(Mthatha) – Ground has broken on a R100-million, world-class entertainment centre in Mthatha, which will create hundreds of temporary and permanent jobs and bolster the economy of the Eastern Cape’s third-largest city.
The entertainment centre, which is being developed by South Africa’s largest black-owned property development company, Billion Group, will boast Mthatha’s first licensed casino as well as conferencing and childcare facilities, bars and restaurants.
Having been in the pre-development phase for the past two years, the project will form the latest addition to Billion Group’s existing live-work-play precinct that already houses the 60,000m² BT Ngebs City Shopping Centre and the four-star Mayfair Hotel.
It further continues Billion Group’s stated mission of bringing aspirational developments and world-class facilities and services to areas that would not otherwise have access to them.
The group’s commercial director, Vuyokazi Njongwe, who was raised in Mthatha, said the development was “a continuation of our unwavering interest in the Eastern Cape, a province that has, for many years, been neglected. We think that it needs the same kind of infrastructure as the rest of the country.
“It is why we built the hugely successful BT Ngebs City regional mall [which opened its doors in mid-2015]. It has been one of our exceptionally successful projects and provides a service to the entire region. It’s also why we added the Mayfair Hotel to the precinct,” she said.
The company was awarded the casino licence in 2016. The planned 2,600m² facility – which will be called Mthatha Casino and Entertainment – is expected to have a significant impact on the local economy, with more than 160 permanent jobs created on completion.
“It’s a fact that for every job you create, you create three indirect jobs. We are very proud to be bringing employment to this part of the Eastern Cape,” said Dewald van Staden, development director at Billion Group.
“It is our intention to employ as many locals as possible, and to manage the process of employing workers across all three categories where possible: skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled.”
He said a locally based main contractor had already been appointed.
“Local small, medium and micro enterprises will benefit, such as security, laundry, building supplies, heavy plant and equipment hire. All of that will be sourced locally,” said Van Staden.
He said that an additional formal skills development process was in place to begin at the operational stage.
Njongwe said the casino and conferencing facility would create the premier entertainment node in Mthatha.
“It will complement what we have done already with regard to the mall and the hotel. We are bringing world class facilities to Mthatha – something we pride ourselves on doing, and something that we have a good track record on.”
She added that while the development would undoubtedly have a positive effect on the local economy, it would also be a “revenue generator that will give a healthy injection into the fiscus while, of course, increasing the local GDP”.
With earthworks already underway, the build of the top structure is set to begin early next year. The entertainment centre, estimated to cost in excess of R100-million, is scheduled to open its doors to the public towards the end of 2018.