Tag Archives: Mokopane

SA Destination Awards – How it all began

I’ve spent two years exploring South Africa and have never ceased to be amazed at the enormous disparity between towns as “Destinations.”

De Rust's "Donkie Texsie" - sometimes the smallest things leave the most indelible memories.

Take tiny De Rust near Meiringspoort in the Western Cape as an example. It has far greater attraction than Mokopane — 200 times larger — on the edge of the Waterberg in Limpopo. De Rust has a welcoming main street and a lively café scene. Mokopane hardly encourages a stop yet, digging deeper, it has so much unused potential — from adjacent mountains and Makapan’s World Heritage Site to the Nyl River.

Mokopane has a very attractive golf course — which the municipality swapped with the mine for water infrastructure. But then one looks at Phalaborwa, also in Limpopo, where the mine sold its golf course to a developer and, today, Hans Merensky Estate is to Phalaborwa what the V&A Waterfront is to Cape Town.

Thinking of the spectacular views from Rotary Way which runs along the mountaintop above Hermanus, I didn’t discover a single road onto Mokopane’s mountain!

I also visited Mosesetjane, one of Mokopane’s more rural townships on tribal land (where the only municipal service seems to be a water tanker for funeral parties). But it was clean, friendly and there was an evident sense of pride in spite of poverty. It has more sense of place than Mokopane town.

Looking at the success of towns, it all boils down to two (or maybe three) things:

  • The competence of municipal government to understand that their responsibility goes far beyond service delivery — they must also create attractive places where entrepreneurship flourishes.
  • Citizens who expect and demand more of their local government.

And then there is the third item:

  • Mines and other non-sustainable industries are, in most cases, a kiss of death for any town. They tend to “take ownership” of towns, they stifle entrepreneurship and lower expectations for environmental quality. (Yes, there are exceptions and I refer to one below. But mining towns are essentially utilitarian and lacking in whimsy and delight.)

Turning towns around

The failure of many towns to provide a “sense of place” or adequate framework for entrepreneurial growth stems from a lack of a meaningful Urban Design Frameworks. Few municipalities understand the complexity of developing urban places that work, let alone entice, enthrall and are enjoyed.

Mthatha in the Eastern Cape is just one example of a totally and utterly dysfunctional town. East London’s CBD has no attraction value at all.

Catalysts for change

Many towns owe their renewal, to a lesser or greater extent, to one or more catalysts. There’s always value to understanding this and looking for potential new catalysts.

In Cape Town, the pedestrianisation of St George’s Street and the development of the V&A Waterfront played an important role.

The high level of urban management within the V&A Waterfront led for calls for this to be replicated in Cape Town’s CBD, which led to the establishment of the Cape Town Partnership — a very successful private-public partnership that ensures the city is one of the most desirable destinations in the world.

In Napier, like many small towns in the Western Cape, an influx of city folk saw buildings being sensitively restored and a new community vitality.

In Graaff-Reinet, the purchase and restoration of historical buildings by the late Dr Anton Rupert’s Historical Homes of SA saw a resurgence of town pride and home-owners came to the party.

Die Tuishuise in Cradock

In Cradock, Sandra Antrobus, a farmer’s wife, got into antiques and then building restoration, and ended up buying and restoring a whole street — Die Tuishuise — which has become the face of “Destination Cradock”.

In Phalaborwa, Rio Tinto looking forward to the time when mining will cease, endowed the town with R176 million and the Palabora Foundation. The outcome is that local learners outperform others in Limpopo province and a wide range of skills training for adults is provided. The Foundation also funds the local tourism office, arguably the best tourism office in the province not funded and managed by Limopo Tourism itself. What is tangible is the pride in Phalaborwa. Other mining towns wish their mining companies would emulate Rio Tinto’s lead.

And then there is the example of two catalysts for change that don’t achieve the leverage they could:

Shark cage diving at Gansbaai is big business and attracts the most remarkable stream of international celebrities. But they are bussed in and bussed out in a day and the spin-off for the town is nowehere as great as it could be.

The Western Cape’s Route 62 should be a money-spinner (job creator, etc) for the 11 — 14 towns along the route, which is only 70km longer than the notoriously dangerous N1, with three towns along its route. But the failure of Western Cape Government and SANRAL to effectively promote the alternative prevents Route 62 from reaching its full potential.

The awards programme needs to achieve a few things. It needs to:

  • Help local government discover how to create “People Places” that nurture entrepreneurship;
  • Involve citizens and past visitors so that they engage with local government and destination marketing organisations to identify what works and what can work better;
  • Identify catalysts for change and encourage other catalysts to emerge.

I’m grateful to Mariette du Toit-Helmbold for this definition of a destination by the Communication Group: “At its simplest a destination is a place where people want to be. It is a special place, it is more than just bricks and mortar; it is a place whose greatest assets and experiences occupy people’s minds and hearts.

The Worst Pick n Pay in South Africa?

The following was all resolved after a meeting with the Luke Louw, GM of PnP’s northern region. Mr Molefe apologised and the apology was accepted.  It all brings into focus the importance of ongoing efforts to maintain quality as well as staff training and motivation.  And that’s never easy with SA’s diverse cultures.  But Pick n Pay is serious about it and, at senior management level, has the ethic to follow through.  And I am more than delighted to be back, shopping at Pick n Pay.

I was kicked out of Pick n Pay last week and told to rather shop at Shoprite!

My family started shopping at PnP just after Raymond Ackerman bought the company from Jack Goldin in 1967 and I’ve been a loyal PnP shopper ever since.  I met Raymond Ackerman in 1985 when I first worked with him on a project that was a catalyst for the development of the V&A Waterfront and he still inspires me every time we meet.

So having my shopping basket taken away as I arrived at the till to pay and told to go to Shoprite was the ultimate slap in the face.  So much for PnP’s belief in customer sovereignity.

But then Pick n Pay Mokopane must be their worst store in South Africa.  My first experience there was of the rudest staff I’ve ever encountered.

It reminded me of an account when ACSA was established and started managing Cape Town Airport:  “When we arrived, the staff attitude was – what a great little airport we have.  It’s just a pity about the passengers.”

Well it was accepted for PnP Mokopane’s staff to finish discussions with colleagues and friends before attending to customers.  And a parrot-like “Hello-how-are-you-plastic?” was their standard greeting without making any eye contact. (They were also asking if you wanted a plastic bag.)

Was this a Mokopane-wide problem?  No, because the corporate culture at local Woolworths and Checkers still shines through.

And it got worse.  The store was filthy.  PnP-brand milk was often sour. There were often long queues with only a few till points open.  When I complained that roast chickens were often only available at 5.30, the management agreed they had a problem and said they would deliver one as soon as they were ready.  I called at 6pm to find out what was happening — they forgot!

The management lost my bank card after it was handed in by a teller who forgot to give it to me — no apology, just a shrug!

The store does have a very friendly customer service lady who does try very hard.   She commented after a holiday in Cape Town, where she visited PnP stores there, how surprised she was that they all had everything ready for business at opening time…

It was so appalling that I wrote to Jonathan Ackerman saying that it seems as though there is a Shoprite store impersonating PnP.  I was assured that matters are being attended to.

When it didn’t get better, I wrote to Nick Badminton, PnP’s CEO, and had a call from the northern region’s GM to say the store was getting a new manager soon and complaints were being taken seriously.

Now I don’t like complaining and this is the first time I’ve ever complained about a PnP store. I’ve complained for the simple reason that I know PnP can and must be better than what I experienced in Mokopane.  I am proud of PnP’s Cape Town roots.

In the past two months I’ve driven 9,000km around South Africa and I’ve been into scores of PnP stores. At Roodepoort, I complimented a manager and was proudly taken on a tour that explained why it was so special.  “It is a Family PnP,” he said as he showed off a wider range of products than the coporate stores sell.  I experienced the same in stores in KZN and the Western Cape — with Waterfront and Constantia still my favourite corporate stores.

After two months away, there seemed to be little if any improvement but then the new manager had said the store has been managed so badly for the last two years, it will take time to get it right.  But one doesn’t expect to find frozen foods fridges that are empty and have been broken for weeks.

So last week when I bought milk that was sour, I took it back.  The new milk was sour too so it went back the next day.

And that’s when I encountered Aubrey Molefe, the duty manager.  He doesn’t like me — I complained to him about something else once before.  Last time he told me he doesn’t have to listen to my complaints and walked away.

This time he took the milk and said he would inform the supplier.  No apology.  When I said that’s just not good enough, he used his “I don”t have to listen to your complaints” again.  Then who does?  I suggested that he’s in the wrong job with that attitude.  When I said I’m really tempted to write about my bad experiences, his was response was “Please go ahead,” and that I would get my money back … so I walked off to do other shopping, saying “asshole” to the aisles in front of me.

But it was when I got back to the till that I had my basket grabbed away and told to get out, to shop at Shoprite.

PnPSo here, Mr Molefe, is the story you urged me to go ahead and write.  It is inspired by you!

It’s this type of man that inspires one to become a shareholder activist — to ask if Corporate PnP is losing it; if that signature on the guarantee is meaningless now that Raymond Ackerman has retired.  To ask if the old spirit of PnP doesn’t lie in family-owned and managed stores?