Tag Archives: Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane

Where are tourism’s Titans, and why is the tail wagging the dog?

I am fortunate to have known some of the titans of South Africa’s tourism industry — Sol Kerzer of Southern Sun & Sun International, Hans Enderle of City Lodge, David Jack of the V&A Waterfont (who I worked with for 25 years) and many others.  I miss people like them in today’s tourism industry. 

Otto Stehlik, the founder of Protea Hotels

Otto Stehlik, the founder of Protea Hotels

But every winter, I think of Austrian-born Otto Stehlik who started Protea Hotels. He is the only person in tourism ever to receive a national award — the National Order of the Baobab in Silver for “his excellent contribution to economic and social development in South Africa” by Jacob Zuma for 2015.  Protea Hotels employed 15,000 people.

Fedhasa reported on his award at the time (click here):  “Stehlik said that even though it is a great honour to be recognised and awarded, he feels obligated to speak up about the current crisis in South African tourism. As responsible South Africans we should be naming and shaming institutions, corporations and individuals who have done damage to the industry and economy.

“Last year was not an easy year for tourism in this country. We have suffered self-inflicted pain through the Visa disaster caused by the Department of Home Affairs and via the ongoing South African Airways leadership debacle. It is time for corporate South Africa to stand up, speak up and be counted if we are to continue to build upon the unlimited potential our tourism industry offers for the advancement of each and every South African,” he said.

I met Otto for the first time in the mid-1980s. I wanted to interview him and he gladly agreed, but said he was very busy so would I mind meeting him on a Saturday morning. Protea Hotels had one hotel — the Heerengracht Hotel — and we met in his office above the hotel in the old Trust Bank building. During our discussion he said, “I don’t understand Capetonians!… They are always complaining about the weather! Sure we have some bad days, but then the clouds clear and we have Champagne Weather!” That lives with me forever!

My first dealings at Southern Sun were with Peter Venison in 1979 (when I helped them identify a site for what became the Cape Sun Hotel) who was followed by Peter Bacon (I’ve always laughed about their surnames) who took over as CEO from Sol when he left to start Sun International.  Peter gave me one of my best headlines:  “You never say no in a five star hotel.”  I had breakfast with Peter and Jules Schneid, the hotel’s project manager, during the Cape Sun’s dry run.  Jules asked the waitress for honey.  She looked at him blankly and said, “The menu says preserves, it doesn’t say honey.”  Peter called her across — I don’t think she knew who he was — and said very quietly, “I want you to remember one thing very, very clearly — In a five star hotel you never say no.  Now go and fetch some honey and tell the General Manager to come and see me now.”

When he retired, Peter did his “national service” as he called it.  He became chairman of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, the Western Cape’s destination marketing organisation.  He put in an enormous amount of very hard work to try to right what was a doomed government organisation.  (David Jack also did stints of “national service”, as chairman of the earlier Western Cape Tourism Board and the Cape Town Partnership — which saved Cape Town’s CBD.)



When I look at the response of the tourism industry’s response to the pandemic and government’s nonsensical lockdown regulations I despair!  I think to the time of the Pagad shootings at the V&A Waterfront in the mid-1990s and how Mandela asked for a meeting with Waterfront’s management “to make sure his responses were complementary to what the Waterfront was planning.”  Mandela went to the Waterfront’s offices for the meeting!  When I remarked about this when former tourism minister Derek Hanekom joined me for lunch at Boschendal a few years back, he replied, “The style of government was very different then…”  Yes, it was characterised by respect all around and there was integrity to deal with.

When our president (not the ANC president) announced the State of Disaster and the subsequent lockdown, there was national pride that het was showing leadership and taking decisive action.  As the regulations rolled out and cabinet members started speaking off the cuff, respect dwindled and died.  At his last public address, taking questions from the public in a live Zoom discussion, his national viewership was far less than the tourism industry webinars, and dwindled as the session progressed.  He became the emperor with no clothes.

I was critical of the visible leadership from tourism’s representative organisations in the first month.  I had held Sisa Ntshona, CEO of SA Tourism, in very high esteem after my interview with him two years ago.  it was weeks after Portugal’s epic and moving video about the nation shutting down that Sisa spoke on video.  I was aghast.  He was uncomfortable, preferring the teleprompter to the camera,  and clearly a man without a plan, popularising the word “unprecedented” far beyond anyone else.

It was only after the minister of tourism’s first disastrous Zoom address to the tourism industry, where she called for protocols to enable the industry to open, that things started to happen.  The industry should have been banging on her door weeks after the State of Disaster with its plans.

SATSA and Fedhasa did team up under the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) to produce the protocols and presented them to Parliament’s Tourism Portfolio Committee.  What were they expecting?  Support for opening to international travel by September, when there are no signs that SA’s pandemic will be under control by then?  Will other countries be keen to allow its citizens to travel here while our disaster unfolds?  Testing and tracing was supposed to be a cornerstone of SA’s pandemic response, but SA has been less successful than other countries at obtaining test kits.  Spain, whose State of Alert preceded SA’s State of Disaster by 2 days, has tested nearly four times the number of people SA has.

The TBCSA presentation to the Portfolio Committee was a disaster.  TBCSA was told that they thought it was too soon to open tourism and that when it does open, they want a focus on the BRICS countries.  Good old ANC ideology (and the portfolio chair Supra Mahumapelo’s own agenda)!



Much has been made of the lack of government support for tourism and especially white-owned tourism businesses, and government’s goals of Radical Economic Transformation when tourism re-opens.  Government is dreaming.  Tourism is opening and government hasn’t shown any plan.  One thing government has demonstrated is its total inability to understand or run businesses… SAA, Eskom, SABC, Transnet, Prasa, Denel, etc. demonstrate that.  It doesn’t have the plan, the money or the competence to implement any Radical Economic Transformation.  Only existing businesses and determined new entrants to the industry can do that.

By the tourism minister’s own admission, government’s support for the tourism has been inadequate… because it has no money.  And her belated offering to tourist guides — R1500 a month for three months — was like handing out sweeties to keep children quiet.

In When will tourism in SA open again? I wrote about the need to start playing hardball and lawyering up.  When it became evident that insurance companies were refusing to pay tourism Business Interruption Claims, TBCSA’s solution was to ask the Minister of Finance to intervene.  Oh please!  That mentality must change!  The TBCSA should have taken a number of test cases to court on behalf of the companies, won, and paved the way for new demands to insurance companies.  That would have demonstrated leadership.  Now, two companies I know of have already won their court cases with resounding success, providing legal precedent.

I don’t agree with the TBCSA/SATSA/Fedhasa goals and strategies.  Opening international tourism in September is a goal with too many imponderables.  What state of chaos will SA be in then?  Will other countries open their borders to SA?  Opening domestic tourism to interprovincial travel now is equally questionable.  If the Eastern Cape unfolds into a total disaster, will we see a flood of sick people heading across the provincial border to Plettenberg Bay and Knysna in search of healthcare?  Will the  Gauteng sick head for home in Limpopo and Northwest, spreading the virus and sickness in provinces ill-equipped to cope?



I wrote about Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane’s presentation two weeks ago on the conditions for opening tourism businesses in There ARE solutions to safeguard tourism & hospitality jobs! Government doesn’t care.  By every interpretation of the regulations since then, her comments during question time were found to be at odds with the law.  (You can see a video clip showing her comments at the link above.  Listen to the last question… it shook me when it was asked.  It was so completely different to all the other questions… was it a planted question?)

Since then, she has ignored media requests for a clarification.  On Friday night, the presidency posted the new regulations on its website and on social media… only to delete them on Saturday morning, saying they were an error.  First the relaxing of the cigarette ban and then the opening of leisure tourism… only a fool will ever trust Ramaphosa again!  Is Supra Mahumapelo setting the agenda?  Apparently, changes to the legislation will be published soon.

On Thursday, the Department of Tourism presented their plans to parliament.

The Department of Tourism's presentation to parliament last Thursday. There are no time lines.

The Department of Tourism’s presentation to parliament last Thursday. There are no time lines. Was this ever discussed with the tourism industry before it was presented to Parliament?  #BigFail

The TBCSA must up its gameplan and play hardball.  (As I said in my first Coronavirus post all those months ago… Hope is not a Strategy!)  We need to listen to Otto Stehlik now, more than ever before. The industry must lawyer up and prepare for a big fight.  TBCSA’s strategy cannot only follow a legal route, it needs to raise the public’s understanding of the importance of the industry by embarking on a huge voter education programme that isn’t about party politics and ideology.  Tourism needs to have the public on its side.

The ANC has demonstrated over and over again that it doesn’t have the first clue about the economy and business.  You can’t have the tail wagging the dog.

There ARE solutions to safeguard tourism & hospitality jobs! Government doesn’t care.

Isn’t it time for the tourism industry to start playing hardball with government?  Maybe it’s time for the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) to start a campaign for employers in the industry to start educating their employees about why they are losing their jobs.  Jobs are being lost and more will be lost, because of the ANC’s financial mismanagement and incompetent government.

Even before the State of Disaster was announced, on 9 March 2020, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said at the in her address to the Tourism Leadership Forum, “Sadly, this outbreak is happening at a time when our economy is not doing well and has not been doing well for the past few years.

“Simply put, ladies and gentlemen, we do not have the resources to offset the damage that our economy will suffer because of this crisis.”

She also chairs the cabinet’s economic cluster, which has given South Africa… junk status, a falling economy, rising unemployment and a 30% drop in overseas visitor arrivals in 2019.  Trillions of rands were stolen through State Capture and corruption; government policies are tanking the economy and driving unemployment; and the cupboard is bare.  That’s the result of 26 years of ANC government.  Can South Africa afford more of this kind of leadership?



It’s time to start educating the voters.  According to a Presidency media release, the tourism and hospitality industry is the largest employer in the country.  And most of those jobs have been, are being and will be lost.  The TBCSA needs to start the biggest voter education campaign SA has ever seen.  Where every employee in the industry knows their jobs are under threat or lost because of ANC policies and actions. It’s not just Covid-19 — other countries have measures in place to support its citizens.  In South Africa, Covid-19 is being used to hide the ANC’s shortcomings.  A TBCSA campaign should not be about party politics but about good governance.  For years now, Government has been the biggest enemy of tourism in South Africa — the visa regime, corruption, public safety, dysfunctional SOEs, and more.

Government doesn’t have a clue about business, and doesn’t listen to those that do.  Government’s restrictions for opening the restaurant industry will cause restaurants to go deeper into debt.  Government is clueless.  The V&A Waterfront considered mothballing all restaurants until the end of the year as one solution, rather than incur greater losses.  But that means retaining and looking after staff.

Throughout Africa, the pandemic is whittling away at one of Africa’s signature achievements: the growing middle class.  For the last decade, the middle class has helped drive educational, political and economic development across the continent.  But because of the pandemic, many more people across Africa are at risk of being “knocked back into poverty,” said Razia Khan, the chief economist for Africa and the Middle East at Standard Chartered bank.

In South Africa, there are solutions but the ANC isn’t interested.  Minister Nkozama Dlamini-Zuma places more importance on her pet projects than practicality and pragmatism, and human lives.  She fails the rationality test.  (And has she ever refuted accusations that her family benefits from the illegal cigarette trade?)



Government is losing R35 million every day in lost tax revenues as a result of the ban on legal cigarette sales.  That’s  over R1 billion a month; R3.5 billion since the lockdown started.  (That’s apart from the income cigarette sellers earn.)  South Africa is the only country in the world implementing a ban on the sale of tobacco products.  Does South Africa know better than every other country on the planet?  Even Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, broke ranks with his party and his cabinet colleagues to voice his disagreement with the tobacco ban.  Government is the benefactor and partner in crime to the illegal cigarette trade.

A billion rand a month will go some way in cushioning the hospitality and tourism industries and safeguarding jobs during the time of Covid-19.

Nothing demonstrates better just how clueless Ramaphosa’s cabinet is than the media briefing by the tourism minister last Friday, ten days after the president had announced that leisure tourism would be opening up, subject to protocols to be announced.  In this short clip from the 45 minute briefing, she answers questions about the opening up of tourism.

In the regulations published the night before her media briefing, they clearly state “A person may leave his or her place of residence to travel for leisure purposes as allowed under Alert Level 3.”

Government Gazette

The Government Gazette regulation trumps anything a minister says. Click here to download the Government Gazette.

The minister is clearly clueless and unfit to serve as a cabinet minister.  One can’t blame her alone because the folly of her appointment lies with President Ramaphosa.  She is a loyal ANC cadre with little to qualify her beyond that; she was initially appointed to the cabinet by Jacob Zuma to promote his ambitions for nuclear energy.

So… Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa (CEO of TBCSA)… do you and your board have the guts to be effective?  To lead a campaign which raises the understanding of tourism to its rightful place as the biggest generator of employment in South Africa, with the capacity to do far, far more.  Can you lead the lobbying organisation you need to be?

A Letter to the Minister of Tourism

Dear Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane
Minister of Tourism

Thank you for the opportunity to ask questions.  I look forward to watching and hearing your answers and your discussion with the tourism industry at 12h30 today.

I’d like to know who your advisors are because, if your decisions on tourism are based on ideology, you will be leading the entire tourism industry to the same fate as the once-great South African Airways.  (And all SAA’s staff is facing the end of the week knowing their jobs are over, forever.)  Tourism is a business. Ideologies are not.

Gillian Saunders, a well-respected tourism analyst who was advisor to the previous minister, forecast that tourism will lose 1.1 million jobs in South Africa as a result of government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. That’s 75% of all jobs in tourism will be lost.  That is a calamitous figure.  The industry as we know it will no longer exist.

Saunders also said, “Governments worldwide may have miscalculated the economic impacts of their containment measures when it comes to tourism.”

Her forecast was based on a pandemic with an active period of three months.  The SA government’s lockdown has flattened the curve and government has announced that the peak will only be in September.  So the three months becomes seven months and the damage to the industry will be all that much greater.

Your only action has been the establishment of the Tourism Relief Fund with R200 million.  Now that’s really pathetic and almost meaningless for an industry that contributes R130 billion to the GDP!

Near the beginning of March you said “We do not have the resources to offset the damage that our economy will suffer because of this crisis.

“The question is what is it that we need to do, together, in the short to medium term to minimise the impact of the virus on the tourism sector? Given the uncertainty around the evolution of the spread of this virus, we cannot at this moment provide definitive answers.”

Nothing seems to have changed.  Your advisors have failed you.

So here’s a suggestion… surely the survival of the industry is more important than the activities of a marketing agency and a government department?

SA Tourism’s budget is R3.8 billion a year and the National Department of Tourism’s budget is R2.5 billion.  Both could be closed down for a year, staff paid 50% of their salaries to sit at home, and you’ll have a few billion rand left over to safeguard industry jobs.

You have not been representing or fighting for the interests of the industry in government.

The Finance Minister has said that since Tourism will be the last to start, it won’t need its budget which can therefore be reallocated.  Surely this will make the Tourism Ministry redundant?