Our tourism tragedy

David Bullard writes on Covid-19's deadly effect on the industry, aided by a hostile ANC


The tousle-haired Lindiwe Sisulu is probably better known for her fashion sense than she is for her work ethic and effectiveness as a cabinet minister. When she popped in to Nkandla to see her mate Jacob Zuma just before KZN erupted in an orgy of looting, violence and arson she evidently put a lot of thought into her outfit.

As one newspaper report put it, “Sisulu donned a pink, knee-length dress, black stockings, black pointed high heels, a black and white coat with colourful prints, a pink and blue scarf, and completed the look with her signature curly wig”.

Obviously it would be pointless going to all this trouble if you couldn’t share it with the riff-raff and so Lindiwe thoughtfully put images up for her followers on her Instagram and Twitter (222000 followers) accounts. Unfortunately, considerably less mention has been made on her social media accounts of her triumphs as minister of human settlements, water and sanitation and that’s probably because there were none.

As the job title suggests it really is a ‘shit’ job, particularly when those dratted ANC run municipalities won’t pay their bills and raw sewage is running down the streets of previously well maintained towns.

But all that’s behind her now because Lindiwe’s got a brand new job as Minister of Tourism in Pres Frogboiler’s long expected radical cabinet reshuffle. This was the cabinet reshuffle that rather resembled one of those card tricks which require you to keep a close eye on the magician’s hands to see how it’s done.

We never do work out how the ace of hearts is apparently found inside the jacket pocket of an audience member because it is all well practiced sleight of hand. That’s rather the same with a cabinet reshuffle and if you blink at the wrong time you could be forgiven for thinking that the pack is exactly as it was before the trick began.

Some media pundits have suggested that this is a demotion but they couldn’t be further from the truth. Lindiwe Sisulu is ANC royalty being the daughter of Walter and Albertina Sisulu. At the age of 67 does she really want to be responsible for water shortages, shacks and shit which is the purview of her previous department?

Of course she doesn’t, so kindly Pres Frogboiler has basically told her she can still draw the same salary, get all the ministerial perks that go with the job, continue to dress to the nines and take it a bit easier as Minister of Tourism.

After all, we no longer have much of an international tourism industry so there’s not a hell of a lot to do apart from launch the odd Tourism Month and deal with a lot of desperate whiteys in the tourism business who have seen their businesses virtually destroyed by COVID and illogical lockdowns over the past year and a half.

Presumably Lindiwe’s job is to turn all this around and make South Africa the discerning international traveller’s number one choice of destination once again.

The question is should we even have a tourism minister given the ruling party’s hatred of private enterprise?

As long ago as November 1996 (I was an early trend spotter) I wrote in my Out to Lunch column in the Sunday Times that the ANC didn’t seem to be particularly sympathetic towards the tourism industry because it was “95% white owned and catered predominantly for the white upper and middle class”.

The idiot voicing the opinion at that time was the late Peter Mokaba (he of ‘kill the farmer, kill the boer’ fame) who was deputy minster of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. Speaking at a Trade for Food and Hotel Africa event in front of exhibitors from all over the world he went on a little rant where he accused the private sector of being myopic and further accused them in a roundabout way of not advertising in publications aimed at black readers because they wanted to keep the beaches white.

Just in case the audience weren’t quite sure whether he was raving mad he further made the suggestion that a tax should be levied on all departing tourists. As I pointed out in the column at the time, for a tourist to depart they first have to arrive and I fear that a departure tax might be something of a disincentive.

The ANC’s hostility towards people with white skins (affectionately known as ‘lackadaisicals’ amongst the comrades), particularly those who build up businesses and pay their taxes, certainly hasn’t diminished since 1996 so one wonders what plans Comrade Sisulu has for when we are eventually removed from the UK red list and can welcome fully vaccinated global tourists here once more.

Knowing the ANC it will either be something that can further enrich a cadre or something that will penalize foreign tourists for wanting to visit; perhaps a restrictive visa that takes as long to process as a firearm license or a driver’s license? The sooner the ANC realize that they are hopeless at dealing with anything that has to be written down the sooner the country can move forward but I fear that time is still a long way off.

To give you some idea of how our international tourist industry has been damaged I listened to Rohan Vos, the CEO of Rovos Rail, being interviewed on radio last week. He told his interviewer that the business in now 7% of what it was pre-COVID and that he has eventually had to retrench half of his 400+ staff.

This is an absolute tragedy. I was one of the first to travel on Rovos when it first launched in 1989. I was writing a piece for an upmarket leisure magazine at the time and was invited along on a freebie. In those days we traveled by steam all the way from Pretoria to Komatipoort near the Kruger Park. There we disembarked and were transferred to Londolozi for a few days before travelling back on the train.

It had been suggested that I pack my dinner jacket which was good advice since most guests dressed for dinner even though other meals were casual. The food was magnificent, the wine flowed and the whole ambience of travelling in a creaking, squeaking real train with lots of wood paneling was bound to attract a discerning global clientele which it did. South African travellers only made up around 6% of the passenger list.

The observation car at the back of the train had an open verandah and in those early days smoking was permitted so I spent a happy hour chugging through the lowveld in the company of a Hoyo Epicure 2 and a glass of brandy which was frequently refilled at no cost.

In fact, all booze on the train was included in the price of the ticket back then and the bar opened very early indeed. I was so impressed with Rovos Rail that I chartered the entire train for my 40th birthday and travelled on it several more times, once on the Pretoria to Cape Town route.

Whether our local tourism industry can stage a dramatic recovery is not in the hands of our utterly useless politicians who can’t even manage to pay their own staff. It is in the hands of dedicated visionaries like Rohan Vos and others who have been prepared to invest vast amounts of their own money in world class ventures to attract much needed foreign tourism.

This, after all, was something the ANC hoped would create many more jobs but instead it is shedding them as near empty game lodges reduce staff numbers and world class restaurants like Waterkloof and The Test Kitchen close their doors forever. We can’t blame the ANC for COVID but we can certainly blame them for a long held hostility towards private enterprise, particularly if it’s white owned. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___


One of the great challenges over the past year and a half has been how to get to the UK without having to spend ten days quarantine in a grotty airport hotel at a cost of R46 000.

Many travellers have stopped off on a Greek island en route and lately Montenegro became a popular choice. Sadly, Montenegro has now joined SA on the UK’s red list so travellers now have to rush to make expensive alternative plans.

Montenegro also featured on BizNews last week as a possible bolt- hole for nervous South Africans. For a mere €450000 invested in the country and another €100000 to go towards the government’s upliftment of the poor (stop laughing at the back of the class) you can be one of the lucky 2000 to become a citizen of Montenegro within four to six months. And there are no language tests, no tedious interviews and you don’t have to renounce your current citizenship. In a time when large chunks of the world are involuntarily relocating, either because of terrorism, wildfires or hurricanes, it seems almost too good to be true.

A look at the website moderndiplomacy.eu might provide some answers. For while Montenegro is undoubtedly quaint, perfectly positioned on the Adriatic cost and within easy travelling distance of Europe there are one or two downsides.

Modern Diplomacy had this to say (amongst other things):

“The ousting of Milo Đukanović and the DPS can be seen as a milestone for Montenegro. Despite his pro-European and pro-Atlantic approach which saw Montenegro become a member of NATO in 2017, his tenure in power has been marked by widespread corruption, state capture of key institutions and a crackdown on press freedom. Montenegro suffers from an undeveloped democratic system which has allowed semi-autocratic leaders to strongly influence political processes and paved the way for widespread patronage networks to emerge”.

So, home from home for South Africans then?


Last week I paid my provisional tax payment to SARS like a good little model citizen. I’ve now been assessed for the 2021 tax year and have another whack of tax to pay next month.

Included in the amount is a penalty for underestimation of my taxable earnings in the 2021 year. This implies dishonesty on my part; a deliberate attempt to cheat the taxman of what is rightfully his. Since it is almost impossible as a freelancer to estimate how much you will be earning in the next twelve months I would argue that it is an honest mistake.

The fact that the ruling party of this country have failed to pay to SARS over R80 million of PAYE deductions which they have deducted from employee’s salaries (in the days when they were still paying them) suggests that SARS may not be quite as well disposed towards law abiding individual tax payers as they like to pretend.