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ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
24 October 2006
SOUTH AFRICAN TOURISM, SOUTH AFRICAN WEATHER SERVICES AND GREATER ST LUCIA WETLANDS AUTHORITY 2006 ANNUAL REPORTS: BRIEFINGS
Acting Chairperson: Mr L Zita (ANC) (Mr AD Mokoena was acting chairperson for the duration of the meeting)
Documents handed out:
South African Tourism Portfolio Committee Session Input power point presentation
South African Weather Service 2005/06 Annual Report power point presentation
South African Tourism: Barriers to Travel to South Africa
South African Tourism: Key Performance areas
South African Tourism: 2005/06 Targets and Actual Performance
Greater St Lucia Wetland Park Authority presentation
Greater St Lucia Wetland Park Authority Annual Report 2006
Presentations were made by the South African Weather Services, South African Tourism and the Greater St Lucia Wetlands Authority on their 2006 Annual Reports. They reported on achievements and challenges and provided financial details. The organisations compared their performances during the year with their targets and their performance in the previous years. The Committee asked questions especially related to transformation within the organisations and how their work benefited grassroots communities. All three organisations had unqualified audit reports and were congratulated by the Committee on their progress.
Mr A D Mokoena (ANC, Acting Chairperson appointed 24/10/2006) opened the meeting explaining that the Chairperson was overseas until the following Friday. There would be three presentations from the South African Weather Service, South African Tourism and Greater St Lucia Wetland Authority.
South African Weather Service (SAWS) Presentation
Mr BN Tashe (Acting CEO) presented SAWS’ achievements, goals and recapitalisation plan. The theme for 2005/06 was modernisation and changing mindsets. There was a customer focus, and there were automated systems put in place for faster and more accurate information. This includes an early warning system for severe weather. They had 98.8% uptime in networks. AMDAR (Aircraft Meteorological Data Relay) software is for atmospheric information especially for flights over SA, and the continent. This saves money in the long run. The Lightning Detection Network (LDN) has been improved with 3.4 million strikes detected in January 2006. They are now detectable within 500m. This is much more accurate than previously. There is a focus on climate change especially floods and storms. The National Weather Radar Network is linked to Mozambique, and Botswana will be next to join.
Automatic Weather Stations are especially deployed in rural areas along with a new sms messaging system to manage severe weather events. They need an education drive to make this effective. There is an Aviation Weather Display System which created a display for pilots in real time. This allows for communication to small planes too. Research includes enhancing the Meteorological Early Warning System, using the new Meteosat 8 and LDN and collaborating with disaster management centres. Prediction research is important; two day forecasts present an accurate warning, seven day forecasts are advisory and month and season forecasts provide an outlook. Pollution monitoring projects with Wits University has been co-funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) and the Norwegian Government. Other research includes cloud seeding, which got an award for the best scientific contribution to science of rainfall enhancement research. In human capital management, there is a reduced capped leave liability with R6.7 million, 32 new appointments of which 88% were historically-disadvantaged individuals (HDIs). There are too few women in the sciences. There is a lot of training, including short courses for staff members. Other achievements include public participation initiatives, journal articles and media reports. Improvements from last year included that progress has been made in keeping track of targets with real performance. A challenge is that the education system does not provide enough scientists and there are capacity constraints. They have a bridging course for other scientists to join meteorology. Other challenges include a lack of land, aviation debt, old radars and turnover in top management.
Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked whether any other countries on the continent have the software for gauging atmospheric temperatures and wind sounding. What is trace gas research and what are the ensembles mentioned in relation to prediction research?
Mr L P Khoarai (ANC) said that there had been an emphasis on rural communities. He asked which ones these were and whether they were being made aware of initiatives like the lightning warning system. Which rural schools were involved in SAWS activities and why was the indigenous knowledge of the local people not included in the presentation?
Ms R A Ndzanga (ANC) thanked the presenter and said that they were doing well with transformation. With regards to staff training, what do staff members gain? Do they gain a permanent job once the course is complete, or are they eligible for promotion? What is the position on this in top management; are people able to move up to management level? What are the demographics of the programs, especially how many women and disabled people? They should involve at least one rural person in the training as this would be a start.
Dr J S Mphepya (General Manager of Operations) answered that Tanzania also has the software. Trace gases are those present at the lowest concentrations. Sampling is done at Cape Point to gauge the background levels of these gases and is thus not contaminated by the city.
Mr M Ndabambi (General Manager of Forecasting) said that the ensemble is a tool to predict weather. There are many tools to do this. They use a numerical Weather Prediction Model to generate seven-day forecasts. They could then see where low and high-pressure systems were. Five countries are using the ensemble and it allows for the inclusion of people’s experience and expertise. The program assembles all data and presents a single prediction from the average of these.
Dr Mphepya said that they worked with a number of schools including the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of Fort Hare where there are collaborations for lectures at schools. They also participate in the School’s Fest in Grahamstown and receive school visits at the Cape Point station.
Mr Tashe added that they had an installation in Umtata with which they have an agreement in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding. This was that each municipal district would help one school with science matters. They need to move from the Memorandum to implementation. Their actions did not only involve schools coming to them. They had an initiative to get students with degrees employed.
Dr Mphepya added that the University of KwaZulu-Natal provided technological support through continuous research. Their involvement is not just at schools. The indigenous knowledge of local people requires the input of social workers to combine the knowledge with science. There are social development initiatives in this regard at both Wits and Fort Hare Universities. During the next year they will develop a pilot project.
Ms Edna Moyo-Sibanda (Human Resources Section) said that only internal staff is included in the training. Upcoming school pupils are encouraged to get at least a matric. There is a program for advanced management for internal staff members. There are bursaries for science students who are then absorbed into the SAWS.
The Chairperson said that they were impressed with SAWS’ work and that they have managed to humanise and demystify weather services. He suggested that the sms campaign should be interactive as this would present a source of income as well.
Mr Ndabambi said that the sms campaign focused on warning of severe weather events and to give advice to people. It had a high time pressure because warnings were sometimes only twenty minutes prior to events. Interactive elements could be introduced for general weather information.
The Chairperson added that they could also use a call centre to give explanations from a human voice. This would help with the commercialisation and would be an incentive to draw young people into the sciences.
Mr Tashe thanked the Chairperson for his comments. These were issues that they have been grappling with so it was heartening to hear confirmation from an outside source.
Ms Ndzanga repeated her request for a breakdown of the department’s demographics.
Ms Moyo-Sibanda replied that she unfortunately did not have the numbers for the people on the training course because it is internal. The numbers for the entire organisation are in the Annual Report.
The Chairperson confirmed that these were the numbers that they wanted. It is not adequate but it is at least an attempt at transformation. The following year they want to see an improvement. The priority is black women and then black men and so forth. They are making an effort.
Mr SM Rasmeni (ANC) said that the figures were not satisfactory. Where had they been for the last 12 years? What was it that stood in the way of equity?
Ms Moyo-Sibanda said that one of the challenges was that there were not many black women in the sciences. They are making strategic moves to target grade school children to attract black women. They do this through the sms campaign as well.
The Chairperson said that Mr E N Ngcobo (ANC) had recently been in Japan where 500 scientists were gathered with a focus on science and society. Projects must be focused at schools to plan for the future. They had no option but to attract them though “gimmicks” as well as aggressively through bursaries.
Ms Chalmers added that in the Annual Report, SAWS themselves mention the shortage of scientists. It is not only a problem in South Africa. They are attracted away to the private sector. Targeting primary schools is a good idea but then the lack of a good scientific education is a problem. It is a big problem and it cannot be wished away. It is also a problem experienced in other departments.
The Chairperson suggested giving the option to students. He thanked SAWS and said that he wanted to have further meetings with them, not only on the Annual Report.
SA Tourism (SAT) Presentation
Mr M Mosola (CEO) thanked the Committee for the opportunity and the support they had provided in recent events. He hoped to show that they are still growing. In 2005 tourism grew by 10.3% when the target was only 6.7%. There was big growth in tourism from the rest of Africa and the Middle East. Africa was the bedrock and SA must defend this position. The Americas also grew. There was little growth from Europe. Over the last 12 years, tourism had grown by 6.5%. The highest number of arrivals was recorded in the first quarter of 2006. This was a good foundation for the rest of the year. During the past 12 years, 68.5 million people had visited. If one calculates the creation of one job for every 12 visitors, then 308 000 new jobs have been created and R609 billion has been spent by foreigners. R243 is created for every R1 that government spends on tourism. Tourism really can grow the economy of the country. Their key achievements include surpassing the psychological mark of 7 million arrivals. Air capacity was a key issue. They have worked with DEAT and with the Department of Transport on this. Amongst others, Thai Air and Delta will not be flying to South Africa. Public transport remained an issue.
In the last week all tourism players were brought together to deal with the lack of skills in the sector. South Africa leads in research. They managed to execute all their plans. There was growth in the USA, the UK was back on track and Europe had improved. Japan is a fickle market and it is very important to be active in it. There was a partnership with National Geographic to preserve the natural parks by showing documentaries about them all over the world. This builds the South African profile. They used the Department of Foreign Affairs to improve attraction in countries not yet big in our tourism market. They work with the private sector as well. They have a 2010 tourism plan already submitted to Parliament. Fiscal discipline remained very important and they had an unqualified audit report for the 5th year in a row. Skills upliftment was done through internal programs. They also have ten interns and a summer school for journalists to write about tourism. The inclusion of HDIs and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) is a main focus. There was a shift to travellers booking online and consequently they need to develop systems to manage this. Flights as well as accommodation and food are included in this.
They are trying to create a comprehensive database. They currently have 54000 records and since there are lots of small businesses in tourism with a high turnover it was a challenge to keep the database current. They surpassed their human resource targets. The organisation looks like the country. One challenge is that marketing is a competitive field and it is difficult to retain staff members. More funding was needed for South African Tourism to stay in the market, but it is not a plea for more money. Visas were a problem as it can take someone in India three days to get a visa to Australia but ten days to get one to South Africa. Their long-term ambitions include growth. By 2014 South Africa must be one of the top three destinations in the world.
The Chairperson asked if the skills conference was a substitute for the normal annual tourism conference.
Mr Mosola answered in the negative. They would have the annual conference. The lack of skills had been identified as being very important because if one person has a bad experience they can dissuade many others from visiting.
The Chairperson requested the declaration charter from the conference.
Mr Khoarai thanked the presenter and commented that the role of Members of Parliament was to be observers. He also requested a copy of the resolutions.
Mr Rasmeni thanked the CEO for his presentation. He said that they were missing documents that covered some of the points. The information is important as they use the documents as a reference. He would appreciate being given those that they missed. The visas are a concern to all people of South Africa, what is being done by Government as a whole and not just DEAT? From 1994, a lot more money could have been made. Tourism and trade are the keys to the economy. What other elements are presenting impediments to tourism?
Mr MU Kalako (ANC) said that he is not sure what the Department of Home Affairs is doing about the visa issue and if Statistics South Africa have supplied the data to follow the trends of competitors. Perhaps the Committee can sit with the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee to consider an amendment to help the situation. This is especially of concern for business permits for investors. They need to deal with the backlog and the Committee can make an effort in this regard.
Mr Mosola confirmed that he would send all the resolutions. He could not agree with Mr Rasmeni on all his points about visas. There is a level of inconsistence at Home Affairs as there are different requirements for different countries according to their safety profiles. Competitors have the same challenges but deal better with them. For example the visas for Indians have gone from good, taking three days, to worse; taking ten days. They need to work out how to improve. China is another classic issue where group favour is in place. They need a group of 16 people to travel in South Africa, so if one person cannot gain a visa, we lose all those travellers. There is an agreement with China and certain tour operators to help this situation. There were new consulates in Shanghai and Beijing.
The Chairperson said that Mr Kalako had made the point of what the Committee can do to help. South African Tourism must make a proposal for them to change the system. Can the model for funding be extended?
Mr Mosola clarified that it was not a legislative issue; it was a policy issue. It was the discretion of the Director General (DG) of Home Affairs that was problematic. The legislative framework was in place but the DG can decide the terms for each country. They need to resource staff properly. They are under pressure in Nigeria and were understaffed there but Home Affairs worked well to resolve this. Visas were a concern of Home Affairs. Domestic travel is close to their hearts. A culture of travel is needed to be good hosts to travellers. They concentrated on this, having increased funding on it from 0 to R50 million, and it was still growing. Not enough was done but they will do more. He works with all the provinces. There was a two-month delay in the release of statistics, which is unacceptable. It is critical for all decision making. They met with the Statistician-General to raise the issues and see how they could assist. SAT knows they can do better and try to resolve the problems. The problem is administrative rather than legislative.
The Chairperson asked if SAT could get software to interact with Home Affairs and Stats SA so that information could be shared.
Mr Mosola said that Home Affairs collect the stats and store them and then transferred them to Stats SA to interpret them. Stats SA are the only ones allowed to do it. SAT shares information but the release is the responsibility of Stats SA. They are looking for ways in which to improve the system.
Mr Rasmeni asked what the Government as a whole was doing. If they cannot resolve it, there are political heads in place to deal with it. It is the responsibility of cabinet.
The Chairperson clarified that the Committee is responsible.
Mr Rasmenti said that they needed to hear from SAT in order to act.
Mr Mosola said that they have bilateral communication with DEAT and they had asked the DG to convene meetings with all these people. They did not want to point fingers but rather report on what the challenges are and what they are doing to fix it.
Mr Khoarai asked for elaboration on safety and security matters as he was sure that attempted hi-jackings of planes early in the month must be a deterrent to tourists.
Mr Mosola said that they worked with the provinces. The Western Cape and Mpumalanga have good tourist safety programs that involve the police and public and private sectors. They will develop a model of these provinces to create a national program. They want to be proactive.
Mr Rasmeni said that transformation was highlighted as being slow. What are the impediments to this? He was happy to hear about the unqualified audit report, but was there any over or under spending? What is the yearly breakdown of revenue from tourism? How are HDIs prepared to benefit from 2010?
Mr J van der Walt (Chief Financial Officer) said that the budget had been within 1% variance of the target of R7million. This variance was the result of movement of offices overseas. They tried to save money; for example publishing the Annual Report on recycled paper saved R100 000.
Mr Mosola added that a challenge to transformation was that most tourist companies are family owned small, medium and micro businesses (SMMEs). They need to change this by increasing the opportunity for other people to enter the industry. 20% of the industry is made up of bigger integrated tour operators such as Avis and Thompson’s Tours. They all have BEE buy in. To fix the situation, accommodation partners are included for 2010. SAT is a quality assuror for FIFA. This is the first time in the history of FIFA and it will mean that not only hotels will gain from the Word Cup. DEAT is providing R175 million in subsidies for SMMEs to grade themselves for this initiative.
The Chairperson asked how this information is communicated.
Mr Mosola said it was done over the radio, through public platforms and call centres. Transport is the next biggest issue. They will have to workshop the issue to focus on it.
The Chairperson said the unqualified audit report was good. They must follow up on the BEE scorecard. It is good that they are targeting young journalists. There is a lot of groundwork to be done to get communities to embrace safety and security. The public hearings had been a failure as a single person attended. They need to decentralise hearings and to have stakeholder meetings in each province.
Greater St Lucia Wetland Authority Presentation
Mr S Zahn (CEO) presented that the St Lucia wetlands were now Malaria free. There are three land incorporations, the transfer of South African Forestry Company (SAFCOL) land, restocking of game and land rehabilitation targets have been met. 11 land claims remain unsettled but will be soon. Mr Price has bought into the crafts in the park. Training in the organisation is made up of 50% male and 50% female attendees. They have revised the commercial strategy with a focus on day visits. The target is to increase revenue by 30% and to create an all-encompassing brand of St Lucia like that of Kruger Park. This would mean people think of the whole region and not just the town of St Lucia. They had an unqualified audit report for the 4th or 5th year in a row. Sourcing staff is difficult because of their remote location. All border posts except one have been opened and they aim to extend the World Heritage Site. There is a short, medium and long-term strategy. Challenges include unauthorised development, drought and beneficiation for people living there. They planned a conference to discuss 2010.
Ms Chalmers asked if the roll back of Malaria was the result of DDT use and if so what measures were taken to mitigate its toxicity. Are there concessions for developers? Has the drop off of revenue from hunting due to bans been mitigated?
Mr Rasmeni asked what the BEE target was and what the categories were. The buy in of Mr Price was good, what other ownership programs existed?
Ms Ndzanga commented that the community is a major stakeholder. How did the benefits of tourism in St Lucia flow to the women, elderly and disabled people?
Mr Zahn answered that DDT was used since its delisting as a pollutant. In the 1940s there had been Malaria in Europe and DDT had been used widely and poorly. It is now used discretely and there is a GIS program in place to monitor it. The problem is that it does not degrade. He was not sure that enough research had been done on it but other methods were more expensive and less effective. A vaccination may provide a good alternative except that it is not yet available. Concessions are based on the Kruger Park model. They are looking at more balanced models. In SMMEs, BEE is a problem because they are mostly family owned. The revenue loss is small; about R400 000. Concession fees mitigate it. There are BEE targets at different levels and phases such as construction and land care. The crafts are considered soft empowerment. There is an increased focus on this sector. At the bottom, 80% of employees are black but at middle management only 35% of employees are women, which is a problem. There is a small pool of females in conservation. It is a competitive environment. There are 32 people in the organisation and one or two appointments would fix the situation. Treasury oversees benefits and they have no direct control.
Ms Ndzanga said that they are concerned that they are not getting all the information. What about the old and disabled people? Do they get money?
The Chairperson asked for elaboration on the trust and how it worked. They may have to revisit the issue during an oversight trip.
Mr Zahn said that people live in the park and have not been removed. The tender process requires mandatory partnering with local people. The local people have a trust. The details depend on how the finances are raised. From the tender they look at how many jobs will be created and who will be employed. What will the local spending be? They are training lots of people who now have jobs. The question is difficult to answer. Old people will benefit because their children have jobs. There are limited 2nd economy benefits in the south of the park.
The Chairperson said that St Lucia Park covered 1/3rd of the KZN coastline. Concessions must mean that the people who access them employ local people. It is the Committee’s role to install policy.
Mr Zahn clarified that that is what the concession does. He would propose preliminary ideas for the conference so that it can be workshopped.
The Chairperson thanked everyone and adjourned the meeting.
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