The Portfolio Committee received a briefing from South African Tourism (SAT) on its performance report for the first and second quarters of the 2022/23 financial year. It reported that there had been a steady improvement globally from January to July. Europe was the best-performing region, at 26% below 2019 levels, while Asia and the Pacific were the worst-performing regions due to border closures and strict travel policies. The African region had performed well, at 40% below 2019 levels.
Highlights of SAT's leisure tourism marketing included its second quarter milestones of the Global Tourism Brand campaign plan being implemented; the Sho’t Left Travel Week domestic campaign was delivered; and the West Africa summer campaign and the central, east and land campaign plans were implemented. The focus in quarter three would be on the continued implementation of the Global Tourism Brand campaign; implementation of the integrated destination brand and marketing strategy; the One Global Brand activation; implementation of the travel barrier removal communications roadmap for each source market; and implementation of the strategic events communications calendar.
Concerning tourists' experience, the SAT stated the review and audit of the current business model and Tourism Grading Council of SA value proposition were in progress, and 4 348 properties had been quality assured. The quarterly milestones of the Global Trade Re-Imagined Programme roadmap have been implemented. The Lilizela Accommodation Awards had been deferred to a time when the industry leaders felt it was the right time. Key decisions had been taken at a political level.
The Committee questioned the appointment of the acting chief executive officer (CEO), who had himself been replaced by the previous acting CEO. Members asserted that the Minister had not given correct information on the situation, and that there might have been political interference in the appointment.
Eventually, the Chairperson released the SAT delegation, and stating that it was clear the deputy chairperson of the SAT board was unable to answer questions from the Members, and the apology of the board chairperson for late arrival had not been sent to the Committee in time, but came to its attention only when questions were raised. The parties concerned could not engage on the matters on the agenda. The SAT had been allowed to make the presentation for the sake of progress.
The Committee also received a legal briefing on enforcing the initiative the Committee had taken to summon the Minister to appear before it. Repeated attempts to get the Minister to account before the Committee had not yielded any fruit, so it had issued a summons. It was hamstrung because it could not do its oversight work. The parliamentary legal adviser said the constitution stated the National Assembly could summon people to appear before the Committee, and it had followed the procedures in terms of the Act. Failure to comply with the summons was a criminal offence. The Minister had to provide sufficient reasons for not complying with the summons. The Committee had to find a legal way to resolve the matter by going to court and approaching the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). That was the legal route. This was not a political matter. Something had to be done. If nothing was done, it would set a precedent if it spiralled out of control.
SA Tourism Quarter 1 & 2 performance
Mr Themba Khumalo, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), South African Tourism (SAT), briefly took the Committee through the environmental analysis. He said there had been a steady improvement globally from January to July 2022. Europe was the best-performing region, at 26% below 2019 levels. The Americas had performed at 35% below 2019 levels. Asia and the Pacific were the worst-performing regions due to border closures and strict travel policies. The African region had performed well, at 40% below 2019 levels.
Cumulative arrivals for January to August 2022 had increased by 165.2%, and arrivals in August totalled 555 832. The most arrivals were from Africa on land, with a 128% increase in arrivals. Collectively, Europe had the biggest percentage increase in arrivals, of 564%. Direct airlift had been the key driver. Domestic trips from January to August 2022 had recovered tremendously, reaching 21.3 million trips, which was 139.7% up over the same period in 2021. Domestic tourism consumption followed the “revenge travel” phenomenon, showing that South Africans travelled to compensate for lost time.
The presentation centred on the programmes of the entity. On corporate support, Mr Khumalo said 52% of valid audit recommendations were implemented, exceeding the 50% target due to proactive implementation by management. The risk environment had been strengthened through several initiatives, driven by the appointment of "risk champions" who met monthly. Continuous monitoring of the internal control environment resulted in the payment of 100% compliant invoices within 30 days from the date of receipt. Employment equity targets had been exceeded for the percentage of women in SA Tourism, women in senior and top management positions, as well as maintaining at least 60% black people across all occupational levels.
The focus for 2023 would be, amongst other things, on the 75% implementation of valid audit recommendations, conducting a risk management maturity assessment for 2022/23, and payment of compliant invoices within 30 days from the date of receipt. In addressing the challenge of increasing the percentage of people with disabilities employed, the entity would continue with the potential position bonding and increase in awareness. The organisation could not force people to disclose disabilities, but would continue striving for improvement.
Regarding business enablement, the revised stakeholder engagement programme has been approved and executed. The integrated digital and analytics operating framework had been finalised and approved, and the year one (2022/23) roadmap of the framework was developed and approved. The SAT would continue with implementing the revised stakeholder engagement programme and the execution of the framework.
Reporting on leisure tourism marketing, he said the second quarter milestones of the Global Tourism Brand campaign plan had been achieved. The Sho’t Left Travel Week domestic campaign has been developed and approved. The West Africa summer campaign and the central, east and land campaign plans had been implemented. The focus of quarter three would be on the continued implementation of the Global Tourism Brand campaign, and implementation of the integrated destination brand and marketing strategy, the One Global Brand activation, implementation of the travel barrier removal communications roadmap for each source market, and implementation of the strategic events communications calendar.
Regarding business events, the domestic Business to Business campaign has been implemented, and 30 international bids have been submitted. The Africa’s Travel Indaba 2022 post-review report was approved. Planning for Meetings Africa 2023 and Africa's Travel Indaba 2023 has commenced. Two national business events were hosted in villages, townships and small dorpies (VTSDs). The focus in quarter three would be on the implementation of the milestones in the domestic Business to Business campaign, implementation of the milestones in the global Business to Business campaign, with 15 bids to be submitted, and planning for Meetings Africa 2023 and Africa's Travel Indaba 2023.
Lastly, concerning tourists' experience, he said the review and audit of the current business model and the Tourism Grading Council of SA (TGCSA) value proposition were in progress. 4 348 properties had been quality assured. The quarterly milestones of the Global Trade Re-Imagined Programme roadmap had been implemented. SAT would concentrate in quarter three on consolidating and presenting a reviewed business model TGCSA value proposition for approval, with 4 016 quality assured products, implementation of the milestones in the Welcome Programme roadmap, and implementation of the milestones in the Global Trade Re-Imagined Programme. The Lilizela accommodation awards had been deferred until the industry leaders felt it was the right time. Key decisions had been taken at a political level.
(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate financial performance and budget expenditure; human capital; and governance)
The Chairperson commented that the Minister must be advised to come to the Committee before the Members ran out of patience. However, she commended that the Minister's apology had been sent to the Committee in time. She said it was not acceptable to have vacant senior positions. The Auditor-General’s (AG) findings pointed to instability within SAT, because there were no senior leaders.
Dr Aubrey Mhlongo, Deputy Chairperson of the SAT board, said that even though there were challenges, there was work in progress with limited resources and staff. The entity was trying its best. The board had not had enough time to engage with the management of the entity.
Ms P Mpushe (ANC) said the Committee had decided to proceed with the meeting for the sake of progress. She wanted to know the reasons behind the withdrawal of the acting CEO, Mr Johannes Rantete, who had been replaced by the previous acting CEO, Mr Khumalo. The withdrawal of the acting CEO had not been confirmed, nor even the appointment of Mr Khumalo as acting CEO.
Mr Beza Ntshona, Chief of Staff in the Minister’s office, said it was official that Mr Khumalo was the acting CEO. The letter had been sent to the Minister. The board had approved the appointment of Mr Khumalo as acting CEO. Mr Rantete, the previous acting CEO, had returned to the ministry.
The Chairperson asked why the letter had not been sent to the Committee.
Dr Mhlongo stated the Chairperson of the board was the one who would answer the question when she joined the meeting at a later stage. He apologised for having no answer.
Ms Mpushe asked what the terms were for the acting CEO and how long he was going to act.
Dr Mhlongo said Mr Khumalo would be acting for six mont. A permanent CEO would be appointed at the end of the financial year – the end of March 2023.
Ms Mpushe asked why there was a delay in the appointment of a permanent CEO.
Dr Mhlongo said the remuneration committee had updated the board a week ago about the finalisation of the appointment of a permanent CEO. The withdrawal of Mr Rantete had been deliberated by the senior management of the entity and the Department, but it was the Department that could provide an answer.
The Chairperson asked what the legal and financial implications would be for re-opening the matter of recruiting a CEO, when the process had already started. Six months to appoint a CEO was too long and not acceptable.
Ms Mpushe said the Deputy Minister had said during the previous Committee meeting that he was not aware of the withdrawal of the previous acting CEO, Mr Khumalo. She asked who was not really telling the truth.
Mr A Matumba (EFF) wanted to know why it was difficult for the board to answer questions when it was able to remove the acting CEO and replace him with an acting CEO. He asked how the salary package of the acting CEO was structured and how much he was paid. There must be consequences for reversing the process.
Ms S Maneli (ANC) said the absence of certain people did not make the work of the Committee simple. The Members needed to be told the truth about the long study leave of the Director-General. The Committee needed to be given his timetable for the examinations so that it could be convinced. The apology about the chairperson of the board joining the meeting late had not been communicated in time to the Committee.
Ms M Gomba (ANC) asked if the entity would still advertise for the position of the CEO, and asked how the interviews had been done before and what the outcome was.
Mr K Sithole (IFP) remarked that the entity was dysfunctional, and wondered how the Committee would continue with the meeting when the apology for the late arrival of the board chairperson had not been relayed in time to the Committee. How would the matter of appointing acting CEOs be dealt with? He suggested they should not continue with the meeting.
Ms H Winkler (DA) commented that the previous board had recommended a CEO, but the Minister disagreed. She now sought clarity on why the Minister disagreed with the board. It did appear as if there had been interference in terms of the appointment, because it had become difficult to get to the bottom of the matter.
Ms L Makhubela-Mashele (ANC) said the Minister was on record as saying the reason for continuing with the acting CEO story because of the pipedream of merging Brand SA and SAT, so she asked the board to start the process of recruiting a CEO, seeing there was no merger happening between these two entities. The Committee had to be given timeframes by the board and a progress report during the first quarter of 2023. She also asked that the Committee be given a progress report during the first quarter of 2023 on the indefinite suspension with pay of the Chief Bureau Manager. The board should come up with a strategy for how it would get out of the unstable situation. Even previous Minister Kubayi did not want to be involved in the merger matter because nothing was clear and conclusive about it.
Ms Mpushe remarked that the responses needed by the Members required the political head, because the entity seemed to have difficulties in providing answers on the legal and financial implications of the withdrawal of the acting CEO. That was why she was supporting Mr Sithole.
Ms S Xego (ANC) commented the entity had a good history, but no one now knew what had happened to it. There were indications of instability, including the appointment of acting CEOs and temporary boards. The difficulty in answering questions was a concern for the Committee. The mandate should be given to the board to recruit a new CEO and the Minister had to either endorse or reject the decision of the board with reasons. Not having a CEO was a recipe for instability. The new board must make things happen.
Ms Gomba said Ms Xego had hit the nail on the head. It was clear the previous CEO was irreplaceable. The current acting CEO had been removed and replaced by an acting CEO who had now been ejected. This was not acceptable. The Committee had never had problems with the entity before.
The Chairperson said the recruitment of a CEO should be done soon. Six months was too long. She told the board that when one assumed a new responsibility, one had to deliver, irrespective of the baggage one inherited. It was unacceptable for the board to keep saying it was still new. It was also not acceptable for the deputy chairperson to say the board chairperson would answer questions. He needed to know his story, and not say he did not know the answers.
She asked Ms Petra van Niekerk, Parliamentary Liaison Officer (PLO): Office of the DG, Department of Tourism, to provide the Committee with the timetable of the DG regarding the long study leave, because there were some Members of the Committee who were studying as well.
She asked the deputy chairperson of the board to answer questions.
Dr Mhlongo said he was withdrawing his statement of saying he was new in the Department with no reservations, and apologised profusely. To questions asked by Ms Mpushe regarding the withdrawal of the acting CEO and the financial and legal implications of the matter, he said it was only Mr Ntshona who could provide some answers, because all those matters came from the ministry.
The Chairperson said she was not allowing Mr Ntshona to do that, because he could not account on behalf of the Minister unless he was the one who had recommended Mr Rantete to be the acting CEO.
Ms Mpushe sought clarity on what the Act said about the appointment and withdrawal of the CEO. She said it looked like a conflict between the board and the Minister.
The Chairperson remarked that this situation involving Mr Rantete was similar to that of Mr Des van Rooyen, who was appointed as Minister of Finance for two days. History had no blank pages. Mr Ntshona would not be able to answer these questions.
Dr Mhlongo acknowledged the comment or criticism from Mr Matumba about the merry-go-round regarding the removal of Mr Rantete and the replacement by Mr Khumalo.
The Chairperson reminded Dr Mhlongo that Mr Matumba had asked about the salary structure of Mr Rantete, and how much he was paid.
Dr Mhlongo said the post was funded, and the allowance was in keeping with the funds provided for the post, but he did not know the exact figures.
The Chairperson told Dr Mhlongo there was no space for “Phefumla! Phefumla! Khamisa” (Breathe in! Breathe out! Open your mouth!) when one was in front of a parliamentary committee meeting. It was clear he was not clued up on the environment he was in. His answers were not convincing.
She then told the board chairperson, who was late for the meeting, that the Committee had received no apology, there was no DG in the meeting, and they would not consider talking to chief directors. It was clear the board's deputy chairperson could not answer the legal and financial implications regarding the process that had unfolded on the recruitment of the CEO, because recommendations had been made and submitted to the Minister. Now a new process was being opened to recruit another CEO. She asked what was being done to address this, because the Members of the Committee had raised these matters.
Mr Matumba remarked it was disappointing to ask questions, only to find they had not been noted, and repeated his question about the salary package of Mr Rantete and why an acting CEO had been replaced by another acting CEO. The Committee needed a report on consequence management, because when these things happened, it became clear that the interests of another person were being served. He added that the report should be given to the Committee, even if the Minister and Deputy Minister were absent. It was clear that questions that arose during the meeting required political principals [to answer].
The Chairperson released the delegation, stating it was clear the deputy chairperson of the board was unable to answer questions from the Members, and the apology of the board chairperson had not been sent to the Committee in time, but came to its attention only when questions were raised. She hoped Mr Khumalo was the real acting CEO with responsibilities, and not a “puppet”.
Adoption of minutes
The Committee adopted the minutes of a previous meeting.
Briefing over Minister's repeated absence
Adv Frank Jenkins, Senior Parliamentary Legal Adviser, said the purpose of the briefing was to enforce the initiative the Committee had taken to summon the Minister to appear before it. Attempts to get Minister Sisulu to account before the Committee had not yielded any fruit. The Committee issued a summons as a result. The Committee was hamstrung, because it could not do its oversight work. The functions and responsibilities of Members started after being sworn in as Members of Parliament. If Parliament did not pass laws, nothing would happen and it could not function.
South Africa was a constitutional state. Section 56 of the Constitution stated the National Assembly could summon people to appear before the Committee. The Committee followed the procedures in terms of the Act. Failure to comply with the summons was a criminal offence. The Minister had to provide sufficient reasons for not complying with the summons. Failure to do so was punishable by a fine or imprisonment. The Committee had to find a legal way to resolve the matter by going to court and approaching the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). That was the legal route. This was not a political matter. He concluded by saying something had to be done. If nothing was done, it would set a precedent if it spiralled out of control.
Ms Maneli sought clarity on what the Committee could do about not being able to call the Minister to account.
Adv Jenkins said the Committee was regulated by the Constitution. The summons should state why the Committee was summoning the Minister. It should not state arbitrary questions. The Committee had the power to start questions and state clearly why it was summoning the Minister, because oversight was no longer a political choice. The Committee had the right to hold the executive to account.
Ms Winkler asked what other avenues were available to the Committee in addition to what was available, because all other avenues had to be exhausted before referring the matter to the NPA.
Adv Jenkins said the Minister should explain to the Committee why she could not appear on the day of the summons. That was what should be done to salvage the situation. Either the Minister could challenge the summons in court and ask for a lawful summons, or the Committee could challenge the Minister for not responding to the summons. It would cost a lot of money to resolve the matter, but the state paid. The matter should be resolved amicably. The advice given to Parliament was that this would set a precedent. There was a need for consistency in law. The Committee should approach the Speaker and Chair of Chairs.
Ms Gomba asked what the view of Adv Jenkins was regarding the matter when the Minister had sent senior counsel to the Committee instead of coming to the Committee herself.
Adv Jenkins explained that senior counsel did not have the right to speak to the Committee unless given the floor by the Chairperson. If the Minister had sent a legal representative on oversight matters, there was no law that dealt with that. It was unconstitutional. It was up to the Committee to decide if it wanted the legal representative to talk.
Mr M De Freitas (DA) wanted to know what would happen if the Minister did not come at all to the meetings. Would the court ask if every avenue had been followed before getting to that situation? He asked how this could be done so that there was no legroom to manoeuvre out of it.
Adv Jenkins said the next step was to go to court after following all the avenues. The court would issue summons when someone had not appeared in court and make an arrest if, after several communications were sent and the person did not appear in court.
Ms Maneli asked if the Minister was liable for the costs of senior counsel, and asked if the Committee could get a report that confirmed this.
Adv Jenkins said it was taxpayers’ money that was used. If the Committee challenged the Minister, taxpayers’ money was used unless the court came with a different finding that the Minister or an official paid.
Mr Matumba wanted to find out why the Minister did not resign, because she did not want to account to Parliament, but the Deputy Minister was in the meeting to answer questions. The Deputy Minister could not answer questions from the Committee. A court case should be opened on this matter. The Committee wanted to push the Minister to account before Parliament. He wanted to know if the Minister would come to the Committee to account if a court case was opened.
Adv Jenkins said that section 92 of the Constitution required the Minister to account to Parliament. The Deputy Minister may be appointed by the Minister to carry out certain duties when instructed by the Mminister, but did not account to Parliament.
The Chairperson said that Adv Fatima Ebrahim had given the Committee two options to consider on the matter, and according to her, the Committee had exhausted all the avenues. The Committee had written to the Speaker and Chief Whip of the majority political party, and had asked who should approach the NPA. It was stated in the summons that the summons would be withdrawn if the Minister appeared before the Committee.
Adv Jenkins said the Committee must write to the Speaker and advise that the summons had been ignored.
The Chairperson commented it was clear that the rule of law should be upheld, irrespective of the position one holds in society.
The meeting was adjourned.
Mr M De Freitas (DA)
Adoption of minutes
The Committee adopted one set of minutes, dated 22 November 2022.
The meeting was adjourned.
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