Western Cape Premier Helen Zille. File Photo
Cape Town - Opposition parties have lambasted Western Cape premier Helen Zille’s latest overseas junket “because it brings no economic benefits to the province”.

Zille jetted off to Thailand and Vietnam for a trade mission which came at a cost of R540 000.

Since the start of the year, she has been to London to attend an education conference and on trade missions to Singapore, Ghana and now Thailand and Vietnam.

Pierre Uys, ANC chief whip, said Zille’s trips had no economic benefits for the province. 

"Almost every week we see the Premier travel overseas and, quite frankly, we don’t know why she is going over there. There is little value to the trips, we see very few other MECs attend these events and it is always being organised by Wesgro. It is clear that there is no value to citizens. It is a total waste of money," he said.

ACDP provincial leader Ferlon Christians said it is always difficult to quantify the value of the trips.

“But if we are not signing new trade agreements or if we are not creating jobs, why is the Premier going overseas? We need new trade agreements that will create new jobs. “We are living in a tight budgetary environment We can’t just go overseas for fact-finding.”

According to Zille’s spokesperson, Michael Mpofu, accompanying Zille on the Vietnam-Thailand mission is, among others Dr Laurine Platzky, the provincial government’s deputy director-general for international relations and policy.

“One protocol officer is required to do advance work and manage the facilitation of diplomatic meetings, and one official in the international relations office - a total of four people from the provincial government. Wesgro and the business delegation will foot their own bill for the trip,” he said.

The provincial government will bear the cost for the four people, including the premier, he said. The R540 000 includes all travel, accommodation and other expenses for the duration of the trip.

Mpofu said all trade mission trips undertaken by the provincial government seek to explore trade opportunities.

“Both Thailand and Vietnam are strategic trade partners. Both regions have shown significant interest in Western Cape products. Thanks to the networks we have developed over the years, South-East Asian markets offer Western Cape companies preferential access,” he said.

“Trips like these are necessary to bolster the Western Cape’s economy and ultimately create jobs. Our preliminary figures for 2017 show that we are on track to secure in excess of R6 billion worth of investments into the province,” he said.

Tim Harris, chief executive of Wesgro, said they don’t sign trade agreements.

“For more than 30 years, Wesgro has been leading trade missions that have helped Western Cape exporters to grow their global sales, earn foreign exchange, and create jobs here in the Cape.”

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Cape Argus