KANYE: You walk into a random place, you see an igloo like shelter built on a rock pedestal. Of course this one is not made out of snow but just mere rocks. From the picturesque animal sculptures, fountains to gardens, you think you have unexpectedly checked one of the hottest places in the country.
The scenic view takes your eyes around and the place looks spacious and you wonder whether there is a game park behind or some sort of vineyard.
After recollecting your thoughts, you realise that this is not just a random place but it is the place. You begin envisioning your wedding day, your big party and all the celebrations that come to the top of your head. And you appreciate that there is more to this scene than what meets the eye.
Arts & Culture recently took a trip to Lodubeng Village Park in Kanye to discover that the place offers more than just rocky outcrops and man-made caves. Many years ago according to the owner and director, William Ditiro Letlamma, the place was just a forest covered with rocks. Everyone had abandoned it and even the Land Board declared it an undevelopable land. Undevelopable land is property due to the size, shape, frontage, topography, and location or/and legal use cannot be developed with site improvements such as buildings.
Letlamma who has a home right next to this land reveals to Arts & Culture that he used to walk around the site to recollect his thoughts. “The place was menace to the people and it became a hub of criminal activities,” Letlamma recalls. As he took strolls around the so-called invaluable land, Letlamma’s creative imagination foresaw what could be done with a rocky forest near his own home and family.
He saw a laid-back atmosphere; he envisioned a site of much inclusive resort. The retired miner says together with his wife, Tumelo Letlamma, they invested all their energy to acquire the ‘undevelopable’ piece of land.
They eventually got ownership of the land to be used as an environmental park. After attaining ownership, Letlamma explains he demolished a hill that used to be there and the rocks were used to create most of the structures in the park.
“I wanted it to be a nice concept, all inclusive and community based,” he says. Letlamma decided to create something attractive other than gorges. “The place hosts events such as weddings, there is kids corner, igloo house as a reception, kgotla, change rooms for weddings, accommodation and many more. The name Lodubeng is derived from the ward.”
Letlamma was quick to highlight that the place is steeped in culture no wonder there is a kgotla for eating mokoto activity, hut for go laa ngwetsi (advice to daughter in laws) ceremony. “The kgotla is made of both mophane woods and today’s normal wall construction at village kgotlas. There are 30 available traditional chairs and there is a mini base for bonfires,” he says. He explains he wanted to combine modernity with culture that is why he is currently building a complex that will include an adult,
In addition the complex will include a salon, restaurant, gym and internet café. Next to the unfinished complex building, the 52-year-old is about to finish a multi-purpose hall that is at roof level. Currently, Letlamma has built a stage on top of rocks and it is currently being used for music festivals and wedding reception just to name but a few. “Ultimately, I am in a process of acquiring camels so that I can also provide rides amongst other animals. I already have peacocks,” he says.
Letlamma took Arts & Culture for a walk behind where there is a forest amongst rocks. “This is a picnic spot and in future it will include campsites and a trail where guides will take tourists through the history of Bangwaketse,” he says optimistically. He says the site would in the future host students for various lessons because it is meant to be educational. “I have hosted kids academies here for free,” he adds.
Letlamma has already conceptualised the whole plan of the place in his mind. He says the place is currently valued at P7 million, but expects the value to shoot up to P12 million once his complex and other renovations have been done. He wants to build a shelter on top of a pond. “People think tourism is just the Okavango, I want tourists to come here because there are so many tourism activities we can make here. There is Polokwe for example,” he says.
Letlamma is confident that currently the place could be one of the most affordable places on which to wed, because it has options like self-catering with the availability of a kitchen including pots and everything. “When you host a wedding here you don’t even have to move, everything is here,” he highlights. He says as much as rocks are scattered about the park, he has realised that Kanye is a basin and there is a lot of tourism to gain from.
The businessman says there is Kgwakgwe Hill behind the park therefore tourists will in the future be accommodated in the park and then taken around the Ngwaketse area. To beautify the place even more, there is a man-made cave with a fountain inside and on top. There is a tea garden currently being built. Letlamma says he would soon host a darts tournament and tomorrow gospel artist Obakeng will launch his album there. “At the moment I have targeted hosting gospel and jazz festivals,” he reveals.
With lack of land being a deep sore in Batswana’s hearts, Letlamma has managed to think outside the box and do the impossible. He has even bought land from neighbours around the park with an intention to build the best accommodation for his clients.