White tourists, tour-workers attacked by striking mobs
22 August 2011 Leave a comment
SA tourism in crisis: A tour operator murdered in White River; German, Belgian, US tourist-groups attacked at God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes; months-long siege of key tourist spots destroys Lowveld tourism; security guards Johnny and Shaun Terblanche, Andrew Calitz besieged by large mob of armed striking municipal workers in Nelspruit:
German, Belgian tourists attacked, tour-operator murdered by strikers
Tourism in crisis – 9 Aug 2011 – Lowvelder reporter Marius Bakkes writes from Nelspruit that an unnamed male tour operator was murdered; and that mobs of armed strikers have for months been blocking access and attacking foreign tourists allt he major sightseeing attractions. “Yet the decline in the tourism industry in Mpumalanga has now obviously reached critical levels, but it doesn’t appear to be raising much concern at government level.” Amid reports of dire budgetary restrictions on provincial spending on tourism marketing and nature conservation, and with an administration now brought to a halt due to protest strikes for months on end, there is no sight of or word from Mpumalanga’s tourism CEO, Mr Charles Ndabeni.
Major tourism sites barricaded
While some of the country’s major tourism sights are being barricaded from foreign tourists by striking protesters, South African Tourism has not moved a finger to put contingency plans in place.Not one official at SA Tourism’s head office in Johannesburg, from the CEO, past the head of marketing, Mr Iam Utermohlen, down to communications officer Mr Germain Craig, was available for comment. According to a telephone operator all senior staff members at SA Tourism were ‘enjoying a long weekend due to the public holiday’. Not even the head of the national ministry of tourism, Mr Riaan Aucamp in the office of the minister, Mr Marthinus van Schalkwyk could be of much help. Though admittedly places like God’s Window and the lookout points at Blyde River Canyon are national assets, it remains the responsibility of the Mpumalanga Provincial Government to manage and maintain their accessibility to tourists. Though they are thoroughly aware of the situation, his only answer was that they were in contact with Mpumalanga regarding the province’s breakdown in fulfilling its day-to-day tourism mandate. Aucamp could not confirm to whom they were speaking and what contingency plans were under discussion. Van Schalkwyk’s communications head, Mr Trevor Bloem, also remained mum about the details. On Monday he could only offer the usual public relation jargon such as, he was confident the matter was receiving attended attention. Mbombela municipal tourism development head, Dr Mathilda van Niekerk, has since voiced her concern about the deteriorating tourism situation in the province, after a tour operator of Johannesburg was killed by robbers at a guest house near White River. He was accompanying two American visitors, who left the country hastily the very next morning. Van Niekerk said she expected this would have a very detrimental effect on tourism in the province.Head of communications in the Mpumalanga Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, Mr Mohau Ramodite, confirmed late yesterday that an urgent meeting had been called between his department and the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency to work on a turnaround strategy, as he put it. He was hesitant to say who was attending the meeting. He did confirm though, that Ndabeni was absent.Famous provincial landmarks and tourist attractions, including Bourke’s Luck Potholes and God’s Window, are closed and made inaccessible”.
German tour-operator Enola Tech with German and Belgian tourists attacked by strikers at Bourke’s Luck
29 July 2011 – Nicolene Smalman – NELSPRUIT – The current strike of MTPA employees is having a dire effect on tourism in the province. Famous provincial landmarks and tourist attractions, including Bourke’s Luck Potholes and God’s Window, are closed and made inaccessible. Information on incidents of foreign tourists being turned away has reached Lowvelder’s office this past week.Tools were downed on Tuesday and apart from demanding a 15 per cent salary increase, livid strikers want the organisation’s CEO, Mr Charles Ndabeni, axed.
The newspaper went to the MTPA’s offices which are situated next to H L Hall and Sons. A huge container had been pushed in front of the gate to prevent colleagues from entering the premises and members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) were picketing outside. Some employees left and went off to perform field work. Ms Enola Teich, a tourism operator of Nelspruit, took tourists from Germany and Belgium to Bourke’s Luck on Wednesday where MTPA officials told them that it was not open for the public due to the strike. “The gates were closed. One of the tourists was agitated and took the lock off the gate. The strikers then piled rocks around his vehicle to prevent him from entering,” she said.The group then wanted to see God’s Window, but Teich phoned Graskop’s information centre and was informed that it had also been closed due to the strike.”These tourists paid a lot of money to come to South Africa and travel far distances to see attractions the Lowveld has to offer. The strike is dealing tourism in the area a huge blow,” Teich said.
It was confirmed by Mr Godfrey Sibiya, regional secretary of Nehawu in Ehlanzeni, that all tourist attractions such as Bourke’s Luck, God’s Window, Mac Mac, Bridal Veil, Horse Shoe Falls and game reserves under MTPA management are closed. Sibiya indicated that they would strike until all their demands have been met.
Municipal workers attack, injure two white J&M security guards, destroy vehicle in Nelspruit:
Aug 19 2011 NELSPRUIT — On Wednesday heavily armed municipal workers attacked and injured two white J&M Security officials and destroyed a vehicle during their protest-march down Brown Street.
The next day the riot-control police stopped the workers from marching into the CBD, blocking their path in Andrew Street. This followed three days of protest action marked by armed-violence and intimidation. The strikers – members of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) – planned to march through the city, making their way to the sonamed ‘Mbombela” (Nelspruit) Municipality porportedly to ‘hand over a memorandum stating their demands for a double-digit wage increase.’ However, following the attack on civilians and security officials the previous day, police decided to step in to prevent further violence.
Mob flung bricks, injuring white security officials; smashed car-windows
On Wednesday, J&M security officials Johnny Terblanche, Shaun Terblanche and Andrew Calitz were escorting volunteers of the Nelspruit City Improvement District through the city’s streets as they were cleaning up the mess left by strikers the day before. A red Toyota Corolla suddenly pulled up to where they were cleaning the corner of Brown and Voortrekker streets. A group of men jumped out of the vehicle and started attacking the volunteers. The driver of the vehicle was wearing a Samwu cap. J&M Security officers stepped in and chased the men on foot. They apprehended the driver and wanted to keep him in custody until he could be arrested by police. However the mob started throwing bricks and rubbish at the security officers. They pulled at the driver of the Corolla who had been in J&M’s custody and managed to free him from their grip. Members of the mob flung bricks at J&M’s officials and Shaun was hit on the left knee. He pulled out a firearm and pointed it at one of the men, slapped it away. Calitz then climbed into a J&M vehicle to flee the scene and the mob then proceeded to smash its windows with rocks and broomsticks. Calitz sustained an injury to his right arm and was taken to hospital for treatment.
Journalists threatened: workers told: ‘you will not get paid for time-off for strikes’:
Lowvelder journalists witnessed and photographed the whole ordeal. Rioters threatened and attempted to intimidate them. The mob dispersed when police arrived shortly after the incident. Nelspruit acting head of communications, Ms Bessie Pienaar, said after the streets were deliberately littered and the security-officers and the volunteers were attacked the police blocked the streets to protect innocent civilians, Nelspruit’s acting municipal manager, Ms Norah Mthembu, awaited the strikers at the civic centre to receive their memorandum. This didn’t happen. The municipality also said employees would not be paid for time spent away from work to take part in the strikes. Samwu’s leader in the province, Mr Kgokedi Mphahlele, did not want to comment on scenes of violence in Nelspruit, saying “related questions should be referred to the police.”
Lt Col Leonard Hlathi, provincial police spokesman, said only one case of assault was reported against the strikers but nobody was arrested. There also was much damage done by strikers who attempted to sabotage water- and sewerage works and caused power-outages across town.
DON’T PUT YOUR TRASH IN THE STREETS WARNS NELSPRUIT MUNICIPALITY: