Concern over Table Mountain tender process
THE first official tender process to make it possible for black-owned businesses to fully manage Table Mountain will only take place in 2025, at the end of a 99-year contract with the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC).
TMACC has for many years been operated by members of the Oppenheimer, Graaff and De Waal families.
This was revealed earlier this week when the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) opened up on the matter after a three-month challenge to get them to speak about the management of the world heritage site.
Independent Media’s special investigations unit had in September queried if there had ever been a tender process in place for other companies to manage or run activities on the mountain, other than the TMACC, and if the applicants included black-owned businesses.
It was evident from the responses of TMACC and DEFF that there had not been any changes in the management of the site since the launch of the cable car in 1929, a period when blacks were excluded from such decision-making.
The TMACC has been operating and making billions of rand annually with the same lineage since October 4, 1929, while located on state land. According to the TMACC’s track records, Louis de Waal had only stepped down as chairperson of the company in 2013 after serving in the position for 40 years since 1993.
He was first appointed to the TMACC board on December 21, 1973, when it was being chaired by Denis Hennessy, whose father, Sir Alfred Hennessy, had been the first chairperson back in 1929.
TMACC’s opportunity on Table Mountain all started when Hennessy and his fellow businessmen, Sir David Graaff and Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, formed the TMACC after Norwegian engineer Trygve Stromsoe spotted the mountain and suggested a cable car to get to the top, presenting them with his idea in 1926. Stromsoe was offered a fourth seat on the board of directors when TMACC was formed, seeing the opening of the cable car.
When questioned, the TMACC chose not to reveal who its current owner or shareholders are. Wahida Parker, managing director of the TMACC, explained that after De Waal had retired, John Harrison served in the position from February 1993 to December 2006, followed by Sabine Lehman and herself.
She said that the TMACC was not a family business and currently had no family members of the original founders on the board.
“We are in the tourism and hospitality industry. Tourists and visitors are our business. The retail and food and beverage outlets form part of the company as we manage and own it,” she said.
Parker added that the TMACC is a private company, and that it pays a concessionaire fee to South African National Parks (SanParks), but she did not confirm the amount being paid.
Albi Modise, chief director of communications for the DEFF, confirmed that no other company that has ever come forward to operate on the mountain due to the existing contract.
Modise said: “The TMACC’s contractual agreement is a 99-year concession period that commenced on November 26, 1926, and that it will only go up for tender in 2025 if all goes well, which will be the first tender process since the establishment of the site.
“This is a 99-year concession period and has not gone to tender at any point in that period. SANParks will implement a new Public Private Partnership (PPP) tender in accordance with the guidelines for the PPP contained in National Treasury’s tourism management toolkit, and in compliance with Treasury regulation 16 issued in terms of the Public Finance Management Act 1999,” he explained.
He confirmed that the government does not provide any funding towards the operations of the TMACC and added that the company instead pays SANParks to operate on the mountain.
“The TMACC is a concessionaire of SANParks, and it is one of 54 public-private partnerships currently in operation across 20 national parks. All concessionaires pay SANParks either a percentage of gross revenue or a set minimum rental whichever of the two is higher.”
SANParks did not respond to media questions but referred Independent Media to its website for its annual report to confirm how much TMACC pays them annually to operate on the mountain.
According to the report, TMACC’s current value of the agreement to operate on the mountain is R26 369 900 until November 25, 2025 when a tender process for the appointment of a new operator will be concluded prior to termination for TMACC.
Independent Media Special Investigations Unit