The Scourge of Politics

Much has been made of politics in tourism lately, with CTRU attributing all their woes to political forces. Now that’s a cop-out because their performance has been less than stellar and they seem to put their foot in it more often than they get things right. The City’s decision was correct and the resignation of several of CTRU’s leading board members validated this.

Having different political parties running the Province and the City has meant that tourism has become increasingly polarised politically. The lack of political maturity and a politicised or weak bureaucracy adds to the malaise.

Unlike Province which receives it money from central government, the City earns its income from ratepayers and is more accountable for how these funds are spent.

One can’t help but feel that the greatest damage to effective municipal government was the introduction of party politics just over ten years ago. Before that, there was strong, visionary and professional management, with elected representatives providing oversight.

Today’s elected representatives are servants to their parties first. Before, councillors were only beholden to the voters in their wards. Gone are the days when elected councillors come and go, while a strong management team provides continuity and leadership.

In CapeInfo’s interview with Helen Zille shortly after she assumed the Cape Town mayoralty, she defended the replacement of top officials when political control changes, pointing to the US system. That may work well for politicians, but it certainly does not augur well for great municipal government. And do we really want to emulate US politics?

Surely there is case for a really strong administration that remains focused, no matter which political party is in control?

Today’s executive mayoral committee members have far more power than former exco members before politicisation. And the senior managers below them seemingly have far less to say than the City Engineer, City Planner, etc, that preceded them.

Nowhere is this more evident than in tourism. Yes, management decisions have been sound… up to a point. The City identified shortcomings in CTRU; it identified an alternative agency that it hopes will do a better job; but nowhere has it spelled out what its tourism vision is. Does the City have a vision or is it ruled by bean counters?

When CapeInfo asked Simon Grindrod for the City’s brief to CTT for their new marketing mandate, he replied that it would be unfair to expect the Board and members of CTT to read about their new brief in media before they agreed it. Now that’s a nonsense giving the way he’s used the media in the past. Is there a brief that will stand scrutiny? Does this mean that CTT will be writing the brief and that the City has abrogated its responsibility?

Why is Mansoor Mohamed, the City’s executive director for economic development & tourism, so quiet? Surely he should be inspiring all Capetonians and the tourism industry in particular with his bold vision for Brand Cape Town and Destination Cape Town? He has a personal vision (which he notes has not been adopted by the City). Click here to read it. One has to ask, is his department “providing leadership in the tourism industry” the Vision aims for?

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