FEDHASA is an association purporting to represent the interests of the hospitality industry. However, the association pays lip service to its Small Accommodation segment, consisting of B&B’s, Guest Houses and Self-Catering establishments, and in essence therefore is nothing more than a hotel association.
Currently four of the six FEDHASA Cape Board members (Phillip Couvaras from the Table Bay Hotel, Nigel Pace from the Cape Grace Hotel, Nils Heckscher from the Winchester Mansions, and Susanne Faussner from the Greenways Hotel) are from the Hotel segment, despite roughly equal numbers of hotels, small accommodation establishments, restaurants and allied suppliers making up the roughly 550 membership of FEDHASA Cape. Currently there is no Small Accommodation owner to look after the interests of this segment on the Board.
In June, Faussner allowed herself to be nominated in the Small Accommodation segment, despite her hotel not meeting the description of B&B, Guest House or Self-Catering establishment. This nomination was condoned by then-Chairman Nils Heckscher, who motivated his decision on the basis of the Greenways Hotel being “small”, clearly not being aware that the FEDHASA Cape website clearly defines which type of establishments are represented in the Small Accommodation segment. Hotels are a separate segment within FEDHASA Cape.
Couvaras was elected as the new Chairman of FEDHASA Cape at the AGM in June, against a Guest House owner and a Restaurant representative. He had only been in the country for four months when he was elected, an unknown entity in the local hospitality industry. He naively admitted that he had been encouraged by the FEDHASA Board to stand as Chairman, to prevent the control of FEDHASA Cape from falling into non-Hotel hands! After his election, he admitted that he did not know anything about Cape Town Routes Unlimited and Cape Town Tourism, and what they stood for.
The recent press release sent out by FEDHASA Cape about MATCH is testimony to the big hotel perspective that FEDHASA propogates, especially as it has a MATCH representative on the National FEDHASA Board. FEDHASA has encouraged all its members, including small accommodation establishments, to sign up with MATCH, despite hearing that MATCH is not favourable for Small Accommodation establishments. Faussner was dead against the MATCH terms a year ago, when she was the Alternate Director of FEDHASA Cape!
Couvaras angered his Alternate Directors by keeping them from the 1 August Board meeting by means of a dishonest e-mail, announcing the postponement of the Board meeting to a later date. However the Board meeting did in fact take place. An e-mail written to Couvaras 9 weeks ago, with subsequent reminders, to question the reason for the dishonesty, and the reasons for excluding the attendance of Alternate Directors at the Board meeting, remains unanswered, as do telephonic messages left with his efficient-sounding secretary. Support for a reply from Couvaras was sought from National FEDHASA Board Chairman Eddy Khosa, who promised to return calls, but never did, and from Brett Dungan, CEO of FEDHASA’s national office, who refused to discuss the matter and rudely put down the phone. Khosa remains Chairman of FEDHASA’s national board, despite having been suspended as CEO from the Johannesburg Tourism Company earlier this year.
None of the Board members of FEDHASA Cape were elected constitutionally at the AGM, but this was written off to a “technical omission” and has been ignored. Past Chairman Nils Heckscher and Couvaras have a very elastic interpretation of the Constitution, to suit their needs.
FEDHASA Cape recently tried to exaggerate the restaurant robbery situation is Sea Point, probably because one of its Director’s restaurants was affected, for the sake of obtaining publicity for the association. The Sea Point police expressed its dissatisfaction about the misleading information in FEDHASA’s media statement.
For many years FEDHASA has set itself up as the lobbying body for the hospitality industry, and its media releases claim that it is “.. the lobbying body and watchdog for the South African hospitality industry nationally, and in all tiers of government on tourism, legislation, trading conditions, taxation, education and related industry issues.” This is a hugely overstated claim, as no such discussions take place in FEDHASA Cape board meetings. The Association did not manage to achieve any success in getting its input to the Sectoral Determination for the Hospitality Industry to be adopted by the Department of Labour. Surprisingly, the Department of Labour is not represented on the national Board of FEDHASA, being one of the most important stakeholders for the industry.
Since its inception four years ago, Cape Town Routes Unlimited (CTRU) had one Board position for a FEDHASA Cape representative, taken up by Previous-FEDHASA Cape Chairmen Neil Markovitz and Nils Heckscher. Heckscher resigned from the CTRU Board earlier this year, but would not tell his FEDHASA Cape Board why he had done so, other than citing “personal reasons”. His letter of resignation from the CTRU Board was subsequently leaked to the Cape Argus, and cited the Board politics as one of his reasons for the resignation. It is surprising that Heckscher did not persevere, in using his often-quoted strategy of “quiet diplomacy” to sort things out. His resignation is detrimental to the hospitality industry, as it no longer has representation on the CTRU Board, now chaired by ex-Sun International CEO Peter Bacon. FEDHASA Cape and CTRU have had an incestuous relationship, in that CTRU Executive Director Bekithemba Langilabele has been co-opted on to the FEDHASA Cape Board for the past few years. Despite the industry’s criticism of the ineffectiveness of CTRU in marketing Cape Town and the Western Cape, discussions about CTRU and how it could be given input by FEDHASA to meet the industry’s needs better were not encouraged by Heckscher.
Last year Heckscher and Langalibalele set about a rewrite of the Constitution, and their most important change was the introduction of a clause giving the Board the power to eject a fellow Director from the Board, despite directors being nominated and elected by the FEDHASA membership.
Many FEDHASA members have questioned their membership benefits, and complain about being bombarded with e-mails from the association. The administration and the marketing of the Association leave much to be desired, but this is condoned by the Board. The fiduciary duty of the Board directors, prescribed by the Companies’ Act, cannot be exercised as the financials are never discussed in Board meetings. The organisation’s finances are not very stable, with more members resigning than joining. The 2007/2008 financials were presented to the Board one week prior to the AGM. Questions were refused, and directors were told to ask them at the AGM!
Couvaras, his Board and Executive Officer should be asked to resign, given their dishonest and discourteous behaviour towards the Alternate Directors.
The unprofessional and dishonest behaviour by Couvaras, and condonation thereof by his fellow directors, has led to the resignation of this writer as Alternate Director from the Board of FEDHASA, and the termination of the membership of all four Whale Cottages as FEDHASA Cape members.