Cape Town – The administrator in charge of the Oudtshoorn municipality has moved swiftly to ensure that operations at the Cango Caves, a popular tourist attraction in the Klein Karoo town, get back on track ahead of the upcoming tourism season.
Visitor figures to the Cango Caves were down by 30 percent in September but according to the Finance MEC, Dr Ivan Meyer, this could also be a result of the now withdrawn controversial visa regulations.
The extensive formation of caves in the foothills of the Swartberg range is a major tourist attraction and has World Heritage status, but has recently been shrouded in controversy and marred by alleged financial mismanagement and lack of maintenance.
It was also reported that the embattled Oudtshoorn municipality, which is responsible for the day-to-day management of the heritage site, moved millions of rand out of the Cango Caves’s trust accounts and into its own coffers.
This is one of the focus areas of the ongoing forensic investigations at the Oudtshoorn municipality of which preliminary findings are expected before the end of the year.
In a joint statement issued by Meyer and the recently appointed administrator for the municipality, Kam Chetty, the pair said the normalising of operations at the Cango Caves and the process towards finding a permanent management arrangement for the caves was on track.
Further tightening the grip on the management at the caves, the acting manager, Alisson Moos, now reports directly to the Administrator while the provincial government has representation on the committee established to oversee the running of the caves.
“A committee, chaired by the administrator, has been established to oversee the activities of the Cango Caves. Both the Provincial Department of the Cultural Affairs and Sport and the Department of Local Government has representation on the committee which is also strengthened by the support of a local heritage specialist, Professor Francois Hanekom.
“The committee has to date facilitated public participation to generate ideas… These ideas will now be incorporated into a discussion paper which will be going out for public comment.
“Simultaneously a specialist lawyer will be appointed to look at the articles of association of the envisaged public entity which we hope to finalise by the end of January,” Dr Meyer said.
The caves generate about R20-million a year for the town.
Asked about visitor numbers to the caves, Meyer said management was of the view that visitor numbers would break even as the European visitor season kicks in.
“We should see an increase in visitor numbers over the November, December, January period which is historically the busiest period for the Cango Caves,” Meyer added.