guests can’t get to your hotel then you are going to close down, period!

  • John Patson says:

    Let’s face it, the 60 to 80 year olds who joined the ANC in their youth did so because it was exciting. Fixing roads and running a country well is not exciting. Stealing money is exciting, and so you have SA today…

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    We’ve been going to the hotel for 15 years and in that time the two roads have alternated between identifying as minor canyons and river beds. The ‘tarred’ sections at the beginning have literally washed away to the point where all that remains in most parts is a dark stain to remind one that it was once tarred. The gravel sections are occasionally graded but only once in the period were parts sealed with bentonite and rolled. In the same period the population in the area has exploded to the point where there are no uninhabited stretches in the 50km between the tar roads and the hotel. The number of staff has reduced substantially over the years and now with the hotel closing there will be a devastating impact on the the very large number of local residents who have earned a living for a few generations from it. Another entirely avoidable tragedy brought to us by the government who struggle to find an unstolen buck to spend on improving the lives of its citizens while never being short of X5 and VIP security funding. I wish, probably in vain, that people would wake up and realise that keeping the ANC in power for much longer will send the country the way of Mazeppa Bay.

    • Belinda Cavero says:

      Agreed. The community members keep voting the ANC in, again and again. Is it complete ignorance / lack of voter education…or willfully determined to have the ANC run their province? Please, people, vote for a party that has a proven track record of good management, even if you may not like particular personalities and styles.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    The best decision unfortunately …… thank the ANC for this and so much else.

  • Roger Oxlee Oxlee says:

    Unathi Binqose.
    Irresponsible? Definitely not response-able, nor accountable.
    Shameless, useless, clueless. Rides the gravy train while the roads completely disintegrate. Then blames “business condition”
    Siesa!

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    Absolutely disgusting, absolutely ANC, absolutely expected, every single time. As a regular visitor to the stunning province it’s both tragic and infuriating to see how the plunder of resources in the province has destroyed town after town across the province.

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      Just to add – the VIP Protection budget for this year is R3.8bn, more than enough to meet the budgetary requirements for the roads in the Eastern Cape! But my experience in Kei Mouth and across the Pont to Transkei is that the roads are so badly tarred that they only last a couple of years before potholes appear and a couple more before they start disintegrating completely. I wonder who’s winning those contracts?

  • peterm2 says:

    What a shame, been there many times when young.

  • Tess Fairweather says:

    Let’s start with a full audit of where the R800 million was spent.
    That is sure to reveal who is getting rich with taxpayers money.

  • Cameron murie says:

    Well, forgive my cynical offering, but this type of thing is often deliberate, purposeful. If you only knew who will benefit from driving out as many residents as possible, drive down property values, force people to abandon the area.
    It’s a nasty, deliberate plan, I suspect. Because the wrong people are enjoying the place.

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      You can’t own the properties along the coast there and they can’t be legally extended beyond their floor plan as at some point in the past when an aerial survey was done. The local king ha by all accounts always between extremely supportive of the hotel and one of his sons works there. I don’t get the impression that there is anything planned about the degradation of the infrastructure but rather that its the inevitable consequence of government appointees at every level who focus on stealing rather than delivering services.

  • Scott Gordon says:

    Am also sad at the closure .
    As for the state of the road there , we could take a tip from our mates up north .
    There are /were many rural roads that were just 2 concrete strips , when you meet oncoming traffic , just drive with the right hand side wheels on the concrete .
    Far less expensive than a tar road !
    Could be work for locals too !

  • Johan Buys says:

    Decolonization in action.

    The hotel will soon be full, just not with guests.

  • Ina Loots says:

    Lots of negative comment about East Cape. All is not doom and gloom. My hysbabd and I (from Port Elizabeth) have just returned from a 1400 km roadtrip with 4 Namibian friends , to show them the hidden beauty ofvthe North East Cape Highlands (ie Rhodes area). The roads were a 700km tar, 700km gravel. With exception of 30km tar between Dordrecht and Komani (Queenstown), the roads were in good, very good and excelent condition. Small towns were generally clean, albeit buildings that lacked a coat of paint (that xan be excused due to kack of money, but for rubbish there is no excuse). The natural beauty was something to behold.
    Our friends were bowled over, having arrived with prejudices and leaving as ambassadors.

  • PETER BAKER says:

    It is not complicated Ministry of No Roads in the Eastern Cape, you are all a bunch of completely useless miscreants who are just too stupid, corrupt, and incompetent to fix or maintain anything. Please just admit it and get out of town now. Certainly the people will kick out come next election!

  • PETER BAKER says:

    It is not complicated Ministry of No Roads in the Eastern Cape, you are all a bunch of completely useless miscreants who are just too stupid, corrupt, and incompetent to fix or maintain anything. Please just admit it and get out of town now. Certainly the people will kick out come next election!

  • Stan Han says:

    While the country circles the drain, they spend millions whining about “genocide”.

  • Why is the eastern cape side of blauwkrantz pass totally unmaintained while it is in excellent condition on the DA run Western Province.

  • Citizen X says:

    Not even run flat tyres will help by the sounds of things. Any other innovations? As we will need it sooner than we think to get to places of work! Or we stop paying taxes and fix it ourselves? While not a proponent of this but maybe the only way for action. We go to court demanding our rights and holding those accountable? Voting won’t help solve the problem in of itself politicians spend their time pointing fingers no matter the party. We find a way to deal collectively on common issues that affect our daily lives and put it on the doorsteps of those accountable to us, requires active citizenry. So now what? Just saying as I’m thinking… How do we mobilise to deal with our disatisfaction?

    • David Mitchley says:

      I am not a lawyer, and have asked for years if there was a way for the citizens of SA to institute a class action law suite against the SA government for dereliction of duty. The members of parliament swear an oath to uphold the constitution, all of them (all parties) have violated that oath.

  • Dan S says:

    Need to figure this out or this will become the norm

  • So sad….such a stunning venue for a family holiday

  • Coenie Harley says:

    Down comrade Down!!

  • H K says:

    What is complicated?

  • MD L says:

    The economy cannot function without an infrastructure. By underfunding, and corruption, the ANC government has systematically destroyed South Africa’s infrastructure. The economy will follow. From the closure of the steel. Mills in Newcastle, to the closure of a little hotel in Mazeppa Bay, the components of the economy will close. South Africa’s bright light, small and big, will be turned off, one by one.

  • billgolding01 says:

    Great! Now Cyril can proudly say the number of people getting grants has grown some more.
    What a wonderful benevolent bunch of morons this government is.

  • Chris VZ says:

    It’s interesting how these government officials attempt to deflect the closure of the hotel to factors other than the state of the roads. They conveniently forget that their total mismanagement over the years has now resulted in the families of those once employed at the hotel now facing the prospect of starvation and more. But sure as nuts, they will continue to vote for the ANC. It’s insane.

  • sapruv123 says:

    The government is certainly not doing enough for the citizens of this beautiful country….
    Crime and corruption, deteriorating infrastructure, load shedding, water cuts,…the list goes on.

  • Wynand Deyzel says:

    Whilst the ANC cadres sit on their fat behinds taking massive monthly salaries and doing nothing for it. Would rather sit and scheme how to get multi million Rand tenders…

  • Theo Cromhout says:

    The demise of tourism on the Wild Coast came long before this hotel closure. It’s been decades in the making. The ANC Government’s biggest untold story of failure is how the former Transkei and towns like Port St John’s have been let down, neglected and betrayed. Communities have been forgotten and the people that live there abandoned. Tourism could be and should be the life blood of these communities brining in investment, tourists and job creation. If tourism dies, then towns and communities will also die. The Wild Coast has so much potential if only political parties could recognise this and act, in the interests that of the people they are meant to serve.

  • This is so devastating and happening every day all across our country. Please South Africans let’s start a fund to rescue this landmark hotel and save the owner’s business and their employers jobs🙏🏻🙏🏻We know who is to blame for the chaos and destruction of our once beautiful country 💔💔💔

  • Claude Baissac says:

    How many jobs lost? Direct and indirect? The ANC has proven itself incapable and unwilling to govern. Of voters don’t do the right thing, then the voters need not complain… Let’s see what the national elections give. I don’t hold my breath. Moving on…

  • Angela King says:

    Viva ANC viva. I hope people can see what this party has done to KZN & EC and use it as lesson. The municipalities are beyond help through greed, mismanagement and corruption

  • Pat Goss says:

    Question to Mr Binqose: Of the R800m budget,how much is allocated to salaries and how much to work on the roads per se?

  • Rosalind C says:

    Having travelled from KZN through the Free State and to the Eastern Cape over the holidays you can clearly see and feel the provinces that the ANC governs in. Everything they touch turns bad.

  • Ramaphosa, you had a chance to lead and Complete the dream of a prosperous South Africa for Mandela – is this what he quietly asked you to do or is this all you.

  • Kat Hessler says:

    Incredibly sad

  • Casey Ryder says:

    And those who can read, read this article and the comments, damning the ANC for their crimes, follow. And those who cannot – or cannot be bothered – to read, will go out and vote for the criminals to be returned to power. And it is they who are, by some margin, the majority.

  • Cedric Parker says:

    What we need is effective voter education to overcome the blind loyalty to the ANC. Produce a simple presentation and take it to all rural areas and provide incentives for folk to watch and absorb what is actually a powerful proposition: Vote for the only party that is governing well. It would help if Steenhuisen promised that if the DA won a majority in the upcoming General Election he would have a subsequent referendum to choose a President from 3 candidates: Mmusi Maimane, Herman Mashaba and himself.

  • vanderlindelinda01 says:

    This is just part of the ANC legacy!

  • Dick Schipper says:

    if all else is lost, there is still hope.

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