Barely six months into his job, new Ba-Phalaborwa mayor Pule Shayi found himself — together with members of the community of Phalaborwa town — walking the 500m to the local Impala Sports Ground in the quest to promote the Marula Festival that has made the municipality the focal point of a national attraction.
This happened last Friday before the Mayor’s gala dinner, in which he welcomed people to Ba-Phalaborwa for the 12th edition of the Marula Festival.
Ba-Phalaborwa has been given the permanent right to host the festival, although it is the first time that Shayi, as the mayor, has found himself playing host to the entire country.
After walking with fellow community leaders including traditional leaders, Shai oozed confidence in the product on offer — marulas.
“As Ba-Phalaborwa, we are very happy that we have been given the permanent right to host the event and we are not going to disappoint,” he said.
He said his administration aimed to use marula for industrialisation and beneficiation.
Shayi asked: “We were focusing on the mines for creating jobs, and what if they close?”
“We will use marula[s] to better the lives of our people”.
He said the first step was to move the festival from town where it used to be held to its current rural setting.
“We have identified a site where the marula industry will be established and it is at the headquarters where all activities, including the music festival, will be held.
The mayor said the aim is to create as many jobs as those created by the mines in the area if not more,and that they would produce by-products of marulas such as jam, peanut butter, soap and body lotions.
Shayi, in conjunction with the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (Ledet), set the ball rolling in January with the media event to popularise the event.
After this, a build-up programme took him to Selwane, Mashishimale and Maseke villages, where local artists performed.
The best local artists identified in the roadshow performed at the music festival tied into the Marula Festival — alongside the cream of the crop from the entire country.
“From a tourism perspective our aim is to be a destination of choice,” he said. The municipality borders on the Kruger National Park, and serves as the gateway to Mozambique through Giriyondo border post.
The newly elected Ba-Phalaborwa mayor and his team started working on September 10 after the recent local government elections, and they marked 100 days in office with an imbizo held at Selwane village to present the plan for the implementation of the municipality’s integrated development plan.
Shayi, who is from Mashishimale, has been elected to lead a council that has 37 councillors: 26 from the ANC, six Economic Freedom Fighters, four from the Democratic Alliance and one from the Congress of the People.