Meeting SummaryThe National Department of Tourism briefed the Committee on the Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) in the field of tourism South Africa had each with Ghana, Zimbabwe and Lesotho. The objective of all three agreements with South Africa was to foster cooperation between the parties in the development and promotion of tourism for the mutual benefit of both parties and their respective people. The dates of signature with South Africa were Ghana on the 23 August 2011 and with Lesotho and Zimbabwe respectively on the 12 May 2012. Some broad areas of cooperation between the signatory countries were the exchange of tourism information, marketing and promotion, investment promotion and capacity building by way of facilitating training. South Africa had invited all three countries to the 2012 National Tourism Careers Expo (NTCE) which would take place in East London from 28 – 30 September. The Committee was also to be invited.
Members were interested to know the risks and benefits to South Africa in being signatories to the MOUs. An important issue was whether there was mutual economic benefit in concluding the MOUs or if South Africa was not benefitting as much as the other parties. The Department clarified that these MOUs did not deal with the matter of visas.
National Department of Tourism (NDT) briefing
Ms Anemé Malan Deputy Director General: International Tourism Management NDT, undertook the briefing. The objective of all three agreements with South Africa was to foster cooperation between the parties in the development and promotion of tourism for the mutual benefit of both parties and their respective people. The dates of signature with South Africa were Ghana on the 23 August 2011and with Lesotho and Zimbabwe respectively on the 12 May 2012. Some broad areas of cooperation between the signatory countries were the exchange of tourism information, marketing and promotion, investment promotion and capacity building by way of facilitating training. The next step was for the parties in each of the countries to discuss and agree on the implementation plans aligned to the signed agreements. As part of the proposed implementation plan, South Africa had invited all three countries to the 2012 National Tourism Careers Expo (NTCE) which would take place in East London from the 28 – 30 September. As part of implementation plans, Joint Technical Committees would be established between the two relevant countries so as to monitor the implementation process and report to the country concerned via diplomatic channels. Once the implementation plans were signed, the countries would reciprocate on the identified and prioritised areas of cooperation. Ms Malan requested the Committee to note the three agreements signed with the respective countries. Agreements had also been signed with Algeria, Egypt, Gabon, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tunisia, Israel and Iran. South Africa was also in negotiations with Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Seychelles with an intention to sign agreements with them.
The Chairperson, referring to the MOUs which South Africa had with various countries, stated that the Committee was unaware of the benefits and risks thereof. Changes in governments in countries had the potential lead to political instability and was concerning. Risks especially needed to be managed.
Ms Malan responded that once an MOU was signed it was honoured even though changes in leadership had taken place.
The Chairperson pointed out that the initial period for MOUs was five years and thereafter there was a renewal period of three years. He would have preferred for the initial period to have been only one or two years in order to see how things panned out. How did MOUs affect working people? There were many labour related issues which needed to be managed. Labour laws and working conditions in countries differed.
Ms Malan was in agreement that perhaps five years was a long period. The decision to enter into an MOU was tricky. It was a bit of a Catch 22. An MOU was however not signed merely for the sake of it. Letters of intent were signed. The NDT focussed on MOUs that were in place. Recent MOUs were with the Seychelles and Saudi Arabia.
Mr S Farrow (DA) asked what the status quo of the MOUs was. When were they signed and what were the terms of the MOUs? Financially, every department dealt with its own reciprocal costs. South Africa as the host would be responsible for accommodation and transport. He asked what the implications on the finances on the NDT were given that South Africa had invited all three countries to the 2012 National Tourism Careers Expo (NTCE), which would take place in East London from 28 – 30 September. He wished to be satisfied that there was no abuse of funds.
Ms Malan explained that the NDT often played a facilitative role regarding agreements as they were not the NDT’s core responsibility. She was aware that there were not in all cases tourism benefits for South Africa in signing an MOU. However South Africa was obliged to honour MOUs that had been signed in the past. The status quo of the MOUs in question was that they were signed. It had to be borne in mind that the status of respective MOUs differed. On implementation, some of the facilitative work which the NDT did was information sharing, capacity building and even discussing issues such as grading. Some MOUs were entered into many years ago whilst others were recent. A list of MOUs and the status of each would be provided to the Committee. She pointed out that each country would be responsible for its own costs related to attending the NTCE 2012. South Africa was only paying for a dinner which it was hosting for the various attendees.
Mr Farrow clarified that he was speaking about the costs attached to hosting the Joint Technical Committee.
Ms Malan responded that the norm was for the host to bear the costs. The responsibility of hosting the Joint Technical Committee was rotated annually. Costs were minimised by having the Committee meetings coincide with when the NDT went on a visit to a country for some other reason.
Mr Farrow further asked if costs were kept in line with government guidelines.
Ms Malan affirmed that spending was kept in line with the Public Finance Management Act.
Ms M Njobe (COPE) noted that the briefing documents spoke about the President having to sign the MOUs. At what point did the President sign MOUs. She observed that MOUs needed to be tabled in Parliament within a reasonable time. The question was however what constituted ‘a reasonable time’. She asked what type of MOU was not of a technical or administrative nature.
Ms Malan noted that the question as to what constituted reasonable time was a good one. In all honesty she did not know what constituted reasonable time. On the process of an MOU, there was initially the agreement, thereafter there would be a draft text followed by a great deal of legal processes. The last step was where the President gave the Minister the right to sign the MOU. She pointed out that the Presidential Minute happened before the Minister signed it. The final step was tabling. She added that the Department of Justice and the State Law Advisers guided legislation. The NDT was given guidance by them as to what was to be considered technical agreements.
Ms X Makasi (ANC) asked if there were plans in place when countries, with whom SA had MOUs, requested assistance with capacity building. She asked if the Committee would be invited to the NTCE.
Ms Malan stated that the Committee was welcome to attend the NTCE 2012. The Committee was on the list of guests and would receive its invite in the near future. Durban had hosted the Expo for the last three years and it was now East London’s chance for the next three. The hosting of the event was rotated every three years.
Mr R Shah (ANC) asked what happened when there was a breach of the objectives of an MOU. Was the remedy in place for such breach effective? He remarked that MOUs were pretty much the same were it not for the different mechanisms of implementation. Why was SA’s MOUs with different countries standard when each country was unique? He also asked how MOUs affected visa protocols. MOUs made provision for the facilitation of travel for persons directly affected but what about tourists.
Ms Malan responded that fortunately there had not been a breach of MOU objectives as yet. She hoped that there would be no need to test the remedy that was in place. It involved legal processes. The NDT did not include the issue of visas in MOUs. The issue of visas was the responsibility of the Department of Home Affairs. Facilitation of travel covered everyone and not only government officials. She agreed that MOUs seemed to be more generic but that was the way signatories preferred it. The implementation plans were however more specific.
The Chairperson pointed out that South Africa could not develop as an island. Other countries had to develop with SA. However South Africa had to protect its own economic interests whilst improving the economies of other countries. He asked whether there were mechanisms in place to protect the South African economy and businesses.
Mr F Bhengu (ANC) noted that it was important for the Committee to keep track of MOUs. It seemed that MOUs were standardised. He asked what happened if there was disagreement or breach. Governments often changed. He was a bit sceptical about MOUs. He suggested that perhaps the NDT in its Annual Reports could provide a breakdown of MOUs and the progress made on each of them.
Ms Malan considered the suggestion to include a breakdown of MOUs in the NDT’s Annual Reports’ to be a good one.
Mr Farrow asked whether issues like the current friction between Kenya and Uganda were taken into consideration and were attempted to be resolved by MOUs. There had to be a common understanding, especially in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. For example, if a tourist was not able to visit Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, why would they bother coming to SA. They would go elsewhere in the world to other places of interest. He asked if discussions on these types of issues were taking place.
The Chairperson stated that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) had another role to play at another level. Tourism was overarching on other government departments like the Department of Home Affairs and DIRCO.
Ms Malan responded that the Ugandan and Kenyan issue was still to be looked at. It was agreed that once the issue was better understood it would be taken further. There was an investment plan in place for SADC. The DIRCO had a role to play. Tourism was being promoted at a regional level. Perhaps tripartite agreements should be considered. She observed that it was difficult to keep MOUs standardised. The NDT tried to standardise issues but the implementation had to be more specific.
Minutes dated the 13 March 2012, 17 and 24 April 2012 and the 8 May 2012 was adopted as amended.
Minutes dated the 22 May 2012 was adopted without amendment. The Committee agreed to revisit minutes dated the 29 May 2012 as amendments were required. Minutes for the 12 June 2012 and 7 August 2012 would be considered in the Committee’s next meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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