Province to pay for politicians’ holiday

Boitumelo Babuseng, MPL

DA Provincial Spokesperson on Economic Affairs:

The Democratic Alliance condemns the fact that three MEC’s and a number of senior government officials will be having a holiday in Las Vegas at the taxpayers’ expense. The funds that will have been wasted on this unnecessary luxury could and should have been spent towards stimulating the provincial tourism industry. The presence of three MEC’s and government officials will not contribute one single cent to the tourism industry.

To fly from Kimberley to Las Vegas on Wednesday 4 February using a business ticket on South African Airways will cost R46 432.78 per person. That is R139 298.34 just to get the three MEC’s to Las Vegas.

To get them back will cost another R154 714.17, calculated at R51 571.39 per person.

The round trip price for each of these MEC’s is a staggering R98 004.17. On flights for three MEC’s alone, the provincial government will be forking over R294 012.51.

Accommodation for one night for one person at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, where the convention is to be held, costs R3 696. For four nights, the province will have to pay R44 352.

For the MECs’ travel and accommodation, the taxpayers will have to foot a bill of at last R338 364.51. This is not including meals, their daily stipends for being outside the province or the costs of their entourages. Depending on how many government officials are being taken along on this joyride, we could be looking at costs of more than half a million.

The purpose of the Ultimate Hunters’ Market, as described on its website, is to “book hunts, rendezvous with old friends and shop for the latest guns and hunting equipment”. There are also information sessions on how to care for hunting equipment, hunting techniques and the preparation of game. The event is being advertised and aimed at hunters. It is clearly not an event for politicians or regulators.

What can the MEC for Environment, Health and Transport contribute to the discussion about hunting equipment or the best way to prepare a game pie? We reject the argument that this is an opportunity for the two MECs who are new to their portfolio’s to familiarise themselves with the hunting industry. Health and Transport, Safety & Liaison has absolutely nothing to do with the hunting industry. All this is, is an opportunity to use new passports and have a holiday at the taxpayers’ expense.

If there is indeed any economic benefit to be accrued to the province, the Northern Cape Tourism Authority should have sent a delegation of one or two officials. The Ultimate Hunters’ Market provides prime exhibition space. The NCTA could have set up a stand to promote the province internationally as a prime holiday or hunting spot.

The 2014/15 budget for NCTA to run its International Channel Marketing is only R210 000 and its International Media and PR is budgeted at R100 000. These two programmes deal with the marketing and branding of the province as a destination for the international leisure market. For the price of the flights alone, we could have covered these programmes and given it a much needed boost. However, the NCTA and the provincial tourism industry is being sidelined.

At a time when the South African tourism industry is growing and the provincial share is shrinking, it is outrageous that funds are being spent so that politicians and their friends can go have a holiday.

We will be following up this matter with the Office of the Premier and the various departments to determine exactly who went and what the province had to pay for this extravagance.