The diggers called it Pilgrim's Rest because here, at last, after so many false trails and faded dreams they had truly found their home. After many years in this small historic town, dreams for some business owners are now shattered.
As reported by The Times 17 tenants were issued with eviction notices Friday the 29th of June 2012, by the provincial department of public works, roads and transport, giving business owners 31 days to close their shops.
Pilgrims Rest was declared a goldfield in 1873, when a miner, Alex "Wheelbarrow" Patterson, discovered alluvial gold on the farm named Ponieskrantz it became a cosmopolitan centre of activity in South Africa. Today it stands as a legacy to these pioneers. The entire town was proclaimed a National Monument in 1986. The town is owned and run by the department of public works and business owners lease the properties.
The small town's economy depends on tourism, providing employment to residents of the local Schoonplaas township.
Business owners are furious about these notices as they tendered for the leases in November last year, but said they have received no feedback from Public Works. The department kept on postponing the announcement of the winning tenders, leaving them in a lurch. Tenants said they were told that the announcement would be made in June.
Public works, roads and transport spokesman Dumisa Malamule said the department advertised the leasing of the buildings on tender bulletin in October last year and the closing date was in November last year.
“The leases of all business which were on tender had expired. The whole tender process was finalised in June 2012 as the process allowed for a 90 day validity period with an allowance of extension when there is a need,” he said.
Royal Hotel manager said they have not been affected by the leases quarrel, as they run the hotel on behalf of the government.
However, Pilgrim's Rest Tourism officer Sherry Goodwin said she believed that the motivation behind this was to transform the economy of the town to include the previously disadvantaged community, on the other hand, one of the business owners had to give notices of termination of employment to 50 employees.