Draft Tourism Bill [B44-2012]; Three Memorandums of Understanding between SA and Ghana, SA and Zimbabwe and SA and Lesotho; Committee Report on oversight visits to Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape; Revised Programme for Third Quarter 2012


07 August 2012
Chairperson: Mr D Gumede (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Draft Tourism Bill was tabled for informational purposes and the Committee would consider the Bill once its certification was complete.

Three Memorandums of Understandings (MOUs) between SA and Ghana, SA and Zimbabwe and SA and Lesotho were tabled for consideration by the Committee.  On the issue of MOUs, the Committee agreed that it wished to have a look at MOUs which the NDT had with sister government departments pertaining to tourism-related issues. The Committee Secretary was asked to request the interdepartmental MOUs from the NDT and a two week deadline would be given for it to be submitted.

The Draft Committee Report on the provincial oversight visit to Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape was tabled for reading and consideration by the Committee.

The adoption of outstanding minutes was postponed as a quorum of members was lacking.

The Committee Secretary took the Committee through its revised programme for the third quarter and as there was an opening in the programme 14 August, members were in agreement that SANParks should be invited to address the Committee on reasons for its exorbitant tariff increases at parks and to discuss the Tsitsikamma concessions issue. The Committee was also given the opportunity to evaluate its oversight trips and to suggest improvements that could be considered for future trips. The Chairperson stressed that protocol arrangements was definitely one area that needed attention. On recent oversight trips no proper introductions had been made and in many instances political leadership from the provinces were not present at proceedings. One of the main objectives of oversight visits was to check on how budgets were being spent in the provinces. This unfortunately had not taken place on the present oversight visits as MECs did not avail themselves to the Committee. 

Meeting report

Tabling of the Draft Tourism Bill 2012
The Chairperson informed the Committee that the Draft Tourism Bill was still in the hands of the State Law Adviser’s Office. It was in draft form and issues pertaining to its constitutionality and compliance were being considered. The Bill was by no means final. The Bill was being tabled for information purposes and the Committee would consider the Bill once its certification was complete.

Tabling of the three Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) between SA and Ghana, SA and Zimbabwe and between SA and Lesotho
The Chairperson noted that the three MOUs were being tabled for consideration by the Committee. He stated that the National Department of Tourism (NDT) would be called upon to answer questions pertaining to the MOUs if necessary. The MOUs would not be debated in the present meeting. Tabling was done to allow for interaction between the Committee and the NDT.

Mr S Farrow (DA) asked where the MOUs between the NDT and other government departments pertaining to co-operation on tourism related matters were. MOUs should, for example, exist between the NDT and the Departments of Home Affairs and Transport respectively.  Interdepartmental co-operation on tourism-related matters should take place. He asked that the Committee put in an official request to see the MOUs between the NDT and its sister government departments. The Committee needed to hold other ministries accountable on how they impacted upon tourism.

Ms Joyce Ntuli, Committee Researcher, stated that requests had been made for the interdepartmental MOUs but to date nothing had been received. She had discussed the matter with the NDT.

The Chairperson agreed that it was important for the Committee to see the interdepartmental MOUs, unless there was a good reason why they could not be forwarded to the Committee. He asked the Committee Secretary, Mr Jerry Boltina, to follow up on the matter and put in a request for the MOUs to be sent to the Committee within two weeks.   

Tabling of the Draft Committee Report on the provincial oversight to Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape
The Chairperson stated that the Draft Committee Report was being tabled for reading and consideration by the Committee. Members should feel free to effect changes or corrections to the Draft Committee Report.

Consideration of Committee Minutes
The Chairperson pointed out that the Committee had discussed outstanding minutes in previous meetings and had subsequently submitted inputs and corrections that had needed to be made. The adoption of outstanding minutes had to be postponed as the Committee lacked a quorum of members.

Revised Programme for Third Quarter 2012
The Chairperson asked Mr Boltina to take the Committee through the programme.

Mr Boltina stated that no major changes had been made to the programme. He did inform the Committee that Parliament had changed its programme, which did impact upon the Committee programme.  Initially, Parliament had scheduled the Women’s Parliament for 14 and 15 August 2012, but the dates had since been shifted to the 30 and 31 August.  Due to the shift, Tuesday 14 August had opened up for the Committee to slot in a meeting. 

He also pointed out that on 21 August, the NDT was scheduled to present its Mid-Term Report to the Committee. The NDT had sent a letter to the Committee requesting that the meeting be shifted to a later date.

To date, these were the only issues which had impacted upon the Committee’s Programme.

The Strategic Plan of the Committee for the rest of 2012 would also be looked at.

The Chairperson asked members for suggestions on what meeting could be scheduled for 14 August.

Mr Farrow suggested that a meeting with SANParks be scheduled for the 14 August. He wished to question them on the tariff increases that had taken place at parks and to discuss the Tsitsikamma concessions issue. He pointed out that San Park’s tariffs had increased by 100% over the last year. It was not at all encouraging for tourism. National parks and assets should be for the enjoyment of everyone and not only those that could afford it. He was aware that SANParks fell under the ambit of the Department of Environmental Affairs. He noted that tourists were no longer visiting Cape Point in the Western Cape as it was considered way too expensive. Tsitsikamma concessions were also expected to increase by 400%. National assets should be kept within limits.

Mr R Shah (DA) reminded the Committee of a braai which it had enjoyed at the Kruger National Park. At the time he had taken the opportunity to chat with security guards. The guards had been scared to speak to him and when they did it came to light that their working conditions were terrible. Promotions were being overlooked, salaries were considered inadequate and there were talks of going on strike.

The Chairperson felt that having a meeting with SANParks was a good idea.

The Committee agreed to schedule a meeting with SANParks on 14 August 2012.

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) fully supported Mr Farrow’s suggestion. She had in a 2011 parliamentary debate, under the mantle of Environmental Affairs, mentioned that tariffs for national parks were exorbitant. After the debate, the Chief Financial Officer of SANParks, Dr David Mabunda, had approached her and said that tariffs were not expensive but that the increases were the right things to do. She was glad that the matter was going to be dealt with by the Committee.

Mr Shah pointed out that the issue brought up by Mr Farrow on interdepartmental MOUs between the NDT and its sister departments was to be covered by a NDT briefing scheduled for 11 September 2012, as it appeared on the Committee Programme. He wished the Committee to insist to see the MOUs prior to the meeting date.

The Chairperson stated that the NDT would be given two weeks within which to provide the Committee with the MOUs.

Evaluation of the provincial oversight trips to Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape
Mr Boltina explained that the evaluation of the oversight trips was an opportunity for the Committee to reflect on areas of improvement that could be considered for future trips.

The Chairperson noted that the first thing which could be improved upon was protocol arrangements before the Committee arrived at its destinations. He pointed out that any mistake in protocol was blamed on the national Parliament. For example, on the recent oversight visits certain mayors and chiefs had not been recognised and hence the Committee had been blamed.  Members had not even been aware of these dignitaries as there had been no guest list.  It was small administrative things which caused problems. He asked the Committee Secretariat to discuss these types of issues.

Mr Farrow shared the Chairperson’s sentiments. He felt that the national and provincial Departments of Tourism had handled the Committee’s oversight visits very badly.  No introductions had been made. Members were strangers to the places visited.  The Departmental representatives who had accompanied members, did not know themselves what was going on. Issues had been brought to their attention for the first time as well. He recommended that Mr Boltina provide the Committee with an itinerary of trips prior to members leaving. The task of an itinerary could not be left in the hands of travel agents.

He also asked what had happened to the Committee’s plans to undertake an oversight visit to Mitchells Plain.

The Chairperson asked that the Mitchells Plain oversight visit be discussed at another time.

Ms Zikalala asked who Mr Pakati was. Was he the Chairperson of the Provincial Standing Committee on Tourism in the Eastern Cape?

The Chairperson confirmed that he was. He seemed to be the only representative present at proceedings.

Ms Ntuli noted that a researcher, committee secretary and a Mr Christian Martin had accompanied Mr Pakati.

Ms Zikalala felt that Mr Pakati had not played his role in terms of assisting and guiding Committee members.  However, on the oversight visit to Mpumalanga Province, the Chairperson of the Provincial Standing Committee on Tourism had acted responsibly and had assisted the Committee. She felt that the issue needed to be addressed.

The Chairperson reiterated that it was for this very reason that issues of protocol needed to be rectified. He noted that only after a whole hour of deliberations was it discovered that a chief was sitting in the crowd, when he should have been part of the proceedings. It was embarrassing.

Ms M Njobe (COPE) emphasised that the question of introductions was very important. She stated that at one of the other portfolio committees on which she sat, nothing started without introductions having taken place. It was not her intention to deliberately compare portfolio committees.

It was also felt that in both the Eastern Cape and in Mpumalanga, Members of Executive Committees (MECs) seemed to be avoiding the Committee. The Committee needed in the future to send out requests beforehand for MECs to avail themselves to the Committee so that spending of budgets could be checked on. Checking on how budgets were spent were the main reason for oversight visits. It was not simply about touring areas. If spending was not checked on, what else would members be able to report back to the Minister on. She noted that the Eastern Cape MEC made an appearance only on the last minute near the end of proceedings. In Mpumalanga, the Committee had not seen any political leadership, it had interacted only with officials. She felt that oversight visits were losing the objective of why they were undertaken. She added that the participation of members of the provincial legislature was important.

The Chairperson said that the participation of provincial political leadership on Committee oversight visits was necessary. It would be included as a Committee recommendation in its oversight report.

Ms Njobe stated that the Committee and the provinces should work together, as the one was at a political level and the other was at an implementation level.

The Chairperson noted that some of the issues raised by members would be placed in either the observations or the recommendations of the oversight report.

He noted that the Committee needed to check on whether the objectives of the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga oversight visits had been achieved.

Mr Farrow said that one of the objectives was to look at the roles of Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs). The Committee had intended to workshop with financial institutions on how to assist these types of enterprises. To date it had not happened. He felt that the Committee on its oversight visits could have become closer to grassroots level.  Members could have visited smaller businesses rather than larger hotels. The Committee needed to get to the bottom of where the problems were. The issue was about how difficult it was for small businesses to obtain finance.

The Chairperson asked what the Mitchells Plain issue was that Mr Farrow wished to raise earlier in the meeting.

Mr Farrow responded that the Committee had intended to visit Mitchells Plain to check on SMMEs.

Mr Boltina said that the Mitchells Plain issue was not lost and it would still be placed on the Committee’s agenda.

Ms Zikalala asked whether it was possible for the Committee to visit botanical gardens as there were issues which needed to be looked at. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens was situated not too far from Parliament.

The Chairperson suggested that perhaps the Committee could invite a tourism specialist to speak to members about the tourist attractions in SA and how they could be enhanced. In Mexico, both indigenous and colonial exhibitions were used to boost tourism. There were cultural issues which needed to be considered. He asked Mr Boltina and Ms Ntuli to look into the matter.

He mentioned a book written by Dr Riedwaan Ismail which spoke about Cape Town and its heritage. He felt that members should read the book as it was interesting.

On the issue of SANParks and the rates they charged, he noted that in India, two rates were applied. One rate was charged to locals, and one to foreigners.

Mr Farrow pointed out that Zimbabwe also charged different rates for locals and foreigners.

The Chairperson referred to the policy debate about whether SANParks should fund themselves. It depended largely upon the availability of funds for them to do so. Higher prices affected demand. SANParks would be invited to appear before the Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.


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