What’s going on in the Kruger Park?
1 September 2020
There are a growing number of reports that indicate apparent management failure in the Kruger National Park. I will write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries to request the SANParks CEO and Chairperson be invited to explain, in detail, what is going on.
A significant part of the park’s overnight accommodation is not available for rental to guests.
Despite being mandated to increase visitor numbers, the Park is now saying variously that:
Some staff had been moved into guest accommodation during the Covid-19 lockdown;
“Much needed refurbishment” is underway and SANParks only expected tourism to re-open in mid-September;
2 Rest camps are only open for minimal accommodation (one of them being Skukuza one of the largest camps);
3 other camps are entirely closed and one will only reopen between mid-October and the second week of November; and
The SANParks CEO says “the bulk” of unoccupied units have suffered animal damage during lockdown and are being repaired.
SanParks says it is bringing “civil and criminal charges against a guest for allegedly “racist” Facebook posts that claimed bookings were not being honoured or were not available because accommodation was being occupied by staff. The Park spending public money to sue customers seems to lack any sense of proportion. If there has been racist offence, as has been alleged, then there are other ways of dealing with this. This is equivalent to a restaurant or hotel suing a customer for a bad review on social media. What this action does do is make the Park management look like its being unnecessarily defensive and it is in the public interest to know why.
A number of questions are prompted:
Why is such extensive refurbishment planned all at once;
How much guest accommodation housed staff, and is that still blocking the accommodation from being used by guests;
How exactly has Covid caused cleaning staff not to be able to operate even two weeks after the lockdown was eased;
How much accommodation exactly was damaged by animals, and how badly, and was this because of a lack of supervision during lockdown;
The Kruger Park is a great national asset. It needs to maintain good relations with the public. Above all, it needs to be open about what is going on. Official communication is fuzzy at best. Threatening guests shows a failure to understand the hospitality industry. A large part of park’s funding comes from tourism. Tourists need to be encouraged, not fought with.
Issued by James Lorimer, A Shadow Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, 1 September 2020