Zimbali property saga: Who is telling the truth?
Hotel opening soon say IFA; impossible say disgruntled contractors.

Will IFA's Fairmont Zimbali Resort Hotel be open in time for the world cup? Almost impossible say contractors who worked on the project. Yes, it's opening soon according to IFA.

A heading in the IFA times (12th edition, 2009) reads "Fairmont Zimbali Resort Readies for Grand Opening.The finishing touches on the Fairmont Zimbali Resort are underway as the team in South Africa ramps up for its grand opening celebrations.

I phoned the South African toll free number advertised on the IFA website number to confirm the opening and was told the hotel would be open for business at the beginning of April. The woman on the other end, Crystal from the marketing department, asked if I'd like some brochures. I said yes and she started rattling off a bunch of questions to me. Are you married, do you have kids, is your combined monthly income R80 000? At which point I stopped her and told her I was just wondering whether it was possible to book - I wasn't looking to buy shares in the company. But do you need a combined income of R80 000 to book? She wouldn't confirm.

I soon received an "exclusive invite" to stay two or three nights in one of the villas at a preferential rate (a two night stay at the two bed roomed villa for R3000-00).This includes one breakfast and I would have to attend a 90-minute presentation. I enquired about the readiness of the hotel itself and when it would open and was told that management "are not 100% sure/accurate about the dates."

So according to IFA and a pushy marketing lady it is all systems go and the hotel should be open soon. According to a Luca Liviero, chairman of Liviero Building, the principal contractor who downed tools last year in August in a pay dispute with IFA and is still waiting for a ruling on the R17.5m it claims is owing to them, there is no end in sight and only a limited amount of work is going on at the site. He says IFA is trying to finish the job itself as "no contractor wants to go near it as they have still not paid the professionals (who have done the work so far)."

Another source previously involved with the project has seriously doubts whether IFA will manage to get the project finished in time for the world cup saying. "It would need a serious and well-managed effort to be ready for the world cup."

Both sides are not budging. Liviero claims it is owed almost R50m in total, although the amount currently under dispute is R17.5m. The judge's ruling is expected by mid April. IFA claims there are outstanding penalties for non performance by the contractors and they in fact only owe R1m to Liviero.

However, Liviero has not ruled out entirely the possibility that his company would return to complete the job. "Maybe with a new contract and a new client representative."

But it's highly unlikely. Apparently IFA has made numerous attempts to lure almost every contractor in the country to work but to no avail. Liviero says the reasons are simple: "If they could provide the proof of funds and guarantees, which they're all asking for, he could have had a contractor on site four months ago."

According to Liviero should a contractor not be appointed by the end of the month end, the hotel will more than likely miss out on World Cup benefits. In fact it may already be too late. The original target was to be in a trading state by the end of September 2009 with a "soft opening" and then trading by the end of November or early December 2009.

Wessel Witthuhn, IFA President, Africa & Indian Ocean region, is still not talking, saying instead that it will be going to press shortly and we can read the news then. IFA have maintained a media silence for much of the last seven months, since the dispute began. Maybe it has indeed being getting on with the job quietly and, come April, will be open for business. All will be revealed soon.

Article from: www.realestateweb.co.za