One of the first posts on this blog, in October 2008, related to the unprofessional behaviour and politicking by members of the board of FEDHASA Cape, an association representing the interests of hoteliers predominantly.  At that time this writer had highlighted the political games played by Past Chairman Nils Heckscher and newly elected Chairman Phillip Couvaras, now ex-GM of the Table Bay Hotel, who had only been in the country for four months at the time that he was elected.

As quietly as Couvaras arrived on the hotel scene and was elected as Chairman of FEDHASA Cape, as quickly did he disappear and leave Cape Town at the end of March.  It is stated that differences of opinion between himself and his bosses at Sun International in terms of room rates to be charged, combined with a reducing value of his package in foreign currency, given personal international financial commitments, led him to accept a new position in Hong Kong.

Earlier this week it was time for political games at the FEDHASA Cape AGM again, in the election of the new Board (FEDHASA Cape has the most odd system of calling for an election of each Board member every year).  Board members are nominated in categories, even for the position of Chairman.   Rey Franco, the Chairman of the Restaurant category, was nominated for the same position again, as well as for the position of Chairman, having been Acting Chairman from the time that Couvaras left the country.   Pitted against him was Dirk Elzinga, the current Managing Director of the Cape Town International Convention Centre, a member in the ‘Allied’ category.   Elzinga is however leaving the employ of the RAI Group, the Dutch convention center management company, next month, so he will not represent a FEDHASA Cape member company from then onwards, it is said.   It is alleged that Past Chairman Heckscher had lobbied those present in voting for Elzinga, and he was duly elected as the new Chairman, the first non-hotel Chairman ever of FEDHASA Cape!   When this writer stood for the same position two years ago, Couvaras was brought in, with similar lobbying by Heckscher, to prevent a Guest House owner (and female!) from being elected in this position!  

Franco retained his position as Chairman of the Restaurant category in the election, whilst another upset saw Susanne Faussner, who had been pitted against this writer in the “Small Accommodation” category two years ago, even though she owns a hotel and a restaurant, got some of her own political medicine back when the Acting Chairman Franco had to make the casting vote in the election result in this category, and voted for Carole Armstrong-Hooper, owner of Highlands Country House, and a better qualified representative of the Smaller Accommodation category.  Other Board members elected without controversy were Roy Davies from the Vineyard Hotel, heading the Hotel category, and Michele de Wit in the Allied category.   Those watching the politics within FEDHASA Cape will be delighted that Heckscher’s two-year term as past-Chairman on the Board is finally over.  His political games have been described as “poison” by some of his fellow Board members, and this can be endorsed by this writer. 

What will be interesting is what happens to Franco, who took over Couvaras’ slot on the Board of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, given that Elzinga now has been elected as the Chairman. 

From the time that MATCH launched its accommodation bookings for the World Cup four years ago, FEDHASA nationally but also the Cape branch supported and pushed contracting with MATCH as “the right thing to do”.  Nationally FEDHASA even took on a MATCH director onto its Board!    Hotels had loyally signed up 80 % of their room stock with MATCH.  Whilst a Director on the Board of FEDHASA Cape, this writer protested about the stringent legal terms and conditions, as well as the pricing directive, that the small accommodation establishments were subjected to in the MATCH contract, given the German experience of large-scale MATCH cancellations without refunds close to the start of the 2006 World Cup. The other Board directors condoned the MATCH actions!    MATCH has become a “swearword” countrywide, and in the hospitality industry specifically.  Heckscher was a particularly strong MATCH advocate, probably because of the benefit it would have for the Winchester Hotel he manages.  Ironically, his hotel received most of its room nights back from MATCH when the FIFA accommodation and ticketing agency cancelled the majority of room nights it had originally booked!

Brett Dungan, the national CEO of FEDHASA, who has been heavily criticised in this blog for his role in pushing a private accommodation booking portal (Rooms4U) he set up for the World Cup, is said to be leaving FEDHASA National, possibly as a result of his alleged abuse of his position at FEDHASA to further his personal interests. Elzinga will take over his position as CEO of FEDHASA National, but based in Cape Town, it is said – more politics, some would say, and supported by a headline in a report by Cape Business News :“CTICC Managing Director Finds a new Job”!  Being Chairman of FEDHASA is an honorary position that is not rewarded with compensation.

To read the original article “FEDHASA is a farce”, click here.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com