SANParks has embarked on the process of commercialising Skukuza Safari Lodge and Nombolo Mdluli Conference Centre, which would see workers transferred to a private company and subsequently deprived of fundamental employment rights enjoyed by those that are insourced.

We wrote to SANParks earlier this year to register our most substantial objection to this move, which we view as regressive in the light of the workers’ plight.

In that letter, we made it clear that the decision to appoint a hospitality management company to run the core functions of the business was a drastic and premature step.

Not to mention the fact that the NUPSAW was not even consulted about this decision and how it would impact workers.

Our submission to the body overseeing the country’s national parks was that instead of contracting a service provider, why not hire qualified and skilled individuals to run the lodge and the conference centre as part of the turnaround strategy. It is clear from that point that SANParks never even bothered to explore other options before rushing to commercialise aspects of the entity.

It is also clear that this has nothing to do with maximising income but instead creating a gravy train. Companies that generally receive such tenders are linked with those in leadership positions and, as such, get kick-backs from these arrangements.

Yesterday, SANParks issued NUPSAW with a response, which unfortunately failed to address the crux of our argument.

In its reply, SANParks said the decision to appoint a service provider was taken in 2017, with the aim of optimising productivity.

It also adds that it lacks the required skills-set to effectively run the hotel and conference services.

These arguments, from our point of view, are nonsensical, to say the least. During the opening of the lodge in 2019/2020, two consultants were appointed who were able to assist in operationalising that part of the business. They were successful in their work, and we don’t see how an experienced individual with the help of existing workers would fail to run the lodge efficiently.

The other point raised by SANParks in its defence is that commercialisation won’t affect workers and that it doesn’t equate to privatisation.

We also reject these views because from our experience, service providers are generally concerned about one thing – PROFIT -and they see workers as disposable. And so, it will just be a matter of time before workers start losing their jobs.

SANParks is being disingenuous by trying to separate the concept of commercialisation from that of privatisation. In our view, these concepts are interlinked, with one preceding the other.