SA’s secret sauce – the Megans who make such a massive difference

Megan Bedingham is the niece of my late great pal, David Carte. The doyen of financial journalism, through three decades Carte had a greater influence on my career than any other – as my boss at the RDM, Finance Week and Business Times and then when colleagues at Moneyweb. In November, it will be ten years since he passed away from a rare lung disease. He left a huge hole. But David’s legacy lives on in many ways. Directly honoured by naming of the David Carte Memorial golf tournament at the BizNews Conference (his niece hands over the trophy). And indirectly through tireless Megan who runs The Cavern, the famous Drakensberg resort which the Carte family started, built and has owned for close to a century. What follows is Megan’s latest attempt to shake up a lethargic local ANC bureaucracy whose incompetence is matched only by its breathtaking arrogance. Read her letter and you’ll soon agree with an assertion that bedevilled as we are by our governors, SA is in a class of its own as a land where active citizens can and do make a massive difference. – Alec Hogg

Open Letter by Megan Bedingham

Dear Parliament

I am not really sure who addresses our issues anymore? We have pleaded locally, we have begged with our Provincial government and we have even had a Parliamentary visit and yet nothing seems to get done? I write because I am concerned. We now have rolling black-outs and infrastructure that is failing and I wonder if those in Government have any idea of the massive implications? Why are you so slow to fix and build?

I am in the Northern Drakensberg in KZN. It’s an area of immense beauty and home to the Okhahlamba World Heritage Site. The region is accessed via the R74 and the Oliviershoek Pass. We had the Parliamentary Committee for Transport visit on 22nd April 2022 and the only change since then has been the added STOP-GO at the collapsed culvert on the Pass. The detour around the sinking road was built by local farmers and although we plead for help nothing gets done?

I find it absolutely flabbergasting that this is deemed okay? If I took as long to repair a leaking hot water pipe in my resort, I’d go out of business. I understand that it is possibly much more complex. Like the complex box ticking of Employment Equity plans and the complexity of finding the letter from the 1940s that authorises us to operate a business so that we can get our Business Licence…

Today, businesses are at risk because we see NO PROGRESS. Much talk and many empty promises. We need lights and we need roads. And, no, we are not moving offshore because we are intricately involved in our community. We employ 100 people. 100 families that rely on us to keep selling beds and attracting tourists. But we need you to play your part too. We need our roads fixed so that visitors can access us safely. We need the Eskom grid opened so that we can all contribute to the solution of making power. And yes, maybe you do need to think about reducing the 30% tax on all fuel purchases?

Workmanship is an issue too. Do you know that the R74 from the bottom of the Pass to the town of Bergville was built about 40 years ago. It has had a coating spray once and after this long time it is only now getting potholes. Do you know that the section from the Pass towards Sterkfontein Dam was resurfaced less than 5 years ago and that it is already potholed. And are you aware that the 10km from the N3 194 off-ramp towards the town of Winterton was resurfaced not even a year ago and it is already potholed. What is happening? Where is the quality control in what IS being done?

Perhaps Parliament is just completely out of touch. Businesses not only employ; hospitality has the means of providing mass low entry jobs. These jobs help many unskilled people support their families but it also provides a stepping stone for skills development. A youngster with no skills masters language, builds a positive self-image, acquires skills and becomes confident through these jobs. We have seen many young people from our community access tertiary education because they have been propped up by hospitality. We witness young beauty therapists hone and develop their skills and move on to new opportunities. There is no silver bullet, but there are masses of opportunities.

We are just not sure Government cares or is interested. It seems as if you are poor, you have been forgotten.

This week we arrived home from a holiday and on my desk was a letter. A request to help with a weekly stipend. These requests come in from time to time because as a business we don’t just employ we work within education projects too. We support 18 preschools and 700 children in the greater amaZizi district. We also have almost 100 little children in our foundation phase school. We can do this because we have a functioning business.

One of the most recent additions to our Project amaZizi Reads, is community reading afternoons in the village. Two of our teachers head out on a Wednesday afternoon and they read to the children that arrive. The stories are in English and isiZulu and groups start off at about 20 children and the last one grew to almost 80! 80 children so keen to read. We partner with Book Dash so that books can go back into the homes of these families. It’s a wonderful story and oh there is so much potential… 

But, all of these wonderful initiatives are at risk because Government is not providing basic services. Incidentally the letter received was from Samekelokuhle Pre-School. They are situated high in the eBusingatha Valley. The valley of the proposed Cable Car. The children from that school loved their Wednesday afternoon reading sessions so much, they have asked if we can help provide a stipend for a teacher to continue with this work now that we have moved to a new area in the community.

So, yes, we will make a plan. We will find a stipend and we will work a system so that when we move from the next little school, the reading can continue. Because, that is what we do; we make a plan, we make things work. That is what South Africans do. We get up and we keep doing because we love this country and we love the people we live and work with.

Why do we stay? Someone said it’s because this is the country of unicorns. There is magic here. Can Government join us in our real SA spirit and get on and DO. Stop with the corruption. Stop with the talking. Stop with the inefficiencies and help BUILD a nation of people.

Sincerely,

Megan

Northern Drakensberg – KZN2

https://www.facebook.com/megan.bedingham

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