In a virtual meeting, the National Department of Tourism outlined the progress on the 99 tourism infrastructure projects underway with the Development Bank of Southern Africa as implementing agent. It also explained why 10 projects were discontinued.
Committee Members asked about the safety of tourists in the country; monitoring mechanisms to ensure the completion of infrastructure projects; public-private partnerships; Durban harbour sewer problem impacting tourism; promotion of Blue Flag beaches, Mandela House on Vilakazi Street in Soweto; and the number of jobs the Department has created from these projects.
Tourism Infrastructure Projects: National Department of Tourism briefing
Ms Shamilla Chettiar, Deputy Director-General: Destination Development, noted approximately 99 infrastructure projects are currently in implementation. Ten projects have been discontinued. These projects are primarily funded through the Expanded Public Works Programme. However, some projects have been funded through the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme and donor funding. The infrastructure projects were listed according to province, their category type and the progress on each was provided.
Deputy Minister of Tourism opening remarks
Deputy Minister Fish Amos Mahlalela indicated that the report details projects that have been completed. These projects are based on three categories: community-based tourism projects, maintenance of national parks and provincial tourism assets and destination enhancement initiatives which include new developments, the upgrading of facilities or the implementation of universal accessibility initiatives.
Director-General opening remarks
Director-General Nkhumeleni Victor Tharage acknowledged that the National Department of Tourism (NDT) struggled with projects that were incomplete and mismanaged. Monitoring work is done to ensure that there is accountability. This led NDT to the realisation that there is a need to strengthen capacity so that projects can be managed effectively. The services of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) were acquired for this. COVID-19 was a setback in the completion of the projects.
The Chairperson's main concern was if a monitoring mechanism is used by DBSA, if it charges a fee for their services and the role of provinces in the DBSA-run projects. He asked about the role NDT plays in supporting provinces and South African National Parks (SANParks).
Ms H Boshoff (DA, Mpumalanga) asked if the tender committee and adjudication committee are the same. What happens when the contractor does not comply with the project completion time particularly those to be finalised before the end of 2022/23? Are there any penalties? Does NDT conduct random checks on the occupancy certificate? How are funds generated for community projects – are they coming from NDT or the community? She asked about the involvement of NDT in the Skywalk project in Mpumalanga and the Numbi Gate project and acknowledged the good work that has been done. She asked if NDT has attempted to engage the South African Police Service (SAPS) since the area is rife with protests. She questioned NDT’s focus on Blyde River Canyon and asked why it is not focusing on other tourist destinations such as Mac Mac Falls in Mpumalanga. She asked if NDT has engaged with government entities responsible for maintaining roads in light of complaints that have been received from tourists.
Mr M Mmoiemang (ANC, Northern Cape) asked if there are programmes dedicated toward townships and rural areas and the number of jobs created from these projects. He asked if there is coordination between NDT and other stakeholders such as the Department of Trade and Industry on capital formation in tourism. He asked why the Nare Hotel in Kimberly is not included in the report.
Mr M Dangor (ANC, Gauteng) asked if there is a link between the Constitutional Hill project and the Fort project.
Ms M Moshodi (ANC, Free State) asked if the projects considered gender parity for employing women, youths and people with disabilities.
The Chairperson asked about the Kiwane Community Lodge project, particularly if it was completed or not, since the report stated that it was discontinued. He asked if there is a way of reviving discontinued projects and if there are attempts to obtain buy-in from the community about vandalised projects. He suggested NDT includes another category that caters for partnerships between the private and public sectors since government is not capable of dealing with all the projects. He asked about the procurement challenges in KZN, Mpumalanga and Western Cape.
The Chairperson asked Mr Brauteseth to elaborate on the sewage problem that is currently affecting tourism in Kwazulu-Natal since he is well-versed with the area.
Mr T Brauteseth (DA, KZN) stated that there is a need for engagement and possibly a partnership between Transnet, Tourism and Ethekwini municipality. The sewage affecting Durban harbour is an ecological problem because it poses a threat to aquatic life and the smell scares away customers from establishments such as restaurants. He suggested that there is a need for Tourism to work together with municipalities to promote Blue Flag beaches.
Ms Boshoff asked if tourism visitor centres can accommodate people with disabilities, particularly those with eyesight challenges.
Ms Chettiar replied to the Chairperson’s question that there is a steering committee responsible for steering individual projects. At the entity level, there is a committee working closely with DBSA and it has various stakeholders such as the project owners, NDT, provinces and local authorities such as district municipalities. There is a monthly steering committee responsible for project oversight.
DBSA charges a service fee which ranges from 6 to 9% depending on the scale of the project.
Ms Chettiar confirmed that NDT does have partnerships with stakeholders such as SANParks and they fund some projects.
The reason the Kiwane project was included under discontinued projects was it was completed not by NDT but by the Buffalo Municipality and it will be run by a private operator.
Each project has its own tender committee which is project-based. If contractors are not compliant, they are given an opportunity to remedy the situation. If there is no positive change, the implementing agency will have to enforce the terms and conditions of the contract with penalties.
Compliance certificates are issued at the end of the projects. NDT is working with project stakeholders to ensure a long-term sustainability plan for each project.
There is a universal accessibility project in Blyde River Canyon and the work done there covers four sites.
NDT has a unit that deals with the security of tourists and it liaises with SAPS.
On the sewage problem in KZN, they are willing to engage the province and the Ethekwini Municipality and assist where NDT can.
The Skywalk project is a public-private partnership between Mpumalanga province and private sector and NDT is making attempts to support the project from an investment perspective.
With respect to the number of jobs that have been created in these projects, she mentioned that NDT will be in a position to give numbers after they have made an appointment with the contractor.
Gender parity is taken into account in these projects given that it is a requirement of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).
On capital investments, NDT is working with other state entities such as Invest SA. She confirmed that it is examining ways to fund its projects in the future.
Ms Chettiar explained that the project at the Constitutional Hill is the park which forms the connection between the surrounding communities and Constitutional Hill.
The Blue Flag beach programme is supported by NDT. Some beaches had lost their Blue Flag status because they were not maintained by local authorities. As a result, NDT started providing support for Green Flag beaches to improve their status to reach the Blue Flag status.
It is NDT’s deliberate strategy to support tourism potential in townships and rural areas and all community projects are in townships and rural areas.
In response to the Chairperson, she confirmed that there is nothing that stops other government levels or entities and private sector taking over discontinued projects.
Follow up questions
Mr Brauteseth said that the sewer problem in the Durban Yacht Mole has been there for years and it was not caused by the recent floods. What pressure is NDT applying to the City of Ethekwini and Transnet which owns that area to deal with the problem? He expected a proactive approach by NDT to address this as it directly impacts tourism. He suggested that NDT introduce a Michelin star rating guide which allows visitors to see how different destinations such as restaurants and monuments are rated. He suggested calling it the Protea Guide.
The Chairperson asked if Vilakazi Street is part of the 99 programmes. He asked what was the amount of money NDT received from the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme.
Ms Chettiar acknowledged the suggestions given by committee members. She stated that NDT will liaise with relevant stakeholders such as KZN province to ensure that the problem is fixed. NDT received R90 million from the Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme and R120 million from the donor towards the EPWP budget.
She confirmed that Mdantsane and Vilakazi Street are part of programmes they are working on. However, these ones are not part of the presentation because they are still conceptual and NDT has not made a decision on them.
Mr Tharage gave his insight in response to the questions asked. On procurement challenges, there is a possibility that the recommended contractor’s documents would have expired at the time of awarding the contract. In such cases, the contractor is given an opportunity to submit updated documents.
On safety concerns, there are tourism monitors under the stewardship of SANParks such as at Numbi Gate. There is a memorandum of agreement between NDT and SAPS to work on safety issues and the training of the monitors. This also involves the National Prosecuting Authority, thus ensuring that any crime-related cases are followed to finality.
On the discontinued Mdantsane project, the decision taken by NDT was based on a feasibility study which confirmed it was not sustainable to continue the project.
On employment figures, the NDT objective is not only to create jobs in these projects but also to create opportunities in the surrounding areas. He made an example of the Dinosaur Centre in Free State which had a positive impact after its establishment on the surrounding areas. He also gave the example of the Nare lodge which is expected to stimulate investments.
Mr Tharage replied that gender parity is taken into account in all projects.
Mr Dangor stated that there is a need for NDT to engage the Nelson Mandela Foundation about the Mandela house on Vilakazi Street, Soweto. He recommended that NDT focuses on facilities that can be used for conference tourism.
Mr Tharage replied that the Vilakazi Street house is a problem that must be solved by government collectively with specific reference to the stakeholders involved. He acknowledged that the conference tourism suggestion will be taken into account.
Deputy Minister’s comments
The Deputy Minister thanked committee members for their input and suggestions. NDT is in the process of adjusting the White Paper and their suggestions will be taken into account.
He confirmed that safety is a matter of concern for government and there is a memorandum of understanding between NDT and SAPS. Tourism monitors are deployed, however, the main challenge is that tourists are often attacked outside the areas where the monitors are operating.
On the state of roads, some roads are not in a good state and there is a need for constant engagement for this to improve.
On the number of jobs created, the Department will need to clarify the numbers of youths, women and disabled people employed in these projects.
In his concluding statement, he said that the sewer problem will be investigated by engaging the relevant authorities. He repeated that the Department has a Blue Flag beach programme. He corrected slide 26 stating that SS Khosana Nature Reserve is in the Nkangala district in Mpumalanga and not in Limpopo.
The meeting was adjourned.
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