In celebration of Tourism Month this September, South Africans are encouraged to be tourists in their own country, and even more, in their own cities. Finding hidden gems in your own community can be greatly rewarding in terms of personal fulfillment such as family fun and togetherness, as well as local leisure holidays. A small city hidden on the banks of the Vaal River showcases such a gem: Vereeniging. Today we give thanks to those who assisted in the development of such a beautiful town – the people who built capital by taking risks and following their own initiative – the entrepreneurs; the dreamers.
Vereeniging 1891, little more than a wasteland – A man named Thomas Nicholas Leslie arrived in Vereeniging to open up a stone mine. Losing both his parents at a very young age, Leslie was forced to make a living for himself. Leslie travelled across the country, working in various mining and building sectors. When finally settling in Vereeniging with his family, his 51 year involvement with the small town of Vereeniging began – playing a pioneering role in its civic, cultural, educational and horticultural development. As Vereeniging’s first mayor – Leslie helped encourage Otto Brandmuller to beautify the banks of the immaculate Vaal River the city was located on. Planting Willows and Poplars, which helped make Vereeniging the scenic nature resort it is today. Meanwhile, the enthusiastic Russian born entrepreneur, Sammy Marks, (who initially appointed Otto Brandmuller) was also active in the area. Developing and venturing mainly in the mining and coal industry with his partner and one of the founders of the town, Isaac Lewis, it is largely due to Marks that the Vaal Triangle is one of South Africa‘s primary industrial areas today. Isaac Lewis’ son, Roy Lewis, shared in his father’s entrepreneurial flair and went on to build the Vereeniging Country Club, today known as the Riviera on Vaal Country Club.
More than 100 years later, another opportunist and entrepreneur started his own endeavors in the Vaal. Mac van der Merwe, born in Vereeniging, was encouraged through a poor upbringing and hard-working parents to become a highly successful businessman in various business sectors such as hospitality, travel and wine industries, as well as property development and engineering. Van der Merwe entered the business world by opening a car dealership (Park Motors) with no funding but plenty of enthusiasm with a team of friends, including Mr. Davide Parodi – which rapidly expanded to seven branches throughout Gauteng. Being a qualified mechanical engineer, Van der Merwe then started Vaalmac Engineering – developing unique engineering technology in the steel manufacturing industry. From there he ventured into IT manufacturing, and later entered the mining industry.
In 2002 Van der Merwe established a hospitality group, the Zorgvliet Portfolio, which showcases the diverse offerings of South Africa as a tourism destination – one of which is the Riviera on Vaal Hotel & Country Club in Vereeniging, which he purchased on auction in 2003.
September marks the 85th birthday anniversary of the Riviera on Vaal Hotel, a grand old lady indeed. In commemoration of Tourism Month, we can only pay tribute to the entrepreneurs in all sectors for making the city of Vereeniging what it is today.
About the Riviera on Vaal Hotel & Country Club
A Luxury Hotel that’s the perfect all rounder – be it entertaining the whole family or hosting that all important business event – located 45 minutes away from Johannesburg. The hotel offers guests varied options for families with small children, romantic couples or business guests. It boasts a magnificent view and friendly and efficient staff, always committed to giving each individual guest the very special experience they deserve. From water sport to relaxing spa treatments, there’s a lot to be enjoyed. The 18-hole golf course is very popular, as is the 9-hole Pitch & Putt, which is a great activity for couples, families and teambuilding. Also on offer are various restaurant options. This resort offers a very family friendly environment.
For more information please contact:
Renate de Villiers
Mario Milani Drive
Vereeniging, Gauteng, 1930
Phone: 016 420 1300
Fax: 016 455 6125