Satsa says SA tourism devastated by extreme licensing delays

Johannesburg – Yesterday, the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula received a letter of demand from the South African Tourism Services (Satsa) requesting him to urgently resolve the “unlawful” delays in issuing NPTR licences.

Tourism transport services are required to have operating licences and, in some cases, accreditation in terms of the National Land Transport Act.

However, many of the applications remain pending despite being lodged years ago.

There have also been delays in distributing operating licences to accredited companies.

The NPTR is required to issue an operating licence to an applicant within one working day if the applicant complies with the requirements set out in the regulations.

In a statement, Satsa CEO David Frost said delays in issuing operating licences to accredited companies were appalling.

“The delay of applications for operating licences and accreditation is unlawful and while we appreciate that the pandemic inevitably caused some delay, this does not excuse or explain the sheer scale of the tardiness of the NPTR,” he said.

The economic consequences of these delays on SA tourism are critical.

Satsa reported that many operators were going out of business and jobs were being lost owing to Covid-19 lockdowns and the NPTR failing to fulfill its mandate.

In a document drafted by Satsa outlining the problem, it was stated that the NPTR crisis precedes the outbreak of Covid-19 and, therefore, has “nothing to do with the Covid-19 pandemic”.

The document entails that there has not been a functioning board since 2019, highlighting that tour operators who applied for new operating licences as far back as July 2019 have yet to receive feedback.

The National Land Transport Act and accompanying Transport Regulations specify that the turnaround times for applications should be no longer than 60 days. Once accredited, operators are supposed to qualify automatically to get their vehicle permits – a process that is not supposed to take more than a day.

“The NPTR never meets these turnaround times and even when there was a board, waiting between 6 to 12 months was the norm. Waiting longer than a year or even two years for a simple operating licence is common,” the Satsa document said.

Satsa has called on the minister of transport to immediately remedy the fact that there have been no NPTR board members since 2019. It has also requested that administrative staff be empowered to adjudicate and issue operating licences.

“By order of the incompetent individuals who oversee the NPTR and chair the board, the process of applying for and obtaining operating licences for tourist vehicles has become far more complex than the law requires it to be,” Satsa grieved.

Satsa said it made several attempts to find out who is appointed to the NPTR board and hit a hard rock. The association maintained that the lack of constitution was unlawful and that it created an “impossible, irrational and tragic conundrum” for affected companies.

Furthermore, Satsa called on Mbalula to provide the identities of the individuals currently serving on the NPTR board and their area of expertise by January 31.

Satsa further demanded that it be informed of the deadline by which the NPTR will be properly constituted and the steps to be taken to achieve this.

“It is also our request that all of the overdue applications will be determined and made available to the affected companies within 30 working days of receipt of this letter.

“If a written reply to these demands is not received by January 31, we will have no choice but to approach the High Court to compel the appointment of persons to the NPTR board and the finalisation of the overdue applications, as well as a suitable order as to costs,” Frost concluded.

Read document: NPTR – The Problem 

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