By Marshallino Beukes
Reho Spa – once the pride of Rehoboth and a renowned tourist attraction is currently an eyesore in this town, as it has been unutilized for years now and in a dreadful state. Harsh weather conditions, as well as vandalism took its toll, with no-one taking responsibility or ownership for it.
Disgruntled inhabitants of the town are on the warpath and demand answers from the Rehoboth Town Council (RTC), the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, as well as Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR), as they want the town to take back ownership of its Spa again in order to restore it.
The Reho Spa Recreation Resort has a long and sad history after a take over by NWR from the Rehoboth Town Council. NWR leased the Resort to private investors in 2008, but this deal collapsed after the investor, AANTU Energy/Reho Spa (Pty) Ltd supposedly did not honour their agreement with NWR, leaving the Resort with huge water and electricity arrears.
Former National Youth Council (NYC) acting Secretary-General, Ralph Blaauw and Polytechnic of Namibia Registrar Corneels Japhta were partners in this company, as per reports.
The Rehoboth Community Trust thereafter signed a 12-year lease agreement with Namibia Wildlife Resorts during 2014, with the Trust promising that renovations would commence shortly and that the Spa would be operational the next year. However, plans to renovate the Resort have been postponed many a time and the facility continued to deteriorate.
After the Ministry of Environment and Tourism requested Treasury approval for the return of the Reho Spa to the Rehoboth Town Council in late 2018, Nathalia /Goagoses, the ministerial representative at the Rehoboth Town Council requested a renovation and informed residents that Council was only awaiting paperwork from the ministry for handing over of the Resort. As matters stand, nothing came of it.
This week Romeo Muyanda, spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, confirmed the Ministry is still waiting for a valuation report from the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement to enable them to approach Treasury to approve the transfer. Muyunda further told The Patriot that they (Ministry) “are aware that the Rehoboth Community Trust (RCT) once went into a partnership with NWR, but they (RCT) didn’t operationalize it.” He emphasized that the Spa belongs to NWR and further noted that NWR and Rehoboth Town Council are in communication, and that talks are advanced to the point that an agreement was reached to transfer the Spa from NWR to Rehoboth Spa.
Muyunda also remarked that “he was not aware of any debts regarding the Spa”. Mufaro Nesongano, NWR Manager: Corporate Communications at Namibia Wildlife Resorts confirmed that NWR terminated the agreement with Rehoboth Community Trust on 29 August 2017, based on breach of agreement. Nesongana explained to The Patriot that the Trust did not make any investments as promised, citing failure to garner funding as the main reason for not investing in the property as agreed. Ronald Kubas, chairperson of the Rehoboth Community Trust was also asked for comment, but referred The Patriot to the Rehoboth Town Council and NWR.
Regarding the failed venture with the private investors Nesongano clarified that “Namibia Wildlife Resorts took a principle decision in 2007 to search for a development and management partner for Reho Spa under a PPP arrangement. Through an agreement dated 17 July 2008, AANTU Energy/ Reho Spa (PTY) Ltd was given the opportunity by NWR to develop and manage Reho SPA as a PPP partner. However, NWR was forced to take back the management of Reho Spa in 2011, mainly, for the reason that Reho Spa (PTY) Ltd had breached the agreement and abandoned the facility.”
On a question regarding the possibility of the Government putting up the Resort for sale or to privatize it, Muyunda remarked that “there is no intention from government to sell or privatize the Spa. We believe that the Rehoboth Town Council is better positioned based on the plans they want to implement, to operationalise the spa. The development of the town through tourism is of interest to the council and it gives us confidence of the prospects.”
The Rehoboth Town Council was also asked for comment on this issue, but the town’s Public Relations Officer, Desire Theunissen only responded that “As for Reho Spa I do not have any information to give you now, since the LED officer is also still on leave. When there is information, I will communicate.”
Reho Spa, which among other boasts with an indoor thermal bath, large swimming pool, kiosk, bungalows and conference facilities. The general feeling in the town is that the process for transfer of the Spa is ongoing since 2018 and should speed up, as the town needs this facility to boost its economy through tourism and job creation.