The Portfolio Committee on Tourism received a briefing in a virtual meeting from South African Tourism (SAT) on its second and third quarter performance for the 2020/21 financial year.
SAT reported that it had achieved 16 of its 26 key performance indicators (KPIs) across five programmes, and that seven KPIs were not due for reporting. However, it had not achieved three KPIs. These had included not employing the requisite number of employees with disabilities; not completing the automation of identified business processes; and not activating partnerships in the spheres of travel, trade, arts and culture.
The Committee also heard that international tourist arrivals had declined by 70% in 2020 due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had resulted in widespread travel restrictions to South Africa, and almost no international tourists arriving in the country. Most experts in the industry did not foresee a return to pre-pandemic levels happening before 2023. The United Nations World Travel Organisation’s extended scenarios for 2021 to 2024 indicated that it could take between two and a half to four years for international tourism to return to 2019 levels.
The Minister of Tourism informed the Committee that the Department was busy setting up bilateral meetings with ambassadors of key countries which had flagged South Africa due to the new variant of the virus. Members were adamant that the Department should be making the international tourist market aware that it was not only in South Africa where there was a new variant, as there were new variants that were being found in other countries as well. This challenge therefore did not exist only in South Africa.
As there were signs of a recovery in tourism due to the lowering of the alert levels, the Committee advised SAT to develop a communications and marketing strategy to reinvigorate domestic tourism in villages, townships and small dorpies. Special tourist packages should be developed to inspire and motivate South Africans to travel within the country to keep the industry afloat.
The Department and SAT was advised that there should be ongoing engagements with international trade partners to reignite and rebrand South Africa as a tourism destination of choice. SAT informed the Committee that there had been some engagements with key markets to roll out e-visas, which it was currently working on.
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson welcomed the South African Tourism (SAT) delegation, the Department of Tourism (DT) delegation and the administrative staff from the Department and SAT. He also welcomed South Africans who were interested in the proceedings of the Committee.
In the meeting, the Portfolio Committee (PC) would get a briefing by SAT on its performance in quarter two and quarter three. The PC had already engaged the Department on the same matters last week, and today it would be completing the chapter. Nobody could have anticipated that South Africa would experience COVID-19. The environment in which programmes were being implemented had been affected by COVID-19, because what was of primary importance among all was the need to save lives. Everything had had to be re-arranged as a result.
The report the PC got from the Department last week said that everything possible was done to ensure that in the administration of the Department, nobody was affected negatively by COVID-19, so the PC wanted to applaud the Department for making sure that the necessary environmental support was provided to the staff. SAT had been the same -- the PC had seen the Minister going around to reactivate tourism, accompanied by SAT, in the Northern Cape, so that a positive message could begin. This could ensure that South Africa could use the fact that it was in lockdown level one to begin to gradually work on the necessary resuscitation of tourism, so that tourism could gradually contribute towards resuscitating entrepreneurship, creating new jobs, sustaining existing jobs, the expansion of existing enterprises, etc. He hoped that the situation would improve going forward.
In listing the agenda items, the Chairperson noted that the PC would deal with Committee decisions made in the past. Specifically, it would be dealing with the agreement it took to do an oversight visit in Limpopo and Cape Town.
Minister’s opening remarks
Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Minister of Tourism, apologised for her needing to depart early, as she would be joining a National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) meeting.
She wanted to flag that one year ago, this was the day where stakeholders had been called, and the Department had looked at the potential impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector. At the time, some people had said the Department was overreacting when it said that it needed to start looking at the impact through three different scenarios. It was now looking at how it was actually faced with scenario three. Tourism was learning to live with the virus. It was making sure that it was sustaining itself, and it was finding ways to ensure that the sector could survive, and could ensure that it puts in place protocols that would assist in its not becoming a centre of the spread of the virus, and instead manage the pandemic.
The Department had adopted a risk-adjusted strategy. Something which was not reflected in quarter two and quarter three, but as an Executive oversight authority and as a representative of the shareholders in SAT responsible for oversight, she needed to indicate that there were three important processes that SAT was embarking on.
The first was the work done by the government on the repurposing and repositioning of state-owned entities (SOEs). SAT had been identified as one of the entities that had to be looked at, specifically when it came to marketing and brand issues, where there were duplicates, where there were overlaps, and how to deal with that. That work was still in progress. Once the Department had been to Cabinet, it would inform the PC on that work.
The second process was that the Department had issued an advertisement for Board recruitment, as the Board’s term was coming to an end. While the Department was noting that there were repurposing and repositioning of entities, it did not want to have a vacuum of leadership. Should that happen, there would be a collapse of systems and governance. It would want to continue to ensure that it was on the right path of governance, and make sure that it continued to be an accounting authority in terms of SAT. The process of recruitment would close this week on 15 March, and the Department would be able to consult Cabinet, and receive Cabinet’s concurrence in that regard. An advert had gone out to recruit a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SAT. That process had started, and it had made calls to those who were interested in applying for the CEO position. Similarly, taking cognisance that the Department was in the process, it did not want to have a vacuum of leadership, so the Board would support the process to ensure that SAT was ready to ensure continuous leadership in SAT.
She had requested that continuous work be done in the domestic market, i.e. marketing and promoting South Africa. There were a lot of issues with the international market, and there were conversations that needed to be had to explain how South Africa was managing the pandemic, and how it was dealing with the variant. The Department had picked up that there was quite a lot of misunderstanding about what was happening regarding where South Africa was as a country. One found that some countries were starting to isolate South Africa. The Department would be embarking on robust engagements with various countries – for example, with ambassadors, with ministers of tourism in those countries, and also with stakeholders -- so that South Africa started resuscitating and rebuilding confidence in terms of South Africa’s international markets. That would start this week with the Department’s participation in the Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB) online, and from there, it would continue with the work of engaging various platforms, media, and critical stakeholders as part of the process. She apologised again for leaving early.
The Chairperson said that the Minister had been consistent in attending to accountability to the PC. The PC must continue to applaud the Minister for that; it was a constitutional obligation. The Minister had always indicated to the PC when she needed to be released -- she did not “just vanish.”
SAT Performance Report: Quarters 2 & 3
Mr Amos Fish Mahlalela, Deputy Minister of Tourism, said that the SAT Board would take the Committee through the presentation.
Mr Siyabonga Dube, Chairperson of the Board: South African Tourism (SAT), commented on what had happened while the SAT was in the midst of the current financial year, with the closing of South African borders when “case zero” was reported in South Africa around 27 March. Subsequent to that, there was a process to revisit SAT’s plans, which were finalised around June. SAT then presented those plans to the PC as a revised annual performance plan (APP). There had been a need to reprioritise SAT’s budget, where about 66% of the budget that was allocated at the beginning of the year had to be submitted to the Treasury to assist in the areas of personal protective equipment (PPE), which would help frontline workers in the fight against the pandemic.
As SAT was revising its plans, the focus was on domestic tourism, rather than planning for the outward-facing market activities. It was clear that this would be using resources in vain, because SAT could not market as aggressively as it used to, knowing that no-one would be able to travel to the country. That had presented challenges, as one did not know how long the impact of the pandemic would last. The revised plans focused mainly on how best to prepare SAT in the process of looking at its information technology (IT) systems, etc., so that when the sector opened again -- SAT anticipated this would be towards the third and fourth quarter -- it would have had a better handle on the impact of the pandemic. Therefore, it should have been able to place the entity in a position where it could respond actively and seamlessly when the situation turned around.
However, during the period of quarter three, there was also another lockdown around December, which had just been reopened. The objective was to highlight the environment in which with the best of plans, and with the best of scenario planning, things changed unexpectedly under the current circumstances. There was a challenge regarding being able to plan accurately in such an environment. There were instances where SAT did not meet its targets. There were three targets which were not met in both quarters, and there were reasons for that, so turnaround plans were instituted so that by the year-end, those targets would be reached.
Mr Sisa Ntshona, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): SAT, presented, and said he would touch on the exceptional items which he wanted to bring to Members’ attention.
South Africa went into lockdown on 26 March 2020, so all tourism activities ceased operation. COVID-19 hit the tourism sector particularly hard, with almost no international tourists arriving on our shores, and restricted internal movement for several months.
As a country, South Africa had implemented a risk-adjusted strategy. Globally, individual countries were implementing their own response regimes, which added to the complexity of international travel, given different rules for different countries. Whilst SA’s borders were open to accept visitors, international travel had been throttled by border closures in many of its main international source markets. The world of travel was exceptionally fluid as a result of the COVID-19 environment. The needs and wants of travellers were also constantly evolving as they obtained new information, thus keeping up with consumer behaviour was paramount.
Despite the many challenges, the impact of the second wave, and threats of a third wave, SAT was seeing signs of recovery in the sector. As restrictions had eased and consumers had displayed higher economic confidence, tourism was on the up, with a large majority of travel being attributed to domestic travel and spending.
Since the lockdown on 26 March last year, international arrivals had been reduced to minimal levels. Since moving from level 5 to level 1, there had been a slow recovery in passenger arrivals. The percentage change in international arrivals by region in 2020 compared to the same month in 2019 showed a noticeable uptick in October 2020 for arrivals from African countries other than the Southern African Development Community (SADC), with very slow recovery in passenger arrivals up to September 2020. (See page five of presentation document.)
Despite the many challenges and the impact of the second wave across the globe, SAT was seeing signs of recovery in domestic tourism. The percentage change in arrivals and departures through OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airport in 2020 compared to the same months in 2019 demonstrated a recovery in domestic travel. Domestic air passenger movement was only 55%-65% lower than in November 2019. (See page six of presentation document.)
The road to recovery -- market investment framework
Considering that tourism was a number one service export and meaningfully contributed to South Africa’s balance of payments, it was a major anchor for its recovery. Thus, one of the key selection criteria for international markets was identifying economies that were stronger than SA’s which could contribute to its growth.
In mid-2020, an in-depth analysis was undertaken to determine priorities for marketing investment in the next three to five years. This prioritisation used 33 variables related to performance and outlook, South Africa’s ability to win in the market and return on past investments, amongst other criteria. In total, 24 markets/ countries identified and segmented into 16 growth markets and eight defend markets.
Priority source markets were identified to grow tourism into South Africa over the next five years. However, the onset of the pandemic decimated the ability of many of these source markets to travel to South Africa. SAT now had to react, refocus and rebuild to dynamically target regions that would boost the country’s tourism sector in the immediate term.
Mr Ntshona added that it also helped to align with other departments supporting tourism, such as visas. SAT would like such departments to prioritise visa waivers or electronic visas (e-visas) in the countries that South Africa was investing in. At times, SAT had seen a misalignment, where a country gets selected for a visa waiver, but was not within South Africa’s space of investments, and that gives a sense of the misalignment there.
Regarding the outlook for 2021, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO’s) panel of experts predict global recovery would begin towards the third quarter of the year, while 20% of the experts expect recovery to pick up in only 2022. This would require a refocus on regional and domestic markets.
Mr Ntshona added that a lot was unknown. This year (2021) was being talked about as the “year of the vaccine,” and the ones that rolled out the vaccine the quickest would get a competitive advantage in being an attractive destination. He also added that there were 19 countries that had banned travel to and from South Africa, so SAT needed to overlay that in its 24 markets and make sure that it allocates its capital investments appropriately.
Second quarter performance against key performance indicators (KPIs)
SAT had a total of 26 key performance indicators (KPIs) across five programmes. Seven were annual indicators not due for reporting, 16 were achieved, and there had been significant progress with one of them. Three KPIs were not achieved.
Programme 1: Corporate Support
A KPI not achieved was meeting the employment target for the percentage of people with disabilities. Mr Ntshona said SAT was affected by the repositioning of state-owned entities (SOEs), and thus it had taken a decision via the Board to put in a staff moratorium. That meant not hiring any new staff in the organisation until SAT got a sense of what the new repurposing would look like. That gave it little room to specifically target and bring on board people with disabilities. Disability was voluntary disclosure. SAT could not force employees who were visibly or invisibly disabled to disclose -- the onus was on employees to disclose. SAT had done work in this area in informing and educating, and making sure that it had the right climate for people to declare themselves (confidentially) to the organisation. SAT had specifically identified recruitment agencies that specialise in recruiting people with disabilities. Linked to that, it had also entered into memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with a few organisations that represented people with disabilities. That gave SAT the impetus to resolve that particular KPI.
Programme 2: Business Enablement
Delivery of the business-to-business (B2B) base portal was not achieved, but significant work was done on this KPI. This was a digital platform, and part of a concept that SAT called “the tech hub.” This was where a lot of SAT’s technology innovation really came into play. This was identifying the market failure of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that found themselves not connected to the industry. Those SMEs that were offline could be brought online via the B2B base portal. SAT would then bring a lot of attention to such businesses, but someone who was sitting in another space would not be able to contact them digitally and make a booking, etc. This was therefore part of the work that SAT was doing, making sure that it loaded all of these SME businesses that speak to a lot of the elements around villages, townships and small dorpies (VTSDs). This was a focus of SAT, to make sure that such businesses were part of the tourism ecosystem.
Programme 3: Leisure Tourism Marketing
SAT had not achieved the development of brand repositioning documents, and the redesigning of global and country websites had not been completed.
Mr Ntshona added that a lot was unknown, and had started to shape itself over time. Two conference events were cancelled because of the pandemic, and at the time, SAT thought that it would be able to come back in 2021 online with those events. He had mentioned digitalisation as an element driving a lot of SAT’s technology. Country websites were important to make sure that in all the countries that SAT had identified, it was able to serve and give the necessary focus, so that people in those countries were able to find things. He was speaking of things such as virtual tours -- while people could not tour the country, they could do a virtual tour of the Kruger National Park, of Cape Town, of villages, etc.
Third quarter performance against key performance indicators (KPIs)
Of the 26 KPIs across five programmes, seven were annual indicators not due for reporting, 13 had been achieved, there was significant progress in three of them, and three were not achieved. Some of the KPIs would be delivered at the end of the only calendar year.
Programme 1: Corporate Support
SAT had only partially achieved its targeted implementation of valid internal and external audit recommendations. It had not achieved the KPIs for the implementation of an employment equity plan involving the percentage of people with disabilities, but this had changed in the fourth quarter.
While there was a hiring a moratorium, some employees had declared their disability voluntarily, and while it did not hire external people, it was allowed to hire interns and had made a deliberate effort to hire some interns with disabilities.
Business process automation was a new KPI, and was something that SAT had been focusing on. It ran an organisation in 12 different countries, in 12 different jurisdictions, and sometimes in 12 different time zones. The complexity of being able to pull everything together seamlessly online had become important. It had found itself, even with audit findings, missing a beat here and there. It was not able to have a clear line to all of its country offices, who may not understand the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) as intimately as SAT did. A point of focus and contention was contract management. All of this “business process automation” was helping SAT to run a seamless organisation. It would help it in its efficiency, because there would be less manual intervention. One should look at in the same way as asking the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to move from manual visas to e-visas. This was the same. SAT took a lot of its manual interactions and made those “e-enabled” so that it could alleviate some more resources in the organisation, where turnaround, speed and accuracy become important as well. The area that SAT was focusing on was the supply chain management (SCM) side, and getting things right in that area. It took SAT some time to appoint a service provider, but also to agree on the contracting and some of the elements that needed to be covered, so this KPI had not yet been achieved.
Programme 3: Leisure Tourism Marketing
The KPI, “Brand repositioning documents developed,” was not achieved, but significant work was done, which signified the level of engagement and updates that SAT had done in order to get it to that stage. Mr Ntshona was confident that SAT would finish the year with that KPI being achieved.
The KPI, “Traveller, trade, arts & culture partnerships activated,” was also not achieved. There was a timing issue -- it was actually launched in quarter four in February this year, and was a partnership with Google, the world’s largest search engine. One could think about the impact that that would have in making sure that SAT could take South Africa to the world, and also start to counter some of the negative issues that were being put out about South Africa to the world.
Programme 4: Business Events
Although the KPI, “Number of bids supported,” had the status of not being achieved, significant work had been done. At the time when SAT drew up its APP, it was of the view that the world would recover moderately when it came to the pandemic itself. However, what had been seen was that the second and third waves, which were not originally factored in, had come into play. SAT’s ability to aggressively target conferences was significantly minimised. There were fewer conferences, because people were not comfortable to travel to other parts of the world and spend four to five days with some 4 000 to 5 000 delegates. It was something that SAT had not foreseen. It was also something it was monitoring quite closely to make sure that it could address it, while understanding that the pool of conferences globally had shrunk. Hybrid was “the flavour of the day,” but SAT had yet to see what this meant when a good number of people globally had been vaccinated, or whether conferencing would bounce back significantly.
(For details of the organisational performance by programme, see the presentation document)
Ms Nombulelo Guliwe, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): SAT, presented the revenue review for the third quarter ending on 31 December 2020. (Details on p38 of SAT documents).
She said that when the annual performance plan (APP) was revised, SAT’s main source of income was the transfer from the Department. As at 31 December, it had received 78% of its annual allocation from the Department. Since she had a sense of what was going on in quarter four, she could confirm that the full amount had now been realised.
In the APP, when SAT did its revenue projections, it did not expect any income from the other income streams, but on the grading revenue side and sundry revenue, it had realised R12 million from the grading fees. Sundry revenue was made up mostly of any surplus funds that SAT would put into call accounts so as to realise investment income. The revenue from grading fees was mostly from establishments that chose to stay in the system, regardless of going through the pandemic. The other reason for the R12 million in revenue was the realisation of the Tourism Incentive Programme (TIP). With those establishments that qualified for TIP funding, SAT also got to realise R12 million in the revenue line stream for grading fees. Sundry income was purely investment income, so if SAT got its allocation, any funds that were not committed immediately in a three-month period were banked in a call account so that it could build on that capital amount.
The annual budget was subsequently flexed to take into account the impact of grading revenue, and the retention of commitments as approved by National Treasury, which impacted on retained earnings.
Budget and expenditure review
The key to how SAT allocated its financial resources for the period under review was the reconciliation back to the APP, and the accumulated surplus funds. In December, SAT went through a process with National Treasury where it had to declare any surplus or deficit. Part of that process was motivating for any commitments. When SAT presented its annual report, which included its financial statement, there were commitments that SAT disclosed in the financial statements, and they were mostly on the brand and marketing side. In quarter three, SAT had received the approval from Treasury to roll over or retain funds that were related to those commitments. This had resulted in an increase in the budget from R400-odd million to R519 million -- it was because the other funds that were being spent were sitting in the accumulated surplus, and were there as a result of that approval from National Treasury.
Another key component, since it affected most of SAT’s programmes, was the impact of prepayments. Certain services that SAT required, such as IT support services, required it to make prepayments. It was usually a contractual condition. Treasury did allow that where one had a contractual condition in an agreement that said that one would prepay, one was allowed to prepay. What was key for SAT was that it amortised that amount over the financial year, so that it did not sit with an overspending when it came to the end of the financial year. The control for SAT was the percentage of expenditure against the total annual budgeted amount.
Under Programme 2 (Business Enablement), it showed a R33 million expenditure. The bulk of the work that was done in quarter three was around the marketing investment framework (MIF) revision. The reason for that was that SAT was going into a planning period, so it was important for it to do that research and get those insights in order to inform its APP for the next financial year. In that programme, 82% of the annual budget had been spent.
SAT’s core business, which was the creation of demand in leisure tourism marketing, was under Programme 3 (Leisure Tourism Marketing), where it had spent R305 million. This was where one could see the impact of the rollover from commitments. If one looked at the annual expenditure, one was sitting with R283 million, and that was in the income statement. There were commitments in the annual financial statements that related to brand and marketing. That balance would increase the actual expenditure, and the other part would be in the accumulated surplus. The R305 million included cash and non-cash items.
The one balance that always affected SAT -- and it was because of the accounting and generally recognised accounting practice (GRAP) standards it uses -- was the non-cash balance related to unrealised foreign gains and losses, and hence the higher expenditure than the budget. That was because of the translation of foreign denominated financial results into South African Rands (ZAR), so that SAT could report. As one translated foreign results, that movement would give one either a forex loss or forex gain. SAT had a forex loss, but it was unrealised because it was not cash, but it was included in the amount of R305 million, because SAT was showing actual expenditure in terms of GRAP.
Under Programme 4 (Business Events), expenditure was R24.8 million, which had been committed in that line item. What was key was the bulk of that amount was commitments in terms of MOUs, which would be realised only if those events took place. For planning purposes, SAT needed to keep track of all the items to which it had committed. To date, it had committed to R24.8 million.
Under Programme 5 (Grading and Visitor Experience), SAT had spent R23 million, which represented 74% of its annual budget.
Analysis of expenditure
Ms Guliwe said what was key for SAT during this period was to keep the brand alive, so there was a lot of money put into media investment, production and activations. In the overseas countries there was minimal investment in media, and SAT went the social media route, to keep the brand alive while investing a non-significant amount. In quarter three, it had started focusing a lot on domestic tourism and marketing. With a significant amount of its budget, it started channeling production and activation into domestic tourism marketing. The other line item where SAT spent the bulk of its financial resources were capabilities, and capabilities was the money that SAT spent with marketing agencies.
Governance & Compliance
Mr Ntshona said that SAT had had a large number of Board meetings. In quarter two alone, there were six Board meetings. Typically, six Board meetings happened over the entire year. This was the commitment shown by both the Board and the executives to make sure that they met as often as possible, so that the necessary decisions could be made, as the environment was fluid and changing constantly. SAT made sure that it was appropriately responsive to some of the changes and some of the risks that were present at the time.
SAT strived to comply with laws and regulations to ensure that operational, financial efficiency and objectivity were at reasonable and acceptable levels. Assurance on compliance with systems of internal control and their effectiveness was obtained through regular management reviews, self-control assessment, internal audit reviews, compliance risk management and testing of certain aspects of the internal financial controls by external auditors during the course of their statutory examinations. A policy universe was maintained, and compliance therewith was monitored on an ongoing basis. A policy review project was under way to ensure that all policies were relevant and in harmony with the legislative and regulatory prescripts.
SA Tourism was compliant in all matters relating to the PFMA for the quarter ending 31 December. During Quarter 2, six Board meetings were held as planned, with four meetings held during Quarter 3.
Mr H Gumbi (DA) said that SAT mentioned that its strategy was to look at local markets, and then go outwards. He agreed that it was the right strategy in this context. He asked how well SAT maintained certain data. For example, game reserves were an important tourism attribute locally, as much as they were an important tourism attribute globally. As local tourism was picking up, how were game reserves doing in the current environment? He assumed that SAT had the ability to make sure that these companies stayed relevant, to continue to thrive to some degree, and it would want these companies to pick up as more money was being spent on marketing, etc. How were the game reserves in South Africa doing? Had these picked up in their numbers of visitors? He considered these places as anchor assets in tourism.
He asked about grading, and how SAT was able to get about R12 million in grading fees, even though many companies were battling to make money, and some had opted out of the system, whether temporarily or more permanently. He wanted to know the number of establishments which were being graded, and the number of establishments which had dropped out of grading because of the current environment.
Mr P Moteka (EFF) asked what process the Minister would apply to appointing the incoming Board members while the current Board was nearing the end of its term.
There was negative perception globally about the discovery of the new COVID variant. It was damaging the image of South Africa, as it was now called “the South African variant.” What was SAT doing to diffuse that negativity? From a marketing perspective, what was it doing to communicate a positive message to the world? He thought that COVID-19 had taught one that international tourism alone was not reliable. It was the same as relying on a foreign investor alone. COVID-19 had shown that if South Africa relied on international tourism alone, one day the whole tourism industry “will be dead.” His suggestion was that the Department of Tourism and SAT must be biased when committing investment – there must be more money spent on the development of local tourism than international. The DT and SAT must sustain the international tourism, but at the same time focus more on local so that South Africa did not rely on the outside world alone. What programmes was SAT embarking on to promote and develop local tourism, and how much did it spend on them?
Mr K Sithole (IFP) thanked SAT for giving detailed information about what its plans were, and what its projections were on the issue of other countries coming to South Africa. Its report stated that there was no travel to Australia, Europe and the Americas, and recovery would depend on pandemic trajectories, travel restrictions and vaccine development. This spoke volumes.
What system did the DT and SAT have to strongly market South Africa to those countries that did not want to travel because of COVID-19? COVID-19 did not start in South Africa -- “it started in China, Spain and other countries.” What travel system did SAT have now to market South Africa? On business events, how many bids were supported by SAT? Could it give the number of qualified leads generated?
Regarding its budget and expenditure, SAT had said that the nature of its service and legal agreements were such that upfront payment was required for some goods and services. This statement showed that SAT was making an advance payment for goods and services – why did it make such an agreement? In Programme 1, it had said that there was a delay in contracting with the service provider, who had raised dissatisfaction with specific clauses in the contract. SAT had finalised the agreement. These minor things were causing a lot of delays, especially with service delivery.
Ms P Mpushe (ANC) commended SAT on being able to mitigate the challenges that it was confronted with relating to COVID-19. She welcomed the fact that in its plans, it was committing to ensuring that by the end of quarter four, it would have 100% expenditure, and it would improve on the programme performances. Hopefully, SAT had learned lessons regarding the pandemic, particularly with understanding that it had devastating consequences on its work. South Africa was now on alert level one, and restrictions had been relaxed, so what plans did SAT have to activate domestic tourism? Did it have measures in place to mitigate against the negative perception created by the global messaging around the COVID-19 variant? Hopefully, with the recovery plan, SAT would not have any hindrances on its work if South Africa was hit by a third wave of COVID-19.
Ms H Winkler (DA) asked if SAT was it doing adequate marketing in the four countries where South Africa was rolling out the e-visas, so that those countries were aware of e-visas? How would South spread out the tourism offerings that it had, not only to the metros, but also to the VTSDs? How would tourism offerings be extended to rural areas?
Ms M Gomba (ANC) asked about the remaining R16 million which had been underspent on the marketing, as well as the R22 million under production. She asked whether that money was going to be spent 100% by the end of the financial year. If it was going to be spent by then, would SAT consider marketing the VTSDs, as they had to benefit from the remaining days of the financial year? If SAT was not going to spend that money, would it be rolled over by Treasury, or would it be forfeited?
She was concerned about the audit outcomes where money was not used, but was requested to be allocated. It was clear that that money had been allocated in previous financial year, but was never spent. Perhaps the audit outcome meant that SAT had requested money that it knew it would not spend. She was worried about the audit outcome and the auditor’s comment.
She also wanted to commend the good work done by the Department and SAT. Even if it was during difficult times, both had managed to do some of the things they wanted to do. However, money had still been returned, and it was uncertain whether the VTSDs were part of the market and would still be marketed, when money was going back to Treasury or was being forfeited.
Ms L Makhubela-Mashele (ANC) appreciated that SAT, as an entity tasked with the responsibility of marketing South Africa as a destination of choice, be it domestic or international tourism, had been able to steer the ship, even though “we were traversing in unknown waters.” South Africa was travelling through the pandemic, not knowing what was going to happen. Because the country had now “travelled” for over a year, it was now living with COVID-19. She requested that SAT package and put together a communication strategy that marketed destinations around the country, and put its energy into marketing domestic tourism. She foresaw South Africa as a country that would be battling with COVID-19 for a very long time. The world was still battling with COVID-19. It would be helpful if the PC could understand and be able to know the re-packaging and repositioning of the marketing strategies to concentrate on domestic tourism.
She welcomed the efforts described by the Minister in her opening remarks. She had mentioned that the Department was going to be meeting with ambassadors and ministers of other countries which had red-flagged South Africa as a destination not to be visited, and had disallowed South Africans from their destinations because of the new variant. From SAT’s point of view of working with other departments, especially the DHA and the Department of Health, what were the collaborations that it was working on in rebranding South Africa? The PC had been constantly saying that a message needed to be put across to say that the variant was not only discovered in South Africa, and that there were many variants across the world. For example, Britain and Brazil had their own variants. What scientists were saying was that for a very long time, COVID-19 would have many variants. To say that the variant existed only in South Africa was putting it on the back foot. South Africa needed to occupy media spaces to put a message across to state that the variant was also in other countries. COVID-19 was still going to multiply and come in many variants before one would be able to contain this virus. She had not got the impression that such a message was being put out, as she was on various social media platforms.
She did not see positive messaging from SAT, whose responsibility was to brand, reposition and market South Africa as destination of choice. When it came to COVID-19, there needed to be a message that linked up to position South Africa as a destination, but also told the world and South African citizens that this variant was not a South African variant. She wanted to see more rebranding of South Africa, and a “swelling” of all platforms to put a message across to say that the variant was not a South African variant.
The Chairperson said that all of the Members understood the conditions that could not have been predicted, under which SAT still had to implement its programmes relating to quarters two and three. Because Members could not predict the future, they could not blame SAT for not being able to predict the future. The PC appreciated that SAT and the Department had adjusted to the new prevailing circumstances brought about by COVID-19. In the final analysis, he agreed with what Members had said, particularly Ms Makhubela-Mashele, where she said that SAT needed to ensure that its focus was on rebranding and repositioning, and also making sure that whatever money it had would strengthen the capacity of local and domestic tourism. Local and domestic tourism would be “the pillar of success” in ensuring that South Africa built a vibrant tourism industry that could contribute to job creation.
Deputy Minister Mahlalela requested that the CEO and the team respond to questions, as well as the Chairperson of the Board and other Board members.
Mr Ntshona said that the SAT team would go through the questions and answer them.
Mr Themba Khumalo, Chief Marketing Officer: SAT responded to questions around domestic tourism that concerned data collection and what was happening in the domestic market. The way that SAT tracked the domestic market was that it ran a survey every month, and it looked at what had been happening with travel, the types of travel, the destinations people had been travelling to, and at the shape of travel across the month, and across different experience types. What SAT had found was that at the end of January 2021, domestic travel was 35.8% down versus the prior year. The reasons were obvious -- South Africa had been on lockdown, and for the majority of the year there had been no travel, even in the months where the country had gone down to alert levels where travel had been permitted.
One thing that SAT knew from its previous years was that a big part of domestic travel was event-based. It was on occasions where there was a big event in one part of the country that people travelled, whether it was for sport, entertainment, business events, etc. That layer of travel had still been in the restricted area. For that reason, SAT was still seeing that classical leisure travel was still occurring, but what was not occurring was bulk travel, which was related to various events. That was what accounted for the big discrepancy in the numbers.
One of the things that SAT had been debating was that people were allowed to go to shopping malls, where there was no trace and track. People roamed around, touched products, and put them back on the shelves. There were multiple opportunities for a transfer of the virus in the retail environment. If one looked at a business event environment, one could apply the protocols effectively -- there was trace and track, and there was a tally of the people who were there, including the speakers. One of the things that needed to happen was for SAT to begin to lobby for the reopening of the business events sector. For example, these meetings used to happen in person, and unless the tourism industry began to lead in getting those meetings to happen in person, there was no reason why the rest of the sector should follow suit, or why the international community should believe that South African tourism was recovering as a sector. “Part of our own behaviour needs to begin to reflect confidence in the destination, because we cannot talk ourselves out of something that we have behaved ourselves into.” There was a discussion about action-oriented recovery. The sector needed to action certain things in order to put evidence to the words that it was putting forth.
He also responded to a question around international public relations (PR) campaigns on messaging to do with the COVID-19 variant, and stating that South Africa was a safe destination to travel to. SAT did have a global advocacy campaign where it would be working together with its international affairs colleagues in order to be able to drive this message. It was dealing directly with the international trade, and also had global media relationships that it was leveraging to be able to put forth that messaging. “Part of what you do not do when you are in a crisis like this is to appear to be defensive. Rather than going on a blank publicity approach, we have taken the advocacy approach, where you do more lobbying and direct communication with those that can effect change to the policy, rather than keeping it in the public domain, where some of the communication may be construed as being defensive and not being open.”
Ms Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, Chief Convention Bureau Officer: SAT, responded to a question on business events, regarding the number of bids SAT had supported. To date, it had supported 37 bids; its target was 48. These bids were for 2023, 2024 and 2025. They were in the pipeline, and SAT believed that by the time that those bids could be realised, South Africa would be able to host them. SAT continued to look into the future, to make sure that there were people to come to South Africa when it was ready. There were uncertainties with some of the bids, where the events did not have their 2020 edition, or even their 2021 edition. It was very difficult for event hosts to look at a two-year, three-year, or four-year cycle. SAT continued to be in their space, and meets with its clients.
On VTSDs, SAT was rolling out the National Association plan, where it had identified 27 towns that it wanted to look at to build capacity to host the smaller national meetings. The most important thing was that there was a need for SAT itself to meet, whether it was a hybrid meeting – there could now be 100 people – or if it was physical. What was important was that SAT was supporting National Association meetings, or national conferences, so that these events could to go to more remote places. That was something that would be a big focus for SAT in the next financial year.
Ms Sthembiso Dlamini, Chief Operations Officer (COO): SAT, responded to the question about what SAT had done to use its international offices to communicate positive messaging around South Africa as a destination. Within SAT’s international offices, when the CEO was giving a presentation, he had stated that 2020 was a year where SAT did not go out in full force to communicate with the media, but ensured that it was on top of its game regarding communication and marketing the destination, given the impact of COVID-19. SAT had maintained consumer communication through its own platforms that it had created, meaning its website and social media, but most importantly, it had continued to communicate with its trade partners. SAT knew that trade partners played an important role in partnering with SAT in selling the destination. SAT could create that demand, but it needed that trade partner to ensure that that booking, or that conversion, happened. SAT ensured that trade engagement continued, and particularly because the partners it chooses in the market had got direct communication with consumers, the partners had databases that it needed, and that database’s focus was targeted communication.
Part of SAT’s communication was how it ensured that its messaging was aligned with what was being communicated around how South Africa was dealing with COVID-19, and most importantly, how it dealt with responding to the variant. Tonality was very important when it came to pushing back on the issue of the South African variant. SAT was aligned to what the Government Communication Information System (GCIS) told it. On a daily basis, SAT’s communication team received notes that come from the GCIS. In turn, SAT took them and prepared the notes, and disseminated them across the board on various channels, and through various stakeholders in the market.
Another thing that was very important was the continuous relationship that SAT had fostered with the media and the travel media in particular. SAT made sure that it leveraged off these existing partnerships to educate people about what South Africa was doing to prepare itself to receive visitors when everything was under control. She thought that the interest was around how South Africa was rolling out the vaccine.
Whilst SAT was leveraging media partnerships in 2020, countries which were sitting in South Africa’s competitor set were also doing the same thing. Such countries were also investing in staying top of mind in these markets. What would be critical going forward, as SAT prepared its plans for the next fiscal year, was how to increase communication and the advocacy work. It would also be important to start re-investing in communication and marketing the destination. Those factors would be important in preparing South Africa’s tourism sector for recovery. Destination promotion was important in recovery. South Africa could talk about the COVID-19 variant and how it was preparing itself, but on the other hand, there was greater work that needed to be done around promotion. By that, she meant things such as “What does South Africa have to offer?” It also involved issues that were related to consumer interests, because at the centre of it all, SAT needed to understand where the consumer was, and what the shifts in consumer behaviour were, so that everything that SAT sold was what the consumer was looking for.
Ms Dlamini said there had been some questions on what SAT was doing to ensure that it could promote domestic tourism locally. Towards the end of 2020, there had been a summer campaign to ensure that SAT started reigniting demand when it came to domestic tourism. This summer campaign started in November, and had ended from a media and promotion point of view in January. From there, it was very important that SAT come up with technical consumer campaigns that would ensure that local people “actually moved”, and that they booked travel. SAT was in the business of getting people to book travel, because that was what would ensure that the sector recovered.
In February, against the backdrop of the summer campaign, SAT had launched its “Month of Love” campaign, which did extremely well. SAT was consolidating the results. In the next meeting, it would be able to share with the PC the results of that campaign. It had now launched the Easter campaign, where it was marketing and promoting deals on its “Sho’t Left” website and with other partners that it had, to ensure that the Easter campaign got out there and reached the relevant target audience. With the Easter campaign, SAT knew that visiting friends and relatives was a key focus for the Easter season, but what it was trying to do was to promote day visits to South Africa’s attractions and experiences, because that was what was going to sustain these small businesses. What was also critical was SAT’s partnership with trade partners, because SAT could do campaigns, but if it did not have fulfillment partners who were willing to come in with price points, specials and promotions to back up the campaign, then “it was pointless.” One of the things that SAT would do when it reported next was to give Members a sense of the performance around the campaigns that SAT had now launched to promote domestic tourism.
On the countries where it was announced that there would be e-visas, the Minister had mentioned in her opening remarks that SAT had prepared engagement platforms with its critical stakeholders in key source markets. The session was being planned with key stakeholders -- media partners, trade partners, and distribution channels. These were the people that helped SAT to sell South Africa as a destination, but mostly importantly, businesses and corporates played an important role. SAT had consolidated all of these stakeholders for SAT to begin the work in March in preparation for the next fiscal year. The objective of these stakeholder engagements was to afford SAT the opportunity to promote South Africa and to position it for the next booking period, particularly in key markets. Additionally, it provided the Minister with a stage where she could start communicating how South Africa was managing the pandemic, and issues around the vaccine rollout, which was going to be critical in the recovery of the sector. SAT wanted to address the key issues that the distribution channels had in terms of advising them on how to sell South Africa. It wanted to listen to such channels, and ask how SAT could make it easy for them to assist SAT in selling South Africa, because the tourism sector had great impact on the economy and job creation in the country.
On marketing plans that SAT had put in place, and technical strategies that it had put in place, she said SAT had to expand the channel -- that was one thing that was non-negotiable. SAT could no longer rely on just a handful of partners to sell South Africa. It was studying the environment and saying, “Who else is selling South Africa, but is selling a competitor destination?” SAT wanted to start recruiting, and bringing such entities into its books, so that it sells “destination South Africa.” SAT wanted to leverage the use of technology to expand a channel, meaning where consumers buy -- that was where SAT would place its product, and place those deals that it wanted people to buy.
One of the critical technical strategies was venturing into e-commerce, because SAT felt that those were big platforms where consumers buy, either lifestyle or travel products, or other products that consumers want. People rely on e-commerce platforms to buy. SAT’s expansion strategy covers e-commerce, and it was taking advantage of the digital world that had opened up because of COVID-19.
The second aspect of SAT’s marketing strategy was around dialing up partnerships. It believed that for destinations around the world, partnerships were critical. These were partnerships that would assist SAT to increase its brand strategy, and to ensure that its brand was out there and was known, and people were positive about it. These partnerships would be with the non-traditional trade, as it was known, such as the destination management companies (DMCs) and the tour operators. SAT was moving from that space. It was not saying it was forgetting about such entities, because they formed a critical component of the value chain, but it wanted to expand its reach by using all of the other brands that were well-established, and partner with those to ensure that it inspired other travellers from various markets to come to South Africa.
Consumer campaign promotions were important. They were what put SAT’s products out there. It would be very important for SAT to speak directly to consumers, to sell to them what South Africa had to offer. The “new story” of South Africa was how it was pushing for inclusive marketing of its products, inclusive marketing of the provinces, and inclusive marketing of experiences and attractions, to ensure that SAT fulfilled the mandate on the geographic spread around the VTSDs. The things that SAT was doing would need a lot of investment and time, and the most important thing was that it had taken advantage of the digital and technological space that had been increased since COVID-19. Those were some of the things SAT was doing to ensure that it went back to “basic marketing 101” and destination promotion, because that was what would put SAT ahead of the curve.
Ms Makhubela-Mashele had asked what SAT’s communication strategy was, to ensure that it had a single message, and it pushed towards positioning South Africa as ready to receive travellers, but also dealt with the issue around the variant. The issue around sector recovery was very clear. SAT knew that it had three critical components that it had to follow. These were how it re-ignited demand and rejuvenated supply, as well as ensuring that the capacity was there. The Chief Marketing Officer and the team were working on the question of how SAT reignited the brand. The work SAT would be doing in the next couple of months was to ensure that it repositioned its brand in a manner in which it wanted the rest of the world to see South Africa. Promotion would be very important, and investment towards marketing the destination was what SAT really needed to do.
It was important for SAT to know what the supply looked like. It had to understand who had survived the COVID-19 pandemic, so that it could ensure that as it was creating demand, it could provide the supply. The work that was happening within the Tourism Grading Council, led by Ms Kotze-Nhlapo and her team, was to ensure that the supply side was ready to supply visitors as South Africa was trying to get back to the levels that it was at before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ms Guliwe responded to Mr Gumbi’s question on grading income, and whether or not there were cancellations. When one looked at the grading revenue level in the current financial year (R12 million) at face value, this was SAT’s well below its normal operating revenue level, which was on average between R24 million and R26 million. It was clear that there were establishments that had dropped out of the system. Her numbers showed just over 1 000 cancellations. Of those 1 000 cancellations, about 200 to 217 establishments had come back into the system, so there was a net amount of about 940 cancellations. There were various reasons for cancellations. The bulk of those were where some had decided to go the Tourism Incentive Programme route, and had therefore benefited from the TIP instead of paying for the grading fees from their own pockets. There were a number of establishments that had closed down, and had had to be cancelled on the system.
Mr Sithole had asked about prepayments, and when SAT prepaid, and whether or not it was the norm. It was not the norm, but SAT had certain services where it could not transact if it did not prepay. There were goods and services where it was contractually compelled to prepay, or pay upfront for a certain period. It had IT support and software services where contractually there were prepayment conditions. In the marketing space, SAT also had media buying and placement. A significant portion of that was prepaid. It was a balancing act -- working capital management was a balancing act. Where SAT sees that it is able to buy bulk and negotiate discounts upfront linked to economies of scale, it does that. What then became important was the tracking of the prepayment, and making sure that SAT reconciled back to value received.
Ms Gomba had asked about the remaining budget in quarter four, and whether or not there were plans for the remaining budget. In quarter four, SAT increases the frequency of reporting, and real-time financial management reporting. The reason for that is that SAT focuses on liquidity to make sure that if there are any plans that need to be funded, they are identified, and those activities are funded. With the funds that were currently available or surplus, the executive team had gone through a process of identifying activities to which it could allocate resources.
There had been a comment on rollover. She thought that it was a Treasury outcome, and not an audit outcome. SAT had not sent money back because of a deemed surplus. The only money that was sent back had been due to the revision of the operational plan. SAT did not have money that it committed to in the APP that it had sent back. It had Treasury approval to confirm that.
Regarding the cost for interns, the monthly cost was on average R10 000, so per annum per intern it was R120 000.
Mr Ntshona replied to Mr Gumbi on safaris, and how those were doing: Like many countries around the world at the moment, domestic tourism was the space that all were focusing on. People were not confident to travel anywhere that was far away. What was required of all the businesses was some pivoting, where one needed to reorient one’s value proposition through the market that one has. It was simple supply and demand. SAT had seen a lot of businesses that had previously relied a lot on international tourism that were now giving heavy discounts of 50%, 60% or 70%, and also modifying their offering. For example, a business might have had three five-course meals a day, and now had fewer to cater for the local market.
Mr Ntshona commented on the theme for dealing with the South African COVID variant and its negative impact towards the world. The COO had mentioned that the lead was coming from the Government Communication Information Service (GCIS), which was machinery for communicating on South Africa. The issue around the variant was more than just South African tourism – it was a South Africa Inc. issue. It impacted all the other sectors -- the country’s investment profile, the medical sector, etc. There were also bilateral issues to take into account.
What SAT was doing were things that were probably not visible to the average South African. SAT participated with its counterparts on the other side. It spoke to travel agencies and to tour operators, to give them the version of what was going on, so that when those entities sell South Africa, they were able to do so from a factual perspective. On a weekly basis, SAT provides numbers on positive cases. It also provides figures on the number of people vaccinated. All of these things come into play in positioning the country.
A lot of how SAT actually starts to counter some of the negative elements was done in-market. These initiatives were typically not visible to South Africans, but when an incident happened, the teams on the ground engage, and SAT spends a lot of time on webinars, making sure that the message starts to land from that perspective. South Africa needed a whole-country approach to this, to make sure that SAT could position South Africa, and not have the stigma that it currently has.
Mr Dube thanked the CEO, the SAT team, and the PC Members. SAT appreciated the opportunity given to it to come and account for its performance. Mr Moteka had asked a question on the process of the Board appointments. The Ministry would respond to that. It was a process that was governed by the Tourism Act of 2014. From that perspective, the process could be identified from that Act regarding what the process was.
Adv Mojankunyane Gumbi, Deputy Chairperson: SAT, commented on the issue of the South African COVID variant. This was one example of how all must work together as a country. South Africa conducted regular sero-prevalence tests because of the country’s incidence of HIV/AIDS. This variant had been picked up by the team that did these sero-prevalence tests. The scientists were “quick to rush to the media” to say that that they picked up this variant, and there was even a suggestion that South Africa was the only country that had the capacity to pick up these variants. That was not true. It was just that other countries did not do the sero-prevalence tests as regularly as South Africa did. South Africa had been the first to announce that there was this variant, which was why it then got the tag, “South African variant.” She was not blaming anyone, but if South Africa had said to the other countries to check what they were picking up in their countries, one would find that the UK and USA would have picked up variants at the same time as South Africa. However, because those countries were just not conducting the tests as regularly as South Africa, they had not picked it up at the same time as South Africa. They needed to make sure that when the scientists felt like they needed to show their capacity, they all had to understand what that meant for another department, like tourism.
As the CEO had said, it had now become a country-wide issue, and the British were really “using their power.” There were many articles in the British press that showed that the variant must have been in the UK at same time as South Africa had found a variant. Scientists had connected the variant back to a particular time, but the South African media had not picked up on those articles -- just the negative ones that related to South Africa. Unfortunately, the media was portraying it in a very negative way, instead of portraying it in a positive way to say that South Africa had a working system that was able to detect this variant, which had enabled South Africa to plan properly and to counter it. As South Africa did its rebranding, it should be a collective effort to make sure that the country was working together with all Government institutions in debunking the myth that South Africa was the home of a variant which could not be found anywhere else. A critical issue was that as 2021 was the “year of the vaccine”, South Africa must try to vaccinate as many people as possible to build confidence, both in its people and in the whole world.
Deputy Minister Mahlalela referred to the process of appointing a Board, and said it was appointed in terms of section 13(3)(a) of the Tourism Act, which indicated who the suitable individuals were that must be appointed on o the Board. The Act also stipulated who the people that did not qualify were, such as non-South African citizens and those who had a criminal conviction. Nominations would include anybody who had the relevant expertise required, as stipulated in the legislation. Based on that, the Minister would then constitute a panel, which would assist her to then identify suitable candidates, taking into consideration the skills that would be required in order to perform the functions of the Board. As that process was unfolding, the public would be made aware and make submissions, and there would be a nomination as a result of that.
The Deputy Minister thanked the PC for the opportunity to present the work that SAT and the Department had done since the first quarter, and towards the second and third quarters. SAT was moving towards the last quarter of the financial year, and the Department believed and hoped that as it reached the end of the financial year, most of the targets that had not yet been achieved would have been met.
The Chairperson thanked the SAT delegation. He said that Ms Gumbi was right. What she had been saying about the attitude of some within the political and scientific space in Britain boiled down to the global balances of economic control. Even with the science around COVID-19, while people were told that it was about saving human lives, at the centre of it, it was about capital accumulation. If South Africa succeeded in being able to detect some of the variants that would occur from time to time, from a scientific perspective, it provided an opportunity for South Africa to demonstrate to the world the challenges it faces. It was an unending struggle between those who controlled capital globally, and developing countries.
There was a need to understand the context within which this was occurring. Some of the people making these assertions were not only scientists, but also some parliamentarians in Britain. Parliamentarians, as part of the broader communications strategy, would need to talk to their counterparts in Britain, and give them the facts, so that in the course of the proceedings of Britain’s own parliamentary sessions, they could help in communicating a message of positivity around this matter. The Minister and Deputy Minister could contribute in that regard, as well as South African colleagues in embassies. South Africa’s delegation in the United Nations (UN) could also contribute in that arena.
There was a need to talk to the UNWTO on a consistent basis, because it was a body with authority. If the UNWTO was to be convinced of South Africa’s stance, its context, and how it dealt with these challenges, and it communicated a message as a world body that dealt with matters of tourism, it would “be half the battle won”. However, it had to be understood that this was “an unending struggle.” It would always be about who controlled the power globally as far as the economy was concerned, and through science, issues of the environment, and through other issues, had to be dealt with on a global level.
The Chairperson thanked the Department and the Board of SAT for how they had “steered the ship,” and he thanked the Members for their contributions. The Committee did not have an adversarial relationship with the Department and the SAT Board, and had to maintain this, because governance and the branches of the state did not necessarily have to have an antagonistic relationship. These parties had to have a complementary relationship, and if there were issues to be raised as constructive criticism, these should be accepted so that the country that it was helping to build could “continue to be envied” by all and sundry across the world.
Consideration of Draft Minutes
Minutes dated 2 March 2021
The minutes were adopted
Limpopo Oversight Visit
Mr Jerry Boltina, Committee Secretary, said that the Secretariat had been given three tasks by the PC that it needed to work on. One was the Limpopo provincial oversight visit. This had been “a moving goalpost” for quite some time. Initially, the PC had wanted to undertake this trip immediately after it had concluded the annual reports last year. Unfortunately, it had not been able to do so, because the National Assembly had had to change the programme of Parliament, and that had affected a number of committees regarding their plans. The PC had also wanted to do the visit early this year. Unfortunately, there were also issues of training for Members, as well as the subsequent changes in the programme of the National Assembly.
When the Committee indicated to the Secretariat that it needed to rework its programme, the Secretariat had thought it might be possible for the PC undertake the visit from 23 March to 26 of March. However, in terms of what had been revised by the National Assembly Programme Committees, the Secretariat saw that the constituency period was starting on 23 March, and it would end on 3 May. It had also observed that it looked as if the oversight work time allocation had been reduced a bit, and the time for the constituency period had been expanded. Unfortunately, that decision had been taken by the higher structures, and it was not up to the Secretariat to tell it what to do. The only thing that the Secretariat could do was to appeal through the structures that the PC belongs to -- the Committee of Chairpersons -- so that what was allocated to the portfolio committees must not be “taken through the back door,” because this affected the PC’s plans going forward.
What the Secretariat saw now was that with the date it had penciled in, it was now in the first week of May, which was from 4 to 7 May. The Secretariat proposed that the oversight trip to Limpopo be taken at that time. One of the reasons was that what the provinces were appealing to the PC about was that it must give the provinces sufficient time, so that they could do mobilisation work with the district as well. He had been told that the Limpopo chairperson had five districts – Capricorn, Mopani, Sekhukhune, Vhembe, and Waterberg. One of the things where the Secretariat wanted the PC to assist was in making a decision. Out of these five districts, did the PC take all of them in one go, or did it take three of the districts? The decision needed to be made so that the communication the Secretariat sends to the legislature is clear, and the message that the legislature sends to the districts is also clear.
That was the first proposal that the Secretariat was making, namely, to pencil in the first week of May for the oversight visit to Limpopo.
The Chairperson said that the approach of the Committee was that when it went to the provinces, it would work with its provincial counterparts. That meant that if an entity was the provincial legislature, when the Committee went to the province, it was the totality of that portfolio committee plus the PC on Tourism, and including the municipality, through the South African Local Government Association (SALGA). The Committee would have to do the entire province, which meant the five districts of Limpopo.
The Chairperson asked if Members agreed on the suggested dates in May, because Parliament would be going into recess in May. Ms Gomba and another PC Member agreed. The Chairperson said that a lot of preparatory work would have to be done.
Wild Coast and V&A Waterfront oversight visits
When the Committee had a meeting with Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, one of the issues explained to it was the district development model. One of the decisions that the Committee took was that given a chance, it also needed to visit the Wild Coast to experience the implementation of the district development model. Once time became available, that was one of the issues that the Committee would have to look into.
Regarding the V&A Waterfront, after the meeting, the Chairperson had signed off on a request that was going to the House Chairperson. The House Chairperson had approved that trip, so that the PC could go to the Waterfront to experience the rapid COVID-19 screening and testing there. The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), when it appeared before the Committee, had referred the Committee to somebody that it could communicate with, and who was in Cape Town. The Secretariat was constantly in contact with that person. The trip to the Waterfront had been approved.
The Secretariat wanted to check on some issues. It got the sense that since the pandemic, there was uncertainty over how regular the buses from where Members lived to Parliament were. One of the suggestions that the Secretariat proposed was to send Parliament’s transport to pick up Members, and then the Secretariat would schedule the meeting at the Waterfront for 10:00. The date of the visit was next week on Tuesday, 16 March 2021.
The Chairperson asked if the Committee could work out the logistics offline. Mr Boltina agreed to that.
The Members agreed on the date of the visit.
The Chairperson said that the meeting had been very successful, and that the Committee had arrived at critical decisions, including decisions on oversight. He thanked them for the passion that they had shown, and their engagement. Members were not running out of ideas on how the Committee must pursue the strategic objective of repositioning tourism as a necessary pillar for the growth and development of South Africa’s economy.
The meeting was adjourned.
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