Kruger National Park: DA concerned with reports of mismanagement

The Democratic Alliance (DA) have raised concerns about the management of South Africa's famous Kruger National Park, saying that they have received reports that the park is mismanaging finances on refurbishments to accommodation and a frivolous defence against an allegedly "racist" review of their services. 


The reports emerging from the park – which is managed by SANParks and is financed by taxpayer's money – have made the DA curious as to whether there is monkey business on the go at the iconic South African institution. 

Kruger National Park 'not fulfilling visitor mandate'


The DA's shadow minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), James Lorimer, said that the reports he has received are disturbing.


"There are a growing number of reports that indicate apparent management failure in the Kruger National Park. I will write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries to request the SANParks CEO and Chairperson be invited to explain, in detail, what is going on," he said. 


Lorimer said that he is concerned that guests are not being afforded the park's full offering in terms of overnight accommodation, saying that he is of the understanding that some of the rooms are being provided to staff despite the park being mandated to increase visitor numbers. 


He cited the following concerns as being centrally queried in his letter to DAFF:

  1. Some staff had been moved into guest accommodation during the COVID-19 lockdown;

  2. "Much needed refurbishment" is underway and SANParks only expected tourism to re-open in mid-September;[*]Two Rest camps are only open for minimal accommodation (one of them being Skukuza, one of the largest camps);[*]Three other camps are entirely closed and one will only reopen between mid-October and the second week of November; and[*]The SANParks CEO says "the bulk" of unoccupied units have suffered animal damage during lockdown and are being repaired.


Racist guest probe 'demands explanation' 


Lorimer also charged that he has been informed of SANParks' and the Kruger National Park's intention to lay criminal charges against a guest for an allegedly "racist" Facebook posts that claimed bookings were not being honoured or were not available because accommodation was being occupied by staff. 


"The Park spending public money to sue customers seems to lack any sense of proportion," said Lorimer.


"If there has been racist offence, as has been alleged, then there are other ways of dealing with this. This is equivalent to a restaurant or hotel suing a customer for a bad review on social media."


He said that it is in the best interest of the public to learn why the Kruger National Park wants to pursue this matter so aggressively.


"What this action does do is make the Park management look like its being unnecessarily defensive and it is in the public interest to know why."

DA write to DAFF for explanation  


In his letter, Lorimer said that he asked the following: 

  1. Why is such extensive refurbishment planned all at once;

  2. How much guest accommodation housed staff, and is that still blocking the accommodation from being used by guests;[*]How exactly has COVID-19 caused cleaning staff not to be able to operate even two weeks after the lockdown was eased;[*]How much accommodation exactly was damaged by animals, and how badly, and was this because of a lack of supervision during lockdown.

"The Kruger Park is a great national asset. It needs to maintain good relations with the public. Above all, it needs to be open about what is going on," he said, adding that official communication from the management of the Kruger National Park is "fuzzy at best". 


"Threatening guests shows a failure to understand the hospitality industry. A large part of park's funding comes from tourism. Tourists need to be encouraged, not fought with."

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