German, Belgian tourists attacked, tour-operator murdered by strikers
SOUTH AFRICAN TOURISM IN EXTREME CRISIS BY MONTHS OF STRIKERS'BLOCKADES AT KEY TOURIST SITES - - 9 Aug 22 2011 - A tour operator was murdered on Friday, while sightseeing attractions remain closed due to the ongling MTPA strike, writes the Lowvelder journalist Marius Bakkes.
"Yet at provincial and national level the leaders seem disinterested in addressing the growing crisis in the tourism industry".
Lowveld reporter Marius Bakkes writes from NELSPRUIT that while the decline in the tourism industry in Mpumalanga has now obviously reached critical levels, it doesn't appear to be raising much concern at government level. Amid reports of dire budgetary restrictions on provincial spending on tourism marketing and nature conservation, and with an administration now brought to a halt due to protest strikes for months on end, there is no sight of or word from Mpumalanga's tourism CEO, Mr Charles Ndabeni.
MAJOR TOURISM SITES BARRICADED BY VICIOUS ARMED STRIKERS
While some of the country's major tourism sights are being barricaded from foreign tourists by striking protesters, South African Tourism officials have not moved a finger to put contingency plans in place.
Not one official at SA Tourism's head office in Johannesburg, from the CEO, past the head of marketing, Mr Iam Utermohlen, down to communications officer Mr Germain Craig, were available for comment.
According to a telephone operator all senior staff members at SA Tourism were 'enjoying a long weekend due to the public holiday',...
Not even the head of the national ministry of tourism, Mr Riaan Aucamp in the office of the minister, Mr Marthinus van Schalkwyk could be of much help. BARRED: GOD'S WINDOW, BLYDE RIVER CANYON... Though admittedly places like God’s Window and the lookout points at Blyde River Canyon are national assets, it remains the responsibility of the Mpumalanga Provincial Government to manage and maintain their accessibility to tourists. Though they are thoroughly aware of the situation, his only answer was that they were in contact with Mpumalanga regarding the province's breakdown in fulfilling its day-to-day tourism mandate. Aucamp could not confirm to whom they were speaking and what contingency plans were under discussion.
Van Schalwyk's communications head, Mr Trevor Bloem, also remained mum about the details. On Monday he could only offer the usual public relation jargon such as, he was confident the matter was receiving attended attention. NELSPRUIT municipal tourism development head, Dr Mathilda van Niekerk, has voiced her concern about the deteriorating tourism situation in the province, after a tour operator of Johannesburg was killed by 'robbers' at a guest house near White River on Friday night. The male tour operator, unnamed, was accompanying two American visitors, who left the country hastily the very next morning. Van Niekerk said she expected this would have a very detrimental effect on tourism in the province. Head of communications in the Mpumalanga Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Mr Mohau Ramodite, confirmed late yesterday that an urgent meeting had been called between his department and the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency to work on a turnaround strategy, as he put it.
He was hesitant to say who was attending the meeting. He did confirm though, that Ndabeni was absent. Famous provincial landmarks and tourist attractions, including Bourke's Luck Potholes and God's Window, are closed and made inaccessible.
GERMAN TOUR OPERATOR ENOLA TECH ATTACKED AT BOURKE'S LUCK BY ARMED BLACK STRIKERS:
German tour-operator Enola Tech with German and Belgian tourists attacked by strikers at Bourke's Luck
29 July 2011 | Nicolene Smalman
NELSPRUIT - The current strike of MTPA employees is having a dire effect on tourism in the province.
Famous provincial landmarks and tourist attractions, including Bourke’s Luck Potholes and God’s Window, are closed and made inaccessible. Information on incidents of foreign tourists being turned away has reached Lowvelder’s office this past week.
Tools were downed on Tuesday and apart from demanding a 15 per cent salary increase, livid strikers want the organisation’s CEO, Mr Charles Ndabeni, axed.
The newspaper went to the MTPA’s offices which are situated next to HL Hall and Sons yesterday.
A huge container had been pushed in front of the gate to prevent colleagues from entering the premises and members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) were picketing outside. Some employees left and went off to perform field work.
Ms Enola Teich, a tourism operator of Nelspruit, took tourists from Germany and Belgium to Bourke’s Luck on Wednesday where MTPA officials told them that it was not open for the public due to the strike. "The gates were closed. One of the tourists was agitated and took the lock off the gate. The strikers then piled rocks around his vehicle to prevent him from entering," she said. The group then wanted to see God’s Window, but Teich phoned Graskop’s information centre and was informed that it had also been closed due to the strike.
"These tourists paid a lot of money to come to South Africa and travel far distances to see attractions the Lowveld has to offer. The strike is dealing tourism in the area a huge blow," Teich said. Mr Godfrey Sibiya, regional secretary of Nehawu in Ehlanzeni, said that all tourist attractions such as Bourke’s Luck, God’s Window, Mac Mac, Bridal Veil, Horse Shoe Falls and game reserves under MTPA management are closed.
Ndabeni has been widely reported on since the MTPA’s dire financial state became apparent. MEC for the Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Mr Norman Mokoena, has since ordered a governance audit at the agency. "We have learnt that this report is available. We ordered the investigation, so we must have access to it," Sibiya added.
"We also want field rangers to be equipped with uniforms and demand equal pay for equal work done. Our working conditions must also improve. There is no water or electricity at some of the reserves where we have to work," he continued.
Sibiya indicated that they would strike until all their demands have been met.