Postponed: Introduction of new SA Tourism Board; Policy Review Process; International work done by Ministry; non-appearance of Minister; with Deputy Minister
22 November 2022
Chairperson: Ms T Mahambehlala (ANC)
The Portfolio Committee did not allow South African Tourism (SAT) to present its second quarter performance report and other matters that were on the agenda because the Minister had once again refused to appear before the Committee, and the Committee did not accept the letter of apology from SAT's acting chief executive officer because it had been written and signed by the chairperson of the board.
The Committee also refused the request of the Deputy Minister to allow the previous acting CEO to make the presentation, because it felt he was being abused by the Department and SAT, as it had previously sacked him unceremoniously.
The Committee then deliberated on whether to impose a fine or press for criminal charges against the Minister, but resolved it would invite the state legal adviser to provide advice regarding its options, and would, out of courtesy, write to the President about its intentions.
Minister's non-compliance with Committee's summons
The Chairperson said that after being advised by the parliamentary legal services on the issue of the summons not being honoured by Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Tourism, the Committee had decided it would continue with criminal charges. The matter had been widely reported in the media. The Committee had two options -- either to fine the Minister, or to institute criminal charges. The Committee, in its closed meeting, would discuss the matter of pressing criminal charges.
Introduction of new SA Tourism board
Mr Fish Mahlalela, Deputy Minister of Tourism, said SA Tourism (SAT) was a public entity which derived its mandate from the Tourism Act of 2014. The SAT board oversaw the work of the entity. The board should have not less than nine or more than 14 members. One member of the board should come from the Department. The previous board's term had expired on 21 May 2019, but had been extended until 31 May 2022.
The Department had advertised for new board members in two national newspapers and in the Government Gazette, and 118 nominations had been received. A panel led by the Director-General (DG) had been established, comprising all the Deputy Directors-General (DDGs), the chief of staff and the legal representative of the department. 28 candidates had been shortlisted. The Minister had then decided on the 13 names she felt were capable, based on the required expertise. The Cabinet had approved the appointment of the candidates. The Minister then appointed the board members through the Government Gazette and two national newspapers and inaugurated the board.
(The names of the board members were read to the Committee .)
The Chairperson wanted to know the rationale for the appointment of the chief executive officer (CEO) of Western Cape Tourism to the board, and asked if that was not a conflict of interest. Would other provinces not want to do that? She asked who was going to make the presentation, because the CEO of the board was not in the meeting, and neither was the DG. She stated that this situation was not accepted. She also wanted to know if the youthful board members were below 35 years of age, and she applauded the fact there were more females on the board.
Deputy Minister Mahlalela said he was not able to provide a proper explanation for the appointment of the Western Cape Tourism CEO, who was a returning member of the board. Even the Minister might not have an answer on the matter. He was unsure if the Western Cape Tourism CEO had been appointed as a CEO while he had been a member of the board, or after he had become a member of the board.
He said the CEO of SAT was not feeling well and had sent an apology, and asked that the former acting CEO, Mr Themba Khumalo, do the presentation. He said the youth was defined in the context of 14 to 35 years of age.
Ms P Mpushe (ANC) said she did not agree with the Deputy Minister's request that the former acting CEO be allowed to do the presentation.
The Chairperson agreed with Ms Mpushe, saying the former acting CEO had been unceremoniously removed from that position, but now the Department wanted him to make a presentation. She said no mlaba-laba (Zulu game), merry-go-round, or hide-and-seek would be played in the meeting.
Ms M Gomba (ANC) said she did not understand why the apology had not been sent to the Committee in time. It appeared the chairperson of SAT was leading the apology of the new CEO, seeing that there was no presenter.
Ms S Maneli (ANC) said she felt defeated, because she was unsure about the game being played in the meeting. The Committee had work to do, but it seemed that when the political principals were in the meeting, the accounting officers decided to be absent, and vice versa.
Ms Gomba said accountability was a matter which the Committee took seriously. The accounting officer was the one who was supposed to present, because he was assigned with these kinds of responsibilities. Not everyone could come and present to the Committee People must come to the Committee and present according to their roles and responsibilities.
Ms Mpushe expressed unhappiness about the situation the Committee found itself in. It appeared the Department was leaderless, politically and administratively.
Mr A Matumba (EFF) said he was not sure who was responsible for presenting, because if the CEO was not present, then the chairperson of the board could present as an accounting authority, according to the Act.
Ms H Winkler (DA) commented that senior members of the Department and political heads should account to the Committee about matters of the Department and its entities. Tourism in South Africa was not where it was supposed to be. Tourism in Durban was in disarray; people were losing jobs in the industry, the beaches were dirty, and many things were dysfunctional. This was really a failure.
The Chairperson said the CEO was the accounting authority, because the chairperson of the board had indicated she could not present. The views of the Deputy Minister about the Western Cape Tourism CEO were wrong. There was a conflict of interest and he was not supposed to be on the board. The event that took place in Hermanus had become the event of the province, not that of the Department. The Department had been a spectator. This matter had to be rectified speedily.
The Department had no obligation to re-appoint anyone to the board. The appointment had been done wrongly because the Department wanted continuity and institutional memory. She said that as a Deputy Minister, one had no authority. One became toothless because one was told what to do by the princesses and queens of the struggle.
She said the Committee was watching the board with the eyes of the hawk, and was waiting for it to approve the R200m for the festive season and the R49m for going to Dubai. Once the budget was approved, the Committee would be ready to pounce on the Department.
There was a lot the Committee was aware of. There had been no performance on programme three, which was the core mandate, yet there were plans to take the money and implement their programmes in Qatar. The Department was in a mess. The Committee was sitting on a time bomb, and was aware the DG had received a letter from the Minister to explain why he should not be suspended from work for not executing consequence management.
She said the IT system had started with a R10m price tag, but it had now reached R31m and there was no one to answer for that. The Committee was aware that the Dubai service provider must be paid R4m. There had been a R4m underpayment, and she asked how that had happened. As the chairperson, she was ready to stand her ground on the matter and had evidence to support her. In the eyes of the public, the politicians were seen to be squandering public resources, while officials were seen as holy.
She told the SAT chairperson she was skating on thin ice, and had to learn to account. If the entity wanted to market South Africa, some embassies could be used to do the work. The Committee was aware money would be given to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to market SA.
She said it was not understandable why Mr Khumalo was being put in a frying pan, because he had been removed from the acting CEO position for no reason. The entity should have let him first do the presentation and then remove him. This was abuse in its worst form. The Committee was in a cul de sac, and she asked the Deputy Minister if there was a way out because he had been a Member of Parliament before.
She then asked the Deputy Minister and his team to leave the meeting, because he understood the proceedings of the Committee .
Deputy Minister Mahlalela said he was not disputing what the Chairperson had said, but he wanted to register that the acting CEO, Mr Johannes Rantete, was not well, which was the information on record. The Department had not been in a position to say no to the Committee meeting, as it was a scheduled date. The next senior person to present was Mr Khumalo, the chief marketing officer, and the chief financial officer (CFO), led by the Deputy Minister and chairperson of the board, to account on any matter that the Committee would raise. That was the understanding, and they would abide by the decision to leave.
The Department appeared before the Select Committee to present its annual report. The DG had no role at the SAT, except for policies and policy implementation. That was why the DG and deputy minister were scheduled to be at the Select Committee meeting, and the Minister to come to the Portfolio Committee meeting with the SAT. Unfortunately, something beyond her control had come up, and she could not attend the meeting.
The Chairperson said the apology from Mr Rantete had been signed and written by the chairperson of the board. That was why the Committee did not recognise the apology. There had been no response from the Minister about the appointment of the CEO for SAT, and the Deputy Minister could not answer for that. That was why the Committee wanted to interact with the Minister.
Mr Matumba said there must be consequence management following the meeting. Members had to prepare for the meeting to deal with matters that needed to be addressed. Mr Rantete could be somewhere doing other things, and would later say he never submitted an apology.
The Chairperson asked when the Deputy Minister and his full team would come to present to the Committee. No merry-go-round was allowed in the Committee, which was why the Department was viewed as leaderless, let alone the entity. She asked the Department to take its responsibilities very seriously at the executive level, because Members prepared for the meetings and did their own research before coming to the meetings. She told the board chairperson, Dr Nondumiso Maphazi, to make sure there was coherence in the work of the board, and to learn to work in unison to achieve the strategic objectives of SAT. Ministers came and went, but officials had to remain together. The chairperson should have an open-door policy.
Deputy Minister Mahlalela said they would see how to manage the process going forward. The SAT could come at any time to present to the Committee and try solve the matter of the acting CEO. The appointment of the CEO was the responsibility of the board. The board had appointed the CEO, but the Minister had not concurred. The process would be started afresh to get a new CEO. Not having a CEO crippled the organisation, because it could not perform to its maximum ability. Most senior management positions had been filled in the Department. The only challenge was SAT.
The Chairperson commented that the Members had deliberated on the matter of the Minister refusing to appear before the Committee to account about matters of the entity and Department. She pointed out there were festive programmes that would not be implemented in South Africa, but would be implemented outside of the country.
Mr M De Freitas (DA) said it was important to follow the process with the Speaker to exhaust all the avenues, and not to jump the gun.
Mr Matumba said the Committee was stuck. There were serious issues it needed to deal with, and these could be addressed only when the Minister came to the Committee, especially on international matters, because there had been a lot of money spent amounting to R600m which was not itemised. The Committee should be getting a report from the Speaker. He was tempted to suggest writing to the President while awaiting a response from the Speaker. If that did not help, then the Committee could open a case for criminal charges.
The Chairperson said she had written to the chief whip of the majority political party and the Speaker. The letter to the Speaker had been acknowledged. The chief whip had advised Members about what to do. She was unsure if the Committee should wait for the President’s response before pressing for criminal charges. The Committee could either impose a fine, or go for criminal charges. The Committee needed to invite Ms Fatima Ebrahim(parliamentary legal advisor) to advise whether to impose a fine or press for criminal charges.
Ms Gomba asked if there had been any response from the Speaker before going to the next level.
The Committee Secretary said there had been nothing tangible from the office of the Speaker. The letter would be presented to the Speaker for consideration.
The Chairperson said the letter was an update to state the Minister had not honoured the summons. Ms Ebrahim would be briefed about what the Committee intended to do after not receiving a response from the Minister.
Mr De Freitas said the Committee, out of courtesy, should advise the President about what it intended to do.
The Chairperson informed the Committee that the Minister had written to the Deputy President (as Leader of Government Business) that she did not understand where the Committee was coming from and did not account to the Committee. The Deputy President had told her she accounted to Parliament. The Committee would therefore invite Ms Ebrahim to express its intentions, and it would write a letter to the Speaker to let him/her know about its intention to either impose a fine or press for criminal charges. However, if the Speaker had taken steps, she would need to advise the Committee about the steps that had been taken.
Adoption of minutes
The Committee adopted one set of minutes.
The meeting was adjourned.
No related documents
Mahambehlala, Ms T
De Freitas, Mr MS
Gomba, Ms MM
Mahlalela, Mr AF
Maneli, Ms ST
Matumba, Mr A
Mpushe, Ms PT
Winkler, Ms HS
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