South Africans will have free day access to most national parks this week after devastating fires ripped through the South Peninsula early this year. Picture: David Ritchie
South Africans will have free day access to most national parks this week after devastating fires ripped through the South Peninsula early this year. Picture: David Ritchie

‘SANParks not just for rich whites’

Time of article published Sep 17, 2013

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In a letter to the Cape Argus, SANParks responds to Cosatu's claims that it catered for "rich whites" during SANParks Week.

Cape Town - In response to Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich’s open letter (“SANParks specials favour ‘rich whites’”, Cape Points, September 13),

I would like to point out some areas of misunderstanding or misinformation.

First, SA National Parks Week is not a campaign aimed at promoting tourism during off-season. Our national parks rarely have what is referred to as an off-season because they cater for different climates, interests and clients. SA National Parks Week is a programme aimed at teaching South Africans more about their natural heritage by encouraging them to go to national parks. The campaign is about raising awareness and educating rather than marketing and promotion.

Second, the appointed board of SANParks performs a public service for which they are not paid. The board members receive only compensation for travelling to and from meetings, which are scheduled four times a year, and also receive a subsistence and travel stipend of R2 726 for attending each meeting. Some board members over the years have not collected this stipend. Third, the Cableway is a privately managed activity within the Table Mountain National Park.

Also, note the media releases on the campaign which indicate that activities and accommodation in national parks are not included as part of the free access. The free access is aimed at giving an opportunity to the public to learn more about conservation and it is up to them to then take advantage of the enjoyment of products offered in the different parks.

On the issue of the weekend, I would like to make the following points:

l SANParks generates 85 percent of its operating revenue and it is therefore highly dependent on the revenue it receives from paying clients.

l SANParks has decided to make a sacrifice of offering free access on five days of a year to give surrounding communities, school groups, unemployed youth, pensioners and all citizens an opportunity to visit parks and receive information on the importance and need for national parks.

We believe that members of the public who would like to make use of this opportunity would not find it difficult to, in turn, make a small sacrifice of one day’s leave to take themselves and their children to the national parks.

The weekends would be very difficult at a number of our national parks, which depend on booked, paying customers and they may also run the risk of being congested if the campaign were to run on these days as well.

However, it should be noted that we do allow for regional variation, where parks like Table Mountain National Park, which is already largely an open-access park, do accept visitors for the full seven-day week, accepting that their challenges are different.

l The costs of running the campaign over weekends across the country are prohibitive for an organisation that depends on paying customers to survive.

The board and management of SANParks are fully committed to the country’s transformation agenda, hence our having started this campaign in 2006. This campaign is in support of our vision statement which is “SANParks Connecting to Society”. We appreciate your interest in our business and wish to invite you to continue engaging us on issues of concern or interest.

Dr David Mabunda

Chief Executive

SA National Parks (SANParks) - Cape Argus

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