The Committee met jointly with the Portfolio Committee on Health to get a briefing from the Consul- General of the People’s Republic of China on the impact of the Coronavirus and its implications on the tourism sector.
The Consul-General provided lawmakers with a snapshot of the timelines from when the virus first surfaced to where things were at present. China’s central government had placed a great deal of importance to prevent the spread of the epidemic from Wuhan and Hubei Province where it had originated. Since 22 January 2020 the flow of people from Wuhan and Hubei Province had been cut. All provinces had reduced the flow of people.
The Consul-General indicated that there was a decline in the number of cases. He gave credit to the efforts of the South African government for taking the appropriate strategies to deal with the risks of the virus spreading to this country.
The Consul-General stated that the virus had affected the Chinese and global economy. However, the Chinese government had measures to support industries to resume production.
Members appreciated the Chinese Consul General’s input. They felt that decisive leadership in China had given good direction. Members were interested to know what had caused the outbreak. The Consul-General was asked whether there were plans in the pipeline for the development of a preventative vaccine. Members asked if any South Africans had been affected and what special arrangements existed between SA and China around the transport of people between the two countries. Members were impressed by China’s poverty alleviation programme as well as with China’s plan to eradicate all poverty in China by 2020.
The National Registrar of Tourist Guides briefed the Committee on compliance with legislation and on programmes for tourist guides. The Committee was given insight into what defined a tour guide and that tour guides were classified into various categories, types and levels. A distinction was made between a National Registrar of Tourist Guides and Provincial Registrars of Tourist Guides. Their respective functions were elaborated upon. Some statistics around the tourist guiding profession was that in SA there were more than 13 000 registered tourist guides. As at 2018/19, 65% of all registered tourist guides were white whilst the remaining 35% were black. However, only 32% of all registered tourist guides were female with males dominating at 68%. Some challenges identified in achieving transformation in the tourist guiding sector included lack of employment and market access opportunities, seasonal nature of work and that the profession was driven by passion and not financial gain which posed a challenge of tourist guiding being a sustainable career. Skills development initiatives by the National Department of Tourism were elaborated upon which included language training in Mandarin as well as narrative development.
Members observed that over the past six months when the National Department of Tourism briefed the Committee there seemed to always be an area where things were lacking. SA was already 25 years into being a democracy yet goals that were set could not be met. It would seem as if a change in gear was needed. Members were concerned that the tourist guiding profession was still very much white dominated. Members of the EFF felt that the ANC Ruling Party was to blame for maintaining the status quo in the sector. The Committee too was partly to blame. From the figures provided members also observed that there seemed to be gender imbalances around tourist guides. It was a male dominated profession. Furthermore, no mention was made of Indians and Coloureds. SA was diverse. There needed to be representativity across all racial lines. Members appreciated the fact that tour guides needed to be accredited. However, members felt that at times at village level there were persons who could do a better job than an accredited tour guide. How could it be ensured that indigenous people were given opportunities? Indigenous people were able to provide authentic information about a particular area or village. The National Registrar of Tour Guides was asked how a company or person abroad would be able to check on the authenticity of guides that worked in SA. The Chairperson noted that the Committee had undertaken to intensify oversight on transformation. The Committee was to track transformation yearly from September to September. In September 2020 the Committee would check on transformation progress in the sector.
The Chairperson stated that the initial intention of the Committee had been to have a meeting at the Chinese Consul General’s premises but it was decided that it was best to hold the meeting in Parliament.
Dr Sibongiseni Dlomo, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health, co-chaired this part of the meeting and expressed appreciation for being invited alongside other members of his committee. He however apologised for the absence of most of his members as many were not able to get flights into Cape Town.
Oral presentation by the Consul General of Peoples Republic of China based in Cape Town on the NCP (Corona Virus) and the implications for tourism
Mr Lin Jing, Consul General, Peoples Republic of China, was pleased to brief the Committee on the latest developments around the Coronavirus. The latest figures were that there were 77 780 confirmed cases. There were 27 377 patients that had been cured and discharged. However, there were still 2 224 suspected cases. The death toll currently sat at 2 666. In as much as one was speaking about an epidemic, he pointed out that the numbers were speaking to many positive things. There were only nine newly confirmed cases. Across the 24 provinces there were no new confirmed cases and this included Beijing and Shanghai. He assured the Committee that the situation had improved. Many provinces had downgraded their class of responses to emergencies. Eight provinces had downgraded their class of responses from first class to second or third class responses. Even more provinces, autonomous regions and municipal cities would be downgrading their class of responses.
The proper term for the Coronavirus was Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia (NCP). NCP had become a worldwide issue and had spread to 25 countries. South Korea had 893 confirmed cases with the death toll sitting at nine. The Diamond Princess Cruise liner whilst at sea had 691 confirmed cases with four deaths. In Italy there were 222 confirmed cases with seven deaths. In Japan there were 159 confirmed cases with one death. In Singapore there were 90 confirmed cases with zero deaths. Iran had 61 confirmed cases with twelve deaths. The United States of America (USA) had 53 confirmed cases with zero deaths. Thailand too had zero deaths after having 35 confirmed cases. Africa and SA had been lucky with no confirmed cases as yet. Things were vigilantly watched in Africa and SA by Chinese officials as to whether NCP had reached these shores. At the end of January 2020, a tourist group from Madagascar had planned to come to SA but were ultimately convinced to cancel their trip. Two months ago a tourist group from Beijing’s leader showed signs of a fever. They were examined at Tygerberg Hospital and cleared.
He gave much credit to the efforts of the South African government and its departments including the Portfolio Committees on Tourism and Health for the appropriate strategies to deal with the risks of the NCP spreading to its shores. He conceded that in as much as things were seemingly under control one had to continue to be vigilant. There had been much speculation in the media around how the NCP had evolved and how it had become a nationwide/worldwide issue. The simple facts were that many allegations were being flung around. Most of the accusations came from American politicians around the Chinese government not being transparent enough around the NCP issue. The accusations were groundless and malicious. He continued with background on the outbreak.
The first case was reported in Wuhan in early December 2019. NCP was a completely new disease. It was still not clear how the virus had evolved. What was also not clear was what the mechanism for transmission was or how it mutated. Only at the end of December 2019 were people at a seafood market diagnosed with NCP. On 29 December 2019 the matter was reported to the National Health Commission. The National Disease Centre responded and undertook an investigation. By 1 January 2020 all patients originated from the seafood market. On 8 January 2020 the NCP was identified. On 10 January 2020 the Chinese health authorities contacted the World Health Organisation (WHO). Throughout the entire process a good job had been done. There were accusations that response times had been too slow. The reality was that it was a new virus and that time was needed to investigate. He conceded that there had been shortcomings on prevention, on the emergency system and in the manner that some leaderships had responded. Leaderships in Wuhan and in the Hubei Province had been replaced.
On 7 January 2020, President Xi Jinping convened a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Central Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China. It was the highest leadership group in China and consisted of seven members. The leadership group met regularly to discuss issues and to make decisions. Each member had a right to vote but most of the time decisions were made by consensus. During that meeting, President Jinping put in a request to deal with the NCP matter. Two days ago President Jinping presided over a meeting with around 170 delegates from provinces, departments etc to remobilise and redeploy on the NCP epidemic.
China’s central government had placed a great deal of importance to prevent the spread of the epidemic from Wuhan and Hubei Province. It was in these areas where the fight was on. More than 330 medical teams, 41 000 doctors and nurses had been deployed in Wuhan and in the Hubei Province. Two makeshift hospitals had been built in 10 days and 14 days respectively. There were however only 2500 beds available. Subsequently 13 000 beds were made available. Many shortcomings had been overcome. The idea was to prevent the spread of the NCP. At the peak of the epidemic all provinces, autonomous territories and municipal cities had stepped up responses. Lots of measures had been put in place. Since 22 January 2020 the flow of people from Wuhan and Hubei Province had been cut. All provinces reduced the flow of people. The Chinese Spring holiday should have ended on 30 January 2020 but was extended until 2 February 2020. Each community had strict measures in place to monitor health issues of the community. This was to ensure that no person was infected by the virus. He noted that the spread of the epidemic had initially been contained. He was pleased to announce that there was a decline in the number of cases and a decline in the daily number of cases in provinces. There was an increase in number of newly cured. To date there were no new cases in 24 provinces.
He pointed out that before and after the Chinese Spring Festival there would be a migration of people to celebrate New Year. The Chinese Transport Department’s figures showed that 220m people would go back to work by the end of February 2020. There would be a 100m more by the end of March 2020. The concern with this grand domestic migration was that it increased the risk of the virus spreading. It was a tremendous challenge to ensure that this migration took place without the virus spreading. He conceded that the NCP affected the Chinese economy as well as the global economy. The economic structure of China was now different compared to when SARS Virus broke out in 2003. Tourism was huge in China today. Back in 2003 the manufacturing industry was huge. At present in China the service sector contributed to half of China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The middle class in China were on the rise and were enjoying things like tourism, sport etc. However, NCP had affected tourism greatly.
He emphasised that 2020 was an important year in China’s efforts to build a moderately prosperous society. By the end of 2020 China aimed to eradicate poverty in the country. Over the past 41 years China had lifted 850m people out of poverty. There were still 5.5m under poverty and efforts had to halt when the NCP outbreak hit. Many projects had to stop. A strategy was needed for poverty alleviation as the challenge was now bigger due to the outbreak. Some people became poor again. Central and local government was providing more support. By the end of 2020 poverty in China would be wiped out. Resumption of production was important in order for Chinese to make a living. In low risk areas production would be resumed. There were no new cases. In medium risk areas there was a downgrade of emergency classes which meant that peoples’ lives could go back to normal. In high risk areas the focus would still be on epidemic control. The Chinese government had measures to support industries to resume production. There would be strengthening of means to stabilise employment. The Chinese government was looking at issues of employment, foreign investment, domestic investments etc. Of priority was job creation in six critical sectors that government had identified. New graduates had to be absorbed in the labour force. In China there were 291m migrant workers (rural to urban migration). The smooth operation of supply chain of foreign trade was important. The Hubei Province being in Central China was key to supply chain. However, it was also the epicentre of the NCP outbreak. Supply chain was therefore affected. Efforts were made to stabilise industrial and supply chain. Export tax rebates were granted as a tool to stabilise exports. This was to ease the burden for foreign trade industries. Financial, monetary and tax policies were put in place to normalise business in China. He felt that in order for China to eradicate poverty a higher growth rate was needed.
The Chairperson stated that having a goal of eradicating poverty by 2020 was important.
Ms M Gomba (ANC) asked whether there were plans to develop a preventative vaccine.
Mr Jing said that the development of drugs or vaccines was time consuming. It was a key issue for the WHO. The time had been too short for a vaccine to be developed. Hospitals in China had used the plasma of cured patients to treat the more severe cases. Efforts were being made but it was still early days.
Mr H Gumbi (DA) observed that the response and measures taken by China must have cost a great deal. The presentation had touched on work that had been done with Africa and SA. What specific work was done? He pointed out that there were countries that had taken measures to protect their citizens by not allowing Chinese into their countries. What arrangements were made by SA and China regarding the transport of persons between the two countries especially around airline flights?
Mr Jing said that measures had been put in place to ensure that Africa and SA was virus free. The SA government had taken appropriate measures. When possible cases arose people were sent to be tested. SA’s government had identified eleven hospitals where possible victims could be treated. On transport, some airlines had cut flights to China. Ethiopian Airlines was still operating normally. China Airlines was also operating as usual. Flights between SA and China were more or less the same as before the epidemic. He stated that the cost of fighting the epidemic was about how well China was able to respond to the epidemic. China would for the future look at lessons learnt. The modernisation of China’s governance system was important. Top officials were removed where needed. Failures in carrying out their duties could not be excused. The economic cost of the outbreak was huge. It was a test of China’s system.
Mr K Sithole (IFP) asked how safe it was to visit China at present. If 5.5m people were affected by poverty in China, what was the country’s total population size? He was concerned about the safety of South Africans working and living in China.
Mr Jing said that across 24 provinces there had been no new cases reported. One had to be patient to see how things turned out. At the end of 2019 the population was over 1.4bn and there were still 5.5m people living in poverty. By the end of 2020 all poverty in China would be eradicated. On the numbers of South Africans in China there were around 3000.There were around 500 South Africans in Wuhan. Less than 20 foreigners in China had been affected by the NCP. Thus far there had been no reports of South Africans being affected.
Mr P Moteka (EFF) said that decisive leadership in China had given good direction. How many provinces were there in China and how many of them were affected by the NCP. What had caused the outbreak of the NCP? He felt that the cause could be neutral, political or even man-made. There could be people or counties in the world that were not too chuffed about China’s progression. He was impressed by China’s poverty alleviation programme. What were the key things in the programme that made things happen? SA was still grappling with poverty alleviation. As a matter of fact, he felt that SA was regressing on poverty alleviation. SA could learn much from China around eradicating poverty. He was impressed about China being confident in eradicating all forms of poverty in China by the end of 2020.
Mr Jing explained that Wuhan was the capital of Hubei Province. Hubei Province was the transport hub and was found in central China. Wuhan itself had a population of 11m, hence the acute spread of the virus. As yet the mechanism for transmission of the NCP was unknown. As a precaution, it was best to cover one’s eyes, mouth and nose. On poverty alleviation, he explained that China had targeted poverty alleviation programmes. Each and every household would be targeted. Factors that were taken into consideration were for instance what had caused the poverty. If an area had transport issues, then roads would be built. Technical advice was offered where it was needed. Many villagers had been lifted out of poverty. Lack of education could be another reason for poverty. Hence people would be educated. In some instances, entire villages would be relocated. It was a monumental task which required collateral facilities to be in place.
Ms T Xego (ANC) asked which age group was most affected by the NCP. Did China have much experience in managing killer diseases? She asked what medical experts in China were saying around a cure for NCP. How did China communicate with Chinese living in SA in trying to convince them not to visit China even if they were homesick?
Mr Jing explained that since the outbreak, China’s central and local governments had a policy to take care of its foreign friends. He was aware that due to restrictions people would feel uneasy. Local authorities were on hand to provide support. Some people would be eager to return to SA. China agreed with the WHO measures implemented. The USA had banned visits to China and had evacuated citizens. The Chinese government cooperated if a country wished to evacuate its citizens. The evacuations, partly, were how the virus had spread. The Chinese government respected the choice of foreign governments to evacuate its citizens. It was best to stay in China. China had the facilities, the measures in place and the treatments that were needed. The NCP affected different ages differently. The old suffered more. With the Severe Acute Respiratory System (SARS) Virus, the young suffered the most. The NCP however had a lower mortality rate than the H1N1 Virus. With the NCP, 80% of victims could cure themselves. There were those who had to get treatment with 5% of cases being severe. In Wuhan the oldest cured patient was 97 years old. The youngest patient was one-year-old. How the virus had evolved was still under investigation. The Chinese staying in SA did not have problems. Those who had gone to China were advised to self-quarantine for 14 days when they returned to SA. As a matter of interest, the number of Chinese living in Cape Town had increased from 20 000 to 30 000. If any of them had returned from a visit to China, they were advised to quarantine themselves for fourteen days.
Ms L Makhubela-Mashele (ANC) appreciated the comprehensive presentation on the NCP. She added that the factual statistics provided were confirmed by the WHO. In areas that were hard hit by the virus she asked whether China had quantified how many South Africans in China had been affected. Had the Chinese government reassured foreigners which included South Africans that had been quarantined. Were South Africans in China being supported and reassured? This was necessary since a person’s movement was restricted. How many South Africans were there? She nevertheless felt that China had done good work around the NCP.
Mr T Munyai (ANC)(Portfolio Committee on Health) said that he had no questions but wished to comment. He proposed a moment of silence for those who had died due to NCP. From the Portfolio Committee on Health’s point of view, there was no doubt about China being able to contain the virus. China was a very capable country. China had the most persons with PhDs (Doctor of Philosophy) – the number was more than the rest of the world combined. He wished to extend a message of support to China’s top leadership. He was aware that there were some in the world who wished to play political games. China was however up to the task and had taken practical action. He noted that one should not focus at present on the causes of the virus but rather on fighting the epidemic. What practical measures could SA support China with? Face masks were perhaps an item which SA could manufacture and supply to China.
Mr Jing responded that SA had already provided China with material and moral support. Medical masks had been donated to China and there was a South African PhD academic who had studied in China that had written a newspaper article about the outbreak that had greatly assisted.
The Chairperson, from a tourism perspective, said that the numbers of Chinese tourists coming to SA had decreased. The numbers of South Africans travelling to China had also dropped. He asked whether the Committee could be provided with exact figures. He further asked about China’s recovery plan post the NCP. Was such a plan being worked on? Another issue for China to deal with was global perceptions of China and its people. He was convinced that there would be an economic impact. What was China’s plan to deal with it? He asked whether redirecting doctors and medical staff to Wuhan and to Hubei Province did not affect health services elsewhere.
Mr Jing conceded that the numbers of Chinese tourists coming to SA for 2019 were much lower than previous years. He explained that post the NCP pandemic there were many things that needed to be looked at. These included disease control, prevention systems and also international control systems. On perceptions around China he said that one needed to schedule another meeting to cover that topic.
Dr Dhlomo stated that if China was not as prepared as it was then the death toll would have been much higher. There were lessons that SA could learn from the Chinese experience. Fears needed to be allayed. The NCP was a new epidemic which required that the movement of citizens be limited. In SA, at present there were ten deaths daily due to Tuberculosis and HIV combined. There were also fifteen deaths daily due to hypertension and diabetes combined. As a precautionary measure at South African ports of entry people were examined for signs of NCP. To date no cases were found in SA. China was doing well in containing NCP. South Africans need to worry about Tuberculosis and Cancer.
The Chairperson extended a thank you to Mr Jing. There was a message of positivity between SA and China. There was a continuous call to intensify solidarity work not only on the NCP. The lives of people should be prioritised beyond profit maximisation. Nowhere in the presentation had China lamented the loss of billions of rands due to the NCP outbreak. Nor was anything said about the budget of China being out of control. There would be continuous interaction between the Committee, the Portfolio Committee on Health and the Consul General’s Office. He urged media present to reflect the sentiments of the meeting that the predominant narrative must be positive. This did not however mean that negatives needed to be hidden. He on behalf of the Committee commended the Chinese government on a job well done in preventing a possible catastrophe throughout the world.
Briefing on compliance with legislation and on programmes for tourist guides
Ms Morongoe Ramphele, National Registrar of Tour Guides and Deputy Director General: Tourism Sector Support Services, National Department of Tourism, stated that the Tourism Act, 2014 defined the scope of guiding and provided a framework for the conduct and governance of the tourism guiding profession. A Tourism Amendment Bill was in the pipeline and once it was dealt with regulations would be considered.
The Committee was given insight into what defined a tour guide and that tour guides were classified into various categories, types and levels. The functions of Registrars of Tourist Guides were elaborated upon. The distinction was firstly made between a National Registrar and Provincial Registrars. The functions of the National Registrar included maintaining a central data base of tourist guides and preparing codes of conduct & ethics. Provincial Registrars too had to keep a register of tourist guides and was also tasked with dealing with complaints and exercising disciplinary powers. The Committee was provided with insight into some of the sections of the Tourism Act that was applicable to tourist guides ie Sections 56, 57, 58 and 59. The briefing continued with statistics around the tourist guiding profession. In SA there were more than 13 000 registered tourist guides. On demographics, as at 2018/19, 65% of all registered tourist guides were white whilst the remaining 35% were black. However, only 32% of all registered tourist guides were female with males dominating at 68%. Some challenges identified in achieving transformation in the tourist guiding sector included lack of employment and market access opportunities, seasonal nature of work and that the profession was driven by passion and not financial gain which posed a challenge of tourist guiding being a sustainable career. Skills development initiatives by the National Department of Tourism were elaborated upon. On new entrants approximately 110 tourist guides from previously disadvantaged backgrounds were given opportunities to enter the guiding sector through a range of training programmes. 120 tourist guides had been up-skilled since the inception of up-skilling three years ago. Currently, the National Department of Tourism was language training twenty existing tourist guides in Mandarin. Due to inconsistencies in the manner in which information was provided to visitors and tourists the National Department of Tourism had also embarked on efforts around narrative development. Members were provided with some detail around awareness programmes relating to tourist guiding. These included the Lilizela Tourism Awards where excellence in tourist guiding was recognised.
Ms Makhubela-Mashele understood that there were criteria that had to be met for tour guides to be accredited. However, at village level there were persons who could do a better job than an accredited tour guide. How could it be ensured that indigenous people got such opportunities? Indigenous people provided authentic information about a particular area or village.
Ms Ramphele was aware of the importance of indigenous knowledge that locals had which included story telling. The National Department of Tourism had partnered with the University of Pretoria on indigenous storytelling. Indigenous people had to tell their stories.
Mr Z Peter (ANC) observed that over the past six months when the Department of Tourism briefed the Committee there seemed to always be an area where things were lacking. We were already 25 years into our democracy, why could goals that were set not met? It would seem as if a change in gear was needed. Goals seemed not to be reached. In the previous presentation members were told how China met its goals.
Mr Moteka observed that the tourist guide sector was dominated by whites (slide 9). He said that whites could not be blamed. He blamed the ANC government for maintaining the status quo in the sector. It was also the Committee who was useless in not taking any action.
Ms Ramphele responded that the tourist guiding was a voluntary profession. The Department of Tourism had no control over it. The numbers that were seen were of those who had a passion and love for the profession. The NDT would play catch-up to get the numbers right. Efforts were made to up-skill the previously disadvantaged.
Mr Gumbi appreciated that twenty tour guides were being trained in Mandarin. What about training in French, Spanish or Portuguese? There were large amounts of people travelling to SA be it for pleasure or business who spoke the aforementioned languages. How would a company or person abroad check on the authenticity of guides that were in SA?
Ms Ramphele said that the Mandarin training was accredited. Guiding was for people who had a passion for it. Young persons were targeted. Old persons could act as mentors. There was a database of tour guides which was extensive as far as foreign languages were concerned. The Mandarin training was to close the gap. There were plans for training in German, French and Italian to take place. At present there was a shortage of these types of guides. She pointed out that the central point for information of guides was the National Department of Tourism. The intention was to consolidate guide information from provinces. Some provinces were better equipped than others. Information could be obtained from various platforms, websites and applications (apps). She conceded that there were challenges around data integrity.
Ms Gomba said that the aim for SA was to address poverty, inequality and unemployment. On tourist guides there seemed to be gender imbalances (slide 9). No mention was also made of Indians and Coloureds. There needed to be representativity across all racial lines.
Ms Ramphele on representativity reiterated that there was a database of tour guides with guides from various backgrounds.
The Chairperson noted that the Committee had agreed to intensify oversight on transformation. Transformation was to be tracked yearly from September to September. In September 2020 the Committee would check on progress.
Minutes dated 3 December 2019, 4 and 18 February 2020 were adopted unamended.
The meeting was adjourned.