KLCBT Announces the 2018 Annual Awards Winners!

The KLCBT Annual Awards is a showcase of Excellence, rewarding outstanding business achievements, sound business practices and recognising businesses and individuals who truly make a difference within the Kruger Lowveld Community.

This is the 18th KLCBT Annual Awards ceremony, and the competition is always extremely tough. Every business announced as a finalist can certainly be proud of their business achievement, particularly in the current economic conditions.  The finalists and winners found a way to not just survive, but excel in difficult times.

With only 10 awards given this year, this event is highly prestigious and the only one of its kind in the region. Only 9 of the awards are contested, which businesses entered for, and after an extensive adjudication process, the finalists and winners are selected. The process includes telephonic surveys with clients and suppliers of the business, followed by an evaluation of their financial growth and corporate social investment.  Surprisingly, the entry form is only two pages long and all the hard work is done by KLCBT, not the contestant.  There are no personal interviews and no public voting system.  We choose the best business on all levels, awards are given based on merit, not popularity or perception.

The remaining award, is the President’s Award, the only special award given this year. There are no finalists for this and the recipient do not know that they will receive an award.  The President’s Award was introduced only 4 years ago and goes to a recipient that has made an unrivalled contribution to the Kruger Lowveld economy over several generations.



This award focuses on the SMME sector, specifically businesses which have been established within the past two years and gives recognition to innovation and job creation through the business venture and the uniqueness of the enterprise and product.  The winner is:

Unyati Safari Lodge

Everything about this new business are breaking records, the tented camp was built in 34 days, they already employ more than 20 staff from the local community, most have never been employed before, and aim to add another 10 before the end of the year.  The business has implemented a skills development plan for them, and the owners are strictly only supporting local businesses for all of their supplies – and they have done all of this in one short year since 13 October 2018!



The award recognizes excellence for those activities which are developed, planned and managed in accordance with recognized best practice for the benefit of the sustainability of human society and the environment on which we depend.  The recipient is:

Sappi Ngodwana Mill’s Alien Invasive Plant Management and Development Programme

Sappi is committed to eradicate Sappi Ngodwana Mill’s 2000 ha of land from invasive aliens to benefit the biodiversity and ecosystems.  Alien plants have increased evaporative transpiration rates which reduce the amount of groundwater reaching river systems.  In SA, alien invasive plants are responsible for the loss of approximately 7% of available fresh water.



The Award rewards excellence in community service.  The focus is on the well-being, community outreach and development of the community at large or a representative sector of the community.  Within the Kruger Lowveld community, it’s in our nature to help each other, it’s in our nature to do the right thing, and it’s in our nature to care.  The 2018 Award winner is:

St. John’s Care Center

In acknowledgement of the remarkable work done by all of the finalists and for their long and dedicated service to the community, in particular the most vulnerable, Sappi presented each of the three finalists with a cheque of R10 000!  The other two finalists were Sinani Noma Kanjani and Ukuthunga Handmade.



Contestants in this category include all tourism related businesses, irrespective of the size of the organization or the focus of the industry (e.g. food, accommodation, travel, tours & safaris or entertainment) and have a turnover of less than R10 million per annum.  The winner is:

African Savanna Travel

As a finalist from the 2017 awards, this deserving candidate has come back to scoop up the first prize.  Their unbelievable growth gained from their policy of honesty and trustworthiness, and a near perfect score in the surveys with clients and suppliers, have earned them the top position in this category.



This award is given to businesses operating in the tourism sector with a turnover larger than R10 million per annum, which have performed exceptionally in terms of business performance and service excellence.  This award is highly contested and only a few decimals in the scores separate the winner from the two runners-up.  The award belongs to:

Protea Hotel by Marriott Nelspruit

This hotel is a true winner.  We have seen them on stage at the KLCBT Awards several times over a number of years, scooping up this award as well as awards in the open business category.  Well done once again, Mr Garrick Grabe.  We would also like to acknowledge the achievement of the other two finalists who were just a nudge behind Protea Hotel.  Well done to all of you.



This is a brand new award, replacing the Innovation in Tourism award from last year.  We thought it necessary to open it to the general business arena, as Innovation is desperately needed in all sectors to facilitate economic growth in our region.  The award honours any business or project or initiative that provides something out of the ordinary – an exciting new product that will enhance the suite of tourism or business offerings in the beautiful Kruger Lowveld.  The panel of judges is the KLCBT board, who vote by secret ballot which one of the finalists is the most innovative in their opinion.  Again, the quality of the entries made it extremely difficult to choose from, but we have a winner…

The Graskop Lift Company

The Graskop Glass Lift has taken local tourism by storm and was added to many a bucket list since it was built.  This is a perfect example of what is required to give our tourism offering a “lift”, – well, you build a lift!  Modern travelers seek experiences, not just a clean bed and a friendly welcome.  We are convinced the Glass Lift has inspired many other entrepreneurs AND government to think of our natural scenic beauty in a whole new way.



This award is contested in the open division with a turnover of less than R5 million per annum.  The winner is:

LabourNet Mpumalanga

LabourNet achieved the highest score of 99,65%  in the 2018 KLCBT Awards.  They excelled on every level, clients’ satisfaction, relationship with suppliers, community involvement and excellent turnover growth.



This Award is contested in the open division with a turnover of more than R5 million per annum, but less than R20 million per annum.  The recipient for 2018 is:

AVS Hire

With another top score of 99,5%, they were almost impossible to beat.  They achieved incredible success because they keep reinventing themselves and keep up to date with developments in their industry.  The business is lean and flexible and never misses an opportunity to grow.  This is the product of two competitors who merged for the benefit of both partners.  Kyle and Sakkie, congratulations, you deserve it!



The Award is contested in the open division with a turnover of more than R20 million per annum.  This is also known at these ceremonies as the proverbial clash of the titans and our finalists were incredibly brave to compete!  We would like to make special mention of the tourism related businesses who entered in this category.  Where normal businesses have unlimited growth potential, tourism related business has a limited capacity for turnover and they have to work so much harder in every way to be able to compete with general business.  The winner of this year’s clash is:

Premier Hotel The Winkler

And they have done it!  A tourism establishment winning this category is extremely rare.  The Winkler is no stranger to winning tourism awards and this has proven that they are able to compete and excel on every level.  Well done Mr Simon Sutherland!



For the fourth time since its inception in 2015, the President of the KLCBT, at his sole discretion, will give recognition to an individual, or group, or company or institution, who’s contribution to the community and the economic growth of our region goes above and beyond the criteria and requirements of any of the other awards.  They are a well-known presence, deeply rooted into our society.  Them not being in existence, is almost unimaginable.  In 2015, the award was presented to the Halls Family and in 2016 it was scooped up by The Lowvelder, both recipients has been part of the Lowveld for over 125 years.  Last year it went to the Kruger National Park, so who could it possibly be this year???  The fourth recipient of the President’s Award is:

RCL Foods, formerly known as TSB Sugar

Receiving the award on behalf of RCL Foods, are Ms Stella Mtembu from the Malalane Mill and a special appearance was made by Mr Hennie Snyman, who was the previous Managing Director until TSB’s incorporation into the RCL Group.

Today, the Lowveld without the presence of TSB or now RCL Foods and the presence of the lucrative sugar industry, is unimaginable, but to convince the farmers of the Onderberg to plant sugarcane to replace vegetables, citrus and mangos, was a different cup of tea (with or without sugar….). The first trails were done on the farm Mhlati where the TSB mills were erected later and the outcome promised better results for the Lowveld than for Natal. In February 1964, a public meeting with 204 Lowveld farmers was held to promote sugarcane as a crop. In August 1964, the Minister of Trade and Industry granted the licence to Volkskas Bank and General Mining to erect a sugarcane mill. The first Managing Director, Mr Fasie Kritzinger as appointed in August 1965 who had to hit the ground running. The Malalane mill was built and completed within 20 months and the first sugarcane was processed in April 1967. Developments after that included the Komati Mill which was a technical marvel which was highly regarded in the media of the day. The sugar industry brought the necessity of more dams, which led to the building of the Driekoppies- and Maguga- dams. Later, under the leadership of Mr Hennie Snyman, Salati became a national brand, they acquired the two largest Swazi mills as well as the Pongola Mill and initiated the deal with RSSC to give Selati a bigger market share in South Africa. In his time, TSB also took the lead in the early stages of land reform, transferring three of their biggest farms to the claimants, with a management company in which they also have 50% shares. Today, 3000 employees, countless individuals and businesses depend on RCL Foods and the Lowveld sugar industry for their daily living. They pay out R2.2 billion annually to cane growers of which 60% goes to black owners. Let us afford one last accolade for those early pioneers who had the vision and the drive to make it possible. Thank you!