Western Cape Government: Parliamentary discussion

Beverley Schäfer MPP

DA Western Cape Spokesperson for Economic Development, Tourism & Agriculture

Speaker, September marks the start of tourism month centred on the theme of ‘Tourism transforming lives’.

The Western Cape Tourism industry is a major employer and driver of economic growth, contributing 18,5bn to the region’s economy and employing more than 150 000 people.

According to the SA Tourism Index Q3 2013 report, the Western Cape showed an impressive 25.9% growth, recording the highest number of tourist arrivals in this quarter.

Speaker, it’s an impressive recovery from the declining economic trend we experienced between 2011 and 2012.

But Madame Speaker, it is most disconcerting that I stand in this House today, with a pile of complaints received from concerned stakeholders and families, regarding the implementation of the new visa regulations.

Recent media reports have indicated that these regulations have already ripped apart families, dissuaded investors and led to the cancellation of multi million rand film and tourism ventures.

Is this really how tourism is transforming lives in South Africa, Speaker?

The new visa regulations continue to negatively impact tourism bookings and investment. Virgin Atlantic has just announced that it will be cancelling its Cape Town-London route. While SAA continues to operate the Johannesburg – Beijing route, despite an estimated R309m a year loss, with these new visa regulations, we will see a 70% decline of visitors from China. I wonder what will happen to future Chinese –South African relations and ultimately to sustainability of SAA as a result?

So why risk the collapse of this important economic sector with legislation that has clearly not been thought through?

More tragic than this, is the impact on children attending schools in South Africa. A family were unable to fulfil a custody court order to return their child to his paternal father in time, forfeiting the cost of three air tickets, and additional layers fees as they were told their child could not return if he left, and would be classified as undesirable. It’s been reported that a child as young as five months old, has also been classified undesirable with a five year ban.

A father told me that his young child is stuck overseas and cannot get back to South Africa, even though he had applied for extensions months in advance.

I urge the ANC’s Minister Hanekom to get on board and stop paying lip service at the expense of destroying people’s lives!

It is precisely because of this, that the Standing Committee on Economic Development and Tourism unanimously agreed on 27 August to hold public hearings to afford stakeholders the opportunity to raise their concerns with this parliament.

We will conduct these hearings on the 25th and 26th September in this Chamber and get Minister Gigaba and various sectors of the economy to address the concerns raised.

Because, Madame Speaker, contrary to the ANC, the DA run Western Cape does hold the constitutional right of public engagement to its highest regard!