T­hat pesky Secti­on 78

Knys­na tou­rism fra­ter­ni­ty fa­ces its next nig­gling hitch

Knysna-Plett Herald - - News - Chris du P­les­sis & S­te­fan Goo­sen

On Mon­day 13 Au­gust a coun­cil meet­ing will ta­ke pla­ce to de­ci­de w­het­her a pro­po­sed ser­vi­ce le­vel agreement (SLA) be­t­ween Knys­na Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty and the pro­vin­ci­al pu­blic en­ti­ty Wes­gro will be of­fi­ci­al­ly accep­ted or not. (Wes­gro is al­re­a­dy man­da­ted to act as the of­fi­ci­al tou­rism tra­de and in­ves­t­ment a­gen­cy for Ca­pe Town and the We­stern Ca­pe, but it pro­po­ses to “ma­na­ge Knys­na mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty’s con­sti­tu­ti­o­nal man­da­te in terms of tou­rism and des­ti­na­ti­on mar­ke­ting at a lo­cal le­vel”.)

For the coun­cil and Knys­na Tou­rism – the lat­ter cur­rent­ly no­thing much mo­re than a bo­ard of eig­ht mem­bers with a ske­le­ton staff of two af­ter the o­pe­ra­ti­o­nal wing was ef­fecti­ve­ly clo­sed do­wn re­cent­ly and eig­ht em­ploy­ees we­re re­tren­ched – a go-a­he­ad will sig­ni­fy the end of a long hard slog t­hat be­gan last y­e­ar w­hen the then mu­ni­ci­pal ma­na­ger Kam C­het­ty i­ni­ti­a­ted dis­cus­si­ons with Wes­gro.

Puz­z­ling mo­ve

In so­me ci­r­cles it con­sti­tu­ted a puz­z­ling mo­ve. The mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty’s pre­vi­ous con­tract with Knyn­sa Tou­rism (then still kno­wn as Knys­na & Part­ners) had ex­pi­red in mid-2017 and in terms of the coun­cil’s agreement with its tou­rism ser­vi­ce pro­vi­der, the con­tract had to then be sub­jected to a pu­blic ten­der pro­cess. Inste­ad of i­ni­ti­a­ting a ten­der pro­cess, C­het­ty ga­ve Knys­na & Part­ners a­not­her y­e­ar-long con­tract and em­bar­ked on the dis­cus­si­ons with Wes­gro to stand in.

The ex­ten­ded con­tract with Knys­na Tou­rism en­ded last month and sin­ce then t­he­re has ef­fecti­ve­ly been no of­fi­ci­al, ful­ly functi­o­ning tou­rism ser­vi­ce pro­vi­der for Knys­na.

It is ex­act­ly this rud­der­less­ness which mem­bers of the Knys­na Tou­rism bo­ard ho­pe will be recti­fied with the Wes­gro de­al. “(The Knys­na Tou­rism of­fi­ce) seem to ha­ve been lur­ching from one le­a­ders­hip cri­sis to the next o­ver the last 10 y­e­ars,” bo­ard mem­ber and Knys­na bu­si­nes­sman C­har­les van Ton­der told KPH last week. Ac­cor­ding to Van Ton­der, Wes­gro has w­hat it ta­kes to pro­vi­de a­de­qua­te le­a­ders­hip and mem­bers of the bo­ard want the agreement sig­ned and se­a­led as soon as pos­si­ble.

Ot­her le­gis­la­ti­ve re­qui­re­ments

But it’s the as-soon-as-pos­si­ble part, ho­we­ver, t­hat ap­pa­rent­ly re­pre­sents the no­se pim­ple. Says Su­san Camp­bell of the Knys­na Ra­te­pay­ers As­so­ci­a­ti­on (KRA), “E­ven if the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty and Knys­na Tou­rism in­tro­du­ces a s­ta­te or­gan such as Wes­gro in­to the mix – which me­ans they don’t ha­ve to go through a ten­der pro­cess – t­he­re are still ot­her le­gis­la­ti­ve re­qui­re­ments t­hat ha­ve to be com­p­lied with.”

Most no­ta­bly Secti­on 78 of the Mu­ni­ci­pal Sys­tems Act.

In do­cu­ments de­li­ver­ed to KPH last week the Knys­na Tou­rism bo­ard re­spon­ded to cau­ti­ons by KRA mem­bers t­hat the pro­po­sed de­al with Wes­gro was not fol­lo­wing the cor­rect pro­ce­du­res. The agreement with Wes­gro would ha­ve to cross a few “hurd­les” set out by Secti­on 78 be­fo­re the de­al could be clin­ched, the KRA’s Chris Gould had war­ned – hurd­les such as pu­blic no­ti­ce and par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on, im­pact on jobs and em­ploy­ment pat­terns and a fe­a­si­bi­li­ty stu­dy, a­mong ot­hers. A fai­lu­re to do so would con­sti­tu­te a con­tra­ven­ti­on of the act ac­cor­ding to Gould.

‘Ti­me to put Knys­na first’

Which is all e­li­ci­ting a col­lecti­ve gro­an from Knyn­sa Tou­rism mem­bers C­li­ve Ben­net and Van Ton­der, who ci­te cor­re­spon­den­ce to their of­fi­ce by Grant T­hor­ton ad­vi­sing t­hat “Secti­on 78 can ta­ke six to 18 mont­hs in a ‘nor­mal’ y­e­ar.” And t­hat the u­p­co­ming e­lecti­ons would li­ke­ly leng­then the pro­cess. “I be­lie­ve it’s ti­me to put Knys­na first and re­ach a sus­tai­na­ble, long-term ar­ran­ge­ment t­hat will a­lign and be­ne­fit our town, our re­gi­on and our pro­vin­ce in a sy­ner­ge­tic te­am ef­fort,” Van Ton­der sta­ted in im­pec­ca­ble PR speak.

Ac­cor­ding to a sta­te­ment by Knys­na Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty, the SLA with Wes­gro is see­mingly al­re­a­dy a do­ne de­al. “On­ce the SLA is ap­pro­ved, “ma­yor Mark Wil­lem­se sta­tes, “Wes­gro will ta­ke o­ver the ma­na­ge­ment of the [tou­rism] of­fi­ce and the des­ti­na­ti­on mar­ke­ting functi­on for the G­re­a­ter Knys­na with im­me­di­a­te ef­fect.”

But Camp­bell cau­ti­ons, “All ro­ads le­ad to secti­on 78. No mat­ter who de­als with who or w­hat. They still ha­ve to ne­go­ti­a­te Secti­on 78. No-one said fol­lo­wing the ru­les was e­ver going to be e­a­sy.”

P­ho­to: S­te­fan Goo­sen

Run­ning on emp­ty: Knys­na Tou­rism has re­a­ched ske­le­ton staff sta­tus.

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