Johannesburg: Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane says xenophobia threatens the government’s ability to attract tourism and investment to South Africa. Rumours are that threats of xenophobic violence are increasing, raising the spectre of the May 2008 riots, widely blamed on xenophobia, in which 62 people died (21 were South African citizens). Mr Chabane was speaking on Monday night at the launch of an initiative aimed at increasing tourism arrivals and coordination between South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland, and said there was "no justification" for xenophobic attacks.
"We condemn such acts in the strongest possible terms and reject any justification for such acts or any suggestion that South African people are xenophobic. These are criminal elements trying to take advantage of our fellow Africans given their vulnerable circumstances," he said.
Mr Chabane said xenophobia threatened the New Growth Path’s aim to create 225000 of the 5-million new jobs it has promised by 2020 through tourism. "Tourism is an important driver of both domestic and consumer spending and foreign exchange earnings, underpinned by labour intensive activities and relatively low barriers to entry by entrepreneurs. We need to accelerate development of the tourism sector to diversify South Africa’s economy," he said.
Tourism earned South Africa R18,1bn in the first quarter of the year, down 4,6% over 2010. Last year South Africa hosted the soccer World Cup, and the country’s earnings were up 18,2% in 2009, according to Tourism SA.
Mr Chabane was speaking at the Isimangaliso Wetlands Park on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast, where he called the Tourism Activation Excursion was "a giant step" towards achieving the regional integration spearheaded by the Southern African Development Community to encourage interstate trade and investment, and encourage free movement and cultural diversity.
The New Growth Path identifies keys sectors with potential to create jobs such as infrastructure, agricultural and mining value chain, the green economy, manufacturing sectors, and tourism among others. In tourism it intends to strengthen measures to expand infrastructure services, improve training and identify employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for the youth in particular in business services such as finance and communications, developing a comprehensive programme to support cultural industries and promote targeted marketing campaigns.
The initiative was "perfectly in line" with New Growth Path efforts. South Africa and the region needed similar initiatives to break the cultural and xenophobic stereotypes fellow Africans had about each other, Mr Chabane said.
"We commend the tourism initiative we are launching today, which is primarily aimed at increasing tourism arrivals and co-ordination between the three countries. It is also aimed at creating interest for people to visit each other's region. It also seeks to increase investment in tourism in the whole tourism value chain especially from the private sector investors' perspectives. Most importantly, which is critical for our regional integration efforts, it seeks to promote various elements of heritage and celebrate the commonalities which makes us who we are and bringing people together," he said.
* By Sue Blaine