Striving for world-class standards

2014-07-02 00:00

DURING his inauguration as KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Senzo Mchunu committed himself to working with stakeholders to bring about a better life for the people of this province. The media are one of the most important stakeholders.

While we understand that the primary role of the media is not to provide public-relations services for the government, we also view the media as an essential partner in publicising the steps taken by the government, civil society and the private sector in civic upliftment.

We emphasise the fact that the relationship between the media and government should not necessarily be adversarial. We need to cultivate a healthy relationship between the media, civic society, the private sector and the government.

It is for these reasons that the premier has congratulated The Witness for creating awareness about the problem of cable theft. He has personally offered to work with the newspaper to champion this campaign.

We have, however, noted with grave concern a series of articles by the paper, especially the article published recently titled “R1,5 million premier’s bash”. Whether it was deliberate or unintentional, an impression has been created by the newspaper that the premier is extravagant. In addition, readers and the public have been led to believe that the whole amount was for the premier’s party and that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife went the extra mile to ensure that the premier and his cabinet had a good time while they stayed at the lodge

Contrary to this impression, since he assumed office, the premier has shown his unwavering commitment to fiscal prudence. He understands that the people of KwaZulu-Natal expect nothing less than cost-effective approaches in service delivery. On the first day of the cabinet meeting held at Didima, the premier stated unequivocally that he expected complete accountability from members of the executive council for how and where taxpayers’ money is spent.

We wish to draw the attention of readers to the following facts that were omitted by The Witness.

1. One member of the executive council was accommodated at Didima for two days. The KZN premier and the rest of the members of the executive council did not sleep at Didima Lodge.

2. The Office of the Premier paid R186 340 for the use of Didima for two days, mainly for the conference facility for the strategic session.

3. The 150 guests comprised members of Parliament who attended the Workers’ Parliament. They represented the IFP, NFP, EFF, ANC, DA and legislature staff. Provincial legislature paid R99 200 for the use of Didima.

4. Other private guests were accommodated at the lodge during the same period, some of whom attended the Workers’ Parliament.

We consider the suggestion that the premier had a bash as baseless and reckless reporting. The televisions, soap, linen, irons, conference note pads, cutlery and décor that were bought by Ezemvelo were used by all delegates accommodated during that period and beyond.

In his inauguration speech, the premier announced the reconfiguration of government departments, with Ezemvelo moving to the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs.

The premier is of the view that this public entity has a critical role to play in terms of driving economic development and becoming a catalyst for tourism. He has singled out eco-tourism as one of the sectors that will assist in creating job opportunities.

It should be noted that Ezemvelo manages the largest eco-tourism operations in the country, which gives KZN a competitive edge. Ezemvelo manages more than 114 protected areas and close to 40 facilities, which provide accommodation for 6 500 people.

We are proud that we are able to provide tourists an unparalleled experience of the province’s wildlife and eco-tourism. It would be embarrassing for guests not to have linen and soap when staying in these facilities.

During this term of office, the provincial government will market aggressively all the strategic facilities in order to grow tourism and generate revenue for the province. We have a vision of being Africa’s top beach destination, with a unique blend of wildlife, scenic and heritage experiences for visitors. To realise this, the premier has emphasised the need to improve infrastructure and ensure accessibility to tourism products offered by Ezemvelo.

In the past, the province has hosted the inaugural and founding conference for the formation of the African Union, hosting all the heads of states on the African continent. Many other high-level conferences have been hosted successfully in KZN.

The province is being developed as a centre for cultural and sporting excellence, attracting cultural and sporting events on a regular basis, thus making it the leader in domestic tourism and a premier destination for international tourists.

It is, therefore, important that all our facilities, government and privately owned, are of an international standard, giving visitors a long-lasting experience of our hospitality.

• Ndabezinhle Sibiya is spokesperson for the premier.

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