Port Edward article header Nongqai

ABSTRACT: The history of the legendary former SA Police Holiday Resort at Port Edward on the KwaZulu Natal South Coast, surviving and thriving as the Port Edward Holiday Resort NPC (PEHR) still with its police connection and special rates.

KEYWORDS: Assupol, Elderly Care Fund for Retired Police Officials, Isandlundu, Off-Beat Holiday Club, Port Edward Holiday Resort NPC (PEHR), SA Police Holiday Resort Port Edward, Sixth South African Infantry (Police) Brigade, South African Police Holiday Camp Association, South African Police Prisoners of War Comforts Fund” (SAPPWCF), and Suid-Afrikaanse Polisie Rusoord Beperk.

AUTHOR: Maj-General Herklaas Meyer


The history of Port Edward Holiday Resort dates back into the previous century. The Port Edward Holiday Resort is rich in history as the Resort forms part of the historical developments of the town of Port Edward. The area where Port Edward Town is situated today has had its fair share of military adventures by the well-known Zulu King Dingaan, the demise of settlers such as the Flynn Clan and of course a regular occurrence of ship wrecking.

The tragic demise of Henry Francis Flynn, founder of the later known Durban, his family and a number of local tribes’ people under the hand of the Zulu Impis during 1831, took place on the hill called Isandlundu just north of where the Resort is situated today. This event led to the hill, shaped like a hut, to be referred to as Tragedy Hill, still regarded as holy ground by the Zulu people.

Folklore has it that if you search deep enough, you may still find bones of those poor souls that perished under the spears of the Impis.

Many ships that plied the route along the coast of Africa has fallen victim to the raging waters and the treacherous weather of the Indian Ocean on this stretch of the coastline. The most well-known ship that was wrecked on the Port Edward beach in 1887 was named “The Ivy”.

Eventually the developing town was named Port Edward in honor of the Prince of Wales who became England’s King Edward VIII. Considering those tragic events over so many years, it is ironic that the same area today serves to be an exceptional popular and busy holiday destination for thousands of visitors.

The purpose of this document is to highlight the challenges that the Resort has faced for survival and to enlighten interested persons of current developments.

During World War II, about 1942, the Prime Minister, General J C Smuts, also being a Field Marshall in the British Army, commandeered police members into the South African Police Brigade which was sent to North Africa as the Sixth South African Infantry (Police) Brigade. On arrival they were overpowered at Tobruk by General Rommel and taken as prisoners of war. Back home, family, friends and the public started collecting money and gifts in the same way as the Southern Cross Fund has done decades later. However, due to the lack of logistics, they did not succeed to get the collected funds and items to the POW camps.

The monetary and other contributions were managed by the “South African Police Prisoners of War Comforts Fund” (SAPPWCF).

The first challenge experienced, was the consideration by the then Commissioner of the Police to donate the funds to the South African Red Cross but fortunately the constitution of the SAPPWCF did not permit it.

Lt-Col M Coetzee, Quartermaster of the SAP proposed that land should be bought at the coast to establish a holiday resort for the members of the Police. During February 1947 the proposal that land must be bought to develop a holiday resort was approved at a meeting of the deputy commissioners of the SAP. Lt-Col P L Grobbelaar, Deputy Commissioner for the Transkei, identified the farm Umtamvuna on the Port Natal South Coast, owned by the Muller brothers of Kokstad as a possible site for a holiday Resort. Whilst traveling on the “Royal Train” the Commissioner of the SAP, Major-General R J Palmer authorized the purchase of the farm for the establishment of a holiday resort for use by members of the Police.  

The SAPPWCF has changed its name to the “South African Police Holiday Camp Association” (SAPHCA). The farm Umtamvuna, covering 714 acres, bordering on Tragedy Hill, stretching to the Umtamvuna River was bought for forty-five thousand pounds. This project was the first step for the development of the current Port Edward town.

The Commissioner of Police, Major-General R J Palmer appointed a Board of Trustees with Brigadier O J T Horak as chairman, Lt-Colonels D Baille, J J du Toit, M Coetzee, T C van Rooyen and Major G Bestford as trustees. Major P J Claassen was appointed as manager and Warrant-Officer T E Beckworth as secretary to manage the development of the Resort.

On 1st November 1947 the SAPHCA took possession of the farm, and the development of the holiday resort was initiated. Initially it was considered to divide 200 acres of the farm in half-acre units and put it up for sale. Fortunately, this idea was shelved and during June/July 1948 the first holidaymakers moved in. In 1948 the Resort housed its first holidaymakers in tents, with the town of Port Edward offering, at that stage only, three shops, a hotel and a butchery. Fresh produce was supplied by the Association. The excellent fishing opportunities also contributed to the provision of food for holidaymakers.

 In Nongqai (1950 issue) a correspondent wrote: “So, in less than 20 hours of driving time from Pretoria, and three pound ten shillings worth of petrol I was standing on the seashore, with the Police Holiday Camp Association’s land less than a hundred yards away.” In Nongqai (March 1955 issue) it was reported that the Resort has established its own radio station, the “Umtamvuna radio station” broadcasting news, time signals, events and notices regarding lost and found items. The Resort builder, one Walter Wegerle was also the announcer.

Port Edward SA Police holiday resort advert 1953

1953 advert of the SA Police holiday resort at Port Edward

A small police station, two rondavels, was built on the terrain. As mentioned, a number of ships with Portuguese sailors have stranded near the Resort. A Portuguese monument was erected and annually a Portuguese commemoration service is held at the monument. Post was delivered by light aeroplane and dropped near the monument.

The Board of Trustees decided to change the name of the Resort from “South African Police Holiday Camp Association” to Suid-Afrikaanse Polisie Rusoord Beperk. On 17th April 1958 the Resort was registered as a Section 21 company. The credit assets reflected £113,765.00. The Resort never belonged to the government or the SAP but the Police top management was involved with the development and management of the Resort. On recommendation of the Board of Directors new directors were appointed by the Commissioner of the Police.

According to Justitia, (April 1963) 7,869 visitors visited the Resort from December 1961 to January 1963. A double luxury rondavel cost R 3.00 per day, a week R 16,25, and a camping site R0.50 per day. The restaurant served a breakfast for 35 cents, lunch for 50 cents and dinner for 45cents. Children under ten ate for half price.

On 30th May 1968 the name of the Resort was changed from “Suid-Afrikaanse Polisie Rusoord Beperk” to Suid-Afrikaanse Polisie Rusoord” and in 1995 to “Port Edward Rusoord” / “Port Edward Holiday Resort”.

In terms of the new Companies Act, Act 71 of 2008, the Resort was required to submit a new Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI) to comply with the Act. As the MOI was in English it was required by the Companies & Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) that the name of the Resort be changed from Port Edward Rusoord to Port Edward Holiday Resort which was approved at a Special General Meeting on 17 November 2012. The MOI was prepared by Advocate Dirk Bouwer, a director, appointed on 10th September 2004 and also serving as the chairperson of the Audit Committee.

Funding for the development of the Resort was an ongoing challenge and during 1955 the unused interior part of the Umtamvuna farm was sold for twenty-five thousand pounds.

As a semi-official member’s institution, the Police department paid the salaries of the employees of the Resort. The Quartermaster supported with the development and the logistical support. During the mid 1990’s the Auditor-General issued an order that the use of taxpayer money for the benefit of employees had to stop. This impacted quite seriously on the Resort as Resort Management and employees were paid by the department. The Resort had to take full responsibility for the business of the Resort.

The buildings housing the restaurant and the shop became unsafe due to ageing and dilapidation and had to be demolished. During 1978/79 the Board under chairmanship of Lt-Gen Lothar Neethling requested voluntary contributions from members of the Police countrywide. The donations were used to build the restaurant later known as “Beach Bobbies”.

The Resort did not receive any subsidies from government but expertise from the Quartermaster still rendered support with the development. As stated in the mission of the Resort, the primary goal of the Resort is to avail affordable holidays to members and retired members of the SA Police. Close cooperation with and donations from sister Police member companies, Development Trust, Off-Beat Holiday Club, Elderly Care Fund, Assupol and the Insurance Consortium were utilized to build more chalets which eventually numbered 100.

Under chairmanship of Major-General J C Naude who became a director on 1st April 1996, over the weekend of 24th January 1997, the fiftieth anniversary of the Resort was celebrated. It was attended by S A Police top management and representatives of the S A Police section 21 companies. Various commemorative plagues were unveiled to thank individuals and companies which have contributed to the development of the Resort. On the Sunday morning a touching prayer service was held at “Splash Rock” by the Chief Chaplain, the Reverend E D Botha.

A downturn in the national economy and decrease in numbers of holidaymakers resulted in a serious financial crisis for the Resort in 2004. The Resort succeeded to survive with loans from Off-Beat Holiday Club and the Elderly Care Fund for Retired Police Officials. A new Board of Directors consisting of two directors each of the Resort, the Off-Beat Holiday Club and the Elderly Care Fund were appointed.

Lt-General Morgan Chetty was appointed as a director on 10 September 2004, and he took over the chairmanship. As the chairperson of Off-Beat Holiday Club he played a major role in the survival of the Resort in obtaining funding and especially loans from Off-Beat to the Resort.

The Resort was involved in an ongoing battle with the local UGU municipality about local taxes which stretched over seventeen years and was finally resolved on 18th June 2012. During this period the municipality charged the Resort for tax on the 31, 5876 hectares unused land as if there were four chalets built on each hectare of the land. The Resort was financially unable to pay this type of taxes and was urged to sell this unused land.

The ongoing national financial constraints and need for the Board of Directors to find alternative sources of income urged that 2,3212 hectares of land bordering the street directly on the left of the Resort entrance be cut off and registered in the name of the Resort for time share development.

Negotiations with Mr Stuart Lamont and Mr Tony Riddle of Club Leisure, lately First Resorts, took place. An offer by a development company Imvula for the complete redevelopment of the Resort resulted in the stopping of negotiations with Club Leisure for the time share development.

Imvula contracted various companies for the planning of the redevelopment of the Resort and to obtain the necessary authorizations from the responsible government departments. This process dragged on until 2016 over a period of more than ten years. At that stage it became clear that in view of declining national economy and serious deterioration of service delivery by the UGU local municipality the prospects for the redevelopment of the Resort were seriously declining. Numerous hospitality businesses had to close their doors due to these factors. The PEHR Board of Directors put Imvula on terms and they withdrew the offer for redevelopment. 

Port Edward holiday resort view

Pathway through the resort, with view towards the Silver Sands beach

The Resort has complied to the letter with all income tax requirements and has received appropriate tax clearance certificates for several years until 2011 after which it was refused based on a SARS decision that The Resort does not qualify for tax exemption. BEE requirements could not be met. This resulted in the Resort losing vast volumes of government business because without a tax exemption certificate no government institution is allowed to do business with such an entity.

In spite of the financial challenges experienced, the Resort succeeded in obtaining a three-star grading from the Tourism Grading Board on 26th November 2012. The Resort succeeded to build up a reasonable fund for emergency expenses.

It was established that in terms of the previous Police Act, member’s institutions were exempt from income tax, but the new Police Act did not make provision for income tax exemption. In spite of all lengthy negotiations with SARS and proving that the Resort has complied with all requirements the Resort had to pay a tax amount of R 1,782,189.76 tax, virtually crippling the Resort financially as the emergency fund was totally depleted and a big bank overdraft had to be obtained.

Although the Resort has an ample water supply in its own Reservoir and backup from its neighbor, numerous media reports about no water supply to residents and businesses on the Kwa-Zulu Natal South Coast, resulted in the Resort suffering from cancellations of bookings running into several million rand.

On 14th November 2016, Lt-Gen Morgan Chetty passed away. His contribution to the Resort was remarkable and highly appreciated. Maj-Gen Danny Pillay, a director since 25th August 2009 and the CEO of Off-Beat Holiday Club took over as chairperson of the Resort.

The business situation deteriorated to such an extent that income did not cover running expenses. The Board and Management had to implement a program of drastic saving measures. In June 2017 the Beach Bobbies Restaurant was closed for service to the general public. It was often experienced that this Restaurant that can seat 140 customers has two customers on a Friday evening. It was only utilized to cater for meals for groups. The contract with the company rendering cleaning services was terminated and the restaurant personnel were employed for cleaning services.

Payment of Directors’ fees was put on hold and the number of Directors was decreased from six to four whilst Board meetings were re-scheduled as saving measures. The decreasing business due to the reasons previously mentioned urged the Board of Directors and Management to implement business rescue measures. With overdraft facilities depleted, the Board approached Off Beat Holiday Club for a loan which was approved on very strict provisions.

As part of the studies for survival of a single Resort, the Board realized that the chances for survival of the Resort on its own were decreasing. Negotiations to obtain the services of a Managing agent took place for some time. At the Annual General Meeting of the Resort on 16th August 2019 it was approved that the First Resorts Group is appointed as Managing Agent of the Resort. The most important benefit is that the Resort has access to the booking system of First Resorts which is managing 48 various types of hospitality businesses and resorts countrywide. Another major benefit is that First Resorts have a vast source of expertise in the managing of resorts and businesses.

Within a period of only three months a remarkable turnaround in business was experienced due to the increase of bookings through the booking systems of First Resorts.

The highlight of First Resorts success is that since they took over in November 2012 as Managing Agent of Magaliespark Resort they have upgraded and refurbished 186 chalets, the Golf Course was upgraded to top standard, a new putt-putt course was built and a water world park of several million rand was built. Magaliespark was awarded gold status.

Under management of First Resorts the Resort did succeed to survive during the COVID years of 2020 and 2021. However, downturn in national economy, the serious maladministration of the UGU municipality impacting negatively on numbers of holidaymakers increased the survival challenge.

During February 2022 the Board was urged to re-evaluate the survival prospects of the Resort in spite of all measures taken by Management and First Resorts. The business was on a downward spiral caused by the declining national economy and the serious maladministration of the UGU municipality, succeeding in chasing holidaymakers away.

Although it could not be stipulated in the Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI) of the Resort, the historical inheritance of the Resort, as part of the Police family of companies’ the philosophical approach had it that in case of the Resort facing closure, everything possible must be done to try to keep the Resort within the Police Family of businesses.

Major-General Herklaas Meyer, a director since 1st April 1991 and serving as company secretary from 2000 until 2020, proposed to the other directors, Maj-Gen Danny Pillay and Advocate Dirk Bouwer that Port Edward Holiday Resort with assets of about Fifty Million Rand be transferred to Off-Beat Holiday Club. In view of the close relationship that the Resort had with Off-Beat Holiday Club and that the latter has come to the rescue of the Resort several times in the past, the Board decided that the Board of Off-Beat Holiday Club should be approached with the offer that Off-Beat Holiday Club take over the Resort of which the assets amounting to about Fifty Million Rand.

Negotiations between the two Boards were most successful. Advocate Dirk Bouwer prepared all the legal formalities and at the Annual General Meeting of the Resort on 25th August 2022 the amalgamation of Port Edward Holiday Resort and Off-Beat Holiday Club was approved. Port Edward Holiday Resort still functioned under its name as holiday resort as in the past.

Deck of the recently refurbished resort restaurant

For Maj-Gen Herklaas Meyer the longest serving director of PEHR for about 31 years and having experienced the numerous ups and downs of the Resort over three decades, the approval of the amalgamation of PEHR and Off Beat Holiday Club on the 25th August 2002, many years of prayers were answered.

Management and First Resorts faced serious challenges created by debts and slow business due to a low flow of holidaymakers. The Resort had 39 employees on the payroll and the fact that quite a number had more than 20 years service resulted that due to small annual salary increases, the salary budget was totally unaffordable with income generated.

During October 2022, the Manager, Mr. John Bainbridge resigned after sixteen years service. He and Mrs Nici van Zyl, who has resigned earlier, did succeed in keeping the Resort afloat in some challenging financial times for which they deserve appreciation.

Mr. Johan Mey of First Resorts took over responsibilities and implemented a planned process to reduce the number of employees through pensioning and early retirement resulting in cutting the salary budget dramatically. Again Off-Beat Holiday Club came to the rescue of PEHR by funding several million Rand altogether to fund the pensioning of employees and other expenses.  Implementation of strict control and monitor measures resulted in an improvement in balancing the budget.

During 2022 the brothers, Mr. Bernard and Dean McDonald, the owners of the Spuds Restaurant in Port Edward, approached the Board with the request to redevelop the premises of the defunct Bobbies Restaurant. Agreement was reached and the premises were leased to them for free for a three year term. They upgraded the restaurant at great cost and renamed it “The Wreck”. In a recent survey of restaurants at the South Coast “The Wreck” was awarded second place.

The reorganization and revamping of the Resort initiated by Mr Johan Mey received new impetus with the appointment of Mr Willie van der Walt as Manager on 1st January 2023. A detail evaluation of the status of the 100 chalets, buildings and facilities enabled him to manage a strict financial program for maintenance and upgrading where needed.

Over a period of almost a decade the Resort was in an ongoing battle with the UGU Municipality regarding water accounts. The Resort took meter readings on a daily basis but UGU ignored the readings and charged water on an estimated basis. The Resort paid the water account according to the readings. The UGU water account grew to R 2.5 million Rand. After long and intensive negotiations by Mr Johan Mey, UGU allowed a credit of R 1.7 million Rand and repayment of the balance at R100,000.00 per month which was a massive relief for the survival of the Resort.

Port Edward Holiday Resort used to offer accommodation for holidaymakers. The Resort underwent an important change on the initiative of First Resorts in that a number of chalets are offered for residential use. The big benefit is that a constant income is ensured for chalets that were often standing empty and unused.

In the 76 years since its establishment on 1st November 1947, Port Edward Holiday Resort has experienced numerous ups and downs due to national economic changes as well as the loss of benefits incurred by government decisions impacting negatively on the business of the Resort. However, although the Resort being a member of the Police family of companies, i.e., the Development Trust, Off-Beat Holiday Club, the Elderly Care Fund, Assupol and the Insurance Consortium, serving members and retired members of the Police, survival remained an ongoing challenge.

In the year 2023 the Resort experienced several breakthroughs of which the amalgamation with Off-Beat Holiday Club is a high point in the history of the Resort.  The dedicated management of First Resorts has achieved a positive change in the business. The implementation of residential accommodation in specified chalets made a difference. The Wreck restaurant became a nice attraction for holiday makers and locals.

In conclusion, a special word of appreciation is extended to all the persons, be it directors, employees or friends who have contributed to the survival of the Resort. The Board of Directors and Management of Off-Beat Holiday Club deserves special mentioning for the vast financial support granted over many years, without which the Resort would have closed doors a long time ago – a big thank you to all involved.

In the same breath it is necessary to name three persons, Maj-Gen Danny Pillay, Chairperson, Advocate Dirk Bouwer, Vice Chairperson and Chairperson of the Audit Committee and Maj-Gen Herklaas Meyer who have served PEHR for a long time and lately for several years for the love of the Resort as no funds were available for remunerations.

The Board of Directors of Port Edward Holiday Resort, the Resort Management, the Board of Directors of Off Beat Holiday Club and First Resorts as Managing Agent is grateful for the positive changes that have been achieved and look forward that Port Edward Holiday Resort will become the flagship of the hospitality facilities managed by First Resorts on the Kwa-Zulu Natal South Coast. 

 Acknowledgment: Nongqai and Justitia.

 Herklaas Meyer Maj-Gen (Rtd) – Director: Port Edward Holiday Resort NPC

Port Edward Holiday resort accommodation

Some of the luxury grade cottages of the Port Edward Holiday Resort

PHOTO CREDITS: PEHR website gallery

Port Edward Holiday Resort banner

Contact details for the Port Edward Holiday Resort