In a virtual meeting, the Portfolio Committee (PC) on Tourism was briefed by the Department of Tourism on its performance in the second and third quarter of the financial year 2020/2021.
The Tourism Ministry appealed to people to help the Department, because a short-term opening of the sector does not have much impact. It wants to see a long-term opening impact the tourism industry. Members of Parliament, when interacting with constituencies, would continue to social distance, to wear a mask, and to wash hands and sanitise.
The report presented the period during the first wave of the pandemic. During the first wave, many in government, and governments across the world, were still learning about the pandemic. There are areas where the Department could not reach performance targets within a quarter. The Department is hoping to catch up.
At the time, the annual performance plan (APP) was finalised, it was anticipated due to the COVID-19, the hospitality sector would experience a delayed re-opening. This impacted on all the department’s programmes.
Overall, the Department achieved 82.09% (55 of 67) of its targets. It did not achieve the targets, but had significant work done, on 5.97% (4 of 67) of its targets. Targets not achieved which required intervention were at 11.94% (8 of 67). The branch with the most challenges was Tourism Sector Support Services. It achieved 61.90% (13 of 21) of its targets.
For the quarter three performance, 2020/21, the Department achieved 77.61% (52 of 67) of its targets overall. The Department identified areas where there were going to be some challenges, it identified which interventions will be put in place, and where those interventions will take it by the end of the financial year.
The Tourism Sector Support Services was the programme which faced the most challenges. Several targets were not achieved. In the Corporate Management programme, the Department said targets related to the vacancy rate, women in senior management, and aspects of education strategy. An explanation was given on why the Department did not meet its target of maintaining a minimum of 50% women at senior management services (SMS) level. This included a high rate of attrition, where some of those who left, included a Chief Director of Human Resources Development, and a Chief Director of Partnerships.
With Human Resource Information, the Department had two targets it was watching closely: one is the vacancy rate. The Department is doing everything it can to meet the 10% target. However, there will be instances where some people will be promoted internally, and this does not have an impact on the vacancy rate. The second target at risk is the target in relation to employment of women at SMS level.
Members asked if the Temporary Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) would be extended, and if arrangements would be made to vaccinate frontline workers. There was a question on how many Expanded Public Works Programme participants the Department had, and if it was monitoring the participants. There was also concern expressed regarding the target for women in tourism, the programme which was not launched, and targets which were not achieved. Members were concerned this meant women’s issues are always spoken about, but when it comes to implementation, it is not taken seriously.
Members asked: Given the number of targets not achieved in quarters two and three, if the Department can assure the PC these will be caught up with and achieved by the end of the fourth quarter. The Department spent only 51% of the budget and this is concerning, given the tourism sector is in huge disarray, and there is money not spent or invested. There seemed to be a kind of hiccup in the delivery of pre-determined objectives, because there seemed to be a problem with the appointment of third party service providers.
Members also asked if there was an intention to look at the viability of using South Africa’s current rail system when it comes to rail tourism. Questions were raised around what the Department’s plans are to develop tourism in rural areas, and also in townships and small towns.
Chairperson’s Opening Remarks
The Chairperson said there are various platforms provided by Parliament for South Africa to be part of the processes of Parliament through the Portfolio Committee (PC) activities. He welcomed South Africans who joined the PCs meeting. Today the PC would be dealing with a report from the Department of Tourism (DT) regarding the performance of the Department in quarters two and three of the financial year. He said Members were meeting at a time when there was a relaxation of the COVID-19 regulations to level one. It is hoped level one provides an opportunity for tourism, which was the most suffocated sector as far as the manifestations of COVID-19 are concerned. The PC hopes level one can provide an opportunity for the sector to begin to operate, almost close to full operations. It is going to take time. It does not mean level one will suddenly provide magic for the turnaround of the tourism sector, because the impact was huge. Some of the enterprises closed down. Some of the enterprises are struggling to honour obligations as far as debts are concerned. Some of the enterprises had to lay off employees. Some of the enterprises have to work out a plan where employees come to work through shifts. Some of the enterprises completely closed and may not be able to return to business again. The PC hopes those able to access the Tourism Equity Fund (TEF) will be able to use it to advance part of the resuscitation of its businesses, to grow those businesses, and to sustain it. It also hopes the private sector will work very closely with the Department through the SA Tourism organisation, to make sure South Africa has one national focus of bringing back the tourism sector into full operation.
It is going to take some time for the sector to recover. The Chairperson said people must pray and work very hard to make sure there is not a third wave. If South Africa is going to have a third wave of COVID-19, it will be disastrous for the economy and could be disastrous for job creation, for unemployment, and all the challenges South Africa faces.
He handed over to the Minister of Tourism, Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, who set out the political scene before the Director-General (DG) presented the report.
Minister’s Opening Remarks
Minister Kubayi-Ngubane said the Deputy Minister would join the meeting later. Mr Victor Tharage, Director-General (DG), Ms Anemé Malan, the Deputy Director General (DDG): Tourism, Ms Shamilla Chettiar, DDG: Destination Development, Ms Mmaditonki Setwaba, DDG: Tourism Sector Support Services, Mr Blessing Manale, Acting DDG: Corporate Management, Mr Ralph Ackermann, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and the team from the Office of the Minister, joined the Minister.
The Department welcomed the President’s announcement to move the country to level one. She believes the major issue for the Department, which remains a concern and is one where the Department wants to continue to appeal to South Africans, is not to act recklessly, not to be irresponsible, because in this way people threaten the livelihoods of the tourism industry. It previously showed, where there was relaxation of the restrictions, South Africans tend to be relaxed as well, and some act irresponsibly. South Africa ends up with the National Coronavirus Command Centre (NCCC) putting back the restrictions. How long the restrictions last, depends on each South African as an individual contributing to ensure the numbers do not turn around and go up again.
Government adopted the risk adjusted strategy: When the numbers go up and the risk is high, the restrictions increase. When the numbers go down, and the risk is low, then the restrictions are lifted. She hoped many South Africans would understand the country is not yet out of COVID-19. As a tourism portfolio, it would want to appeal to people to help the Department because a short-term opening does not have much impact. It wants to see a more long-term opening, which it would want to see impact the tourism industry. She hoped Members of Parliament, when interacting with constituencies, would continue to social distance, to wear a mask, and to wash hands and sanitise.
The Minister said the Department would be presenting its quarter two and three performance reports to the PC. The PC needs to understand the context in which the Department was reporting - it was during the first wave of the pandemic. During the first wave, many in government, and governments across the world, were still learning about the pandemic, how it conducts itself, what the issues are, and how to manage it. The Department’s performance would be affected in some areas where it was not able to reach performance targets within certain quarters. In some of the areas the Department is catching up. Some of the areas are affected, but the Department is hoping to catch up. She appreciated the support from the PC regarding being able to champion the issues around recoveries of the tourism sector, the support regarding championing the transformation agenda in the tourism industry, the support in guiding the Department, and assisting it to see the weaknesses and blind spots. She also appreciated the PCs constructive engagement, and the robustness of the questions. Many sectors are now going back into operation. It is because the PC played a critical role in engaging government and the private sector in advocating opening the tourism sector and the survival of the tourism sector. As the Minister noted previously, the Department is implementing its Tourism Equity Fund (TEF). The process continued, and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (Sefa) is working. The Department notes there were public media reports about the Department being taken to court. She thought it was important to take the Committee into its confidence and update the PC on issues when it appears before the Committee.
The Department had a meeting with AfriForum and Solidarity, and engaged with those entities as South Africans to explain why the Department does the work it does, and why it is important for such entities to allow the Department to do the work. So far, the Department has not received any court papers. The Department is confident it can proceed to implement. The TEF had a huge response from many South Africans across race, across gender, across ages, enquiring about what this means, how to access it, and what the criteria are. Similarly, the Department received quite a number of private sector players who were asking if there is a role for them. Such private sector players did not want to benefit, but wanted to support, either through mentoring small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs), or through doing its own fund to support equity and investing. The Department will, in the long term, announce how it wants to expand this Fund by partnering with those from the private sector. This includes those who are in the tourism space, who say there is a role to play. Once work is done, the Department will be able to announce it. It is still early, but it is encouraged by this response because all South Africans understand the importance of inclusivity, and why it is important to work together and hold hands across racial lines, across gender, and across age.
Department of Tourism Quarterly Performance Report – 2020/21 Quarter Two and Three
Mr Victor Tharage, Director- General (DG), Department of Tourism, presented. He said the DDGs would go through programmes, and the CFO would take the PC through the financial environment.
1. Service Delivery Environment Quarter 2 and Quarter 3 July – December 2020
Service Delivery Environment
At the time the annual performance plan (APP) was finalised, it was anticipated due to COVID-19, the tourism and hospitality sector would experience a delayed re-opening. The timing and the duration of the delay were not clear.
This had an impact on all the department’s programmes.
Tourism, Research, Policy and International Relations
COVID- 19 restrictions had an impact on, amongst others:
Uncertainty of projects commencement time on the ground, such as, the data collection at establishments.
Face-to-face data collection for monitoring and evaluation projects was replaced by online surveys.
Availability of suitable service providers for projects planned to be outsourced.
Increased usage of technology to host meetings virtually.
Limited site visits to the various projects site.
The Department anticipated the sites where the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) participants are placed for work place experiential learning would not be fully operational by quarter three. However, when the restrictions were lifted more EPWP participants were placed in different tourism and hospitality sites than originally anticipated.
Virtual meetings continued with various project stakeholders in instances where physical meetings were not possible and site visits, where required, have been limited to small teams.
Tourism Sector Support Services
Reprioritisation of allocations to provide financial relief to tourism businesses.
Site inspections for purposes of monitoring projects, interviews, and experiential training, or placement of learners also had to be suspended when hard lockdown measures were put in place.
Uncertainty prevailed on when projects would commence.
Disruptions in the academic year affected the hosting of the National Tourism Careers Expo and the enrolment of 20 women in the Executive Development Programme at an institution of higher learning.
Mr Tharage said the shift in the academic calendar meant the Department was not in the position to register people at the time it was supposed to do so.
These operations had to be recalibrated to ensure the entire organisation continues to function, and ensuring there is compliance even under a different service delivery environment. Some the operations were affected in the following ways:
Communications with stakeholders was affected
Certain outreach and stakeholder programmes could not be executed, like exhibitions, and printing publications.
The information technology (IT) function had to be adaptive to new normal with most staff operating rotationally between remote working and also from office. This included procurement of additional IT tools of trade, online platform, licenses, and so on.
Our legal unit operated under a highly litigious environment with the litigations against the Tourism Relief Fund being one such example. The continuous development of tourism related directions also required extensive stakeholder engagement, as the substantive matters were from a regulatory point of view with no precedence.
Mr Tharage said overall, the main focus of the Department was to ensure as much as possible, it limits the potential of spreading the virus from within. It did get some level of success. From time to time, it had colleagues who were affected. It can report it did not lose a single member of the Department to the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Performance Overview: Quarter 2
The performance of the different branches was given as per page ten of the presentation. Overall, it achieved 82.09% (55 of 67) of its targets; it did not achieve the targets, but had significant work done, on 5.97% (4 of 67) of its targets. Targets not achieved which required intervention was at 11.94% (8 of 67). The branch with the most challenges was Tourism Sector Support Services, where the former DDG left around quarter two. It achieved 61.90% (13 of 21) of its targets. There were signs in Programme 1: Corporate Management, there were areas the Department needs to put a lot more attention into.
Quarter 3 Performance – Actual Data 2020/21
Overall, the Department achieved 77.61% (52 of 67) of its targets. Programme 4: Tourism Sector Support Services was similar to quarter two; the Department achieved 60.00% (12 of 20) of its targets. Destination showed a slight drop in achievement: in quarter three, 90.91% (10 of 11) targets were achieved, versus 100% (10 of 10) in quarter two. The Department identified areas where there was going to be some challenges, it identified what interventions will be put in place, and where those interventions will take it by the end of the financial year.
3. Programme Performance Information
3.2 Programme 2: Tourism Research, Policy and International Relations
Ms Anemé Malan, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Tourism Research, Policy and International Relations, DT, presented. In Quarter Two, there was a part of the programme which did not fully achieve, and in quarter three, there was also one target not achieved.
2. One system developed for tourism analytics: The quarter three target of Concept document for the development of the National Tourism Analytics System Framework was not achieved. The concept document for the development of the National Tourism Analytics System Framework was not developed.
- Reason for variance: There were challenges in appointing a service provider as no quotations and proposals were received when the request was sent out to potential service providers.
- Corrective measure: Other service providers were approached after consultations with Supply Chain Management unit.
3. Number of initiatives implemented to create an enabling policy and regulatory environment for tourism growth and development: The quarter two target was not achieved. Appointment of the panel of experts, was done, however, appointment of the service provider for the development of Tourism White Paper was not done. This was due to a change in approach. Originally when the Department planned the project, it anticipated it would appoint a service provider to assist with the review. After a number of discussions, the Department decided it would not appoint a service provider, and the Minister appointed a panel of experts to assist with the review. The Department agreed if the panel of experts required the assistance of experts in a specific area, it would also do this. The project is on track, and it will be able to achieve the target.
3.3 Programme : Destination Development
Ms Shamilla Chettiar, DDG: Destination Development presented.
In quarter three, the Department achieved nine out of ten targets in this programme.
1. Number of destination planning and investment coordination initiatives: target three, viability study for the new rail tourism model developed, was not achieved. The service provider to conduct the survey was appointed. The rail tourism survey report was not completed. However, the concept literature review and survey framework were completed.
- Reason for variance: delays in procurement, as the 2020/21 procurement plan was reviewed and amended.
- Corrective measure: data collection and analysis process will be fast-tracked in the fourth quarter.
3. Number of work opportunities created through Working for Tourism projects: In quarter two, 0 work opportunities were created, where the annual target was 2 500 work opportunities. In quarter three, the target was 875 work opportunities created, and 1 496 work opportunities were created.
- Reason for variance: Due to the COVID-19 restrictions in the tourism and hospitality sector, the Department anticipated the sites where EPWP participants are placed for work place experiential learning would not be fully operational by quarter three. However, when the restrictions were lifted, more EPWP participants were placed in the different tourism and hospitality sites than originally anticipated.
3.4 Programme 4 Tourism Sector Support Services
Ms Mmaditonki Setwaba, DDG: Tourism Sector Support Services, presented.
2. Number of initiatives implemented to support tourism SMMEs: Two initiatives were implemented to support tourism SMMEs, where one initiative was to implement five business incubators. One of the five incubators was the Technology Innovation Incubator
The Quarter Three target of monitor the delivery of business development services implemented, was not achieved. The delivery of business development services implemented was not monitored.
- Reason for variance: The Agreement with the Tourism Innovation Agency was signed only in October 2020 after protracted negotiations which caused delays in processing approvals.
- Corrective measure: The delivery of business development services will be implemented in quarter four.
Ms Setwaba said the Department was able to catch up. It is currently in the process of selecting youth for the incubator, so it would be implemented in the current Quarter.
Tour Operator Incubator
The Quarter Three target, monitor the delivery of business development services implemented, was not achieved. The monitoring of the delivery of business development services implemented was not done.
- Reason for variance: There were delays in the finalisations of the procurement process as the bid could only be advertised in quarter three.
- Corrective measure: Procurement processes will be finalised in quarter four, and monitoring of business development services will take place upon implementation.
The second initiative was to empower youth trained in food services to become owners and operators in the food services business, including virtual platforms.
The quarter three target, Programme for New Venture Creation Programme, to empower youth in food services business, including virtual platforms, was not implemented.
- Reason for variance: Approval to implement the project with Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) was secured. Databases of youth trained in food services were secured.
- Corrective measure: SEDA and the Department will issue Request for Quote (RFQ) for service provider from approved SEDA database and simultaneous to this, selection of potential incubates will commence in quarter four.
3. Number of initiatives implemented to increase participation of women in the tourism sector. Two initiatives were implemented to increase participation of women in the tourism sector: 1. Implement Women in Tourism (WiT) Enterprise Development Programme for up to 25 women in each of the nine provinces. The WiT Enterprise Development Programme was not implemented in nine provinces.
- Reason for variance: Framework to facilitate partnerships with private and public sector partners to assist in the implementation of various partnerships in the Department is going through approval process.
- Corrective measure: Approval for procurement will be finalised, and the resultant procurement processes will be undertaken in quarter four.
4. Number of programmes implemented to enhance visitor service and experiences. Three programmes were implemented to enhance visitor services and experience.
A Quarterly Report on Tourists Complaints was managed in line with the regulations, and was developed in quarter three. A total of 80 complaints were received from both domestic (76) and international tourists (4). The graphs in the slides provided an indication on the nature of these complaints (pages 46-49). The majority of the complaints related to refunds (75%). It was mainly those who pre-booked, only to be unable to undertake trips and go to accommodation due to restrictions. The Department usually relies on its service providers to resolve complaints amicably. It gets the two parties to meet, so it can see how best to resolve the complaint. With 40% of cases, the Department was able to refer these complaints to relevant authorities which may not specifically be in the tourism space.
5. Number of initiatives to support tourism development in local government. There were two initiatives to support tourism development in local government; one was, Local Government Tourism Peer Learning Network sessions for municipal practitioners hosted in three provinces. Local Government Tourism Peer Learning Network sessions for municipal practitioners were hosted in two provinces as follows:
• Eastern Cape - 18-19 November 2020; and
• Gauteng - 24 November 2020.
- Reason for variance: In anticipation of the second wave / resurgence of COVID-19 infection cases, additional sessions were conducted to achieve the annual target in advance.
The previous quarter’s session was held virtually and as such, there were savings which were used to host an additional session.
6. Number of capacity-building programmes implemented. In quarter two, the orientation of 20 learners was undertaken. The quarter three target was programme to capacitate tourist guides implemented. The programme to capacitate tourist guides was not implemented. However, the following was done:
• Logistical arrangements were finalised;
• Contracts between the Department and learners were signed; and
• Induction was conducted to the learners.
- Reason for variance: Confirmation of classroom contact sessions could not be confirmed earlier due to lockdown regulations. Hence the commencement of the training was delayed. Logistical arrangements for the implementation of the training programme were finalised after the lockdown restrictions were eased.
- Corrective measure: The Mandarin language training programme has been confirmed to take place from 20 January 2021 - 20 March 2021. All logistical arrangements pertaining to the implementation of the training programme are already confirmed and communicated to all learners and service providers.
Ms Setwaba said 20 learners will exit the programme on 15 March 2021, so the Department was able to catch up.
An annual target under this output indicator was Food Safety Quality Assurers programme implemented in nine provinces targeting 500 youth. The quarter three target was, service provider appointed and induction learners undertaken.
- Corrective measure: The tender was advertised on 23/10/2020 and closing date was 16/11/2020. The virtual implementers briefing session was held on 4 November 2020. The Bid Evaluation Committee (BEC) held a meeting on from 3 to 8 December 2020. The Bid Adjudication Committee is scheduled for 28 January 2021.
The Wine Training Service Programme (Sommelier) Project was a task outstanding in quarter three. The quarter three target of Close-up report for Wine Service Training Programme (Sommelier) Project developed was not achieved.
- Reason for variance: There were amendments made to the skills programme which led to service provider having to delay the submission of the completion report, pending payment of the additional skills. The contract expired.
- Corrective measure: Close-up report for Wine Service Training Programme (Sommelier) Project will be compiled in quarter four.
7. Number of initiatives implemented to create an enabling policy and regulatory environment for tourism growth and development. The annual target was, Development of the Tourism Environmental Implementation Plan (TEIP) for 2020 – 2025”. The TEIP was not developed.
- Reason for variance:
The service provider was not appointed. However, the approval of the Terms of Reference and the advertisement for the appointment of the service provider were done. Appointment of a service provider was not done because only one quote was received.
- Corrective measure: The Request for Quotation was re-advertised. Appointment of a service provider to develop the TEIP will be done in quarter four.
- Quarter two performance: The status quo report on environmental performance of the tourism sector was not developed. The Request for Quotations (RFQ) will be issued, and the appointment of service provider and the status quo report will be done in quarter three.
Ms Setwaba said the Department is also dependent on the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) in terms of DEFFs processes according to the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA). The Department will talk to DEFF to speed up the process. Once the report is developed, it could present to the DEFF PC. It also needs to do consultations, but as soon as it is done, the environmental plan would be developed. The Department could miss the end of the year by a few days or a few weeks depending on the consultation.
3.5 Programme 1: Corporate Management
Mr Blessing Manale, Acting DDG: Corporate Management, presented.
Mr Manale said targets in this programme related to the vacancy rate, women in senior management, and aspects of education strategy.
2. Vacancy rate. The quarter three target was: vacancy rate not to exceed 10% of the funded establishment. The vacancy rate was maintained at 11.3%.
- Reason for variance: A number of posts became vacant during the period under review due to various reasons which led to an increase in the vacancy rate.
- Corrective measure: The Department will expedite the filling of vacant advertised posts in the fourth quarter to reduce the vacancy rate.
Mr Manale said the Department should be able to meet the quarter three target by the end of March. He said if the Department fills five posts, even if it is below senior management level, then it should be able to bring the vacancy rate back to 10% by March this year.
3. Percentage compliance with equity targets regarding the departmental Employment Equity Plan. The quarter three target was maintain minimum of 50% women representation at senior management services (SMS) level.
Women representation at SMS level was maintained at 44.8%.
- Reason for variance: A number of SMS posts occupied by females became vacant in the period under review due to various reasons which further led to a reduction in the percentage of female SMS in the Department.
- Corrective measure: The Department will endeavour to appoint suitably qualifying females in the SMS posts already advertised.
Mr Manale said there were high rates of attrition; some of those who left included a Chief Director: Human Resources Development, and a Chief Director: Partnerships. Chief Director: Legal is vacant, as well as DDG: Corporate Management. There were five positions vacated by women last year. The Department would be able to meet the target if it can fill three of those vacancies. The filling of the Chief Director posts is at an advanced stage, and the appointment of the DDG is handled at an Executive level because it is a Cabinet appointment. The Department is confident it can fill three of those posts, and then be able to move from 44.8% to 50%.
5. Percentage implementation of the annual internal audit plan. Mr Manale said the Department met its targets in this area. It continues to improve quarter by quarter.
6. Percentage implementation of the communication strategy.
Implement 2020/2021 communications strategy targets as indicated in the implementation plan. The quarter three target was 100% implementation of quarter three targets of the 2020/21 Annual Implementation Plan of the Communication Strategy.
95% implementation of quarter three targets of the 2020/21 Annual Implementation Plan of the Communications Strategy was achieved.
- Reason for variance:
- An additional media partnership was done due to a need for additional communication over the year-end period.
- The Tourism Month Media Plan evidence could not be submitted in quarter two as it had to be submitted with its exit report. Implementation of the Tourism Month media plan took place until 30 September and the exit plan was therefore drafted in quarter three. Both the Tourism Month Media Plan and its exit report are therefore submitted in quarter three.
- Ministerial staff engagement was held in quarter two.
- No cluster report required for December 2020.
- The events strategy implementation plan cannot be fully implemented as the draft framework has not been approved yet.
Ad-hoc Implementation of the Draft Framework.
- Corrective measure:
- Communications Strategy to be re-written with an intervention of an external facilitator and workshop the strategy with Minister and write a final draft.
10. Number of initiatives implemented to promote gender equity.
The annual target was, eight initiatives implemented to promote gender equity.
The target for quarter three was: finalise Sexual Harassment Policy:
Approval for the Sexual Harassment Policy;
Gender equality dialogue conducted.
The Sexual Harassment Policy was approved.
- Gender Equality Dialogue was not conducted.
- Reason for variance: Gender Equality Dialogue postponed to fourth quarter due to unavailability of expert facilitator on gender issues.
- Corrective measure: An expert facilitator will be sourced through the assistance of the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE). The Gender Equality Dialogue will be conducted in the fourth quarter.
4. Human Resource Information
Mr Tharage presented this section.
Workforce Representativity as end of December 2020 (See page 78 of presentation)
Mr Tharage said the Department has two targets it is watching closely: One is the vacancy rate. The Department is doing everything it can to meet the 10% target. However, there will be instances where some people will be promoted internally, and this does not have an impact on the vacancy rate. There will also be instances where people have to serve notice elsewhere, because of contractual obligations with current employers.
The second target at risk is the target in relation to employment of women at SMS level. What brings the risk is, at this level, it is highly unlikely any employer, except for those who may be internally promoted, which was the case with DDG Setwaba, would want the employee to serve the notice. Those notices often have a minimum of one month. It means for those who are receiving offers within this month, the notice month will then become April, and it would mean it will only possibly be able to start at the beginning of May. It would not necessarily assist the Department with the target of getting to the 50% of women at SMS level it targeted.
Employees per Occupational Bands: December 2020
See page 79 of presentation.
5. Financial Information
Mr Ralph Ackermann, CFO: DT, presented this section.
Budget and Expenditure Review as at 31 December 2020
(See page 81 of presentation for the full details.)
As at 31 December 2020, Administration spent 69% of its budget. Tourism Research, Policy and International Relations spent 77% of its budget. Destination Development, where the Department’s EPWP programmes are, spent 24% of its budget. Tourism Sector Support Services spent 61% of its budget. In total, Department spending was at 56%.
Expenditure per Economical Classification as at 31 December 2020
The three largest areas where there was still money available were:
- Compensation of Employees, with a variance of R88 million
- Goods and Services, with a variance of R445 million
- Departmental Agencies and Accounts, with a variance of R79.8 million.
Mr Ackermann said with goods and services, the Department concluded its contract with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) for its infrastructure projects for EPWP, and it paid over an amount of R236 million to the organisation. It also concluded the TEF, and its payment to Sefa was R77 million. The payment to SA Tourism was R79.8 million, which the Department paid in January. In total, it means the Department already paid R446 million over, and currently its expenditure stands at 91.3%. The Department has a target of spending 99% of its budget at the end of March, this financial year.
Ms P Mpushe (ANC) welcomed the presentation. She also welcomed the 100% payment of invoices within 30 days. She appreciated the explanation about the meeting of the target on representation of women at SMS level. The Minister said many businesses were hard-hit by COVID-19, businesses closed, and many lost jobs. She asked what measures there are to prevent further closure of businesses.
As much as the Committee welcomes the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), Temporary Employer Relief Scheme (TERS), she wanted to know if the Department engaged further on the extension of this. Regarding the President’s presentation on prioritising frontline workers for vaccination, she said the tourism sector has its own frontline workers, and asked if there were any arrangements for those workers to be vaccinated.
Mr K Sithole (IFP) thanked the Department officials for the presentation. On the EPWP participants he asked how many EPWP participants the Department has, and if there is any monitoring system on participants. He was concerned about underspending at EPWP. It needs to be corrected by the Department, which cannot allow underspending, because it does not have a programme to monitor spending on EPWP. He asked the Department to clarify the programme for promotion of recovery; and asked if it has any programme for the promotion of recovery.
Under Destination Development he asked which areas the Department targets in rural areas. Most of the time, it has a target for national development, but it does not specify which rural areas it is targeting.
Ms Setwaba mentioned monitoring, under Tourism Sector Support. The Department said monitoring delivery of business development services was not done. If not done, he asked what other programme the Department has for catch-up of those delays. He asked about the capacity of tourist guides, and asked if the Department could give the PC the recruitment criteria it follows, or the method it follows to recruit those tourist guides. He said if it says it recruits 20 women candidates, then he wants to know why the Department is separating women from the other youth. He asked about women youths. The gender equality dialogue was not conducted, and he asked why it was not conducted. If the Department wants to conduct it now, he wanted to know if it has a timeframe.
Mr P Moteka (EFF) started with transformation. In the Minister’s opening remarks, he heard her talking about the alleged threat posed by anti-transformational groups. These groups were threatening to take the Minister to court to stop her from pursuing the transformation agenda. He asked what the main complaint was. He referred to the issue of women’s struggle for equality, and said he was disappointed because the Department is led by a woman, and three of the DDGs are women, but the target for women in tourism, was not achieved. A programme relating to this was also not launched. He asked what this means. For him, it means women’s issues are always spoken about, but when it comes to implementation, it is not taken seriously. It cannot happen that in all three quarters, the target was not achieved. This issue must be traced so the portfolio committee can know who the culprits are, pulling back the struggle of women. It is not COVID-19 causing this. It is because the Department never identified beneficiaries. He asked what the criteria is the Department uses. He asked what acceptable reasons were for delaying the empowerment of women. The matter of poor planning is a problem.
The Rail Tourism survey was not completed due to delays of procurement. In quarter two, the Department spent 31% of the budget, and in quarter three, it was left with 56.1% of the budget to spend, which means in quarter four, it is left with 44% to spend. At the end of March, the financial year is over. He asked if the Department will be able to spend the whole 44%, on which projects it will spend it, and where to spend it.
Ms Malan spoke of the African countries which South Africa signed tourism agreements with. He asked which countries these are, and why those countries. The Department spoke of collaboration with other stakeholders to ease the negative effect of COVID-19 on the sector. He asked who the stakeholders were, which projects were completed, and what the targets are.
Ms H Winkler (DA) thanked the presenters. With the EPWP projects, there were certain deployments around the country. Some employees were retained, and some were let go. She asked how many EPWP employees were retrained, and which projects these employees were engaged in, such as infrastructure projects, and others in the tourism sector.
Given the number of targets not achieved in quarters two and three, she asked if the Department can assure the portfolio committee these will be achieved by the end of the fourth quarter.
The Department spent only 51% of the budget and this is concerning, given the tourism sector is in huge disarray and there is money not spent or invested. There seemed to be a kind of hiccup in the delivery of pre-determined objectives. There seemed to be a problem with the appointment of third party service providers, such as getting providers to deliver on time, and planning for projects implemented with third party service providers. These factors seem to provide fairly regular delays in achieving these pre-planned targets. If this was picked up previously, she asked why there was not an attempt to streamline, since there seems to be a process of irregularity. She asked what the current status of the tourism recovery plan was, given the disruptions caused by the second wave; she said there were certain timelines and objectives for the tourism recovery plan before the second wave hit, and asked how the second wave impacted the plan, and if there are deliverable timelines now. She asked what has not been achieved yet with the recovery plan; and if the Minister engaged with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) yet on the rollout of e-visas. She said if South Africa wants to stimulate growth in its economy it has to try and attract as many international visitors as possible, as restrictions ease on traveling. It has to facilitate this with e-visas. The DHA has become extremely bureaucratic, and it dissuades international tourism. She asked if the Minister engaged with the Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) with regard to the special dispensation to the tourism industry in the extension of dispensing the UIF TERS.
With the government loan guarantee scheme in relation to SMMEs, she said the President spoke about working with the banking sector and other big industry players to revitalise the economy, knowing the tourism was one of the hardest-hit and most decimated, she asked if tourism will be made a priority, and if the Minister engaged with the Minister of DEL to ensure this happens.
She asked what kind of impact the vaccination of frontline workers has in the tourism sector, as well as the impact of not having a transparent national rollout plan. This is a huge issue, because South Africa can do as much as it can to reinforce the tourism sector, but if South Africa’s national health rollout plan in not transparent, and not internationally marketed, people are going to be reluctant to come into South Africa. The bouncing back of tourism is heavily dependent on how South Africa communicates its vaccine rollout plan, and what its timelines are. It is important for the Minister to engage with the Minister of Health to determine what this is going to be, because it affects what the DTs messaging will be.
She asked how far the government is in the process of reconfiguring and repurposing public entities.
On eco-tourism she asked about youth leadership programmes and other development programmes. Ms Winkler said she thought youth development programmes for ecotourism, namely guidance, mentorship, and how to enter into the sector, were important. In the future, the sector will be moving towards eco-tourism, so it is important South Africa starts laying a strong foundation. If it wants to get young, previously disenfranchised people into the economy, the country will need to start building solid foundations now, which means the Department needs to implement good programmes which encourage eco-tourism, and also look at climate change, resilience, and biodiversity.
Mr T Khalipha (ANC) welcomed the presentation. He did not have issues with the presentation. He said the Department needs to move with speed on domestic tourism, because this is where it needs to focus. The Minister said there is some progress. Once the vaccine is done, it is important the Minister interacts with the Minister of Health. The Department can get the plan, and it can then deal with some of the issues, which is how COVID-19 has dealt with the tourism sector. It is not going to be easy, because South Africa has lost a number of jobs in the tourism sector. The Minister needs to interact with provinces to support all of the provinces, especially the rural province such as the Free State, North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and the Eastern Cape. He said it was not going to be very difficult for the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Gauteng. But for those rural provinces, it will not be easy.
The Minister was able to interact with Members of Executive Councils (MECs). It is also important to focus on the local municipalities. The latter are not prioritising tourism, even during this period, as the municipalities would be focusing on budgets and Integrated Development Plans (IDPs). Municipalities might not prioritise local economic development, so it is important, through the MINMEC, the Minister must be firm with those MECs. MINMEC is an informal meeting between the Minister and the nine provincial MECs who deal with the same portfolio.
The Portfolio Committee must also be able to link to organised local government, as it did in the last financial year where it met with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and other stakeholders. Certain branches of the Department gave reasons why it could not meet targets; the reason it was not able to meet targets was because of lockdown. The DG and DDGs were able to achieve targets for the most part, and he welcomed the presentation. The Minister and the DG did good work. The portfolio committee must offer its support, and make sure all the plans, which the Minister will present in the budget speech, incorporate all those issues which the Committee raised last time. Rural areas, small towns, townships, villages, and rural provinces, must be prioritised by the Minister. If those places are supported, then tourism can be turned around. In areas where the country has lost jobs, it can gain some areas where the DT’s plans can be achieved.
Mr M De Freitas (DA) said most of the questions he wanted to ask were tabled already. He wanted more information on rail tourism, and asked if it is the intention to look at the viability of using South Africa’s current rail system; what the brief is for the survey which is going to be done; what the Department is doing to ensure the targets not met are caught up with in this financial year; and what the plan for catching up is.
Ms M Gomba (ANC) asked about the causes of the issues mentioned in the presentation. There is a need to deal with the root cause of the delay, which in turn causes the Department not to achieve its targets. There was a failure to appoint service providers timeously.
She asked what the Department’s plan is to combat a delay in appointing service providers. This will assist in improving the service to people, and to do justice to tourism itself. She had a concern about a trend she saw happening in every financial year report. She said she found women’s programmes not being successful, and asked what is causing this to happen. Women are also a part of the industry and need to be taken seriously. The vaccine rollout for frontline tourism workers is very important, especially for tour guides, tour operators, and hotel receptionists. The matter needs to be looked at, as well as the e-visa matter. The e-visas were mentioned, but the Committee does not hear about anything happening, nor does it hear about new developments. She asked if there is a way the Department can look at technology to ensure during the hard lockdown, people are able to operate without any programme being hindered. By example, she said Parliament continued to run effectively, all the targets were met, and the mandates from communities were met. Parliament is a big institution, and she asked why small departments cannot do the same. The technology is there, systems can continue, even if there is a hard lockdown because of Covid19. Things have been happening smoothly in Parliament, and service was provided to people, even when there were difficult circumstances. Even if things were not at 100%, then at least things were not as bad as it was thought it could be. The DT must try to work on this, because it is very important if it wants to see tourism improving in South Africa. There is Zoom, and other platforms, where meetings, training of tour operators, and so forth, can happen. There are online learning platforms where online learning can be implemented. She could understand some reasons for things not happening, but there is also a need to be innovative in dealing with issues.
Mr E Myeni (ANC), from the portfolio committee on Small Business Development, welcomed the presentation. He said his points were covered.
Ms S Xego (ANC) appreciated the Department being able to come and report on its performance when it was due for reporting. The Committee understands the environment the Department operated under because of COVID-19, which resulted in a national lockdown. Everybody observes the loss of jobs in the tourism sector as a result of lockdown. South Africa is now under level one. This is the level in which the Committee thinks the sector will benefit, because there is some relaxation. Numbers increased with those attending training, and with whichever gatherings are held.
She was unhappy with where there is mention of the Department under different programmes not able to get service providers. It means the Department needs to employ different strategies. Service providers also employ people, and the employment happening there is contributing to the national target of job creation. Her worry on the underperformance in some areas is it has negative results in budget spending. The Department needs to make such underperforming areas part of its problem statement, since in some areas, it experienced difficulties in appointing service providers. She suggested the Department scan the environment before planning. It also needs to use its data to see who is doing what, so it does not end up planning for failure. When one plans, one sets oneself a target. If one does not meet that target, there will be underperformance. She welcomed the declaration of alert level one, from which she thought the sector would benefit positively. She thanked the Department for always being there, led by the Minister. When the political leadership is always with the Department when it comes to present to the Committee, the Committee appreciates it. Where there is over-achievement, then she would give a thumbs-up; where there is underperformance, there is always room for improvement.
Ms Mpushe applauded the Department on its performance in the disability category. The four point four percent figure exceeded the target on the percentage of the workforce, who are people with disabilities. She applauded this, because it is a vulnerable sector. In most departments and provinces, there is an inability to meet this target. She asked the Department to ensure it has engagement with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) when it comes to the EPWP, so the Department can meet its targets.
Ms L Makhubela-Mashele (ANC) welcomed the Department’s report on its performance. The Committee welcomed this because it understood, even though the Department was operating in an environment not conducive to work, work was done. Where work was not completed, the Department was upfront to give the Committee the reasons. The point of the presentation was to make sense of the reasons the Department gives for underperformance on its set targets. The point is to advise how best the Department can employ other strategies to be able to meet those targets where possible, given the environment it is working under.
The President announced e-visas will be introduced in other countries. From previous engagements, the Committee knew it was only in New Zealand where the DHA was piloting the facilitation of the e-visa. It will be good to get an understanding of the successes and challenges, and also the lessons learned from the pilot project.
On the rolling out of e-visas in other countries she asked what the Department’s plans are to collaborate with the DHA, to ensure those e-visa applications actually result in people visiting South Africa when countries are able to visit. This is especially in light of COVID-19 hindering the ease of travel to South Africa as a destination of choice, and hindering South Africans moving out of the country from going to other countries. She asked for a report on e-visas so the Committee understands where the Department is, and where processes are.
She said of the industry as a whole: Before being put on alert level three with COVID-19 restrictions, the Minister was on a rigorous drive to revive the tourism sector, and to ensure people are traveling, consuming products in the country, and visiting the provinces, so the industry is able to work again. Now South Africa is on level one, she asked if the Committee can get an indication of the programmes and strategies which will be used to ensure the industry starts working again.
The Chairperson thought that it will be very important from a risk mitigation point of view to work with those service providers who will be implementing agents on behalf of the Department. It is clear the high risk as far as performance is concerned is from this angle. If this angle could be attended to, then everything would be fine
The Minister asked her team to reply to questions.
Ms Chettiar dealt with questions on the EPWP and rail tourism. As of the third quarter, there were 1 798 participants in the various EPWP programmes. This is different to the work opportunities number because the work opportunities number is a calculation the Department uses to arrive at work opportunities. The number is also not consistently the same through various quarters, because some programmes start and some programmes end. Through the year, the Department has more than 1 798 people enrolled in its various EPWP programmes. The EPWP participants are monitored on a monthly basis, so there are reports provided on a monthly basis. There is checking and verification that the participants who are reported to be part of the programme are in fact part of the programme, and are real people. There are registers taken on the various programmes on a daily basis. Those registers are checked, and verified against identity documents, and so on. There is close monitoring of EPWP participants who work in the programmes.
Regarding Mr April’s question, the Department retained all of its programmes in the EPWP. With skills development work, the Department also funds work such as tourism monitors, data collectors, and infrastructure work. With the last year being what it was with the impact of COVID-19, it was not the fact the Department cancelled programmes, but its programmes are also dependent on placing learners in on-the-job training. To some extent, its ability to do this is largely dictated by which places the Department has to place learners. The impact of COVID-19 saw an impact in the placement of learners. The Department did not cancel programmes. It had to modify programmes to online training for example, to place people where it is possible to place people, and to work with the circumstances on the ground with its EPWP projects.
Ms Winkler asked in the chat box if the Committee can get a list of EPWP programmes, and the number employed.
Regarding areas targeted, and rural areas specifically, she said, all of the work the Department does, tries to address geographic spread in the country. She gave a few examples. The spatial master plan the Department worked on for OR Tambo encompasses an area from Port St John’s to Durban. The master plan, which is the Wild Coast master plan, encompasses a number of rural areas along the coastline. It is tourism, regional, economic, development, bridge, because tourism does not follow geographic boundaries. What the Department has tried to do in destination development is to work on spatial plans which impact broad regions, rather than focusing on very small projects and individual projects.
The other examples of where the Department works in rural areas would be some of the EPWP projects it has put in place. Some of those projects are, for example, the dinosaur project, which is a catalytic project in Clarens in the Free State, which is in a rural area. The Department imagines the project will do for Clarens what the Cradle of Humankind did for the West Rand in Gauteng. All of the work the Department is doing in maintenance of national parks is in parks located in rural areas. It works with SMMEs which come from the communities adjacent to those parks in its maintenance programme. The community projects the Department is involved in at Numbi Gate, Nandoni Dam, Tshathogwe Game Farm, Mtititi Game Farm, and Mapate Recreational Social Tourism Facility, are all in rural areas, and these are projects the Department believes will support current tourism development in those areas. It believes it will not struggle down the line with issues of sustainability.
Similarly, the work the Department is doing with community museums are all in rural areas. For example, the Anton Lembede Museum, the McGregor Museum, AmaHlubi Cultural Heritage, the Sol Plaatjie Museum, and the Lehurutshe Liberation Heritage Museum, are all in rural areas. Broadly, the Department’s plan in destination development is to work in very broad tourism spatial plans, which is about tourism economic development regions, rather than just confined to small geographic areas.
Mr De Freitas asked about rail tourism, and what the Department is trying to achieve with the work in rail tourism. The Department is trying to link accessibility. The Department knows South Africa has a wide rail network which is able to access very many spectacular parts of the country. It is also well aware there are certain challenges within the space of rail in South Africa. What the Department is developing is a plan which looks at the work of Transnet, with its plan on the refurbishment of rail across the country. The Department is looking at how it can then plug in the rail tourism experience for various parts of the country. Some provinces are very well advanced in this area of rail tourism. It knows this from its survey. These provinces are defining plans for interprovincial rail travel. The Department is aligning its plans very closely with the actual work done in an infrastructure space for rail in South Africa. So the plan is something the Department is planning with resources from other spaces, to make it happen. It is a long-term project, since it will require South Africa’s rail infrastructure to be upgraded. Those upgrades happen across the country, so the Department will be able to plug in tourism. What the Department is pleased about is, once it completes the work on rail tourism, it will have a concrete plan for how tourism fits into the broader plans for rail infrastructure across the country.
Ms Mpushe asked the Department to fast-track its engagement with the DBSA, to ensure its work on infrastructure is met. The Department had excellent consultations and engagements with the DBSA, which is recently appointed. The Department will have very clear plans on the finalisation and delivery of a number of community-based projects across the country, which will be in the Department’s next Annual Performance Plan.
Ms Chettiar acknowledged the question asking for a list of the EPWP programmes which the Department is currently running. She asked for a list of the total number of people employed. The Department will provide the information.
Ms Setwaba replied to Mr Sithole regarding monitoring programmes. Most programmes were not monitored because of the delays which ensued with appointing service providers. The Department ensures site visits are done. This is its role in ensuring programme deliverables are met when it appoints a service provider. The role is also for the appointed service provider to give reports. This can only happen when implementation is on board.
The Department will recruit the relevant tourist guides. It calls for tourist guides to express interest to come on board regarding training. Then there is a process for recruitment and selection. The Department conducts interviews with the guides who applied to participate in the capacity-building programmes. When candidates are successful in meeting the criteria, candidates are placed in a training module.
On women, Ms Setwaba replied to Mr Moteka’s question on the Department’s programmes to accelerate transformation in the sector. The Department has three programmes targeting women’s participation. The first one is the Enterprise Development Programme, where it is targeting 25 women in each province. There were delays in identifying service providers. Initially, there were plans to get into a partnership, but the Department had to repurpose the vehicle for achieving this deliverable. It started with the procurement process. She alluded to the Department being in a position to appoint a provider for the business support package offered to women. This project is ongoing, and the Department is not abandoning it.
The second programme is the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) pilot project, for women in Limpopo. The Department achieved its deliverable, as the baseline and implementation plan was developed.
On the Executive Development Programme, which also targets women, there were disruptions in the academic year in 2020. However, the Department was able to enroll 40 women with an institution of higher learning. When the academic year starts, the women will be in the programme. Last year, the Department’s deliverable was enrollment, recruitment, selection. This was achieved. These programmes to accelerate the participation of women do not have an age barrier. The only programme where the Department is looking at women youth specifically, is its training related to EPWP. According to the policy of EPWP, it is mainly targeted to youth. Women are also part of its incubation programmes, where the Department is giving skills training, and assisting with women’s businesses being able to access funding. All measures are taken to ensure women have businesses, and can thrive within the sector.
Ms Malan replied to Mr Moteka on the memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with African countries. More than 50% of the MOUs South Africa has, some of which were in place for a number of years, are within the continent. The MOUs are for different purposes. Some were initiated by the countries itselves, and not by South Africa. Such countries approached South Africa for collaboration on specific items. With other MOUs, South Africa approached specific countries for a number of reasons. One is to contribute to South Africa’s foreign policies; to build a better Africa and a better world; to advance South Africa’s national priorities; and to form partnerships and collaborations. There are a number of strategic objectives South Africa has in MOUs it signs. In some instances, member countries choose, bilaterally, to first engage on a specific project before the two move into a formal MOU. With other countries, South Africa has a formal MOU, and all of the MOUs have implementations which follow signing the MOU to make sure implementation happens. This is why the Department also provides reports on implementation of MOUs. Countries in Africa the Department has signed MOUs with, include Angola, the DRC, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and a number of others. The Department is still advancing the signing of MOUs with other countries, and plans in the next financial year to conclude signing a number of MOUs.
Ms Gomba asked about the use of technology, and how the Department uses technology to ensure it does not fall behind, and is able to implement its plans. As far as possible, the Department used technology as an option to roll out its plans. The DG said a lot of the Department’s engagement is on an international, bilateral, and multilateral level; such as G20 meetings, and so forth. It happens virtually. The Department’s workshop it is hosting with African countries and around the world is usually in-person, but this year it is a virtual workshop. The Department tried to use technology as far as possible to make sure it achieves its targets.
Mr Manale said the only matter under Corporate Management underperforming, was the gender equality dialogue, which moved from the third quarter to the fourth quarter. It took place on 25 February 2021 with the support of the Commission on Gender Equality. The reason it was postponed was because the facilitator and the Commission were stretched, and could only avail its human resources in the fourth quarter and not in the third quarter.
Mr Ackermann replied to Mr Moteka and Ms Winkler’s questions on the Department’s spending. The Department spent 56% at the end of December. He mentioned the Department’s spending is currently standing at 91.3%, and it is targeting a 99% spend by the end of March.
Mr Tharage replied to a question on the Department’s approach to rural areas, and if it is something it will prioritise or not. If one looks at the work in some of the rural communities, it is related to issues around intervention of tour operators, and also the issues around tour guides. All of these are making a direct contribution to this. An example would be interventions which would also support persons who ply their particular trade in townships.
There was a question raised related to the risk of third party involvement in the implementation of projects. The question was noted, and this is an area which will be improved as the Department goes forward. Some of the things it is looking at is the possibility of a certain category of services. It could consider panels, and making sure, whilst it does this, it manages the risk of potentially excluding others who come at a later stage. Such people could find there is already a pool of people who are prepared to be able to provide services. It is something the Department will have to look into, and manage as it goes along. The one area where the Department finds itself very challenged, is when the process concludes, right at the end, negotiations on prices, and so on, collapse. It then has to go all the way back to the beginning. The second challenge is non-responsiveness. The Department believes setting up panels can assist with this. There was an instance where the Department had one response, and the response in itself was not necessarily adequate. Those are some of the challenges the Department is experiencing, but it is strengthening its own internal systems, controls, and capacity in this area. It is something it identified within its own risk assessment.
The Minister said women in the tourism portfolio are strongly supported. There are a number of programmes geared for empowering women. When the need to deal with the past is talked about, one of the points which comes up most often is the face of poverty in South Africa has been a black woman, and continues to be so. This is why it is important for the Department to consciously drive programmes which change this face, and South Africa does not have a face of poverty in the country. The Department will continue to do its best to drive programmes which empower women in its efforts to transform. Women can be owners of businesses, managers of businesses, be employed in the sector, and also be leaders in the sector.
On TERS she said the engagements are at National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) level to identify the Department is involved as Tourism, and is working with Minister Thulas Nxesi of the Department of Employment and Labour. As a co-chairperson of the cluster, the Minister sits in NEDLAC to look at some of the issues around economic recovery. The issue of TERS, around identifying the Sector as affected, is part of this discussion. The names of the sectors should be able to be released in a week or so. The Minister said she would check with Minister Nxesi. From the Department’s side as government, the work is done.
There is the issue around reconfiguring and repurposing state-owned enterprises (SOEs). It is work in progress in government, and the Council had its meeting with the President last month, but also from the Department’s side, it is expected to constantly provide reports. The Department did technical work to assess if there are duplications, to be able to check how to respond. Once the Department has been to Cabinet, it will be able to make an announcement to say where it found duplications and similarities, and make its proposals towards this. The Department has not been able to go to Cabinet. This is why it has not been able to say publicly what happened, because Cabinet has not yet given its views on the matter.
Mr Khalipha and Ms Makhubela-Mashele asked about the issue of domestic tourism. The Department will continue to do work, and in the coming week it would restart its work on domestic campaign activations. The Minister would be in the Northern Cape that week, as part of showcasing what the Northern Cape has to offer. The Department also works with the provinces, so as it goes to provinces, it interacts with the MECs office to make a request, so it has a joint programme. The MEC identifies the area which needs more attention, and needs more support. The Department does stakeholder engagement to see what the issues are, and then it goes and interacts. The Department has not been to the Free State. It is one of the provinces the Department went to last year, and it will go there this year, as it does its work in rebuilding the tourism sector, and gets everybody to support the tourism sector.
On e-visa piloting: The issue there is it was initially piloted in Kenya and India. Some of the lessons were the forms were taking long on the system. The forms took roughly 40 minutes, and others more. There was feedback on the length of the form, the saving mechanism, and the mechanism for the uploading of documents needed to be improved. This was feedback it received in the pilot phase. There was meant to be a pilot project in China, but at the time, China was experiencing lockdown. After the President announced the e-visa project, the Department reached out to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to have a conversation on how the DHA sees this plan. The departments will work together to identify countries. As part of the economic reconstruction and recovery plan, the Department notes both the President and the Minister of Finance would have alluded to Operation Vulindlela. One of the things Operation Vulindlela pays attention to is looking at blockages where there are issues around forms. The e-visa system is one of the reforms for tourism. It is e-visas together with the issues around critical skills. On the e-visa system specifically, Operation Vulindlela is working to assist the Department in solving blockages. It will get a report this month as part of the work it is doing with its recovery and reconstruction plan. The plan includes identifying challenges and how it should resolve it. The Department is hoping by the time the budget vote is done, the details on the e-visa system and the countries going to be rolled out, will hopefully be available to share. The Department was encouraged by the announcement by the President.
The Minister interacts with him regularly, so the two departments work together. The Department does note this as an enabler for tourism recovery. It is one of the enablers. There are quite a number of enablers. As the Department comes to Cabinet to present its tourism recovery strategy, the portfolio committee would note one of the things the Department identified as an enabler, was around the e-visa.
On the vaccine: With the vaccine rollout, Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, was public about the three phases of the programme. Phase One is frontline medical practitioners, it is frontline staff at health facilities, and others in the health sector. Phase Two is senior citizens, those above 60 years old, and those with co-morbidities. The economic cluster wants to see frontline staff in the economic cluster, get vaccinated. It is not just tourism. It is about the economic cluster, as part of it trying to ensure the sectors of the economy are coming back to life. The last phase will be ordinary people who do not have co-morbidities and are below 60. What is critical to note from a tourism point of view is, for example, how many doses are acquired and by when. There is an indication almost 20 million doses are expected by the end of March. Then it gives the Department the indication of being able to say it will be able to get a rollout plan in the provinces. MECs will communicate how it will roll out. Sites were identified for storage, distribution, and sites to vaccinate people. Something the Minister said when she met with tourism stakeholders is, the briefings by the health team led by Minister Mkhize are very critical. Those meetings inform all, including the Minister, of what is happening. The meetings were very transparent. The Government wanted to be transparent in who gets the vaccine when, in the phases of the rollout, and dates communicated. For example, last weekend, batches of Johnson & Johnson were received in the country. This is information Minister Mkhize provides regularly and publicly. Briefings are sometimes held on a Sunday, and include scientists. She encouraged all to follow this, because it is where information comes from. As the weeks come, and the information becomes more updated, Minister Mkhize will do those briefings, and this is where the Department will be able to get information. The vaccine rollout plans were very transparent, including how to deal with the issue of mutations. The Department of Health has been transparent, and spoke in public about the work it did. It helps the Department from a tourism point of view to say, this is the work it did as a country. The Minister would be in a webinar the following day as part of saying what the impact of the virus is, especially the mutation in relation to South Africa. She said good news was, a researcher from the University of Zululand explained how the University did more work on the mutation to see if the current vaccine was able to respond to the mutation. Many people tend to think it was only South Africa which had the challenge of ordering vaccines, and then changing its plans. If one looks globally, it was something which happens where a country orders vaccines, but has a mutation, and the mutation responds differently to the vaccine. It means it needs to get another vaccine. This is why South Africa has got in different types of vaccines; either it is Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, or Astra-Zeneca. This was the intention to say, should there be issues with one, at least there is a back-up, and the country is not suffering.
The Minister thought the work around the vaccine gives confidence. The fact South Africa was one of the first sub-Saharan countries to vaccinate gives confidence to international travelers. Closing the gap would be with the frontline staff, in relation to the economic cluster, where the Sector would vaccinate tourist guides, and frontline workers in services, such as hotel receptionists.
The Department notes the issues around mitigation, saying the Department will continue to pay attention to this. One of the incidents the DG referred to was when a person, after the process was completed, was found not to have declared, and therefore delays the work the Department needed to do. To counter this, the Department is putting systems in place, and engaging with its supply chain manager, together with the CFO, and the management team. The Department is especially looking at projects where procurement supports its targets, so the team can pay attention to this, and to ensure the Department can achieve what it wants to achieve. And more importantly, it will ensure the system and the processes are not compromised. Where the system is compromised, the DG would come to say what was compromised. The Department would then need to start the process it was alerted to, to ensure the Department has clean governance. The areas which need to be improved will have improved systems.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister and her team for the accountability. He also thanked the Members of the Portfolio Committee for the engagement with the Department. He said the Committee must join hands and make sure it continues to make tourism a viable sector contributing to the growth of the economy. It will be difficult going forward. One of the things which will have to be done jointly is to continue urging people to observe all of the necessary regulations, so South Africa does not go into a third wave. It will be important to say the Portfolio Committee agreed to go to Cape Town, to the V&A Waterfront. When the Portfolio Committee was in a discussion with the sector last week, one speaker presented the solution of quick testing of the virus. The Committee will be going there as part of oversight, so it can help communicate the message around the usefulness, effectiveness, and how it can be used to bring back certain events. The meeting discussed the need for South Africa to start having soccer matches, cricket matches, matches of all sporting codes, and bigger activities. It was also discussed how people, before going into an event, could be scanned quickly, so the tourism sector could return to the levels of the contribution it made to the economy. He said the Minister and her team handled the interactions maturely, and demonstrated the extent to which the Department as a collective is working together, and it is in control of the situation.
Consideration of Draft Minutes
Minutes of Tuesday, February 23, 2021
The minutes were adopted.
The Portfolio Committee would meet in Cape Town once a date was decided by the Committee, and the administration.
The meeting was adjourned.
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