The Department of Tourism briefed the Committee on existing Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with sister departments- the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). Members were given a layout of the MOUs in question which were more or less standard. The purpose, objective, areas of cooperation, roles and responsibilities of signatory MOU departments were elaborated upon. Ministerial and director general forums as well as coordinating committees were institutional arrangements put in place in support of the MOUs.
Members appreciated the briefing but greater specifics and timeframes attached to the MOUs was what the Committee needed to know. From a Home Affairs perspective, the fast-tracking of visas for visitors from China, India and Angola and the SADC UNIVISA were issues that members wished to have progress and further information on. On the DEA side issues like Transfrontier Conservation was queried. Minutes dated the 12 June 2012; the 7, 14, 21 and 28 August 2012 was adopted as amended.
The Committee also prioritised issues which would be included in its 2012 Fourth Term Committee Programme.
Briefing by National Department of Tourism (NDT)
The NDT briefed the Committee on the existing Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with sister departments- the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). Ms Morongoa Ramphele, Deputy Director General: Domestic Tourism Management, undertook the briefing. At the outset members were given a layout of the MOUs in question which were more or less standard. She proceeded with specifics on the MOU with the Department of Home Affairs. The purpose of which was to outline areas of collaboration between the two parties in the interest of the promotion of tourism growth and development within the country as well as strengthen and prioritise the issuance of visas by the DHA in favour of tourism markets as identified in the South Africa market portfolio or any other market for a period of 2011 to 2014. Areas of co-operation between the DHA and the NDT amongst others was the designation of direct persons to deal with resolution of queries, support organised group travel and mega events and to cooperate on South Africa’s position with regards to the Southern African Development Countries (SADC) UNIVISA. The roles and responsibilities of the DHA were outlined. The DHA undertook to facilitate the application for waiver of visa requirements in terms of the Immigration Act, 2002, the issuing of multiple entry visa for frequent travellers to South Africa on condition a traveller builds a clear record and also to ensure that the tourism industry through its associations would work through designated officials to ensure legitimacy of those accessing this dispensation and also prevent abuse.
Ms Ramphele continued with the DEA MOU. Its objective was sustainable planning and management of tourism activities in protected and vulnerable terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems and habitat of major importance for biological diversity, as well as the socio economic and cultural impact of tourism. Both the DEA and the NDT undertook to share information including research conducted by either on areas of mutual interest, additionally to develop a mechanism aimed at institutionalisation of service standards in protected areas including Transfrontier Conservation areas and to identify projects or products of mutual interest which could be financed and implemented by either party with the support of the other party on the basis of an agreed product development plan.
Institutional arrangements like ministerial and director general forums were also in place. The ministerial forum gave political guidance whilst the director general forum approved joint implementation plans. There was also a coordinating committee comprised of officials from either department which for example developed joint implementation plans. There were also principles of cooperation between the signatory departments of an MOU, for instance to respect the role of the lead department on an agreed joint project.
Mr S Farrow (DA) highlighted the fact that MOUs needed to be linked with a process of a budget. The briefing had not spoken about any budgets. It was important that the NDT worked hand in hand with its sister departments. For example a tourist attraction needed to be accessed by a road which was the responsibility of the Department of Transport. He asked what the NDT was doing to fast-track the visas of visitors from countries like India, China and Angola. The Committee needed timeframes. He asked if a ministry like the Department of Home Affairs was asked to undertake a function like data capturing and where would the details be found. What data had been captured? When the data was captured, how accurate was it? He felt that unless MOUs had timeframes attached to it and persons could be held accountable, MOUs meant nothing. The Department of Home Affairs was considered the front office at ports of entry and should thus be tasked with gathering as much information as possible on persons coming into SA. MOUs had nice ministerial and director-general forums attached to them. Specifics were needed in terms of for example how often these forums met. He felt the MOUs to be a bit disappointing as there were no timeframes and specifics.
Ms Ramphele replied that an MOU with the Department of Arts and Culture was being worked on. There were SANParks world heritage sites under the Department of Environmental Affairs. There were also dinosaur projects at Golden Gate which was lead by the DEA and the Department of Science and Technology. Scientists from the world over met annually at the Vredefort Dome crater. The DEA would be the lead department with the NDT playing a supporting role. A conference on culture and heritage was to be held in October 2012. The NDT was participating and providing some financial help. The frequency of forum meetings was covered on page 6 of the briefing document. On the issue of specifics, she said that there were implementation plans in place. When projects came up it went through director-generals and ministers.
Mr Farrow responded that the question that needed answering was how was identified projects taken through an implementation process. Statistics would show where demand lied. It was all good and well that the NDT had priorities and that there were projects in the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC). On paper it looked good but would one synergize with other departments. Where was the synergizing taking place? Was it at national development planning level?
Ms Ramphele agreed that skills development was needed in tourism. She was not aware where meetings of the PICC were taking place. The NDT received information just so by the way. Persons in charge of infrastructure needed to brief the NDT.
Mr R Shah (DA) asked besides the MOUs with the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Environmental Affairs was there MOUs with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) and the Department of Transport. If there were no MOUs with the mentioned departments, why was this the case?
He referred to the issue of a SADC univisa and asked what progress had the DHA had made on it. What were the challenges attached to a univisa? He further asked what mechanism was in place to collate data at ports of entry and who was responsible for the data. How successful was the training of frontline staff at ports of entry and how many people had been trained.
Referring to the DEA and the issue of Transfrontier Conservation areas, he asked what plans were in place. Was there synergy between legislation of the NDT and that of the DEA? Was there a liaison mechanism in place and who monitored it?
Ms Ramphele responded that the NDT did not have an MOU with the DIRCO. The NDT did meet with DTI. There were MOUs with the Departments of Arts and Culture and with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform but it had to date not been signed. She conceded that there were challenges attached to the issue of a univisa. The NDT was not leading the univisa issue but rather playing a supporting role. The DHA was looking at the univisa issue from a security perspective whereas the NDT’s interest was tourists. From the NDT’s side the Deputy Director in charge of International Relations was Ms Aneme Malan and Mr Steven Pierce spearheaded matters from the DHA side.
The tourism industry itself was used to collect data. The NDT would by 2014 have a single entry and starting point for the collection of data. There was improvement in the training of SA officials abroad. There was a constant need for monitoring.
Ms M Njobe (COPE) pointed out that the briefing had made mention of projects of mutual interest between the signatory departments to the MOUs. Members would have appreciated details of the projects spoken about. What kind of projects were they? She also asked how the NDT was involved in the “save the rhino campaign” of the DEA. Besides SA, were there any other African countries experiencing rhino killings.
Mr F Bhengu (ANC) was aware that all government departments were facing challenges with intergovernmental relations. The NDT had to inform the Committee as to where it felt the Committee could assist. The implementation of MOUs was another challenge. Some departments would create no go areas. Sometimes departments would also compete with one another and become territorial. He asked whether the relationships with the DHA and the DEA was really working.
Ms Ramphele noted that the first challenge of intergovernmental relations was how different spheres of government interpreted legislation. In terms of intergovernmental relations, integrated development plans had to be integrated by national, provincial and local government. There were roads, electricity and water issues etc. Another challenge was that many times the sister departments did the actual work but it impacted upon tourism. The NDT could not be seen as prescribing to sister departments what to do but rather to work hand in and with them from the planning stage. A further challenge was that tourism was a concurrent function in provinces. She noted that in a certain province there was absolutely no plan for tourism. In the Western Cape the budget for tourism was declining. She noted that provinces needed to budget or else things would remain the same. The PICC instructed provinces to identify one project to squeeze into the PICC. In the Western Cape, Cape Agulhas was identified. In Limpopo Province a dam was identified. There was a need to push infrastructure related projects in provinces. Politicians had to convince people that tourism was the way to go.
Mr L Khorai (ANC) stated that even Members of Parliament experienced challenges regarding visa applications, what still about ordinary members of the public. He referred to the ports of entry and noted that he made frequent trips to Lesotho to visit family. On these trips he observed that people were moving freely between the two countries and no monitoring was taking place. Scanning machines that had been acquired at huge cost for use at the Lesotho border was never on.
Ms Ramphele could not comment as to why scanner machines at the Lesotho border were not working.
The Chairperson speaking to the issue of the univisa asked whether relationships with the countries pertaining to the SADC univisa had been harmonised. He asked whether the marketing efforts of SA could be hampered by the fact that SA was taking responsibility for other countries over which it had no control. Were there mechanisms in place to protect SA? Was quality control taking place? The univisa was mostly given by SA to SADC. Was this arrangement fair to SA? He added that politicians generally did not see tourism as a major economic activity. People needed to be conscientised.
Mr Shah asked whether there was synergy on Transfrontier Conservation. He understood the security issues attached to the SADC UNIVISA. What if SA became a haven for people to flock to the country for economic reasons? What if people entered SA via Lesotho?
The Chairperson did not wish Ms Ramphele to comment too much on Home Affairs issues. She needed to stick to her mandate.
Ms Ramphele addressed the question on Transfrontier Conservation and stated that negotiations with the DEA were taking place on the issue. The NDT was part of the steering committee on the SADC UNIVISA.
The Chairperson stated that the provincial oversight visit reports to the Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape Provinces undertaken in June 2012 would be tabled for adoption the following week.
Minutes dated the 12 June 2012; the 7, 14, 21 and 28 August 2012 were adopted as amended.
2012 Fourth Term Committee Programme
The Chairperson stated that Members should feel free to discuss issues what should be prioritised on the Programme. He noted that tourism legislation was pending and was with the State Law Advisers’ Office.
Mr Jerry Boltina, Committee Secretary, stated that as at last week the State Law Advisers Office had sent the Tourism Bill back to the NDT so that the Department could finalise issues like the Bill’s constitutionality for example.
The Chairperson added that perhaps the Committee would only get to deal with the Bill in 2013.
The Committee also had to consider its Budget Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR). The Committee however had not received its section 32 reports from National Treasury as yet. The NDT had said that it would respond to the reports in October 2012. The Committee needed to monitor the process.
The issue of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) had also to be dealt with. The Committee had to check on whether capital funds should not be used to cover operational costs. The issue needed to be dealt with before the BRRR.
Some other issues which needed to be on the Programme was a briefing by the NDT on transformation in the industry, high landing fees and parking fees charged by the Airports Company of SA, briefings by the Departments of Home Affairs and International Relations, as well as a briefing by the Department of Transport on the Airlift Strategy.
The Committee should also consider holding workshops and a tourism summit in 2013.He considered it best to hold the tourism summit in the second quarter of 2013. The summit should be attended by various government departments and stakeholders.
The Strategic Plan of the Committee also needed to be considered.
An oversight visit to Small Micro Medium Enterprises situated in Mitchells Plain in the Western Cape was also on the Programme. Engagement with the Office of the Mayor of Cape Town over the issue would take place.
Mr Shah said that the Committee needed more information about education and training that was taking place on tourism.
The Chairperson suggested hearings on tourism education and training.
Mr Shah suggested that a workshop would be better as it would allow for greater interaction. The hospitality industry and the travel and tourism industry should also be included.
Ms Njobe felt that hearings were more powerful than workshops. Hearings could be held over two days.
Mr Shah agreed to public hearings but said all stakeholders should be present and participate.
The Chairperson said it was settled that public hearings on tourism education and skills development would be scheduled. It meant that the Committee would thus host a tourism summit as well as public hearings. He also brought up the issue of financial support to small businesses in the forms of loans and grants especially those from disadvantaged areas. The problem was the seasonality of the tourism industry which made it difficult for small businesses to keep up payments on loans. Perhaps an option was government assistance.
Mr Farraow referred to the seven projects of the PICC and said that perhaps they could be replicated. He suggested that the Committee visit those projects.
Ms C Zikalala (IFP) referred to a project in Kimberley in the Northern Cape which was a huge success. It had been aimed at the youth. She felt that the Committee needed to do a follow-up on the project.
The Chairperson remembered that there were two projects, the one was a bloodhound project and the other one was a roller skating one. The Committee should look at events promotion.
Ms Njobe said that cultural groupings like the Grahamstown Festival, Knysna and the Khoisan should be invited to the summit.
The Chairperson felt that the Department of Arts and Culture could assist.
Mr Farrow said that the Committee needed to know what its budget was and how much money it had. He pointed out that there was a tourism expo in East London on the 29 and 30 September 2012.
Mr Shah emphasised that the public hearings should be held before the tourism summit. He pointed out that he had per chance come across a summit hosted by the NDT at the Sheraton Hotel. Even the Minister was in attendance. Why was the Committee not invited?
The Chairperson agreed that the Committee should be informed of events. The amended Programme would be tabled for consideration by the Committee the following week.
The meeting was adjourned.
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