Speech by the Mpumalanga MEC for Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Mr JL (Jabu) Mahlangu, MPL, at the official opening of the Highveld Visitor's Centre and launching the Tourism Month 2009, Ermelo, Msukaligwa local municipality
5 Sep 2009
Executive Mayor of the Gert Sibande district municipality
Councillor Andries Gumede
Councillors in our midst
Chairperson of the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA)
Mr Sabelo Mahlalela
CEO of MTPA, Mr Charles Ndabeni
Representatives from the business community
Members of the media present
Ladies and gentlemen
In the dark days of apartheid, it was a taboo for a black person to explore his own country of birth. We were only allowed to travel and visit our families and relatives who stayed mostly in rural areas. Despite the new dawn in our country, figures indicate that black people do not travel or know their country. We often hear for example that even up to today, most people staying around the Kruger National Park, have never been inside the park to experience and appreciate our heritage. The question is; does this happen because they are less informed or that they cannot afford to pay what is charged? Now, if they are less informed, we will have to shoulder the blame for not informing them and if they cannot afford to pay the entrance fee, it is our responsibility therefore as government to make it affordable for them.
It can never be right for the locals not to enjoy the fruits of their country at the expense of other domestic and even foreign tourists. As government, we will look into this matter to see what we can do to enable the less privileged, especially our poor people, to also enjoy the fruits of their country. This, we will do in the spirit of the Freedom Charter, which states that: “The People shall share in the country’s wealth!” The meaning of the people in this regard refers to the same people who cannot afford a loaf of bread, let alone paying to see animals in the Kruger Park. The wealth in this regard, refers to our natural attractions enjoyed mostly and monopolised by those who can afford.
Even while we are enjoying our natural attractions, we also have a responsibility as the people of Mpumalanga to protect our environment for future generations. As stated in chapter two of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, “Everyone has the right to have the environment protected, for the benefit of the present and future generation.” It compels us to “promote conservation, secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development”.
This is a pledge made by our people in 1955, which they reiterated in 1996 during the adoption of our Constitution, and we dare not compromise on realising this dream. Therefore, in order to fully comply in terms of our mandate regarding the management and protection of the environment, we have finalised the conservation management plans and the protected area expansion strategy which we will start to implement in the current financial year.
Programme director, it is against this backdrop, that I am humbled and honoured to be part of this event when we launch the Tourism and Heritage Month in our province. This month should not only be seen as a month to promote tourism, but also as a month to promote conservation of our environment and creating awareness around preventing pollution and ecological degradation as mandated by the Constitution of this country. As we celebrate this month, we encourage our people to explore their province and country, and experience our cultural diversity. It is your constitutional right to know and enjoy your country. As they say, charity begins at home; take a short left in Mpumalanga and experience its scenic beauty and God made attractions. Like the Gabonese novelist and poet, Gilbert Chesterton said and I quote: “the traveller sees what he sees, (whereas) the tourist sees what he has come to see”.
The being question is, are you a traveller or a tourist? If you are a traveller, you will continue to see what you see in your daily life, however if you are a tourist, you will explore your province first, then your country, to see what you want to see. It is therefore our responsibility as the custodian of tourism activities in the province, to fulfil the wish of a potential tourist by offering what they want to see in our province. We need to make information resources available at their disposal at all times. It is our responsibility collectively also, to treat our visitors as though they are “kings” and “queens” because they bring money to our province which results in the creation of job opportunities and growing our economy.
Our rigorous marketing campaigns aimed at increasing the number of tourists to our province continues to yield positive results. I can proudly report that we have increased our stake in the domestic market by moving from position eight to six and from position four to three in terms of international arrivals. We believe the situation will improve after benefiting from the 2010 Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) World Cup and beyond.
And to ensure that this is realised, we have since implemented the 2010 tourism organising plan and the Mpumalanga tourism investment promotion and growth strategy. Furthermore, given the economic crisis facing our province, it is incumbent on us to do everything possible to make our visitors feel warmly welcomed, and by so doing, we may influence them to stay even longer and spend more.
Programme director, since tourism is our gold mine, we will during this financial year, activate the tourism airlift strategy by launching the tourism airlift contract which is aimed at increasing leisure tourism airlift capacity to and from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA). This will see the introduction of low cost carriers into KMIA, and the anticipation is that it will deliver over 44 000 passengers to Mpumalanga over the contract period of two years. It is also our intention to conduct full feasibility studies for the possible development of a world class theme and amusement park; the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve cable car and the bio-park development in Barberton.
The launch of the Highveld Visitor’s Centre in Ermelo this morning, is a sign that we value our visitors hence we are committed to giving them up to date information on our tourism attractions whenever they require it. As I close ladies and gentlemen, we all have it in ourselves to protect and at the same time, enjoy our environment. Let us enjoy and celebrate our heritage, united in our diversity. It is our responsibility collectively, to ensure that “the people shall share in the country’s wealth!”
Know your province and your country. Take a short left in Mpumalanga and experience it. Indeed, I agree with a person who once told me that Mpumalanga’s natural scenic beauty is a sign that after working for six days to create the heaven and the earth, God decided to take a short left to our province to rest.
I leave you with an inspirational message from Thomas Edison, the person who tried and failed for umpteenth times to invent a light bulb, but never gave up, and I quote: “many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success, when they gave up.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I now have the honour to declare the Highveld Visitor’s Centre, officially opened.
Issued by: Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Mpumalanga Provincial Government
5 September 2009
Source: Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Mpumalanga Provincial Government (http://www.mpumalanga.gov.za/dedp/index.asp)
Issued by: Mpumalanga Economic Development, Environment and Tourism
5 Sep 2009
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