THE National Social Security Authority (Nssa) is frantically seeking buyers or tenants for its US$49 million Beitbridge Hotel amid indications the fund has so far received potential proposals from different hotel groups, churches and individuals who want the hotel, Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
By Hazel Ndebele
Nssa’s Beitbridge hotel is vacant following the exit of Zimbabwe’s largest hospitality group by market capitalisation, Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG), which had run the property for two years. RTG exited due to recurrent losses amounting to US$2 million.
In an interview this week, Nssa chairman Robin Vela said the authority is trying to get the best deal.
“We are very much in a hurry to find the best offer as we are time conscious and understand that everyday that we are not earning a return we lose money,” said Vela.
“Indeed, the hotel was loss-making, but the reality is we are where we are and certainly we can’t tear it down.
What is important to us is to show that we still can get best value for pensioners.”
Vela said Nssa has been approached by at least a handful of different organisations for different potential uses.
“We have had approaches from other hotel groups, people who want to start up hotel schools, residential accommodation and churches who want to put a branch in Beitbridge.
“We want someone who can pay consistently and one who can give us a lease that we can bank,” Vela added.
He said the authority was not fixated on retaining ownership and would consider selling the hotel if it gets a good deal.
“We are open-minded, so if we get a proposal to sell and if it is at best value, we will do so. Having said that, we have now appointed a chief property investment officer, a gentleman called Kura Chihota who has 25 years plus experience in the property sector and is looking for the best deal for Nssa,” Vela said.
In February 2007, Nssa and RTG entered a strategic partnership to construct the four-star hotel and a commercial centre in the border town, but the costs suddenly started rising, first to US$17 million, then to US$33,4 million and then US$44 million before finally hitting US$49 million in 2014. The initial budget for the project was pegged at US$3 million.
The hotel was scheduled to be commissioned in 2010 as Nssa anticipated spill-over benefits of the Fifa World Cup in neighbouring South Africa.
Speculation is rife in the construction, hotel and leisure sectors of underhand deals in the project, which could have prejudiced long suffering pensioners, who are receiving paltry pay-outs from the compulsory pension scheme.
Last year, the independent reported that Nssa had by June lost more than half of its nearly US$700 million investment portfolio due to market volatility, bad deals and mismanagement of public funds.
Nssa’s investment portfolio includes equities, money market, investment in property, short and long-term investments in associates and subsidiaries as well as land inventory and deals referred to as just “other investments.”