Tony Birkholtz

With rioting, and striking every day in most South African provinces, TONY BIRKHOLZ fears tourists will look elsewhere for their holidays

Businesses in KZN are being held to ransom by “tender mafia” intimidating workers, who just want to earn an honest buck, with physical violence.

In Ballito/Salt Rock work on a suburban optic-fibre installation has ground to a halt. Prior to this, a R2.4 billion development in Umhlanga Rocks was held to ransom by one of these “business forums” and workers downed tools for two weeks. Port Elizabeth municipal workers litter the street and torch dustbins in their city. Hospitals are being trashed by the same people who rely on the well-being of their families being dealt with at these institutions. Am I missing something?

It goes on. Entrances to the town of George blockaded. Trucks set alight at Mooi River toll plaza. Township rioting in the Western Cape. The N2 between Empangeni and Hluhluwe a no-go zone due to violent protests and blockading of the road. Violent protests at Manguzi in northern KZN.

All this leaves commuters stranded, supplies running out in supermarkets, children unable to get to school, emergency services interrupted and lives at stake.

I visited Tourism Indaba in May where all exhibitors showcase their venues, plan strategies to grow their businesses, and create new connections. British Airways put so much faith in a growing inbound market that they announced a direct flight from LHR (London Heathrow) to KSIA (King Shaka International Airport in Durban) from October this year. We need to support BA’s bold initiative.

Working in northern KZN last year, I experienced first-hand the volume of internationals visiting. Most had booked months in advance, many came with children and expressed their enjoyment of our good road networks, wonderful weather and ease of access to most areas. This inbound tourist market is now being jeopardised by the unrest.

The tourism sector contributed 2,9% to South African gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016, according to the latest Stats SA’s annual Tourism Satellite Account. This cannot last in the face of uncurbed crime and violence.

The communities are the first to feel the brunt of job losses through these actions and get caught up in a vicious cycle of unemployment due to businesses closing or retrenching. They are the first to feel the despair when they take a loved one to hospital only to find no services available. They are the first to be unable to put food on the table for their children due to actions mostly out of their control. They are the first to miss work due to no public transport. They are the first to suffer the dire consequences of these actions.

Unemployment is now at its highest. Education is at its lowest. Inflation is up. Consumer confidence is down. Fuel prices are on the rise. Come on South Africans! We should all be striving for a common cause. Ethics, employment, resourcefulness, peace, honesty, common respect and decency is all it takes and WE ALL have it in us to achieve this. Let’s use our diverse skills to rid the country of the scourge of crime and work towards making it once again a great Rainbow Nation.