Declaration by Manny de Freitas, Shadow Minister of Tourism:
Report of Tourism Portfolio Committee: Quarter 1 & Quarter 2 Performance Report for 2021/22 Financial year
This frank and honest report on the Tourism Department’s first and second quarter performance and that of South African Tourism admits that it was the lockdown and the associated regulations that decimated the tourism, hospitality and related sectors causing the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. No one is fooled when we are told that it was covid-19 that caused this. It was this ANC government.
Even the opportunities created by this government to assist this sector proved to be sub-standard using a court case as an excuse to stop providing assistance. In reality, and as is usual with the ANC, the Tourism Relief Fund, as well as the Relief Fund for Tourist Guides, were opportunities to launder money, steal and plunder. When that wasn’t happening, incompetent and ill-qualified ANC cadres couldn’t or wouldn’t administer these funds properly. It is shocking to see how this department is unable to undertake the most basic of administrative tasks such as confirming identity numbers.
As a result, an astronomical over R 13-million of these funds have been paid out incorrectly by the Department of Tourism. Replies by the Minister to questions that I posed confirm that officials working for the State and people already receiving grants were paid out. Even dead people were paid out! What an indictment on the department and a slap in the face to those who lost their jobs and those who are still waiting for any type of support.
Instead of trying to micro-manage and control this sector by creating training programmes that have no empirical research indicating the demand for them in the first place, they should allow the private sector itself to undertake this. Government should instead create an environment that will make it more attractive and conducive for businesses in this sector to grow and develop in South Africa. Specialist companies that can respond to international bids are best placed to do this. Government should rather assist those companies which ultimately bring in great much-needed foreign revenue and thus creates jobs and opportunities.
Countries that have assisted their tourism and hospitality specialist businesses have shown that these sectors grow and develop exponentially. It is the job of this department to create an attractive environment for tourism and hospitality, it is not its job to be involved in the actual business of tourism.
All members of the Portfolio Committee agree that we need to encourage, grow and develop tourism in rural areas, towns and villages. However, this will only happen if this government ensures that the required infrastructure that will make this happen is there in the first. Tourists will visit these areas only if they have the means to get there and are comfortable and safe when they are there. Infrastructure such as good roads, access to water and electricity is what will ensure that new tourism opportunities occur because when the required infrastructure is in place, the private sector will do the rest.
In this context, the Department should focus on improving communication, coordination and collaboration between itself and other departments as this remains a major problem as each department have different and sometimes even opposing priorities. Although the ANC government expects tourists to visit tourism sites, they appear to fail to understand the importance of maintaining and building additional infrastructure that will ensure that tourists visit these sites and areas now and in the future.
To illustrate this, South Africa previously had the best rail tourism sector on the continent. Today, thanks to this government’s lack of maintenance and modernisation, absence of infrastructure protection, corruption, theft and cadre-deployment, it is non-existent.
Until this government understands what it should be doing, and put old-fashioned ideology aside, tourism in South Africa will not realise its true potential for economic growth and job creation.
Manny de Freitas MP
Shadow Minister of Tourism