Why DG stays at home affairs

Why DG stays at home affairs
2017-12-03 – City Press
The latest shuffling of ministers reflects the self-interest that is President Jacob Zuma’s primary consideration, outweighing the public good.
What is to be made of Mkuseli Apleni’s retention as director-general (DG) of the home affairs department? Even though Apleni won the case against his suspension by then minister Hlengiwe Mkhize, President Jacob Zuma could have relocated him to some obscure department, especially if he believed his minister’s allegation against him. Mkhize had suspended Apleni, for alleged insubordination and incompetence. The court ruled that ministers don’t have powers to suspend or fire DGs, those powers resting with the president.
The ruling aside, Apleni’s suspension surprised many. He had served under four ministers in the department – Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Naledi Pandor, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Malusi Gigaba – none of whom expressed disapproval of his conduct. That’s because Apleni has been one of the best bureaucrats, overseeing a dramatic turnaround at the department. Being at home affairs offices today is no longer a nightmare and applications for official documents are processed a lot quicker than previously. Hence Apleni’s contract being renewed for another five years in April 2015.
His continued stay at the department is obviously based on merit. It even appears that Zuma thinks so highly of Apleni that he moved his irritant, Mkhize, to the higher education and training ministry. It is rare for Zuma to reward excellence. How does one then explain this anomaly? Or is it an anomaly at all?
Retaining a diligent bureaucrat such as Apleni is commendable, but potentially misleading when examined in isolation. When examining this saga in its entirety, one sees that Apleni’s retention doesn’t detract from the neopatrimonial (or personalised) nature of Zuma’s presidency. The clue lies in how Zuma has handled Mkhize, especially in light of Apleni’s damaging allegations against her. They have a bearing on her competence and suggest that she’s possibly dodgy.
Legal disputes
For starters, Mkhize had accused Apleni of failure to organise regular meetings with senior staff and settle legal disputes private companies had brought against the department. Apleni’s responses, submitted in an affidavit to court, are revealing. For instance, of the seven biweekly meetings that were scheduled since Mkhize joined the department in April, she only attended two. The rest were cancelled at her instruction. Nor did Mkhize attend any of the two quarterly meetings that had been convened since her appointment. In another instance, Mkhize set her first one-on-one meeting with Apleni for 06:30, only to cancel it as he was arriving at the venue. This could only mean that it is Mkhize who is disorganised.
As for her allegation that Apleni failed to settle legal disputes, Mkhize comes across as meddling in administrative matters and possibly guilty of nepotism. One dispute involves a company owned by the Oppenheimer family, Fireblade Aviation. The company took the department to court for refusing it, as Apleni puts it, “exclusive use of a section of the airport for themselves and those who are approved by them on the basis that they are ‘very, very important persons’”.
“The implication of granting this application for the department is that it would have to make available its own staff, relating to immigration and customs … to the service of Fireblade, to the exclusion of other users and customers.”
Apleni found this unconstitutional, especially because it would happen without a competitive bidding process. Whereas her predecessor shared Apleni’s views, Mkhize disagreed and, according to Apleni, went to see representatives of Fireblade without him in order to negotiate a deal.
Another legal dispute that Mkhize alleges Apleni defied her on involves Atlantis Corporate Travel. Mkhize’s son, Sizwe, is associated with the company, which has taken the department to court, claiming it’s owed about R1m. The department disputes the claim. Sizwe resorted to asking his mother to intervene on the company’s behalf. In a letter to the department, Sizwe tells officials that he’s spoken to his mother about settling the supposed debt: “Writing to you in regard with issue of department of home affairs owing Atlantis Corporate Travel close to R1 million for travel services dating back to 2014.
“I do believe that you had received all documentation sent by Nelisiwe Luthuli this past Monday. I forwarded information to my mother Minister Mkhize, but don’t want to keep bothering her with this matter … At this point my superiors just wanted to check if there’s anything that can be done to solving matter without having to go to court, even though legal process has just started (sic).”
Mkhize’s accusations, therefore, were simply a ruse. The real reason for them, Apleni believes, was to get him out so that she could have her way. This included getting the department to pay her son. The court revealed Mkhize to be exactly what she had accused Apleni of being: inefficient and possibly unscrupulous.
This brings us to the question about Zuma. Why did he retain Mkhize as minister, especially in a critical department like higher education, at such a delicate moment for our universities? By the way, Zuma knew of Mkhize’s ineptitude long before Apleni’s revelations in court. She impressed none of the ministers she deputised to and her deputy at home affairs was reportedly beginning to complain about her incompetence.
The answer to why Zuma retained Mkhize lies in what has been happening in higher education. He wanted sole control over decision making in order to institute a no-fees policy at universities. Because Mkhize is indebted to him for remaining in Cabinet – although her record doesn’t warrant it – Zuma knew that she would be pliant to his dictates. He even replaced her (and her DG) with 28-year-old Morris Masutha, to make the decision.
Masutha briefed Cabinet and ANC leaders to try to get them to agree to a no-fees policy, without saying where universities would get the money from. Ministers and leaders of a liberation movement were forced to listen to this young lad, even though he had neither the qualifications nor the experience in higher education. The only qualification for assuming that role was that he dated Zuma’s daughter. He was a potential mkhwenyana (husband). That was enough for Zuma to entrust him with the future of our education system and risk wrecking our already precarious public purse. Personal relations trumped merit.
This explains the present saga around State Security Minister Bongani Bongo, who’s embroiled in all manner of scandals. They range from accepting kickbacks while still a civil servant in Mpumalanga, to attempting to bribe a parliamentary lawyer involved in the inquiry into corruption at Eskom. Bongo wanted to stop the probe. Such machinations are synonymous with gangsters, not ministers of state. A background check on Bongo, as ought to be carried out before any ministerial appointment is made, should have disqualified him. It was either never done or Zuma didn’t care that Bongo was a dodgy character. His main consideration was that Bongo would act as his henchman. Stopping the Eskom investigation also benefits Zuma. He’s implicated in state capture. And, we don’t know what else Bongo has been doing since his appointment as chief of spies.
Self-interest remains Zuma’s primary consideration in decision making. It outweighs the public good. That’s why it’s difficult to fathom that he wouldn’t do anything necessary to sway the ANC’s elective outcome in his favour. It’s all about himself.

Cyber piracy strikes at tourism

Cyber piracy strikes at tourism

21 Nov 2017 – Tourism Update

Cyber piracy in the tourism industry is fast becoming a major problem, with websites mimicking those of legitimate reserves and lodges.
A concerned reader recently alerted Tourism Update to the growing prevalence of cyber piracy within the tourism sector, with companies creating websites that mimic those of reserves and lodges in order to mislead travellers into booking with them instead.
Various cases have been identified, such as Timbavati Private Nature Reserve and Madikwe, to name a few.
About a month ago, the Timbavati was made aware of a website mimicking the reserve. Despite engaging with the people responsible for creating the website, at this stage they seem to think they are doing nothing wrong, a lodge owner within the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve told Tourism Update.
The same lodge owner said he had also recently had a similar experience with another website mimicking the lodge’s name and brand.
“In this case, one of our source agents in the US informed us that some information on our website was incorrect. Upon investigation, we found that the website was not ours at all, but that of a local tour operator who was using our name and brand entirely, including a version of our domain name, with no reference to the tour operator whatsoever,” said the lodge owner.
Clients scammed
He mentioned that they were also contacted by two separate guests who wanted to make a booking directly with the lodge, but had come across the other website, confusing them as to which was genuine. Ultimately, they were scammed, as they decided to make the booking.
Lodge scammed
“In the case where my own lodge website was mimicked, the operator concerned had separately negotiated an STO rate with us and we gave them access to our media centre, assuming they would use our images and material to showcase us on their own branded website. We then discovered they were using our name and brand to attract potential guests to a website that in no way mentioned their brand, but was made to look as if the guest was dealing with our product.”
The operator behind the fake Timbavati website was using the STO rates that the various lodges in the Timbavati had given in good faith, and publishing rates below the lodges rack rates, thus undercutting the products themselves and potentially distorting the market.
He says this has been an ongoing problem. In 2015 the Timbavati had to deal with a similar fraudulent website that was set up by a tour operator. The tour operator at that time resisted all demands from the reserve to shut down the website and hand over the domain. The case was eventually taken to arbitration with the South African Institute of Intellectual Property Law (SAIIPL). The reserve won the case.
Signs to look out for
He says it is difficult for potential guests to see immediately whether they have arrived at a legitimate website or not. The biggest indicator is that the bogus website is usually a fairly simple one-pager that has automated links to pages like TripAdvisor, and does not have its own blog or social media links (although some also have bogus social media platforms that generally only re-share links from other products).
“I would suggest always asking the direct question when making contact through a web chat or email link as to whether they are dealing with the lodge/reserve, or whether they are dealing with a tour operator,” he concludes.

Tweets over ID book validity false – Home Affairs

Tweets over ID book validity false – Home Affairs
2017-11-20 _ News 24
Johannesburg – The Department of Home Affairs has dismissed as false, tweets claiming that the green, barcoded, South African identity book was reaching the end of its lifespan.
“No such announcement has been made by the department. We wish to make it clear that the green barcoded ID book remains a legal form of identification and will continue to be until such time that the live capture system is rolled out to all home affairs offices to enable South Africans to apply for the smart ID cards at their nearest offices,” department spokesperson David Hlabane said.
The tweet, purporting to be an official departmental announcement, claims that the lifespan of the identity books comes to an end on March 31, 2018 and urges South Africans to apply for their smart IDs
But Hlabane said the department had developed a plan to systematically phase out the green ID book and ultimately consolidate the restoration, common citizenship, identity and dignity to South Africans.
The department called on all South Africans to continue to apply for the smart ID card at any of its 180 offices that are equipped to roll the Live Capture System.
Hlabane said the department had also established a partnership with FNB, Standard Bank, Nedbank and ABSA banks to create an online portal where clients could lodge their applications without visiting home affairs offices.
South Africans can also visit the department’s website www.dha.gov.za and click on the eHomeAffairs icon to apply.

FlySafair Durban-Eastern Cape routes to boost tourism

FlySafair Durban-Eastern Cape routes to boost tourism
20 Nov 2017 – Tourism Update

“Any new route coming into an airport stimulates travel, trade and tourism,” says Terence Delomoney, GM of King Shaka International Airport.
FlySafair recently launched a Durban-Port Elizabeth route, and a Durban-East London service will launch on November 27. Bookings are open for both routes.
“Any new route coming into an airport stimulates travel, trade and tourism,” says Terence Delomoney, GM of King Shaka International Airport. He says while there are existing frequencies from Durban to both Port Elizabeth and East London, it is important for cities to create as much connectivity as possible.
Hamish Erskine, CEO of Dube TradePort, says Durban increasingly recognises the importance of a strong, competitive, well-priced network. “The ability to offer onward connections to cities like Port Elizabeth and East London is particularly important for Durban’s proposition as an inbound tourism destination. Similarly, the increase in capacity on these routes, is a considerable benefit to Durbanites, for whom the Eastern Cape is a relatively popular destination.”
Councillor Andrew Whitfield, a member of the Mayoral Committee responsible for Economic Development, Tourism and Agriculture within the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, agrees. “As Durban is just a short flight from PE, it’s easy for tourists to enjoy the best that both cities have to offer.”
He says additional flights play an important part in Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism’s efforts to promote the destination, as they can form part of travel packages. He notes that air access has been a priority for the Municipality as it works towards developing Port Elizabeth into a regional air hub.
Whitfield believes PE is also ready to showcase the best that it has to offer from a business tourism perspective. In line with this, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is also investigating options for a multi-purpose conference centre.
East London, which recently hosted a number of national sporting competitions, also has plans to bid for and host more major events and international conferences. “There is no doubt that a route of this nature will prove key to those plans,” says Communications Manager for Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, Samkelo Ngwenya.
He says at the moment many of the city’s residents connect through Johannesburg to get to Durban because of the expense of flying direct. “So from this point of view, the new route will definitely have an impact.”
From a business-to-business perspective there are a significant number of people who travel between Durban and PE who will benefit from the additional capacity on the route, particularly in the automotive industry, says Whitfield. The additional capacity will also help boost East London’s transport network, which is central to encouraging local and international companies to conduct business in the city.
“Our vision of working toward becoming a connected city relates to our plans for an integrated transport infrastructure network in the form of ports, roads, rail and airports to ensure easy access, mobility and connectivity within our jurisdiction and beyond, through cost-effective and sustainable methods,” says Ngwenya.
The Buffalo City Municipality believes that other recently launched routes, such as Johannesburg-East London, have already played an important role in East London’s economic development. “We have no doubt that the success of this route will, in turn, open doors for even more routes,” he says.

Just launched: ‘Huge’ initiative to boost Chinese arrivals to SA

Just launched: ‘Huge’ initiative to boost Chinese arrivals to SA
16 Nov 2017 – Tourism Update
“The brand awareness this initiative is creating is massive – I don’t think South Africa has done anything this big in China before.”
To cement trade ties, boost investment flows and encourage tourism between South Africa and China, Standard Bank and the Industrial Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) have launched the I Go South Africa loyalty programme in partnership with South African Tourism.
This initiative, part of ICBC’s Go Global rewards scheme for its card holders in China, was unveiled in Johannesburg on November 15. I Go South Africa will encourage Chinese travellers to visit South Africa by offering a range of discounts and special offers from South African merchants across the travel, hospitality and lifestyle sectors.
The following merchants have confirmed their participation, to provide special offers to ICBC customers travelling to South Africa:
• Legacy Lifestyle Group – An exclusive Hotel Lifestyle Group, offering prizes of free accommodation of 13 double rooms for customers on the ‘I Go South Africa’ programme and providing 20% discount on hotel accommodation at seven of its hotels and game lodges, as well as other discounted offers at 11 other merchants, consisting of restaurants, spas and luxury goods stores.
• South African Airways – offering discounted return flights from Hong Kong to South Africa – 15% discount on business-class tickets and 10% discount on economy-class tickets.
• Wine-of-the-month Club – A wine club with access to most of the wine farms in South Africa, has put together an offering tailormade for the ICBC cardholders on I Go South Africa at a 20% discount and will sponsor the wine for the launch event.
• Chenshia Group – Offering a large travel prize for travel to South Africa and other special offers to ICBC customers on travel packages through its travel company – Pan Africa Travel. It also offers 15% discount on jewellery through Chenshia jewellers
• Elegance Jewellers with stores in Sandton, Melrose Arch and Bedfordview
• Orpheo Jewellers in Bedfordview providing 10% discount
• Haute Cabrière wine farm – providing 10% discount on wine at the cellar door and at the restaurant
• 86 Public Restaurant in Braamfontein and Illovo, providing 10% discount on the restaurant bill.

Bradley Brouwer, President of Asia Pacific for SAT, said since this morning’s launch, 1.2 million Chinese citizens had viewed ICBC’s WeChat about I Go South Africa, and he predicted that between six and seven million people would have seen it by tomorrow morning. “The brand awareness this initiative is creating is massive – I don’t think South Africa has done anything this big in China before.”
Brouwer said four outbound Chinese tour operators were in discussions with ICBC with regard to potential partnerships. “The biggest benefit to Chinese tour operators is that it gives them a way to incentivise South Africa as a destination.”
Welcoming the I Go South Africa initiative, South Africa’s Tourism Minister, Tokozile Xasa, said:
“The benefits and new avenues opened up by tourism are far-reaching and vast Tourism growth from China will help us in our ongoing drive to create new, sustainable jobs in the tourism value chain.”
From next year, there are plans to introduce the initiative in other African countries, starting with Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia.

Rwanda: Visas on arrival for all

Rwanda: Visas on arrival for all
20 Nov 2017 – Tourism update
Rwanda is among the countries that have taken a leading role in implementing the AU’s recommendations.
From January 1, 2018, all travellers to Rwanda, regardless of nationality, will get a 30-day visa on arrival without prior application.
Rwandans with dual nationality are now allowed to use National IDs on entry.
Further to this, on a reciprocal basis, with immediate effect, the country will grant 90-day visas, free of charge, to Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Ghana, Guinea, Indonesia, Haiti, Senegal, Seychelles and Sao Tomé and Principe. This is in addition to the Democratic Republic of Congo, East Africa Member Community Partner States, Mauritius, Philippines and Singapore.
Rwanda is also introducing a visa waiver for some diplomatic and service passport holders, which will be effective immediately. The countries are: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, India, Israel, Morocco and Turkey. A 90-day visa on arrival will also be available for travellers from the COMESA (The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) region, subject to payment of visa fees.
This development comes at a time when the African Union is encouraging member states to liberalise free movement of citizens across the continent. Rwanda is among the countries that have taken a leading role in implementing the AU’s recommendations.
AllAfrica.com reports that previous visa adjustments saw a significant rise in the number of visitors to the country. For instance, when Rwanda instituted visa on arrival for all African nationals, the number of African travellers increased from 31 054 in 2013 to 77 377 in 2016.
According to RwandAir Deputy Chief Executive for Corporate Affairs, Yvonne Makolo, the new visa regulation is also set to increase traffic on Rwanda’s national carrier.
Global and local international conference organisers are also upbeat about the new policy. Conference organisers who spoke to The New Times said, among the determining factors that influenced conference hosting, a country’s accessibility was a top priority. This is because major international forums often have foreign delegations of 500 people and above and, as a result, the visa process can be a deal breaker.
Matthew Weihs, MD of Bench Events, a global firm that has brought the Africa Hotel Investment summit to Rwanda for two consecutive years, told The New Times: “I’ve no doubt that the destination will become increasingly attractive to a growing number of event organisers.”
David Frost, CEO of Satsa, said: “This will be a massive boost for Rwanda’s economy as it will have a knock-on effect that results in an increase in investment.” He added that South Africa should follow suit. “It is important for us to remove barriers that may deter travellers from choosing South Africa as a destination. We have an unrealistic mind-set about security; it is more than possible to maintain security while offering nations visas on arrival; a fact that Rwanda is about to prove.”
The 2017 African Visa openness index report by the African Development Bank noted that the idea of easing visa regulations often sparked fears of an increase in terrorism and insecurity-related challenges as well as a potential influx of immigrants. Yves Butera, the Head of Communications and Customer Relations at the Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration, said the fears were unfounded and claimed that, instead, increasing accessibility could ensure visitors did not have to resort to illegal means to enter the country.

SA Chinese arrivals outlook

SA Chinese arrivals outlook
20 Nov 2017 – Tourism Update
2016 was a bumper year for Chinese arrivals for various reasons, not the least of which was the very low selling price of some of the bottom-end packages offered.
While Chinese arrivals in South Africa saw a dip in the first few months of this year, the industry reports that the market has now stabilised and is forecast for growth.
Terry Fenton-Wells, MD of SA Magic Tours, says: “2016 was a bumper year for Chinese arrivals for various reasons, not the least of which was the very low selling price of some of the bottom-end packages offered.
“The dip in Chinese arrivals to South Africa in the first few months of 2017 was as a result of a correction in the pricing of this product, which was instituted by a number of large operators at the beginning of this year. I am happy to report that the arrivals have now stabilised and are forecast to increase. The market is in good shape and there is no cause for concern.”
News that a RN65 (€8,3) charge will be added to Chinese visa applications for the provision of a courier service, has concerned members of the trade, though. Fenton-Wells says: “This is standard procedure for most embassies worldwide and is now an option available to Chinese travellers [visiting South Africa]. I do not believe this will have a negative impact on the market.”
The trade has also raised concerns that the recent publicity surrounding follow-home crime could be deterring the safety-sensitive Chinese market. However, a source points out that South Africa is fortunate not to be affected by acts of terrorism and could be viewed as a safer travel option. “While crime exists, the crime rate affecting tourists is not as high as many are led to believe. South Africa’s top priority remains the safety and security of visitors, citizens and businesses.” Fenton-Wells agrees: “Safety is always our number-one priority with guests.”
To combat concerns, Chinese visitors are advised to always adhere to safety guidelines from guides and local South Africans.
The source suggested that visas might be a larger barrier to entry for the Chinese market, saying that Chinese travellers book 14 to 10 days before they want to leave. “As a result, they cannot afford to experience a delay in visa applications.” However, Fenton-Wells feels that this is not a major factor. “Chinese travellers have displayed this consumer behaviour for the last 20 years. I do not believe that this had a big impact in 2017.”
However, the source added that Morocco had been South Africa’s biggest competing African destination this year because they relaxed their visa regulations. “They now allow Chinese travellers in with no requirement for a visa and, as a result, their arrivals grew by over 350%.”
Fenton-Wells acknowledged that it might have had an impact on arrivals, as Chinese travellers were always looking for new destinations. “However, this has not impacted our numbers picking up again as the South African market stabilises, and forward bookings are looking very strong.”
Bradley Brouwer, President of Asia Pacific for SA Tourism, said the government, SAT, and the trade had collaborated on a number of initiatives to increase Chinese arrivals.
“Our tour companies have introduced Mandarin-speaking guides, along with promotional materials in Mandarin. Tourism operators and department stores are beefing up their Chinese language service for shopping guides. For ease of shopping, shopping malls are increasingly catering for Chinese visitors by adopting Alipay.”
He said credit card discounts were also offered with the launch of a new Bank of China ‘BOC Inspirational South Africa FIT Credit Card’ in partnership with SAT, along with another new card called ‘I Go South Africa’, being launched by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China ICBC in partnership with Standard Bank of South Africa.
“In China, a robust calendar of travel trade events includes promotions and exhibitions in major cities, familiarisation tours, travel trade learning programmes and trade and media roadshows. Marketing initiatives extend to showcasing South Africa as a world-class MICE destination, and building strong relationships with leading Chinese travel agencies and tour operators, including online courses equipping trade partners to better promote South Africa as a tourist destination.”
He added that, in response to a boom in ‘education tourism’ from China, SAT was also partnering with popular travel website, TripAdvisor, on a project called ‘Little Marine Ranger’. A package offering eco-adventure trips designed specifically for young children in China. These take the form of 10-day study trips, where participants learn about South Africa’s marine environment. “South African Tourism is also focusing on strengthening relationships with key airline partners,” Brouwer concluded.