In December 2016 the controversial businesswoman from Phalaborwa, Shamira Rinderknecht promised the town of Tzaneen that the eyesore which is the Letaba Boulevard, would receive a grand makeover worth R50 million. At the time, Bulletin spoke to Gauteng-based asset managers Level Heads who revealed plans for a complete upgrade of the derelict homeless haven.

When we spoke to the project manager, Henlie Du Randt, she told us that the project would kick off with earthworks in September of 2017 and that it would be an open-air niche market centre catering for the more upmarket segment of the community. She went on to explain that the first drafts were drawn up and would include basement and undercover parking and that the project would create local job opportunities. Ironically she also said “We don’t want to struggle, when you look at the state of that building and the work that was done there over the years by local contractors, I think the Tzaneen community has been let down enough.” In conclusion the Gauteng-based contractor said very assuredly that the project would be completed in eight months’ time.

It is now June 2021, four years have passed and nothing came of the planned project. Bulletin has continuously followed up on this supposed project and in 2018 we almost managed to interview the notoriously media-shy Rinderknecht after she scheduled an appointment with us in the parking lot of the Letaba Boulevard building to “lay the rumours to rest”. An hour before the meeting however, she cancelled.

Rinderknecht owns two other properties in Phalaborwa, namely the former Ivory Gardens and the Hans Merensky Resort and Spa. Both properties were purchased in around 2006 and both too, suffered similar fates to that of Letaba Boulevard. Bert Kruger sold Ivory Gardens to Rinderknecht when she unveiled plans to convert the building into a Formula One hotel. Her plans could not materialize however, due to the proximity of the airfield to the building which would not allow her to erect a multi-storey building on the site.

Five months ago, in February, the Hans Merensky Resort and Spa was sold on auction for a little over R24 million. At the time, the auctioneers did not want to divulge who bought the property, but Bulletin has since been informed by a reliable source that it was Rinderknecht herself, who bought the property back. We have obtained documentation in relation to this and other happenings at the Resort and will be reporting on those in the weeks to come.

Being no stranger to the courts and legal battles, in June of 2019, Rinderknecht appeared in the Phalaborwa Magistrate’s court on six charges relating to environmental violations committed over a period of 10 years. Each of the six charges potentially carried sentences of either five years imprisonment or fines of up to R10 million. The State alleged that the accused [Rinderknecht] was guilty of contravening the National Environmental Management Act no 107. This charge was related to the expansion of the Hans Merensky Hotel, allegedly without the necessary environmental authorization. Rinderknecht pled guilty to this charge.

Yesterday, Thursday the 10th of June, we took walk through the Letaba Boulevard. Though the building is still in an absolute abhorrent state, smells of urine and is rife with litter, it did appear as though some work had been done on the inside of the centre. A sign read “we apologize for any inconvenience caused due to the upgrade of the new Central mall Centre.

” Since our visit to this building in 2019, there was certainly a lot less rubbish and human faeces in the dark corners of the structure, and two offices which were under construction at the time, appeared to have been completed. Other than that however, there were no major visible upgrades, and there was no security patrol as before.

We have not been able to obtain any comment on the future of this building, but our archives can be viewed on www.farnorthbulletin.co.za to read the history of the building and our regular follow ups on the matter to date. This is a developing story which we have been investigating for the past five years. We will continue to keep our readers updated.

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