Mohalenyane Phakela & Motsamai Mokotjo
THE annual Kome Caves Beer and Glamping Festival is in limbo as the organiser, Tangerine Inc, still owes the local communities money for services rendered during last year’s edition.
Tangerine Inc’s three-year contract from the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation, to manage and administer the Kome Caves Arts and Crafts Centre, expired in March and has also not been renewed.
According to Tangerine Inc Managing Director, Mofihli Makoele, the local events’ company still wants to continue holding the Kome Caves Beer and Glamping Festival, although they are no longer keen on managing the centre.
He said Tangerine Inc had suffered “huge financial losses” in managing the facility and incurred debts which they were still paying today.
“We cannot renew the contract as running the Kome Caves is very expensive since the operating costs are very high,” Makoele said.
“For starters, we roughly made M10 000 a month and then had to pay M4000 rent, staff salaries and contribute 10 percent of the earnings to the community development trust.”
He said the beer festival was launched to offset the costs of running the facility, although it had also proved to be expensive.
The Kome Caves are a National Heritage Site with a rich history dating back to the 1800’s. The Kome Cave Village is built under a rock and served as a fortress for its first settlers who fled the Lifaqane wars that devastated much of the southern Africa region in the early 19th Century. It also functioned as a hiding place for its inhabitants from cannibals. The descendants of the original settlers of the caves can be found there today.
Since its launch in 2013, the festival has attracted brewers, beer aficionados, revelers and adrenaline junkies from around the world. Although the title suggests it is merely a beer festival, it has since proved otherwise since it also caters for those with an outgoing and adventurous streak with horse-riding, quad-biking, extreme paintball, archery target shooting, and cave tours among other activities available.
“To host the festival costs us more than M1.8 million as the site has to be maintained every year. We also have to erect a fence to cover the area during the event and to maintain the route that leads to the grounds. We also had to use solar energy for lighting which is quite expensive as well,” Makoele said.
“Our aim has always been to unearth and promote local tourism destinations for the benefit of the community either through hiring them or affording them the opportunity to sell their wares.”
Villagers from the surrounding areas have accused the company of not honouring their promise to pay them M600 each for work done during the festival. Makoele said the communities were divided into three groups with each owed M25 200, “but we’ve only managed to pay one to date”.
He added that the festival dates may be shifted from the current end of November to the “more convenient” late December.
On his part, LTDC CEO Mpaiphele Maqutu said Tangerine Inc could continue holding the festival once they settle their obligations with the surrounding communities.
“We have not yet received any proposition from Tangerine about continuing with the festival, but we have no problem with that,” he said.
“All they have to do is approach us about the issue. They also still owe members of the community whom they employed during last year’s festival.
“Some of the members of the community were so angry that they even wanted the Kome Caves information centre shut down saying it was of no benefit to them. What Tangerine has to do is solve its issues with the community before they can plan another festival there.”