International travellers rate Western Cape hotels as world’s best

By Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities:

Millions of international travellers have selected the Western Cape’s hotels as among the best in the world.

Accommodation establishments across the province have won Tripadvisor’s Travellers Choice Awards.

The list is based on ratings by millions of real travellers. It recognizes the best hotels in over 90 countries.

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, has congratulated the four establishments in our region which made the list.

Please see winners below:

Blackheath Lodge in Three Anchor Bay was named as one of the Top 25 Hotels for Service. One guest said: “It is the perfect location to explore Cape Town and the surrounding vineyards. The perfect place to enjoy the sun, read, relax, nap or whatever it takes to rejuvenate, all while being pampered.”

2inn1 Kensington in Gardens was selected as one of the world’s Top 25 Small Hotels, with one guest describing it as a “stylish hotel”, with “excellent service”.

Villa Afrikana Guest Suites is also one of the Top 25 Small Hotels. One tourist said the Knysna property offered the “best stay in South Africa”.

The Garden House in Franschhoek was recognised as one of the Top 25 B&B and Inns. Visitors praised the establishment’s hospitality.

Minister Winde said the awards signalled another great year for the Western Cape’s tourism sector.

“We’re still in the middle of our peak tourism season and early indications suggest that several attractions are experiencing an increase in visitor numbers. I commend these hotels for garnering excellent publicity for themselves and for our destination as a whole. The world-class service we offer our visitors is definitely a key factor in repeat visits.”

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Letter to the Editor – Well done iSimangaliso!

By Ann McDonnell, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson for Economic Development, Tourism, Conservation and Environmental Affairs:

The tragedy of the severe drought in South Africa has brought home to all of us the vital importance of looking after our scarce resources.

This has been amplified by the many media articles which have laid bare the devastating loss of livestock and crops along with queues of people waiting for water tankers.

Yesterday’s Mercury article – by award-winning environmental journalist Tony Carnie – on the sad state of Lake St Lucia is one such example.

So it was very good to also read that the management of iSimangaliso Wetland Park, one KZN’s precious Heritage sites, has managed to raise funds to reverse the negative effects of the practices of the past.

This proactive approach must be applauded and held up as an example of true will in the face of adversity.

Well done iSimangaliso!

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No excuse for delays in MECs’ appointment

By Andrew Louw, MPL, DA Provincial Leader in the Northern Cape:

The Democratic Alliance calls on the premier of the Northern Cape to take the provincial administration seriously. There is no excuse for the delays in the appointment of a permanent Member of the Executive Council for Education and for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism. Both of these portfolios are pivotal in driving provincial growth and require a permanent appointee.

Why does it take the ANC-led administration so long to make permanent appointments and when will it begin to prioritise provincial interests over internal party matters? The province and its people matter more than a political party. When former premier Hazel Jenkins suffered a stroke, it took more than a year to appoint a new premier.

We are not casting aspersions on the work being done by either of the acting MECs. But it is inhumane to expect that one person can do justice to both the crucial portfolios of Health and Finance, Economic Development and Tourism. We know that Mac Jack has made all the right noises about service delivery, but there simply isn’t enough time in the day for him to do everything that these demanding portfolios require.

Likewise, Education requires full-time attention which should not be split with the equally important portfolio of Transport, Safety and Liaison. It was recently revealed that the provincial pass rate for grade 12 learners has decreased by 7%, including a decrease in bachelors’ passes of 3.6%, a decrease of 6.4% in the Mathematics pass rate and a decrease of 6.1% in Physical Sciences. While the quality of education offered to learners declines, violent crimes such as assault and robbery have shown an increase in 2015. We need two different MECs who can devote their attention full-time to delivering quality education on the one hand and safe communities on the other.

Not only is the premier neglecting her duty to appoint competent members of her executive, but she is failing to appoint permanent heads of departments. There has also been a number of vacancies among heads of department in the province, including a vacancy in the Provincial Treasury since October 2014 and in the Department of Economic Development and Tourism since November 2014.

One cannot run a spaza shop like this, let alone a province.

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Western Cape wine estate welcomes record number of tourists

One of the Western Cape’s biggest tourism attractions is reporting a dramatic increase in visitor numbers ahead of the peak summer season.

Groot Constantia, South Africa’s oldest wine-producing estate, recorded a remarkable 56% increase in visitor numbers in October and a 55% increase in turn-over from its tasting room.

Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, said the estate, which usually attracts in excess of 350 000 visitors annually, is on track for a record-breaking year.

“The latest figures from Groot Constantia are testament to the importance of wine tourism, which generates over R6 billion for the economy per annum, and to the rapid growth in numbers we’re seeing. Last year, many of our tourism establishments reported their highest visitor numbers yet. If the November figures out of this key establishment are anything to go by, we’re in for another great year for our tourism sector. This sector is a very important source of revenue and job creation in the province, and working with industry, we have plans to ramp it up significantly. The current exchange rate is also a major opportunity for us which we must maximize.”

Marketing manager of Groot Constantia, Grant Newton, added: “Winning the “Best Chardonnay in the world” award at Chardonnay du Monde earlier this year definitely put us back on many international travelers bucket lists of “must visit attractions”. We have however also worked very hard to counter the negative effect that the VISA regulations caused us and have seen the fruits of our labour in that we have had a marked increase in visitors from Europe, Africa and the Americas. South Africans have also re-discovered Groot Constantia and many have become ambassadors of what is essentially a national pride. We are looking forward to a massive festive season and I remain very positive about what 2016 has in store for us.”

Minister Winde said the wine tourism niche, which has been prioritised by Project Khulisa, was an important economic driver.

“Our wines are amongst the highest-quality in the world and our offering is a major drawcard for international visitors. Just this week, one of our local winemakers was named as the best in the world. Abrie Beeslaar, of Kanonkop, was named as the International Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine and Spirit Competition gala ceremony, which was held in London.

“Over 300 experts from across the world selected the winners of this competition. I’d like to congratulate Abrie for this prestigious achievement. Accolades such as these garner international recognition for our destination’s offering, boost exports and attract even more visitors to our region.”

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Tourism Authority must protect industry from undue IT threats

By Boitumelo Babuseng MPL, DA Northern Cape Provincial Spokesperson of Finance:

The DA welcomes the achievement of a clean audit by the Northern Cape Tourism Authority (NCTA) but notes that a general lack of controls in Information Technology (IT) governance continues to poses a threat to the entity.

The King III report states that IT has become an integral part of doing business today, as it is fundamental to the support, sustainability and growth of organisations. IT cuts across all aspects, components and processes in business and is therefore not only an operational enabler for a company, but an important strategic asset which can be leveraged to create opportunities and to gain competitive advantage.

In this respect, the NCTA’s marketing strategies are largely enhanced through information management. Amongst other things, the entity has made large investments in social media platforms, digital marketing campaigns and advertising.

The gains made through capitalizing on IT related initiatives, could however be undone in the click of a button.
The King III report further goes on to state that in as much as IT can be a strategic asset to the company, IT also presents organisations with significant risks. The report therefore emphasizes that the strategic asset of IT and its related risks and constraints should be well governed and controlled.

The Auditor-General has been raising this issue across government institutions for some time now but, probably due to institutions underestimating the importance of this issue, there remains a reluctance by institutions to act on this.

The DA will write a letter to the acting MEC of Economic Development, requesting that he explains to us how the NCTA, as well as the department’s other entities, plan to improve controls on IT governance.

Tourism is an important contributor to the economy of the Northern Cape and therefore the NCTA must give the people of this province the assurance that they are doing everything necessary to protect the tourism industry from undue IT threats.

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Mismanagement leads to possible closure of nature reserve.

By Jacqueline Theologo (MPL), DA North West Tourism Spokesperson:

The Democratic Alliance in the North West is concerned with the Department of Tourism and Department of Rural, Environmental and Agricultural Development’s mismanagement which may result to the closure of the Molemane Eye Nature Reserve near Ottoshoop.

The Molemane Nature Reserve hosts a wide variety of wildlife and is rich in diverse natural resources. Regardless of this, the reserve has been crippled by the mismanagement of the Tourism Department.

There are no game viewing vehicles for tourists to drive around the reserve. The reserve is also severely understaffed which has led to low morale of staff.

The Department of Rural and Agricultural Development has removed 16 of the female buffalos from the farm leaving only males, this will hinder the breeding of these animals.

All the rhinos on the farm have also been removed and one zebra have been sold.

The reserve has not been informed about the reasons of this and there has not been any money to cover the removal of the animals.

The reserve cannot afford to close down as this will not only lead to job losses but also to a loss in revenue for tourism in the North West.

The Department of Rural Development is moving animals around the province without giving thought to the effects that this will have on the well-being of the wildlife animals and to the sustainability of the tourism industry.

The DA believes it is imperative for both the management of the nature reserve and Park Forum to be involved in the purchasing and removal of wildlife animals as it affects the profitability of their reserve instead of being dictated to by the Rural Development Department.

The DA will ask the Tourism MEC Desbo Mohono on how they plan to assist the reserve financially to prevent its closure. The DA will also write to the MEC for Rural Development Me Manketsi Tlhape demanding that all animals that were removed, be returned to the reserve.

It is important to sustain and reserve wildlife animals and to properly manage the tourism industry, this is not only vital at increasing revenue and creating jobs, but to ensure that future generations get to experience some of life’s beautiful creatures.

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Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency is leaderless and failing

By Bosman Grobler MPL, Spokesperson on Finance, Economic Development & Tourism:

Political meddling at the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency has compromised its leadership and financial viability, rendering it unable to deliver on its mandate.

MEC for Economic Development and Tourism, Eric Kholwane’s misjudgement in suspending and eventually forcing former CEO of Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, Jacques Modipane to quit is costing the agency dearly.

For the 2014/15 financial year the MTPA managed to incur irregular expenditure amounting to R10.9 million and the amount of litigation settlements has increased from R2.5 million to R6.5 million. The entity also has a civil suit against it of 1.1 billion rand for alleged corruption.

This is as a result of political meddling, with cadres of unquestionable loyalty being placed in strategic positions. This leadership has no focus on fulfilling its mandate, but is more concerned about lining the pockets of those loyal to the ANC.

In 2014, the DA warned, that for Modipane to leave the entity was a huge mistake, and that MEC Kholwane’s interference will slow down the improvements of the MTPA as shown under the leadership of Modipane.

The Auditor General’s 2014/2015 report, indicates that the MTPA has regressed from an Unqualified Audit opinion with findings to a Qualified Audit opinion with findings.

The AG lists the following as primary reasons for the regression:

  • Accruals: The entity did not accrue for vehicle reimbursements in arrears, as required by Generally Recognised Accounting Principles. As such accruals were understated by R 4.4 million in the financials.
  • Procurement and contract management: Goods and services with transaction value above R500 000 were procured without obtaining the required price quotations, as required by treasury regulation 16A6.1.
  • Contracts were awarded to bidders based on preference points that had not been calculated in accordance with the requirements of the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework (PPPF).
  • Expenditure Management: The Accounting Authority did not take effective steps to prevent irregular as well as fruitless and wasteful expenditure as required by section 51 (1)(b)(ii) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

How will this entity provide an integrated tourism and biodiversity conservation management system in order to stimulate and maintain economic growth for the Province, if it has all of the above mentioned challenges.

The MTPA is failing to contribute significantly to the economic potential of especially rural areas in Mpumalanga. As such the DA maintain its stance on the commercialisation of MTPA owned parks.

The DA believes that the commercialisation of these parks will free up MTPA from the burden of running these parks, and allow it to focus on its core mandate of biodiversity conservation and tourism marketing. This could stimulate the economy and create more jobs.

The annual report shows that the MTPA is incapable of running these vital tourism destinations effectively.

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Amendments to job-killing visa regulations a bluff

By Beverley Schäfer MPP, DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture:

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom has today announced superficial amendments to the Visa Regulations 2014, which have cost the South African economy R 2.6 billion since its full implementation in May 2015.

I will today write to Minister Hanekom, to suspend the Visa Regulations until a full impact assessment is done, not only on the tourism sector but business as a whole.

According to the amendments, it will no longer be mandatory for inbound travellers from visa-exempt countries to carry unabridged birth certificates for children travelling with them. These amendments are simply a sugar-coated pill in that this only applies to visa-exempt countries.

Unabridged birth certificates are not necessary and biometrics must be done at airports, not at embassies.

In my capacity as the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture, I have engaged tirelessly with all sectors affected by the Visa Regulations, in the Western Cape.

The committee conducted public hearings which were reported on and presented to the Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, in November 2014. It has been a year since the report initially alerted the Minister to the job-killing impact of these regulations.

While the amendments are a step in the right direction, it is simply not enough. The inter-ministerial committee must suspend these regulations and conduct a full regulatory impact assessment.

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Head of NW Tourism must be replaced to save the tourism industry

By Jacqueline Theologo (MPL), DA North West Spokesperson for Tourism:

The Democratic Alliance in the North West is concerned that the trail of devastation by the Head of the Tourism Department  has now left its disastrous mark on the province.

The Auditor General (AG) highlighted Tourism Department Head, Charles Ndabeni’s poor management and administration, which resulted in underspending of the capital budget in the 2014/15 financial year.

A total of R46 million was not spent and had to be returned to the National Treasury. This will have a massive negative impact on tourism – one of the pillars of the economy in the province.

Ndabeni is no stranger to controversy with a widely publicised history of mismanagement and maladministration.

During the past decade, Ndabeni played a pivotal role in the destruction of both the former North West Parks and Tourism Board CEO and Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency.

He, however, still enjoys protection by the ANC with which he is affiliated to.

In the same AG, report it is revealed that contracts of nearly R440 000 were irregularly awarded, some to suppliers who are connected with officials and others approved by unauthorised officials.

Projects remain unfinished and the failure to deliver is covered up with excuses.

Ndabeni is not fit to hold this senior position in the department. Tourism will suffer further if he is not removed from office with immediate effect.

The DA will write to the Public Service Commission to request a full investigation into Ndabeni’s fitness to hold office.

We will use every avenue to our disposal to expose mismanagement and maladministration and will continue with our efforts until the North West Tourism department returns to being an engine of growth and job creation for the provincial economy.

There is no doubt that tourism can be used as an effective tool to create jobs, provide opportunities for small businesses, promote livelihoods for communities and bring South Africans together to share experiences.

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Has John Block’s wife gotten a new govt. contract?

By Adv Boitumelo Babuseng, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson for Economic Affairs:

The Democratic Alliance can reveal evidence of corruption or collusion, emerging from the Northern Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism’s first quarterly report for the 2015/16 financial year. The report reveals that technical assistance to access tenders, or preference for contracts, has been given to the spouse of the MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism – John Block. It also shows that a company belonging to the spouse of the Chairperson for the Portfolio Committee on Finance was pre-targeted to receive financial support from the department’s Economic Growth and Development Fund.

 

Each of these scandals is evidence of maladministration and mismanagement of the department’s mandate to drive economic opportunities in the province. Instead of expanding opportunities to all entrepreneurs, opportunities are restricted and emerging entrepreneurs are denied their chance to succeed because they do not have the right political connections. The Economic Growth and Development Fund is the department’s main empowerment vehicle to broaden access to opportunities for entrepreneurs who cannot secure funding on their own. We cannot turn it into a system to dispense patronage to people with the right political connections.

 

The report reveals that Insimbikazi Trading CC, which is registered on the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission database as belonging to Ms. Noluthando Silungile Block, received assistance to obtain public sector contracts. She is the sole director and also the spouse of John Block. As further confirmation of her connection to him, the physical address listed for Insimbikazi Trading is also the home address of the MEC for Finance, Economic Development & Tourism.

The company was registered on the 22nd of September 2008. According to the quarterly report from the department of Economic Development and Tourism, Insimbikazi Trading is in the electrical industry and supplies geysers.

 

It is unacceptable that the spouse of any MEC benefits from any government contracts. This is a massive conflict of interest which has not been properly disclosed. It means that the household of the MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism has benefited from this assistance, whether directly or indirectly. He is abusing his power and the public resources available to him through his department on a grand scale.

 

It is highly unlikely, bordering on impossible, that the assistance was given to Insimbikazi Trading without anyone in the department knowing that the MEC’s spouse would reap the benefits.

 

We are disturbed by the department’s denial of the ownership of Insimbikazi Trading and its attempts to cover up the corruption. The programme director for the unit, Mr. Darryl Christians, denied on record in the committee meeting that the company is registered to Ms.

Block despite the fact that CIPC records show that the official was misleading the Legislature.

 

Assistance was also rendered to Karibuni Security Services, a security company which has been established since 2000. The director of Karibuni Security Services is Mr. Motsamai Rantho. Karibuni Security Services has been successful in securing its own contracts, such as providing security services to StatsSA and at the site of the psychiatric hospital in Kimberley. It was recently awarded a contract worth R69 million by the Northern Cape Department of Health to provide security services at the five district offices.

 

By delivering assistance to a company of Karibuni’s size, the department is not expanding economic opportunities to all. A company of this strength should not need government intervention when contracts are awarded. Assistance to a well-established business like Karibuni Security Services redirects resources which should have been allocated to emerging entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs, especially black entrepreneurs, need support from government. Contrary to its own objectives, the department is not expanding opportunities to new companies and emerging entrepreneurs. It is, in fact, restricting opportunities to the politically connected elite and recycling opportunities to the same companies.

 

We have followed up with written questions to the department to determine the nature of the assistance given to Insimbikazi Trading and to Karibuni Security Services. Our questions were submitted on the 21st of August and, according to the Rules of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature, we should have received a reply by no later than the 7th of September. To date, we have not received any reply and the department’s silence on this controversial issue is deafening.

 

We have been informed that Insimbikazi Trading received a contract to supply equipment to Eskom. We will be following up this information to determine the financial value of this contract.

 

The department’s Economic Growth and Development Fund pre-targeted three companies for funding. Being pre-targeted means that the department identified you for support, including financial assistance.

 

One of the three companies is ABC Tours and Sons, which belongs to the spouse of the Chairperson for the Portfolio Committee on Finance, Economic Development and Tourism. The Chairperson for the Portfolio Committee, Ms. Gail Parker, also happens to be the deputy secretary of the provincial ANCWL.

 

Whenever you drive past her house, you will see vehicles branded with the ABC Tours and Sons logo parked inside the property. The department also did not refute the statement that it pre-targeted a company belonging to the spouse of the Chairperson for the Portfolio Committee on Finance, Economic Development and Tourism.

 

The Economic Growth and Development Fund needs to prioritise entrepreneurs who cannot secure financing on their own. We do not wish to speculate on the personal finances of the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee or her family, but it is unlikely that a highly paid member of a provincial legislature needs to apply to the Economic Growth and Development Fund as a last resort. She is likely to have succeeded with an application for a business loan.

 

The second of the three companies that was pre-targeted for funding is Jakes General Dealer in De Aar. It was advertised for sale on Gumtree for R550 000 on the 15th of July 2015. We get the impression that the owner received funds to renovate his shop and is now selling it to turn a profit. During the presentation, the department appeared shocked at this turn of events. Why does the department not monitor the companies that receive assistance? How does it ensure that companies are financially sustainable if it just hands over the cash and goes away?

 

We cannot risk becoming desensitized to corruption of this nature. The report which reveals these facts only covers the first three months of the financial year. It is not acceptable that a single cent of public funds, which must support entrepreneurs and SMMEs, is being misdirected to benefit the MEC and his friends.

 

The DA has submitted a raft of questions to the Legislature on these matters and will closely monitor responses.

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