(Article written by Rosalie Howard with an excerpt from Keith Somerville)
Just what we, John Public are expected to believe is happening remains a mystery to, I am quite certain, ALL of us! One report reads that the miners started the wild barbaric behaviour while another reads that the police started it all and that this was pre-planned by government, while yet others tell us a totally different tale of how the British company who is the major share holder in the mine is not responsible for the violence as they have reportedly given the called for increases which appear to have been withheld by the share-holders on the ground !!! …… As far as we in the Tourism business are concerned … this is a very worrying time in our business lives which has a ripple effect on every single person, black, white, green, blue or yellow living in South Africa. We rely on Tourism in a big way, both for job security in no small way and for the economy overall. Every business is affected by Tourism in SA. The leisure and the conference tourism is enormous in SA. We cannot afford to allow it to slip through the cracks of what seems to be becoming a large, angry earthquake with ensuing tsunamis. Let’s take a look at what one journalist has to say …
Excerpts from a press report from Keith Somerville:
“I’ve just returned from a couple of weeks in South Africa. It was supposed to be a holiday dominated by the Big Five on the safari circuit. But owing to the current news coming out of the country, a different Big Five dominated: Marikana, mines, mining unions, Malema and Mangaung. For the first time, following a large number of work and holiday visits to the country since 1990, I came away profoundly depressed by the future. The government and the ruling ANC are at war with themselves, administration policy on key issues is weak and erratic, Zuma offers no meaningful leadership and government bodies (especially the police and the prosecution service) seem irredeemably corrupt, incompetent or politically-oriented. Often all three at the same time.
Under a democratic government committed to righting the wrongs of apartheid, distributing wealth and providing services to ALL South Africans, events like the Marikana strikes and killings should never happen. Even before the strikes, the living conditions of the miners were appalling and wages had not improved to match higher costs of living. Yet, senior politicians who had fought their way to prominence as union leaders and opponents of apartheid, are seen to be reaping the benefits of investments in mining and of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). They have become increasingly distant from those whose support made them national leaders. Every newspaper I read told this story and it was reflected in a general atmosphere of gloom, brooding resentment and a certain amount of fear.
As Martin Plaut and Paul Holden recently wrote in Who Rules South Africa?, the business or tourist visitor to South Africa could easily think all was well by observing plush hotels, new offices and gleaming malls filled with the old white and new black middle classes spending money. But scratch below the surface and that appearance is a thin, cosmetic layer hiding intense poverty, failures to supply basic services such as education to the poor majority (eg: no textbooks for schools across Limpopo) and the grinding deprivation faced daily by those outside the privileged middle and super-rich classes….How long can this last? Many commentators in newspapers such as the Mail and Guardian, Sowetan and City Press are asking whether Marikana is the turning point and whether politics and the solid support of the masses for the ANC will continue. There is a feeling that change, perhaps with much violence, is imminent…I felt a change, but a change from confidence in the mid-1990s, through a fading but still evident hope in the early 2000s, to a rather bitter disillusionment and slow-burning anger now. “
Let’s face the facts folks … would anyone who is not a South African, (the guys in Europe or elsewhere who do have money to spend considering the exchange rate, whether holidaying in South Africa or hosting large Conventions in South Africa) … would anyone else really want to come here to our beautiful country to explore, enjoy the climate, spend money on the many fantastic tourist attractions on offer, stay in 4 and 5 star hotels because they can afford to – drink our wines, host their international summits, conventions and conferences at venues such as the Durban International Convention Centre, the Cape Town International Convention Centre, the Sandton Convention Centre or Gallagher Estate and so on and so forth ….. Would YOU be eager to go to Europe or the States in the midst of the kind of behaviour that is now common-place here?? No, the answer is without question NO!!
So … next question ….. where exactly is South African Tourism going to from here? … Where is South African International Conference Tourism heading from here ?… with all the facilities we have … world class convention centres, such as those I have noted above AND more … we have it all and the standards of service at these venues remains professional and in line with International standards … some of the best world-wide ….. yet …. It takes just one incident like the traumatic events at Marikana Mine to undo so much of what we have all strived for, for many years, to build a democratic society, to be the welcoming Southern Hemisphere country that attracts most tourists… we do have the wherewithal … the service and the standards, the training and space … are we all just disappearing under the sand because none of us believes we can make a difference to change our current situation?
We can kiss goodbye the tourism business we have all benefited from over the years if we continue to tolerate the primitive and barbaric behaviour of some of our citizens. They are in the minority but wield much power, it seems.
What CAN we, as individuals do towards healing the current situation? We welcome any comments and articles on our Blog in support of our people .. to ensure that many still have secure jobs … to ensure that business can be given the opportunity to continue to survive, the same businesses we cannot do without … who provide us with essential services and day to day needs.
Tourism plays a very important role in the economy of any country. It would be interesting to know what our Minister of Tourism is thinking right now … I haven’t been able to access any new information to share. Have you? We would love to hear it.