Increasingly one wonders what exactly Grant Pascoe, City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, has achieved for Cape Town in respect of Tourism, Events and Marketing since he took on this portfolio last year, with no success recorded to date, and with criticism rather than praise levelled at the Councillor.  Given his increasing twit-twat on Twitter, one wonders what the Councillor does all day!

Last week the Councillor decided to look for some publicity for himself, perhaps given our criticism of him on this blog, and issued a lightweight media release, slamming the Department of Home Affairs for refusing permission for cruise ships to dock in the V&A Waterfront with immediate effect.  He made all the right noises about the detrimental effect this would have on tourism, but did not offer to get involved to make a difference, which he should have done, given his Tourism portfolio!  In the Cape Times he was quoted as follows: “We are obviously uneasy about the possible impact of this ruling on Cape Town’s status and reputation as a cruise tourism destination as well as on tourism revenues to the city. The City notes concerns about security risks underlying the decision. However, we will discuss the ruling with the relevant authorities to find a way to best serve Cape Town’s tourism interests, without compromising the status of the port as a secured area.” There have been no subsequent reports of Councillor Pascoe and/or Cape Town Tourism (CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold is on maternity leave until April) meeting with the harbour or immigration authorities, conveniently leaving this to his provincial counterpart Tourism Minister Alan Winde, who has slammed the decision, and has already met with officials.

The Department of Home Affairs’ Director of Immigration: Maritime & Aviation Ports Western Cape, Tariq Mellet, who was responsible for the cruise line berthing directive last week, took exception to Councillor Pascoe’s media statement (surprisingly he has not reacted to Minister Winde’s media comments, as far as we are aware), and slammed Councillor Pascoe in a 3-page detailed document for ‘having a  poor understanding of the issues involved at the Cape Town Harbour’, writing about the cruise ship issue on Politicsweb. Adding insult to injury, Mellet attacks the Councillor in writing: “Perhaps if the City Council took a greater interest in playing a role in Cape Town Harbour, its development and in Passenger Line Tourism he (sic) would understand the issues at play.  He (sic) has even the basic facts wrong”!

Mellet explains at length the complexities of cruise liner berthing in Cape Town, saying that cruise liner berthing in the V&A Waterfront has been an occasional occurrence, mainly because Duncan Dock or Eastern Mole have not been available, as a ‘commercial convenience’.  “Anyone looking at the real facts and bothering to consult the role-players charged with clearing passengers, would have clearly seen that cruise ship tourists are getting a raw deal”, he added!   The Department of Home Affairs has the final say as to which ports are entry points for international tourists, he emphasised. Being welcoming to cruise tourists, yet offering them security is a ‘careful balance’.  Mellet says that cruise tourism could be four times as large as it is currently, if Cape Town offered a more secure and attractive cruise liner berth, a responsibility which Councillor Pascoe should be addressing with urgency.  He states that the berthing directive had been communicated to the port authority in December, but had been ignored.  He slates the uproar about the berthing, writing that the cruise tourists will visit the V&A Waterfront anyway, and that they may visit other areas in Cape Town too, writing about ‘being controlled by a greedy few and some of the scams that arise in the closed environment of the harbour‘.  He writes that Jetty 2 in the Waterfront is only 195 meters long, and therefore cannot berth larger ships.  One of the last paragraphs summarises what the Department of Home Affairs is trying to protect, and one wonders what Mellet refers to, given that his tirade was directed against Councillor Pascoe: “The present furore over Home Affairs ensuring compliance with legislation at Cape Town Harbour seems to have less to do with the V&A Waterfront venue when the facts are scrutinised and more about parties with vested interests wanting to buck the system and wanting a continuation of lax security in an environment where a host of scams and dodgy activities have been thriving for years”!

Councillor Pascoe had egg on his face last year, when he tried to shave his budget by cutting the funding of Design Indaba (after an outcry he quickly reinstated the funding).  He has also been criticised for the loss of the Saracens versus Biarritz Heineken Cup game scheduled for Cape Town, not getting agreement at which of Newlands Stadium and Cape Town Stadium the game would have been played at, due to a conflict between the City of Cape Town (Councillor Pascoe’s portfolio) and the Western Cape Rugby Union, which cost Cape Town the tourism benefit of thousands of supporters who would have travelled here to see the teams play! To try and save face, the Councillor Tweeted some photographs last week of Saracens practicing at Cape Town Stadium, the team already having bought the flight tickets at the time that the Stadium wrangle took place.

We have written extensively how the Councillor rudely refuses to return telephone calls, or to reply to e-mails and Tweets, when we have had some pressing questions for the Councillor about the R40 million budget (from ratepayers’ monies) allocated to Cape Town Tourism for this financial year, of which little meaningful expenditure is visible.  We have also left (unanswered) messages for Deputy Mayor Ian Nielson, who controls the Council finances, and cannot get a response from the City of Cape Town about how it evaluates the efficiency of Cape Town Tourism’s performance and its expenditures, and how it allowed the appointment of an Australian consultant with a not so blemish-free background!

The Councillor seems to have lots of time in his day, when he is not attending the odd Council meeting, having taken to Twitter, Tweeting incessantly, mainly about cricket and general non-Tourism related matters.  He has shown his lack of morals and ethics, and his naivety as far as the law of defamation is concerned, by re-Tweeting defamatory Tweets earlier this week.

One wonders how Mayor Patricia de Lille evaluates the efficiency of her Mayoral Committee and the budget expenditure.  One wonders how the Mayor selected Councillor Pascoe for the Tourism, Events and Marketing portfolio, given that he has no past tourism or marketing experience, having been a DA Councillor for Mitchell’s Plain for ten years, serving on the Mayoral Committee with the Social Development and Special Projects portfolio in 2010, something his incomplete theology studies may have been more suitable for! Yesterday the Councillor appears to have won some political brownie points for having helped the DA win a city by-election with an overwhelming majority.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: twitter: @WhaleCottage